Printable Version
Pronunciation: fresh-it Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A flash flood, the overflow of streams and rivers caused by heavy rains.

Notes: Here is a word that we should be using more as global warming brings more rains across the world. The word fresh was at one time used as a noun with the same meaning as freshet according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The granddaddy of all English dictionaries does not call it archaic, but is shows no examples beyond the 19th century.

In Play: Global warming brought freshets to central Pennsylvania in July and August this year, months that 50 years ago experienced droughts. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote a novella, the title of which was translated by Isabel Hapgood as "Spring Freshets".

Word History: In Old English today's Good Word was fersceta from fresh "unsalted; pure; sweet", the origin of today's fresh. Fresh came from Proto-Germanic friskaz, also the origin of Dutch vers and German frisch. The difference between the adjective and noun senses of this word probably arose from the merger of the sounds of two different words without a parallel merger of meanings. If so, the noun sense of "flooding" is probably related to fresh in the sense of "insolent", which would relate it to freak. The latter word originally meant "a sudden capricious change of mind". The history of either word fades rapidly beyond what I've already written.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!