• eldritch •
el-drich • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Unnaturally strange, other-worldly, eerily weird and unsettling.
Notes: Tired of hearing and saying bizarre or twisted? Today's Good Word provides an excellent substitute in conversations with avid readers. Yes, it is archaic, but it continues to pop up in the writings of sophisticated writers. Do not confuse it with the name Eldridge (which may be a variant of it), no matter how eldritch the Eldridge you know might be.
In Play: Perhaps the reason this archaic word will not go away is that Lanford Wilson's modernistic play The Rimers of Eldritch (1966) will not go away. It is aptly named, for it is a story of a murder set in a mythical Midwestern town and presented with eldritch sets and props and characters with eldritch relationships among themselves. But eldritch experiences occur outside the theater: "The eldritch claim that the Earth is flat and resting on the back of a giant tortoise intrigued the anthropologist in Melvin."
Word History: We are not certain where this word came from, but it probably originated in an Old English word that was never written down. If so, the word would have been made up of Old English el "strange, other" + rice "powerful, mighty" and would have meant, originally, something like "other-powerful". The D may have been added under the influence of Old English eald "old", origin of modern elder. Al came from a common Indo-European root that we see in Greek allos "another" and Latin alius "(an)other", whence English alias. OE rice has too many relatives to cover here. It is related to German reich "rich" and is today rich in English. It also came from the same root as the words on reg- referring to rulers like regulate and regal. In fact, rule itself is a reduction of Latin regula "straight stick, principle". (It would certainly be an eldritch omission were I not to thank John Duffus for bringing today's fascinating Good Word to our attention.)