Printable Version
Pronunciation: ek-spai-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Expiration, deadline, as the expiry date of a food product. 2. Death, passing, as the expiry of an aged friend.

Notes: Today's good word is encountered less often in North America than in Britain and other English-speaking regions. Other than regional preference, it is a very close synonym of expiration, e.g. the expiratiion of my driver's license or the expiration of a dear friend after a long illness.

In Play: If you live outside the United States, you are probably acquainted with remarks like this, "Rick O'Shea was disappointed at his fiance's reluctance to agree on an expiry for their prenuptial contract." You probably haven't heard anything like this use of the second meaning above: "According to unreliable sources, Lloyd's of London is offering insurance to shoe manufacturers around the world against the expiry of Imelda Marcos." Remember her?

Word History: A deadline might seem a pretty far stretch from death, so why do deadline and expiry refer to it? Well, deadline originated in our less enlightened days as the line beyond which a prisoner could not step without being shot dead. Expiry, on the other hand, goes back through Old French to Latin expirare "to breathe out, to breathe one's last breath". It is made from ex "out (of)" + spirare "to breathe". The verb, of course, also appears in inspirare "to breathe into" from which we developed inspire "inhale, inspire". Perspirare in Latin meant "breathe through" or "breathe all over". Honest. (Thanks to Hanie Vinson, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, for inspiring us with today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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