• escarpment •
Pronunciation: es-kahrp-mênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Steep slope, especially one in front of a fortification; a long, extended cliff.
Notes: Today's word is a long extension of scarp "steep face of a hill or embankment", which may be extended to escarp. Both words may function as verbs meaning "to slope steeply, mold or cut a steep slope".
In Play: An escarpment is a rather steep slope: "Morgan's boss's home was situated over an escarpment with a spectacular view of the city." It is hard to mistake one for a cliff: "Morgan lost his job when he mistook the escarpment for a cliff when he pushed his boss."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French escarpmente, based on escarpe "slope", which French borrowed from Italian scarpa "slope". Italian borrowed it from some Germanic source based on Old Germanic skarpa- "cutting, sharp", which produced Middle High German schroffe "crag" and Old English scraef "cave, grave". Old Germanic skarpa- was inherited from PIE (s)ker-/(s)kor- "to cut" with a Fickle S, source also of English shear, share, scar, score, and short. It also came to be Russian korotkii and Serbian kratki "short" without the Fickle S. (Now let's show our appreciation to Albert Skiles, who has contributed innumerable words over the past nine years, for yet another remarkably Good Word.)