• astonish •
ê-stah-nish • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To suddenly surprise or even shock with something amazing, to astound, to startle mightily.
Notes: This word is part French (the stem) and part English (the ending), which explains why we have two nouns for this word, one native present participle (astonishing), one French (astonishment). The present participle serves as the adjective, too.
In Play: Astonishment may be delightful: "The villagers of Tullymore were astonished to find out how much money the winning Lotto ticket was worth." It may also be scary: "TV viewers were astonished to see white supremacists trying to take over the US Congress on January 6, 2021."
Word History: Middle English apparently plucked Old French estoner "to stun, shock, astonish" and converted it to astone, astun, and astony—they couldn't agree on how to spell it. French inherited its word from the presumable Vulgar Latin verb extonare, comprising classical Latin ex- "(out) from" + tonare "to thunder". Latin received this verb from PIE (s)tenê-/(s)tonê "to thunder, roar, moan", source also of English Thursday, from Old English thunor "thunder". In German and Dutch it emerged as Donner and donder "thunder", respectively. In Persian we find tondar, in Irish torann, and in Welsh taran "thunder". The PIE word also went into the making of tornado, borrowed from Spanish tornado "thunderstorm, hurricane" from tronar "to thunder". The similar verb tornar "to turn" is probably responsible for the RO metathesis. (Let's all now thank Anna Jung for reminding us of the fascination to be found in today's Good Word.)
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