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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Nov 05, 2020 8:02 pm

• whilom •

Pronunciation: hwai-lêm • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, adverb

Meaning: Former, erstwhile, past, ex-, late in the sense of "deceased".

Notes: Here is a rather historical word that we still find in all dictionaries, and for those of us who enjoy 19th, even 18th century novels, it's a word we bump into now and then. Let's give it another chance. At one time we could add to whilom the adverbial -s, as in upstairs, outdoors, indoors to clarify its adverbial sense (whiloms), but that didn't last long.

In Play: As an adjective, today's word may be used to express sentiments like this: "Aubrey stared wistfully across the crowded room at his whilom girlfriend." As an adverb, it was used like this: "Whilom I dreamed longingly of my younger years until I learned to never look back."

Word History: Old English hwilum meant "occasionally". It was the dative case of the noun hwil "a period of time", a sense which is preserved today in expressions like 'a while ago' and 'a while back'. The English [h] goes back to PIE [k], so it comes as no surprise that this word came into English from the PIE word kweiê-/kwoiê- "to rest quietly, quiet, peaceful". This word also went into the making of Sanskrit ciram "after a long time, slowly" and Latin quie(t)s "rest, quiet", which English snatched as quiet. We find remnants of it with a prefix in Russian pokoy "peace, rest" as in pokoynik "dead person".
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David Myer
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Re: Whilom

Postby David Myer » Sat Nov 07, 2020 1:03 am

We are told here: ...Old English hwilum meant "occasionally". It was the dative case of the noun hwil "a period of time"...

I am interested that 'occasionally' seems to me to be antithetical to 'a period of time'. Occasions are limited time events, where a period of time such as is implied in the word 'while', might be an extended episode. I wonder if hwilum really meant 'on occasions' rather than 'for a period or periods'?

Philip Hudson
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Re: Whilom

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Nov 15, 2020 12:15 am

If you have a whilom girlfriend, don't bring her memory up to your wife.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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