• worse •
Pronunciation: wêrs • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, comparative
Meaning: Comparative degree of bad, more bad in any sense of the word bad.
Notes: In every language the most common words are the most idiomatic. The comparative of bad is worse, and the comparative of good is better. We can make verbs from each of these: to worsen and to better. The superlative of these two is worst and best, respectively.
In Play: We may worsen in many ways: "Artists must fight the trend that the more famous they become, the worse their art becomes." Aging involves worsening that we cannot fight: "As we age, we all become worse for the wear."
Word History: In Old English today's word was wyrsa "worse" from Proto-Indo-European wers-/wors- "to confuse, mix up", also the source of Norse verre and Swedish värre "worse". PIE wers-/wors- also went into the making of the Germanic ancestors of Wurst "sausage", a culinary mix-up. Germanic also inherited the E-form of this word, as in Old High German werra "strife, confusion (of battle)". Old French borrowed this word, but since French didn't have a [w] sound, it used the sound that was closest to it, [gw], spelled GU: guerre "war". Old Spanish followed Old French to produce guerra "war", from which we get guerrilla. (So that he doesn't think worse of us, let's now thank David Myer for seeing the Good in today's Word, despite the bad meaning.)