• overcast •
o-vêr-kæst • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To cloud over, to completely cover with clouds. 2. To make or become gloomy. 3. To sew with overlying stitches to prevent raveling, as along the edge of fabric.
Notes: Today's Good Word is among the elite class of verbs that never change with tense: Illnesses overcast the workplace today, Illnesses overcast the workplace last week, The workplace was overcast by illnesses. This class includes cut, hit, and cost. (The same applies to forecast, which is often misconjugated as
forecasted.) The noun is overcast, too, which means that the identical word may be used as a verb, noun, or adjective.
In Play: Today's Good Word is almost always used as an adjective referring to the sky: "After Max installed solar panels on his home in New Monia, the city experienced three straight months of overcast weather." However, this word may also be used metaphorically: "Claire Voyant's absence overcast the whole meeting."
Word History: Today's word is obviously a compound verb containing over and cast. So, let's begin by examining over. Over comes from the same PIE origin as German über, Latin super, and Greek hyper, all meaning "over". Apparently, the initial S was a Fickle S that came and went as it pleased. Cast in the sense of "throw" was borrowed from Old Norse kasta "to throw", still visible in Icelandic and Swedish kasta and Danish kaste today. How Old Norse came upon the word is anyone's guess. Weak attempts have been made to associate it with gestus, the past participle of Latin gerere "to bear, carry", but many, many problems arise from these attempts.
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