• raiment •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Mass noun) Clothing, apparel, usually unusually beautiful. 2. (Count noun) A garment or article of (fine) apparel.
Notes: Today's Good Word is presented in many dictionaries as a simple synonym for clothing, but the beauty of the word itself usually conveys the sense of extremely fine clothing. It may be used as a mass noun like apparel with no plural (She arrived in raiment fit for a queen) or as a count noun like garment (Her finely fashioned raiments stunned everyone in the room). It may also be used as a verb.
In Play: The first sense of today's word is physical clothing or apparel: "Maude Lynn Dresser attended the party in raiment that raised every eyebrow in the house." However, the same metaphors that apply to apparel work even more beautifully with this word: "The maple trees in their raiment of red and gold slowed traffic down to a crawl."
Word History: Today's Good Word is rather the score of a lexical tennis match between Germanic and Romance languages. It is based on a Germanic word borrowed by Latin, passed on to Italian, borrowed by French and returned, at last, safe if not sound, to a Germanic language, this time English. Most recently this word arose by shortening Middle English arayment "clothing", borrowed from French araiement. French inherited its word from a Vulgar (Street) Latin word we can no longer find or borrowed it from Italian arredare, which now means "to furnish". The Latin word came from ad "(up) to" + redare, a word that must come from the Germanic stem raed-, also the source of English ready. The original verbal meaning, therefore, would seem to have been "to ready up", a sense that slid very comfortably into "to dress". (Let us all now raiment Joe Heckel with our warmest gratitude for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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