Printable Version
Pronunciation: hæng-o-vêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Something or someone left over from a prior time period; a vestige, a holdover, a leftover, a remnant. 2. The unpleasant effects of overdrinking the night before or a short period before, a katzenjammer.

Notes: Today's word is an interesting bit of evidence of the importance of word order in language: an overhang is quite a different thing from a hangover. The only derivation ever tried for this word is hangoverish reported in 1939. The word currently appears only 5,350 times on the Web, mostly in dictionaries.

In Play: First things first: "This dorm must be a hangover from an old insane asylum!" The second meaning was derived from the first by means of narrowing to a strictly pejorative sense: "I had such a hangover from the party last night that I think I might have flunked the chemistry exam."

Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously a compound comprising hang + over. Hang, the verb, is related to Hittite gang- "to hang", Sanskrit sankate "wavers", and Latin cunctari "to delay", so the Proto-Indo-European root pervaded the Indo-European languages pretty thoroughly. The original past tense was hanged, but a northern British form, hung, emerged in the 16th century as the past participle, then moved on to take over as the past tense form. Hanged remained only in the legal sense, legalese being more conservative than the general language. Stonehenge originally meant "stone gallows", presumably from the resemblance to gallows of the three-piece ensembles.

Dr. Goodword,

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