• cranny •
kræ-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A small, narrow opening, a crevice, chink, a small hole.
Notes: Today's Good Word is known by its participation in the idiomatic expression every nook and cranny, which is where English speakers look when they conduct a definitive, thorough search. Cranny has no related forms save a plural, crannies. Don't forget to change the Y to I when you write it.
In Play: Some people use this word aside from the idiomatic every nook and cranny: "Sea birds build their nests in crannies on the face of a cliff, far away from predators without wings." Here is an event that actually happened to my family: "A mouse got into the house through a cranny in the basement, ran into the middle of the living room, realized the mistake she had made, and ran back out again before she could be captured."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French cren or cran "cleft, notch, crack", to which was added the diminutive suffix -y to bring its meaning down to "a small crack". French got this word from Walloon crin, associated with Romansh crenna (spoken in southeastern Switzerland) and Lombard (spoken in northern Italy) créna. These words devolved from Medieval Latin crena "cleft". Crena is the noun from crener "to notch", from Vulgar Latin crinare, probably of Gaulish origin and akin to Irish ara-chrin "he decays, withers". English also borrowed crenel "notch (at the top of a wall of an embattlement)", and created crenelated "dentate, notched" from it to refer to the dentate tops of the walls of castles and walled cities. (Now we thank Bryan Goff, a Lexiterian in the Agora, for recommending today's curious Good Word.)
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