Printable Version
Pronunciation: gleg Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Alert, sharply responsive, quick, sharp, clever, sprightly, cheery. 2.(Noun) A sly glance, a quick look; sharp-sighted.

Notes: Here is a word relegated to Scotland and northern (Geordie) England and rarely used there. Still, it is an English word listed in the best dictionaries. It is even more rarely used as a verb, meaning "to cast a sidelong or furtive glance."

In Play: If you're in northern England or Scotland, you might hear this word used as an adjective like this: "What's up? Ye look as gleg as if ye had won the lottery." As a noun, you may hear things like this up there: "Everybody feels as if they want a gleg at the skeletons in your cupboard."

Word History: We are not sure of the path between today's Good Word and PIE ghel-/ghol- "bright; to shine", but we are sure that it came from this word via "liquid" metathesis. (Ls and Rs are liquid consonants most frequently involved in metathesis, e.g., prescription pronounced perscription.) It might have entered English via Old Norse (Viking) glöggr "sharp-sighted" . It might have come from Irish glicc "shrewd, acute". However, etymologists have settled on the ultimate source being ghel-/ghol-, source also of all the GL words in English referring to light and seeing: gleam, glimmer, glisten, glare, glimpse, and glance. Without metathesis we see it in English gold, German Gold and gelb "yellow", Russian zoloto "gold" and žëltyi "yellow", Serbian zlato "gold", and Latvian dzeltens "yellow". (Our gratitude today is due Julie Ross for finding this rarely used lexical nugget and suggesting it for today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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