bayn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Death or a cause of death, such as poison. 2. A cause of ruin or destruction, usually in the figurative sense.
Notes: Today's word is a virtual antonym of boon "a great benefit, windfall", coincidentally spelled with the same consonants, making it easy to remember. Bane has an adjective, baneful, replete with an adverb, banefully; nothing else.
In Play: Bane is most often used hyperbolically these days, as is boon: "My children can be the bane of my life or a boon to it, but seldom are they anything in between." (Know the feeling?) However, the sense of a cause of real destruction is still available in this word: "Unlike the good old days, when the press often looked the other way, the slightest scandal in Washington now is the bane of a political career."
Word History: Today's word has changed quite a bit since Old English, when it was bana "destroyer, slayer". It is related to Danish bane "death, murder" but also "path, road", like German Bahn "highway" (the connection predates the German highway without speed limits, the Autobahn). These two seemingly unrelated meanings probably come from a day when a path or road was seen as a place through the forest chopped or cut clear by blows of axes, since the ancestor of bane and Bahn apparently meant "to hit, strike".
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