Printable Version
Pronunciation: prê -sayj Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To be an omen of, to portend, to indicate or point toward (figuratively). 2. To foretell, predict, forecast.

Notes: Today's Good Word is one with confusing accentuation. The noun, presage is pronounced [pre-sij] but accent on the verb in US English falls on the second syllable, following the pattern of words like object, survey, convert with similar noun-verb pairs. Beware.

In Play: This verb still has overtones of mysticism about it: "The shadow of the groundhog presaged six more weeks of bad weather and, possibly, a delay of spring". However, it may be used without those overtones to refer to a simple early indicator: "The cracks in the bridge presaged a short life for it and a major problem coming down the pike for commuters who use it to get to work."

Word History: Today?s Good Word comes from Latin presagire "to perceive beforehand", made of pre- "before, ahead" + sagire "to perceive". The root of sagire is sag- "to seek". It turned up in Germanic languages in such forms as German suchen and English seek. We also find it in the English word forsake, with a meaning almost the antonym of "seek", "to abandon, give up on". The meaning of sake itself, "goal, purpose", in the phrase 'for the sake of', comes from the original sense of "that which is sought". When Latin allowed the meaning of this root to shift to "perceive", it left open the door for sagax, sagacis "keenly perceptive", which English made over into sagacious "very wise".

Dr. Goodword,

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