• doniferous •
do-nif-ê-r-rês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Bearing gifts.
Notes: This word is dated though carried in most of the distinguished dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary even calls it "obsolete, rare". It has no lexical family, though we may assume the same family as all other adjectives ending on -iferous.
In Play: As we approach Christmas, we will hear much about the doniferous wise men who came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the manger where lay the newly born Jesus. We usually travel doniferously or receive doniferous guests bearing Christmas gifts this time of the year.
Word History: Today's Good Word comprises the stem of donum "gift" + -fer "bearing" (from ferre "to bear, carry") + -ous, an adjective suffix. In Latin the combining form of -fer was always preceded by an -i-, as seen in vociferous, odoriferous, and carboniferous. Donum is the noun from dare "to give", do "I give" and underlies another English borrowing, donate. It comes from PIE do- "to give", which turns up in Russian dat' "to give" and Greek dosis "something given", which English borrowed for its dose. Ferre "to bear, carry" comes from the same source as the English verb bear, PIE bher-/bhor- "to carry, to bear (children)". Initial [bh] became [ph] in Latin, later changing to [f]. In Russian this word became brat' "to take", beru "I take". We find the kin of this PIE word all around English, birth, burden, bier, (wheel)barrow and, of course, all the Latinate borrowings containing -fer: transfer, ferry, fertile. (Yet again, we owe a debt of gratitude to the mysterious Grogie of the arcane vocabulary, who has long haunted the Agora, contributing suggestions of almost lost Good Words like today's.)
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