• anabasis •
ê-næ-bê-sis • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A movement upward or forward, as a military advance or the advance of disease in the body; the antonym of retreat. 2. A march from the coast to the interior or any military advance.
Notes: Today's extremely rare word comes from the title of a book by the Greek historian Xenophon about a Greek mercenary expedition across Asia Minor in 401 B.C. It was unsuccessful and turned into a retreat, making the title of Xenophon's book possibly one of the earliest examples of warspeak. The plural of today's word is anabases, the regular plural of all borrowed words ending on -is: basis : bases, crisis : crises. The adjective is anabatic, as in 'the anabatic wind currents that flow up a mountainside'.
In Play: The upward thrust of Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill (as he envisaged it) would qualify it as an anabasis. But historians have said the Lincoln launched anabases in the second sense into the South to prevent the dissolution of the United States.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Greek anabainein "to go up," a combination of ana- "up" + bainein "to go". The Greek word for "go" comes from the same ancestor as English go itself. The Proto-Indo-European root was gwa(m)- "to come, go", where the [m] was probably a suffix at one time. Anyway, without the [m] it became go in English and with it, come. The initial [gw] became [b] in Greek but [v] in Latin, where the same root turned up in venire "come", as in the Christmas carol, Adeste fideles, Venite adoremus! "Come, let us adore (him)!" We also see it in the borrowing from Latin of advent "the coming of something important", and Advent "the coming of Jesus", from ad "to" + venire "to come".
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