• diaphanous •
dai-æ-fê-nês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Soft, thin, filmy and translucent or transparent. 2. Fragile, flimsy, easily broken or likely to dissipate.
Notes: Remember that this most beautiful Good Word comes from Greek, so the [f] sound is spelled PH. The adverb is diaphanously. The noun, diaphanousness, sounds a bit ponderous to me, so I prefer the lighter sound of diaphaneity [dai-æf-ê-nee-ê-tee].
In Play: Gowns and veils are most likely to be diaphanous; however, you might go out into a diaphanous drizzle or fog. The meaning "flimsiness" lends itself to many other situations, "The lie was so diaphanous, a blind man could see through it." Fragility is another sense that has crept into this word: "That diaphanous idea of his evaporated before anyone could comment on it." This is one of those words you want to use simply to share its beauty.
Word History: This Good Word was reworked from Greek diaphanes "transparent", based on dia- "through" + phainein "to show". Phainein contains the same root as photo-, found in many English words. It also underlies phantasia "appearance, imagination", from phantos "visible". Latin borrowed the Greek word and passed it down to French as fantaisie "fantasy", which was, almost by rote, Anglicized to fantasy. The original Proto-Indo-European root, *bhaa- "shine, flow" percolated directly through the Germanic languages to end up in English buoy, beckon, beacon and, believe it or not, berry, which apparently started out its life meaning "shiny fruit".
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