• diapason •
dai-ê-pay-zên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The outpouring of full, rich, harmonious sound. 2. The entire range or scope of something. 3. The interval of an octave. 4. A tuning fork. 5. Either of the two principal stops on a pipe organ that marks the entire range of the instrument.
Notes: I must admit this word took me by surprise. I'm not sure why it is not more often used. Let's all try to use it more, so that it doesn't return to its narrow musical meaning. Its adjective is diapasonal.
In Play: The first sentence will exemplify the close relation of today's word with music: "The final movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is a choral diapason of voices singing Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy". However, this word may be used in many ways unrelated to music: "The boss's announcement that the lunch break was going to be reduced to 45 minutes was greeted by a diapason of moans and groans."
Word History: In Middle English today's Good Word was diapasoun, from Latin diapason "the whole octave", from Greek dia pason (khordon) "through all (the notes)". This phrase comprises dia "through" + pason, the feminine genitive plural of pas "every, all". No one seems to know how dia came to be in the ancient Greek language. We know a bit more about pas. It is attested in only two languages: the now deceased Tokharian and ancient Greek. The neuter form of this adjective in Greek was pan, which is widely used in English: pan-America, pan-Slavic. It can also be found in some commonly used words, like panorama, panacea, and pantheon, any temple dedicated to "all gods". (Let's now have a diapason of applause for Jackie Strauss, who recommended today's Good Word.)
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