Printable Version
Pronunciation: dæz-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To overpower the eyes with brightness, as floodlights might dazzle someone and cause them to stumble. 2. To daze or bewilder with brilliant, spectacular qualities.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with the usual set of relations, an adjective dazzling, and an abstract noun dazzle, no different from the verb. You may, however, add the French suffix -ment to this word for a bit more, well, dazzle: dazzlement. Someone or something that dazzles would be a dazzler. If you dazzle someone way beyond the intensity of ordinary dazzlement, then you bedazzle them. Bedazzle has the same array of relatives as dazzle.

In Play: To dazzle, we must be absolutely spectacular: "Maude Lynn Dresser dazzled everyone at the cotillion with her new evening gown dripping with every piece of jewelry she owns." I can't imagine what it would take to bedazzle someone, but we are frequently dazzled: "Rusty Horne's new rock group doesn't have any good tunes but they put on a dazzling light show."

Word History: Today's word is a rarity: a purely English word! Dazzle is a diminutive of daze, which is to say, it once meant to daze a little. We find evidence of this word in a few old Germanic languages like Old Norwegian dasask "become weary" and Swedish regional dasa "to be idle", but nothing outside the Germanic languages. The suffix -le was once used widely to indicate things smaller: a puddle is a small pool and to muddle something is to muddy it a little. The suffix is still active in southern Germany, where Biss is a bit and a Bissle is a little bit. A small town, Stadt in German, is a Städtle "village", the origin of Yiddish shtetl. (Let us now thank Joe Heckel for dazzling us with his suggestion of today's bright and shiny Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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