• breakfast •
brek-fêst • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The morning meal.
Notes: This word is interesting because it is obviously a combination of break and fast. Since not everybody fasts every day, the question arises, "Where did this word come from", which I hope to answer in the Word History. Breakfast may be used as a verb: breakfasts, breakfasting, breakfasted, and as an attributive adjective: 'the breakfast menu'.
In Play: Today's word is perhaps most closely associated with the jazz style today, although the emotional sense antedates it: "Rusty Horne blew a mean blues cornet in the Catbird Combo for nearly forty years." The musical sense widely overlaps the emotional state known as 'the blues': "Now don't start singing the blues to me, Maribel, but I lost my job today." This husband must be feeling really blue today.
Word History: Actually, in times long gone by, people thought of sleeping as fasting. Breakfast received its name from the fact that it is the first meal after the nighttime fast. Break came from the same source as Latin fractio(n), based on the past participle, fractus "broken", of the verb frangere "to break". This participle also underlies fracture. Another word from the same source is fragile. English borrowed this word again after French had a go at it as frail, from Old French fraile. The meaning of fast that interests us here is "firm", as in steadfast. Did you know shamefaced was originally shamefast? It became shamefaced by folk etymology when the meaning of fast shifted to "rapid". (We are beholden to Joakim Larsson of Sweden for his recommendation of today's Good Word.)