• escalate •
Pronunciation: es-kê-layt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To increase, enlarge, or intensify. 2. To pass upward in an organizational hierarchy. 3. To use an escalator.
Notes: The adjective for the first two senses only is escalatory. The action noun is the expectable escalation. An escalade is either the mounting of a fortress wall or a series of terraces one above the other, like Far Eastern rice terraces.
In Play: The most widely used sense of today's word is the first above: "Rodney Snodgrass simply escalated his advances on June McBride after she rejected his proposal." This despite the fact that the first sense of this word is the third one above: "I'll escalate to the second floor and see if they have any shelf-stretchers there and meet you later in the coffee shop."
Word History: Today's Good Word seems to have been a back-formation from escalator, named by its inventor, Charles Seeberger, in 1900. He created it from Latin e(x) "(out) from" + scala "ladder, staircase" + -tor, a common Latin personal and instrumental noun suffix. He appropriately Latinized it so that it seems to have derived from Latin escalare, which never existed. Scala comes from the verb scandere "to climb, mount, ascend", from PIE skan-d- "to spring, leap, climb", source also of Sanskrit skandati "leaps, jumps, Greek skandalon "stumbling block", and Latin ascendere, from ad "(up) to" + scandere to climb". (Yet again we thank wordmaster Lew Jury who, since 2005, has showered us with an escalating array of Good Words as interesting as today's.)