Printable Version
Pronunciation: ee-ahn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An indeterminably long period of time, an eternity, light years, often used for hyperbolic or humorous effect. 2. (Geology) A period equal to a billion years.

Notes: If you speak British English, you may prefer the spelling aeon for this word. We have our choice of three adjectives for this noun: eonic, eonial, and eonian, as 'the eonian rise of the mountains'. Or, if you prefer: aeonic, aeonial, and aeonian.

In Play: In nonhyperbolic use, we need reference to a process that took a very, very, very long time to complete: "Water washing over the stone for eons had polished its surface to a glassy smoothness." Those of us who grew up in the southern US states saying, "I haven't seen you in a coon's age", now have a shorter way to express that sentiment: "I haven't seen you in eons." This is a bit hyperbolic, but that is a common usage of today's word down South.

Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin aeon, borrowed from Greek aion "lifetime, age, eternity". Ancient Greek inherited the word from Proto-Indo-European aiw- "one's life, eternity", which English converted to aught "anything whatever" as, "For aught we know, she is a genius." Naught "nothing" resulted from a combination of no + aught. Medieval and primeval were borrowed from Latin, each of which contains the root of aeval "of an age, of eternity". Both these adjectives are still acceptably spelled primaeval and mediaeval, especially in British English.

Dr. Goodword,

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