• arduous •
ah(r)-ju-wês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. High, steep, difficult to climb. 2. Difficult to do, demanding and exhausting, requiring great effort.
Notes: Even though today's Good Word comes to us from Latin, all its current forms are regular English ones: the noun is arduousness and the adverb, arduously. The alternative to the pedestrian noun arduousness is an even worse arduosity. However, this word once has a lovely third alternative, arduity. Maybe we should retrieve from the dustbin of history.
In Play: The original meaning of today's word is slowly slipping from our grasp: "Mt. Everest is one of the most arduous mountains in the world." The second sense is by far the more common: "The people along the Gulf Coast had an arduous task in rebuilding their cities and communities after twin cataclysms named Katrina and Rita."
Word History: Today's word is a barely disguised version of Latin arduus "high, steep". The original root was something like *erdh-/*ordh- "to grow, be high". This same root went into Greek orthos "straight, right, erect", found in orthography "correct writing" and orthopedic, as in orthopedic shoes that help keep the body erect and growing straight. In Sanskrit it emerged in vardhate "grows, increases" and urdhvah "high". In the Slavic languages the initial vowel and R traded places, giving Russian rasti "to grow". Apparently, the Latin word came be mean "steep, hard to climb", then narrowed to simply "hard, difficult". The Proto-Indo-European word apparently never made it down to the Germanic languages—or did and then somehow wandered out; we do not find any native words in English from the same root.
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