Printable Version
Pronunciation: si-zur-ê, si-zhur Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A break in a line of verse, usually made to take a breath. 2. A break, hiatus, or interruption in anything else, such as, "A vacation is a happy caesura in work."

Notes: Here is a word we hardly ever hear outside academia. You are more likely to encounter it in writing. Its adjective is caesural. If you want to be extremely arcane, you may even use the Latin plural, caesurae. Written, this plural is rather eye-catching. If you want to push the arcanity even further, use a-e ligatures: cæsuræ, available now on most word processors.

In Play: The original reference of today's Good Word was to verse: "The poet had no sense of caesura, so his gestures were misplaced, destroying the harmony of the reading." But this word may be used in referring to any hiatus of any sort of flow or series: "The novels of Leo Tolstoy entered a 20-year caesura, during which time he wrote short philosophical stories and children's stories, like 'The Three Bears'".

Word History: This Good Word was taken whole from Latin caesura "a cutting" based on caesus, the past participle of caedere "to cut off, cut down, kill". Latin inherited the word from Proto-Indo-European kaê-id- "to strike, hit". Latin was apparently the only Indo-European language that received this PIE word; there is no trace of it in Germanic languages like English and German. English did borrow a Latin suffix based on this PIE root in -cide "kill", as in homocide, suicide, genocide. Chisel is another word borrowed from French cisiel, a reduction of spoken Late Latin cisellus "cutting tool", a diminutive of caesus, again, the past participle of caedere. (Our gratitude should be bestowed on George Kovac, who has contributed Good Words like today's to our series without noticeable caesura for many years.)

Dr. Goodword,

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