Printable Version
Pronunciation: læst Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Model of the human foot used to hold shoes to their proper sizes.

Notes: This word is almost forgotten because few people outside shoemakers use lasts anymore and because it is spelled identical with the verb, adjective, and adverb last.

In Play: The basic sense for today's word is on its way out of our vocabularies: "Only the wealthy can afford to preserve the shapes of their shoes today with lasts." The extended sense is in even more danger of extinction: "Christian holidays were shaped around a pagan last of them."

Word History: Today's Good Word has cousins in all Germanic languages: Dutch leest, German Leisten, Swedish läst Danish laest. They all descend from Old Germanic laist- "track, rut, footprint"; in fact, English last originally meant "rut, furrow, footprint". Old Germanic laist- came from PIE lois-/leis- "furrow, track; to learn". I suppose "learn" at one time meant "to follow in the teacher's tracks". German used the PIE leis- form, too, for Geleise "tracks, rails" and Gleis "(train) platform, track". Latin used it for lira "furrow, rut". English learn comes from the same source, as does German lehren "to teach". (Our old friend wordmaster Jackie Strauss, who has contributed over 100 published Good Words since 2005, shares yet another fascinating one with us today.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!