Printable Version
Pronunciation: gim-lit-aid Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Sharp-sighted, having keen vision, extremely watchful, having a piercing gaze. 2. (Archaic) Squint-eyed, having strabismus.

Notes: I was surprised to find how many dictionaries carry this word and how long it's been around. The -ed suffix here marks adjectives meaning "having X", like bearded, forested, and the like. Here it was added to the noun gimlet-eye "sharp or piercing gaze". These are the only two relations in this lexical family.

In Play: gimletAs you can see, this word has nothing to do with the gimlet cocktail: "His parents gave gimlet-eyed scrutiny from the stands to their 6-year-old son in his first soccer match." Many nonhuman things may be gimlet-eyed so long as a connection with a person may be detected: "H. L. Mencken was known for his gimlet-eyed essays on everything from jazz to politics."

Word History: Gimlet was borrowed from Old French guimbelet "small boring tool" which French borrowed from Middle Dutch wimmelkijn, substituting the French diminutive suffix for Dutch -kijn. Since French had no [w], it replaced W in the Dutch word with the nearest sound it had [gw] (GU). So, the Dutch word came through its Germanic ancestors from PIE weip- "to turn, tremble", source also of English wipe, Latin vibrare "to quiver, shake", Danish vippe "seesaw, eyelash", and Dutch wippen "to seesaw, whip".

Eye has come a long way from PIE okw- "to see, eye". Okw- emerged as Sanskrit aksi "eye", Latin oculus "eye", Greek ops, German Auge, Swedish öga, Danish øje, Lithuanian akis, Italian occhio, and Spanish ojo. (Now let's welcome newcomer Patty Gaugler to our happy band of contributors for spotting the interest in today's Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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