• bastion •
bæs-chên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A projection in the wall of a fortress that commands the walls on either side; any well-fortified position or impregnable stronghold.
Notes: Today's word is seldom used in reference to fortifications, except in a historical sense. Rather, it is used almost synonymously with bulwark, a thick wall or fortification for defense. A bulwark is essentially a rampart, a defensive wall from which a bastion might jut. A rampart may also be a natural mound, such as the steep bank of a river.
In Play: You might want to use today's word as Shulamith Firestone used it in The Bar as Microcosm, "For centuries [the bar] was the bastion of male privilege, the gathering place for men away from their women...." It refers to a stronghold that also may be a safe refuge: "The beauty parlor of the 1950's was the great bastion of femininity, where women could gather and converse on topics of interest only to them." Today, however, few such bastions remain, as women invade the bars and more men have their hair styled in beauty parlors than cut at the barber's.
Word History: Today's is a word borrowed from French but (probably) not from Latin. The word goes back to Old French "bastillon" (pronounced [bastiyoN]), diminutive of bastille "fortress" and, later, "jail." This word is famous for the important French holiday, "Bastille Day," celebrated July 14, the day the infamous Parisian jail was stormed and emptied, leading to the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the First Republic. The root's history is cloudy but apparently is related to Old Provenšal bastir "to build," probably of Germanic origin.
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