• browse •
bræwz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. Leisurely look over or around without seeking anything in particular. 2. Read superficially, skim over, flip pages. 3. To graze, forage, feed, especially on tender shoots and twigs.
Notes: Today's word originally referred to animals. When it was metaphorically used to refer to human activity, it took on the first two senses. A person or animal that browses is a browser. Browser may also refer to a computer program used for browsing the World Wide Web. Something inviting browsing may be said to be browsable.
In Play: The first sense of browse may be heard in sentences like this: "I love to browse through the pictures I took decades ago." The second sense, in such sentences as this: "The review of my book suggested the author hadn't even browsed through it." Finally, the third, original sense may be heard in this sort of expression: "The long necks of giraffes allow them to browse well above other animals."
Word History: The history of today's Good Word has had many odd twists and unusual turns. It is a remodeling of Old French broster "to sprout, bud", from brost "young shoot, twig". French borrowed this word from Proto-Germanic brust- "bud, shoot", which originated in PIE bhreus- "to swell, sprout". This word is also the source of German Brust, Dutch borst, and English breast. It turned up in Russia as bryukho, Czech břicho, Slovak brucho, all meaning "belly, stomach". German brausen might fit here. Although Although today it means "to shower" or "to roar", it originally meant "to swell, billow (of the sea"). (Now, yet another debt of gratitude is owed to grand wordmaster Jackie Strauss of Philadelphia, for this, her 91st outstanding Good Word since 2007.)
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