Printable Version
Pronunciation: blench Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To draw back from, to shy away as from fear or surprise, to flinch. 2. (Variant of blanch) To whiten, turn pale, become or make white(r).

Notes: This is one of those rare English words that are spelled exactly the way it is pronounced. Unfortunately, we are on the verge of losing this word because English speakers keep confusing it with blanch. The only derivational relative is the personal noun blencher.

In Play: Remember, the original meaning of today's Good Word: "Vladimir Putin has never blenched from having an opponent, even a popular critic, assassinated." It has been confused with blanched enough that many dictionaries now list the sense of this word as a second definition: "When Hildegaard's husband returned home after 13 years' absence, she blenched and fainted."

Word History: In Old English today's word was blencan "deceive, cheat", probably borrowed from Old Norse blenkja "to impose upon". This possibility points to a Germanic verb blankjan, the causative of a strong blinkan "to blink". Since the meaning of these two words are so disparate, the origin of blencan is left uncertain. The northern form of the noun was blenk, so the sense-development may have resulted from confusion of blenk with blink, or of blench and blanch, probably also with blent, an old past tense of blend. Little can be known beyond this at present except that over the years it has been mistaken for and confused with blanch. (We should not blench from thanking our old-time friend George Kovac of Miami, Florida, for finding yet another fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!