• lush •
lêsh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Luxuriant, profuse, as 'a lush garden'. 2. Luxurious, lavish, extravagant, as 'a lush hotel decor'. 3. Voluptuous, sensual, as 'fruit with a lush aroma'.
Notes: Today's Good Word is an adjective that still permits comparison with single words: lusher and lushest. Of course, you may use the French way of comparing if you so desire: more lush and most lush. The slang noun, lush "drunkard", will be discussed in Word History. This word comes replete with an adverb, lushly, and an abstract noun, lushness.
In Play: The original and still most widely used sense of today's word refers to vegetation: "The TV series 'Rosemary and Thyme' featured mysteries set in the lush gardens of the British upper class, solved by a pair of gardeners!" However, the meaning now has spilled over into anything you may also call "luxuriant": "Say what you may about what Maude Lynn Dresser wears, but her clothes are always a display of lush colors."
Word History: In Middle English this word meant "soft, loose, relaxed", probably borrowed from French lâche "loose, weak, cowardly". French inherited this word from Latin laxus "loose", which English borrowed for its lax. Latin came by its word the usual way, Proto-Indo-European (s)leg- "be slack, languid", with a Fickle S. English acquired the same word from its Germanic ancestor as slack, retaining the initial S. In Greek the same word popped up as lagos "rabbit", apparently as a reaction to their soft, relaxed, floppy ears. How the A in lache (pronounced [lash]) came to be U remains a mystery. How the meaning shifted from "luxuriant" to "drunkard" is well recorded. Toward the end of the 18th century this word took on the meaning of "alcoholic drink", beer or wine, for reasons unknown. It may have been a different word, but we simply can't be sure.
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