• edifice •
e-dê-fis • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An impressive building, usually large. 2. A sound, solid system or conceptual structure, as 'to contribute to the cultural edifice of a nation'.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a noun from the verb edify "to build; to teach, inform; to improve morally". This verb has a large and robust family. Edification is learning and "tending to educate" may be expressed by either edificative or edificatory. Edifiable means both "buildable" or "capable of learning or improving morally". Edifice refers to that which is built, usually a building but since many abstract systems are built, they may be considered edifices, as well.
In Play: This word is better than just a building or house because it implies something extraordinary and uplifting: "Dreams are the foundation of every edifice; imagination raises them." It is normally used for real buildings, however: "The new National Museum of the American Indian is an elegant edifice of the Kasota limestone reflecting the craggy regions of the West left to native Americans."
Word History: If it ends on -ice, it probably came from French and this Good Word is the perfect example. French édifice was legally inherited from Latin ædificium, a noun comprising ędis "temple, house" + -ficium "making". (Did you know that French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish are Latin 2000 years later?) The Latin word has an interesting history going back to its ancestor, Proto-Indo-European *aidh- "to burn, to light". In Sanskrit it appears in inddhe "ignites, inflames", with our old friend, Fickle N, and Greek aithos "flaming, blazing", without the N. Before the advent of matches, fire was often kept in the temple, where anyone needing it could access it with the proper obeisance to the gods. The fire was then taken to the hearth, which in those times was located in the middle of the house, hence the association of the hearth with the heart of the home.
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