• anchorite •
æng-kêr-rait • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Hermit, recluse, ascetic, solitary, especially someone who lives in seclusion for religious reasons.
Notes: There exists a variant of this word, anchoret, which is far less often used. The adjective for this word is anchoritic, as 'an anchoritic life'. It may be extended with a semantically empty suffix, anchoritical. The extended form must be used for the adverb, even though it usually isn't pronounced: anchoritically. The feminine form of anchorite is anchoress.
In Play: In England, the anchoritic life once proved quite popular among women (anchoresses). In the Middle Ages they outnumbered men in the ranks of the anchorites, no doubt, escaping bad marriages. However, we may be losing the chance to use this word creatively: "The current political situation has increased the number of anchorites dramatically."
Word History: Anchorite was taken from Medieval Latin anchorita from Late Latin anchoreta, hence the alternate form. Latin borrowed the word from Greek anakhoretes "one who has retreated", the personal noun from anakhorein "to retreat, go back, retire". This word comprises ana "up, back" + khorein "withdraw" from khoros "place, space, room". Ana comes from PIE an(a) "on", source of English on and Russian na "on(to)". Khoros derived from PIE root ghe-/gho- "release, let go", source of both go and come in English and kommen "come" and gehen "go" in German. English gait and gate were borrowed from Old Norse gata "path, way, street", made from the same word. (Today's Good Word was built upon a suggestion by Sue Gold, a former student and long-time GW contributor, who recently retired from Westtown School.)
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