• gloaming •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Evening, dusk, twilight. 2. Shade, shadows, dusky light.
Notes: US dictionaries sometimes suggest that today's Good Word is passé, archaic. The Oxford English Dictionary makes no such claim and even offers a prosaic 20th century example of "gloaming sights" for rifles, sights designed to be used in low light. It is a lovely word, much smoother than dusk and a worthy competitor for twilight. The Word History will show that it was never a participle of the expected verb to gloam, so it has no derivational mother. It was curiously and unexpectedly created from the older noun gloam, which also meant "twilight".
In Play: This lovely word is more a poetic tribute to twilight than just another word for it: "It was her favorite time of a summer day, gloaming, when constellations of fireflies slowly rose from the grass, trying with all their hearts and little bottoms to lure back the light of day." Moreover, unlike its synonyms in the Meaning above, it may be used more widely in reference to low light of any kind: "In the gloaming of the candlelit room, Nick Knack accidentally kissed the back of the neck of someone else's wife."
Word History: Old English glomung was probably derived from glom "twilight" by analogy with evening, which was created by the addition of the suffix -ing to even "evening". Glom apparently shares an origin with gloom and glum, which started their lives referring to darkness or overcast. If we push this word back beyond the Germanic languages, it seems to come from an old root ghel-/ghol- with an O and L that loved to trade places by metathesis, producing ghle-/ghlo-. This explains how it might also turn up in English as glow. In fact gloaming is a gloomy time when the evening air is still just a bit aglow. Depending on whether we focus on the light or the darkness, the original meaning might very well meander off to either gloom or glow. (We hope this will not be the gloaming of such very Good Word suggestions from Donald C Schark, but just the dawning of them.)
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