Printable Version
Pronunciation: en-vai-rên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, Noun, Adverb, Preposition

Meaning: 1. (Verb, transitive) To surround, go around, enclose, embrace. 2. (Noun, usually in the plural) Surrounding area, neighborhood, vicinity. 3. (Adverb and Preposition) Around, round about (not much used since the 17th century).

Notes: Environmentalism has been a major news topic since the 60s, so we thought you might like to know where the word comes from. The root of this word is environ, as in phrases like 'Lewisburg and environs'. However, this word can serve four parts of speech (see Meaning). The verbal usage is perhaps the loveliest: "A lush, ever-blooming garden environs her modest riparian home overlooking the banks of the Susquehanna."

In Play: Today's Good Word is at the top of the 'bet-you-didn't-know' list. I'll bet you didn't know that this word could work as a preposition or adverb in sentences like: "Jason walked environ the town, enjoying all the flowers environ." These usages are a bit old-fashioned, but the Oxford English Dictionary has not declared them archaic yet. The verb, however, like the noun, is still in use: "Lewisburg is a lovely 19th century village environed by rolling hills that redden in the fall." How many of us love to work in our study, environed by all our favorite books?

Word History: Today's Good Word was dipped from Old French environner "surround", a verb based on environ "round about". This word is made up of en "in" + viron "circle". Viron comes from Old French virer "to turn", a relative of English veer, not to mention Spanish and Portuguese virar, and Italian virare, all of which mean "to turn, to veer". The root vir- would seem related to Latin vertere "to turn" found in borrowed words like invert, convert, subvert, all having to do with turning. However, the absence of the T suggests that it comes from an ancestor of vert- rather than that root itself. (Today's word came from the Alpha Agoran known only as Klimt, environed at the time by the Good Word Suggestion shop of the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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