• menace •
me-nis • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A threat of danger, an intimidating annoyance: person, thing or quality. 2. (Verb) To threaten, intimidate. 3. (Verb) To annoy, pester, bother.
Notes: Those of us over 30 probably associate today's word with Dennis the Menace, a comic strip character around which two movies and a cartoon series were made. The adjective most often used comes from the verbal use of this word: menacing. Dennis was a child menacer.
In Play: Menaces may be nonviolent: "COVID will remain a menace to the world long after we have it under control." They may be violent: "Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine proves it a menace to the whole world."
Word History: Today's Good Word, as usual, was swiped from French menace "menace, threat", passed down from Vulgar (Street) Latin minacia "threat, menace", a back-formed singular of Latin minaciae "threatening things". Minacia is also source of Spanish amenaza "threat, menace" and Italian minaccia "threat, menace'. It is the noun for minax (minac-s (genitive case minacis) "threatening", the adjective coming from minari "to threaten, jut out, project". Minari was created from minae "threats; projecting points", a word that Latin remodeled from PIE men-/mon- "to project, stick out", source also of Latin mentum "chin", German Mund "mouth", and English mouth. It also produced Latin mon(t)s "hill, mountain", from which Old French created montaigne "mountain" (Modern French montagne), whence English mountain. We also find mynydd "mountain" in Welsh, menez "hill, mountain" in Breton, and beinn "mountain" in Scottish. (Now a bow to wordmaster Albert Skiles, who for years has been recommending Good Words as exciting as today's.)
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