Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêr-sê-vir Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive (no object)

Meaning: To persist in a course of action to a goal against all obstacles and discouragement with little or no hope for success

Notes: This word comes with an extended lexical family, including two nouns, perseverance and perseveration, not to mention the present participle, persevering. The most common adjectives are perseverant and persevering, though you will meet perseverative in psychology texts.

In Play: The first black woman to presumably be a Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, from a small-town high school in Florida, was admitted to Harvard. Arriving there in the fall, she was walking across the commons in a state of bewilderment. She saw a black woman, a complete stranger, walking toward her. The woman, perhaps noticing her overwhelmed demeanor, stopped, leaned over to her and spoke one word: "Persevere". Thank heavens, she did.

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Old French perseverer, only a slight revision of Latin perseverare "to persevere", a verb built on perseverus "very serious, severe". This adjective combines per "forward, through, before" + severus "severe, serious, grave", ultimate origin of English severe. Latin preserved perfectly Proto-Indo-European per "forward, through, out front", source also of Greek peri "around, about", Lithuanian per "through", German vor "before, in front of", and English for, fore and from. Latin also converted per to pro "before, for". Severus came from PIE segh-wer- "toughness, steadfastness", a PIE noun based on segh-/sogh- "to hold, hang on, overcome", source also of German Sieg "victory" and Greek schema "form, figure" and skhola "leisure, rest", the ultimate origin of English school(!)

Dr. Goodword,

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