• strew •
Pronunciation: stru • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To scatter, to spread chaotically by scattering. 2. To be scattered with.
Notes: This word has an archaic alternate, strow. In the region of the South where I grew up it was common to mix them: strow, strew, strewn. But then my grandparents still used the archaic past tense of help: holp. The appropriate forms today are strew, strewed and strewn or strewed. Someone who strews things is a strewer and the results of his or her strewing is strewage.
In Play: The first sense of today's word is called for quite often while raising a teenager: "Billy, why do you leave your clothes strewn/strewed all over the floor?!" The second sense can be found in expressions like this: "Reminders of the party the night before strewed the house. Ugh! Party strewage!"
Word History: Today's Good Word evolved from Old English streowian "to scatter", which by Middle English was strewen and strowen. The English word descended from PIE ster-/stor- "to spread", source also of Danish strø "sprinkle, spread", Swedish strö "litter, bedding", Dutch strooien "to sprinkle", German streuen "to sprinkle". English straw shares the same source, since it is something farmers still spread on the floors of barns. Russian stroit' "to build" and Czech strojit "to decorate" both derive from the same PIE word. Finally, sternum was borrowed from a Latinized form of Greek sternon "breast, breastbone" because the Greeks perceived the breast spreading across the body. (Today's Good Word was proposed by a newcomer to the series known only as Harris.)