• alas •
ê-læs • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Interjection
Meaning: (A bit outdated) An interjection used to express hopelessness: extreme disappointment, grief, or pity.
Notes: Since this word is a bit outdated, it is mostly used humorously. It is sometimes combined with alack, another interjection used to express disappointment, in the expression 'Alas and alack!' It is also rarely combined with day, as in alas-a-day, mimicking the sorrowful exclamation, Alackaday! This word picked up a suffix, -sy, while losing the initial a-, resulting in lackadaisy "alas, alack", which produced the adjective lackadaisical.
In Play: We might easily say something today like, "Alas! What an awful state this country is in!" if the situation seems hopeless to you. Around the house either parent might say in frustration: "Alas! What a sorry state your room is in, Billy!" In discussions of sports, we might emphasize our sense of desperation by beginning a sentence with today's word: "Alas! The Houston Astros haven't won two games in a row in all of April!"
Word History: Today's Good Word is derived from Old French ha-las (currently hélas), from ha "ah" + las "unfortunate", originally "tired, fatigued, weary" from Latin lassus "weary". Alas started out as an expression of weariness rather than disappointment. Latin lassus underlies the English borrowing lassitude, and as well it comes from the same PIE source, led- "to let go, loosen, slacken", as German lassen "let" and English let. This same root seems to underlie English late and last.
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