Printable Version
Pronunciation: awl-red-ee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb

Meaning: 1. Earlier than expected (Marian Kine is already engaged). 2. So soon (Are you leaving already?). 3. Emphatic modifier (US): Enough already!

Notes: Today's Good Word is one of the 250 Most Often Confused Words in English. A long time ago publishers discovered that already was once all ready and began encouraging us to spell today's word as two. In fact, already has long since become an adverb that indicates an action completed earlier than expected. The phrase all ready retains its original, logical sense of "everyone and everything is prepared".

In Play: Today's Good Word is a verb modifier that indicates an action completed earlier than expected: "Herschel had already finished the whole pie by the time his guests arrived." The sentence, "The children were all ready and bundled up warmly to go caroling on the snowy evening," means that all the children were ready. Here all is a discrete adjective that simply means what it always means: "all".

Word History: It is true that already originated in the phrase all ready, but it is a distinct word today. Frequently used phrases often become independent words over the course of a language's history; always, although, and holiday (from holy day) are just three. They become new words when they take on a meaning no longer related to that of the phrase. All is a strictly Germanic word, apparently borrowed, since we find no evidence outside Germanic languages like English, Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. Ready is most prominent in Germanic languages: the reed in Dutch gereed, Danish rede (and allerede "already"), Swedish redo (redan means "already"), and the reit in German bereiten "to prepare, make ready". It seems to be related to ride and road, for it originally meant "rideable, ready for riding, roadworthy" (way back when). (We're grateful to Terry Evans for suggesting today's common but fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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