• dazzle •
Pronunciation: dæz-êl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To overpower the eyes with brightness, as floodlights might dazzle someone and cause them to stumble. 2. To daze or bewilder with brilliant, spectacular qualities.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes with the usual set of relations, an adjective dazzling, and an abstract noun dazzle, no different from the verb. You may, however, add the French suffix -ment to this word for a bit more, well, dazzle: dazzlement. Someone or something that dazzles would be a dazzler. If you dazzle someone way beyond the intensity of ordinary dazzlement, then you bedazzle them. Bedazzle has the same array of relatives as dazzle.
In Play: To dazzle, we must be absolutely spectacular: "Maude Lynn Dresser dazzled everyone at the cotillion with her new evening gown dripping with every piece of jewelry she owns." I can't imagine what it would take to bedazzle someone, but we are frequently dazzled: "Rusty Horne's new rock group doesn't have any good tunes, but they put on a dazzling light show."
Word History: Today's word is a rarity: a purely English word! Dazzle is a diminutive of daze, which is to say, it once meant "to daze a little". We find evidence of this word in a few old Germanic languages like Old Norwegian dasask "become weary" and Swedish regional dasa "to be idle", but nothing outside the Germanic languages. The suffix -le was once used widely to indicate things smaller: a puddle is a small pool, and to muddle something is to muddy it a little. The suffix still creates diminutives in southern Germany, where Biss is a bite, and a Bissel is a bit. A small town, Stadt in German, is a Städtle "village, old town" in southern Germany, the origin of Yiddish shtetl. (Let us now thank Joe Heckel for dazzling us with his suggestion of today's bright and shiny Good Word.)