• serene •
Pronunciation: sê-reen • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Quiet, calm, peaceful, collected, untroubled. 2. Clear, tranquil (sky). 3. Honored, distinguished, when used as part of a title, Her Serene Highness.
Notes: Here is a word we do not use often enough. Serene comes with two nouns, the clunkier, sereneness, and serenity, which moves more trippingly across the tongue. This adjective has in the past been used as a verb, as 'to serene a stormy sky'. Italian has a cousin in sereno, serena. Venice was once known as la Serenissima "the Serenest One".
In Play: This word is most closely associate with relaxation: "Rose Bush's garden is now a serene retreat of meandering paths and cool shade, interrupted only by a chirping little spring." When applied to people, it still conveys the sense of relaxation: "You would never believe the passion lurking beneath Eva Brick's serene, regal bearing."
Word History: This word was borrowed from Old French serein, inherited from Latin serenus "clear, serene, cloudless (weather); happy". English also borrowed serein unchanged, referring to the mists that fall from an unclouded sky after dusk in the tropics. The Latin word, serenus, came from PIE root ksero- "dry, clear", source also of Greek xeros "dry, arid", which went into the making of Xerox, the commercial name of a type of xerography, a dry copying process. The only other derivative of the PIE word that I could find is German serbeln "fade, wither". (As is his wont, the mysterious Grogie of the Agora, recommended serein, a word so arcane as to appear in few dictionaries. However, it reminded me that we hadn't done this peacefully related Good Word.)