• demesne •
di-mayn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An estate, the land and property owned by someone. 2. A district, region, territory, or realm dominated by someone; a domain or dominion. 3. (Law) The possession and use of a piece of land.
Notes: This word is a more beautiful way to spell domain in its general senses. It is not used in the abstract sense of domain, as the domain of someone's knowledge. Demesne not only has a final silent E to be wary of, it also contains an inaudible S internally. Don't let either catch you unawares when you write this rather overspelled word.
In Play: If a person's home is his castle, his yard is his demesne: "I love my little demesne in the country; if only I didn't have to mow it." Demesnes are everywhere; you probably have several in your neighborhood: "The principal may make the rules, but the school is the demesne of the janitor, without whom nothing would work."
Word History: This Good Word is an excellent example of why spelling is so important. Demesne is a refrenchifying of Middle English demeine, influenced by French mesne "lord of a manor or estate", a word related to maison "house". Now influenced by dominion, Old French demeine became Modern French domaine, so English, in its frenzied borrowing from French, copied it again. Both spellings originated in Latin dominicus "belonging to a lord", realized in the words for "Sunday" in all Romance languages: domingo in Spanish, dimanche in French, dominica in Italian, duminica in Romanian, all descended from dies Dominicus "day of the Lord". Dominicus derives from Latin domus "house", the same root as dome, domestic, dominate, and Russian dom "house".