• august •
aw-gêst • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Regal, majestic, imposing, grandiose.
Notes: This word is related to the hot month of August in the Northern Hemisphere, which was named after Augustus Caesar on the Julian (for Julius Caesar) calendar. Remember, however, that the accent falls on the second syllable of today's Good Word but on the first syllable of August (the month). The adverb for the English adjective is augustly and the noun, augustness.
In Play: The Good Word today reminds us of royalty and greatness: "I first met his lordship in his august penthouse high atop a London skyscraper." Even though the visibility of royalty continues to melt away, the usefulness of our word today remains undiminished: "The setting of such an august cathedral for the wedding of a pair of such reserved commoners seemed oddly incongruous."
Word History: You probably would not think of a nickname as anything august, but these two words share their origin. Today's Good Word goes back 5000-6000 years to Proto-Indo-European aug- "to increase". Latin retained the form intact in words like augere "to increase", which underlies our borrowed words augment and auction. Latin auxilium (aug-silium) "aid, support" came to us, via French, as auxiliary. The Germanic languages did not keep the PIE root intact. As it wound its way through the ancient Germanic languages, it became Old English eacan "to add, increase". Today that word is eke. Now, a nickname started out centuries ago as an ekename "an additional name", but the N on an changed partners along the way to become a nekename and, finally, a nickname.
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