• elevate •
e-lê-vayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. Raise, lift up. 2. To increase the amount. 3. To promote to a higher rank, status, or position. 4. To inspire, exhilarate, raise spirits.
Notes: This word has several derivational relatives, but a couple of them have wandered off the reservation. An elevator isn't someone who elevates, but what is known as a lift in British English, a means of lifting people and things between floors of a multistoried building. Elevation can refer to the process of elevating, but it also can refer to a particular height or altitude, as 'the elevation above sea level'. Adjectives abound: elevatory, elevating, elevational.
In Play: The literal sense of today's word is rare: "The water level is being elevated by the melting icecaps in the Arctic." Elevate is almost always used figuratively: "Whenever Gloria Sass entered his office, Frederick felt a noticeable elevation of his heart rate." Elevate has to do with height in any sense of the word: "Let's elevate the topic of conversation a bit away from rumps."
Word History: Today's Good Word was built on Latin elevatus, the past participle of elevare "lift up, raise", figuratively, "to lighten, alleviate". The Latin word is made up of ex "out (from)" + levare "lighten, raise", from levis "light (in weight)". Latin came by ex from PIE eghs "out (of), from", source also of Greek ex "from", Hindi se "from", and Russian iz "out of, from". Levis was reconstructed from PIE legwh- "light (not heavy)", source also of English light, German leicht, Russian legkii. Serbian lagan, French léger, and Lithuanian lengvas. The meaning of some descendants of the PIE word has shifted: Greek elachys "small", Irish laigiu "weakness", and Welsh llai "less, minor". (Now let's thank Joakim Larsson of Sweden for his suggesting Good Words since 2008 as excellent as today's.)
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