• anxious •
ængk-shês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Tensely worried, nervously troubled, disturbed by fear of impending failure or danger. 2. Eager, excitedly anticipating or looking forward to something.
Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as an adverb if we place the suffix -ly on the end, making it anxiously. If we need to express the emotional quality of this word as a noun, anxiety is the word to use. Many purists reject the second meaning of this word listed above since the two senses are one negative, the other positive—making the word almost oxymoronic. However, the second meaning is a logical metaphorical extension of the first and is now too widespread to rein in.
In Play: Using the first meaning of today's word we may say: "Carrie Oakley was so anxious about singing before a live audience, she forgot the words to the song." The positive sense of the word may be used in the same auditorium: "Carrie's whole family was waiting anxiously on the front row to hear her thrill the audience with her beautiful voice."
Word History: This word is the English rendition of Latin anxius "troubled, uneasy, uncomfortable". The adjective is based on the verb anguere "to choke, to distress" and hence was originally related to tightness. In fact, the same root that produced anguere kept the meaning of "tight" in the Germanic languages, so that Old English enge meant "narrow, tight", just as eng does today in Modern German. (German Angst "fear" is also a derivation of the same earlier word.) So the fact that we often choke when anxious about something, like poor Carrie Oakley above, is not coincidental. The root came down to Old Norse as angr "distress, grief", a word the English borrowed during the Viking invasions of England as anger and angry. (I've been anxious to thank Thel Casper for suggesting this word for a long time. This is my way of doing it.)