• marvel •
Pronunciation: mah[r]-vêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A surprisingly wonderful and admirable thing.
Notes: Today's word stirs feelings of great unexpected pleasures. Its adjective is marvelous (marvellous in British English), to which we may simply add -ly to form the adverb. We may use this word without modification as a verb meaning "to be filled with surprise, wonder, and admiration at something", as to marvel at the Grand Canyon.
In Play: Today's Good Word uses the preposition at with modifiers: "Lucy is a marvel at buying candy at the lowest possible price." This word is a perfect example of English-speakers' passion for verbing nouns: "I can only marvel at a single parent who can manage two jobs and a family at the same time."
Word History: Middle English borrowed today's word from Old French merveille, which evolved from Latin mirabilia "wonderful things (wonderfuls)", the neuter plural form of mirabilis "wonderful". This word is the adjective from mirari "to wonder", based on mirus "wonderful", also the root of miraculum "wonderful thing". The whole thing goes back to a Proto-Indo-European word smei- "to laugh, smile", with a Fickle S that comes and goes mysteriously. This word is also the ultimate source of English smile, Swedish smila "smile", and Russian smekh "laughter". (I'm sure we all marvel a bit at the marvelous Good Words like this one, which Carol Ann Kopp sends us from time to time.)