• crescent •
Pronunciation: kre-sênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, adjective
Meaning: 1.The shape illustrated in the picture below or some variation of it, lunalate. 2. Any smoothly curved line.
Notes: This noun may be used as an attributive adjective (appearing only before a noun), as in 'crescent moon' and 'crescent roll'. Should we need a real adjective meaning "like a crescent", we have our choice of crescentic, crescentiform, or crescentoid, though the first is much more widely recognized. Crescentade is an old word referring to jihads.
In Play: Probably the widest use of this word reflects its origin: "An often overlooked difference between the hemispheres is the direction in which the points of the crescent of the waxing and waning moons point." It may be used for anything with the shape resembling that in the image above: "Sweeping ridges of sand snaked up to the summit of the dune in perfect crescents."
Word History: In Old English today's Good Word was cressaunt from Anglo-French cressaunt, brought over to England from Old French croisant (Modern French croissant). French inherited its word from Latin crescen(t)s, the present participle of crescere "to arise, grow, increase". Moons grow to and from crescents. Latin built its word on PIE k'er-/k'or- "to grow", where [k'] is distinguished from [k] because it emerged as [s] in all eastern PIE languages in some positions. This root is also the source of Armenian ser "lineage, progeny", Lithuanian šerti "to feed", Greek koros "boy; satiated", Latin ceres "fruit, grain" (ultimate source of English cereal), and Icelandic hirsi "millet". (Now let's all e-bow to Monika Freund, an old friend and contributor for more than a decade, for suggesting we do today's fascinating Good Word.)