• doppelganger •
Pronunciation: dah-pêl-geng-gêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A double, someone's ostensible unrelated twin, someone who bears a very close resemblance to you though they are unrelated and possibly even unknown to you; an alter ego.
Notes: If you know where the diacritics are located on your keyboard, you may also spell this word with the original German umlaut: Doppelgänger. Preserving the capital letter (all nouns are capitalized in German) would be pushing poetic license too far though, I think.
In Play: This word won a short ride in the press toward the end of 2010 when George Stephanopoulos called actress Julia Roberts the doppelganger of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love on the TV show "Good Morning, America". Roberts plays Gilbert in the movie based on Gilbert's book. The word is used to refer to someone who looks almost exactly like you: "Well, I saw either you or your doppelganger at a bar last night well after 11:00 PM."
Word History: The German compound noun Doppelgänger is made up of doppel "double" + Gänger "goer". Gänger comes from gehen "go", ging "went", gegangen "gone". It shares the same source as Old English "gan", which ultimately became go in Modern English. Gang itself is preserved in a few English words like gangway, gangplank, originally a board for walking on and off a boat. The Old Germanic noun, gatwon "going," led to Norwegian and Swedish gata "street," and Modern English gate and gait. (Thanks to Susan Lister—or was it her doppelganger?—for suggesting today's very Good if borrowed Word.)
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