Printable Version
Pronunciation: pay-wawl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A page on a website requiring payment of a subscription or one-time fee for access to the content of that website.

Notes: Today's word is so new, it appears in only four online dictionaries. The earliest published appearance of the word was 2004—a very brief period in linguistic time. It is, so far, a lexical orphan, and probably will continue to be, since new words are seldom derived from compounds.

In Play: alphaDictionary has no paywall, except for Dr. Beard's two books. However, other websites have them to access the entire website: "Paywalls for online newspapers may not work in the long run, for web users have become accustomed to free news."

Word History: Today's Good Word was created by analogy with firewall. This word originally referred to a wall built to stop a fire from spreading to other areas of a building or ship. Then it was commandeered by computer science to refer to a program that prevents unauthorized people from accessing a website or database. Paywall, of course, is a compound with pay + wall as constituents. Pay comes from Old French paiier "to pay" the descendant of Late Latin pacare "to appease, to pacify". This verb is based on pax (pac-s) "peace". Wall in Old English was weall "rampart, earthwork"; it also referred to a defensive fortification around a city. Swedish vall "rampart, embankment" kept its original Germanic meaning. In Latin the same PIE root provided vallum "palisade, rampart". (Thanks for suggesting today's Good Word is owed our old friend, Christ Stewart of the Transvaal, where this week temperatures reached 42C [108F].)

Dr. Goodword,

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