Printable Version
Pronunciation: jæn-ê-form Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Two-face, having two faces facing in opposite directions like that of the Roman god Janus.

Notes: Janus was the two-faced Roman god of transitions like life/death, youth/adulthood, one historical era to another. His likeness appeared on doors and gates in ancient Rome. His two faces often were young and old, interpreted as looking ahead and looking backward.

In Play: This word means "like Janus", so the faces may be anyone's: "The statue they erected in the village square was janiform, with the face of Willy Playfair on one side and Les Cheatham's on the other." If you don't want to call your co-conversationalist the two-faced liar that they are, try a figurative use of today's Good Word: "I find you a janiform prevaricator."

Word History: two-facedToday's Good Word was nicked from Latin Ianus "Janus" (pronounced [yanus]) which, uncapitalized, means "gate, passageway" The feminine of the same word is ianua "door". Latin apparently made its words from Latin ire "to go, walk, swim, fly (move)", a word based on PIE ei- "to go", source also of Sanskrit eti "he goes" and yanti "they go". It also went into the making of Russian idti "to go", Lithuanian eiti "to go", Latvian iet "to go". We see it in January, the gateway to a new year. Portuguese janela "window" is a remake of Latin ianella "small door", the diminutive of ianua.

Form comes from Latin forma "shape, figure, appearance" via Old French forme. Where forma came from is controversial. The most likely source is PIE bher-/bhor- "to bear, carry", via a sense of "bearing". If so, it is related to the English word bear, birth, bairn, burden and Latin fortuna and ferre "carry" and their progeny. (We owe a word of thanks to newcomer Gary Cook for recommending today's curious Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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