Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-genst Hear it!

Part of Speech: Preposition

Meaning: 1. Touching, in contact with: 'leaning against the fence'. 2. In opposition to: 'to be against communism'. 3. Compared or contrasted with: "against Herman, Joe looks OK'. 4. Opposite to: 'sail against the wind'. 5. Before a background: 'white hair against dark skin'. 6. In preparation for, in anticipation of: 'store food against winter'. 7. In competition with: 'run against the clock'.

Notes: We usually do not run Good Words with so many meanings, but the relation of against to again is too good to pass up. It is a derivation from again but, otherwise, has no relatives.

In Play: I will assume enough examples were given in Meaning above and omit samples here to keep the length of this Good Word within reading distance.

Word History: Today's Good Word was derived from again despite the semantic disparity between these two words today. In late Old English it was agan, from an earlier preposition and adverb ongeagn "opposite, contrary", comprising "on" + gegn "against, toward", cousin of German gegen "against" and Danish igen "again". Agan picked up the -st suffix by analogy with other prepositions like amidst, whilst, and amongst. These words were semantically identical to their versions without -st, amid, while, and among. But by the 16th century, again had taken over the adverbial function and against, the prepositional function of agan. Freed from each other, they began to assume distinct meanings. (Now a standing ovation to Brian Johnson of Tokyo, a contributor of words and creativity to the Agora since 2006, for today's Good Word hiding another word in plain sight.)

Dr. Goodword,

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