• gorgeous •
gor-jês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Breath-takingly beautiful.
Notes: Although this word oddly contains both a hard G, pronounced [g], and a soft one, pronounced [j], they follow the English rule perfectly. In words borrowed from Latin or the Romance languages, G is soft before vowels pronounced in the front of the mouth (I and E) and hard before vowels pronounced in the back of the mouth (A, U, O), just as we see here. The adverb for this adjective is gorgeously and the most common noun gorgeousness, though a quick sweep of the Internet shows that I am not the only one to wonder about gorgeosity.
In Play: Ithaca, New York, is known to promote itself as a city of gorgeous gorges, using two words that, we will see further down, are related to each other. Of course, Grand Canyon has the better claim to the title of the most gorgeous gorge in the United States. This word mixes well with metaphors like, "Matilda, you have such an absolutely gorgeous nose when you keep it in your own business."
Word History: Middle English borrowed the word from Old French gorgias "finely dressed, fashionable". Here we have to make a little hop and assume that the French word originally referred to a necklace or simply a phrase "dressed to the neck". Old French gorge meant "bosom, throat," so the assumption that it once meant "something adorning the throat" is not far-fetched. Next, we must assume that Latin gurges, gurgitis "whirlpool, gorge" took on a figurative sense of "swallow" and/or "throat" in Late Latin. This would explain the French meanings of gorge "throat, breast, gorge". The fact that the possessive form of gurges, gurgitis, appears in regurgitation, a sort of reverse swallowing, supports this hypothesis. (We owe a note of gratitude to Katy Brezger for suggesting an amazing Good Word that stretches from gorgeous to regurgitation.)