• asunder •
ê-sên-dêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective-Adverb
Meaning: Apart, separated.
Notes: Today's Good Word is what I have called a "defective adjective" in my scholarly writings. This word is defective in several ways: it may not appear before a noun, it may be used as an adverb without the suffix -ly, etc. We may say, 'The curtains are asunder,' but not 'The asunder curtains'. We may also say 'She tore the curtains asunder,' but not asunderly. English has several hundred of these adjectives, including ahead, aboard, afloat, and so on.
In Play: Perhaps the most famous usage of today's Good Word is in the concluding phrase of a prominent Christian wedding ceremony: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10: 9). Because of this, no doubt, it is treated as slightly more dramatic than apart. This would explain why it is frequently accompanied by the powerful verb tear: "Their deteriorating relationship was finally torn asunder when he caught her in the arms of another man."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a prefixed form of the verb sunder "to separate, divide". The prefix a- is a common way of creating defective adjectives (see above). The verb is a close cousin of German sondern "to separate; but". The root, sund- comes ultimately from Proto-Indo-European seni-(ter) "apart, separated" that also went into the making of Latin sine "without". We can also find traces of it in Sanskrit sanutar "far away" and Greek ater "without". Latin sed "but" may also be traced back to PIE seni with a -t suffix. (Let's now show our gratitude to William Hupy for recommending today's excellent Good Word. May he never sunder his relationship with alphaDictionary.)