• glean •
gleen • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. (Historical) To gather grain or other farm produce left by reapers, diggers, etc. 2. To patiently gather bit by bit.
Notes: Here is a word whose figurative sense has replaced its literal sense just as farm machinery has replaced reapers and gleaners. There! We've already used the personal noun, gleaner. It also brings with it a passive adjective, gleanable, which leaves the door open for gleanability. Otherwise, both participles are used as adjectives and the present participle, gleaning, is used as a noun.
In Play: We will only read glean in its original sense in historical works: "Hershel was allowed to glean the potatoes left behind in the field by the pickers." The figurative sense is commonplace today: "I went to India to see what knowledge about life I could glean from the gurus and other pundits there."
Word History: Today's Good Word was wrenched from Old French glener "to glean" (Modern French glaner) from Late Latin glennare "to collect". How it got into Latin is a mystery begging for speculation. The best guess is that Latin took it from Celtic glano- "clean, clear", source also of Breton glan "pure, plain, simple", Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic glan "clean, clean, pure", and Manx glen "clean, clear-cut" and glenney "clean, clear". Some have tried to link the Celtic word with PIE ghren-/ghron- "green; to grow" that went into the making of such words as green and grass, but the phonological and semantic problems weigh heavily against such a suggestion. (We have gleaned many Good Words from the participation of Joakim Larsson of Sweden in our lexical enterprise; today's is yet another.)
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