• mask •
Pronunciation: mæsk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A face covering used to amuse or terrify people, to hide the identity of the wearer, or to protect from bacteria and viruses. 2. (Also spelled masque) A preparation spread over the face to cleanse and improve the skin. 3. A thin likeness of a person made by making a mold of their face, as 'a death mask'. 4. Anything used to cover something else to block it from view or protect it, such as a photographic mask used to block part of an image.
Notes: I think most people are overly familiar with today's Good Word. It may be used as a verb meaning "to cover up", as 'to mask one's feelings'. The most interesting offspring is masquerade "masked ball", with a root spelled the French way. It, too, may be used as a verb meaning "to pass oneself off as", e.g. 'masquerade as a doctor'.
In Play: Today the US is now the greatest country in the spread of the coronavirus: "Surgical masks are standard protection against invisible droplets of saliva that may carry viruses that the mouth sprays out with each word we speak." Please, wherever you are in the world, wear a cloth mask when you go out of your home—it protects yourself and others.
Word History: Today's Good Word was captured early on from Middle French masque "covering to hide or guard the face". French apparently copied either Italian maschera "mask" or Spanish máscara "mask", source also of English mascara. These words were modifications of Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare", a word of mysterious origins. It may have come from Arabic maskharah "buffoon, mockery", based on sakhira "be mocked, ridiculed". It may come via Provençal mascara, Catalan màscara, or Old French mascurer "to blacken (the face)". These words would have had to be derived from mask- "black", coming from a pre-Indo-European language, such as Old Occitan masco "witch", a conjurer of black magic. The word is alive today in various dialects. (Today's word comes as a reminder from a long-time major contributor, George Kovac, who presumably is staying home and wearing a mask when he goes out.)