• bight •
bait (sounds like bite) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The shallowly bowed middle of a length of rope fastened at both ends, a sag in a line or a loop. 2. An inwardly bowed or concave area, as a slight bend in a river, a shallow bay, or shallow hollow in a mass of ice.
Notes: Today we have a rarity: not only a word with an oddity of a reference, but a word that was not borrowed. Bight is a purely English (Germanic) word with the silent GH digraph to prove it. It is rarely used these days, pushed aside no doubt by all the words English has borrowed, or as a result of confusion with the more common homophone, bite. "Bowed" or "having bows" would be bighty and bightiness is the state of being bowed or having bows.
In Play: Today's all too neglected noun began its life referring to the slack in a rope or string hanging from point to point: "Freddy, pull the bight out of your chalk line or you won't get a straight line when you snap it." Today, however, this word may be applied to anything with a slight curve in it: "Bobby Bowers bought a bight-backed bag of bones he calls a horse from his brother-in-law."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a cousin of Dutch bocht "bow, bend", German Bucht, and Swedish bukt "bay". The original Proto-Indo-European root was something like bheugh- "to bend". It also turns up in German Bogen "bow" and English bow itself. Bay is also a reduction of the same root. The Old English verb for "to bend, to curve" was bugan. The adjective derived from it, buhsum "bending, curving, curvaceous", today is buxom. (Today we owe a bow and a tip of our collective hats to Mary Jane Stoneburg, one of the Good Word editors, for spotting and reporting today's sparkling lexical oddity to Dr. Goodword.)
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