• nadir •
nay-dêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Astronomy) The point in a celestial sphere directly below the observer, the antonym of zenith. 2. The lowest point in the fortunes of a person or organization.
Notes: Today's Good Word basically means "lowest point". It originates in astronomy (14th century), but eventually expanded to cover all things that have high and low points (17th century). The adjective is nadiral, should you ever need it.
In Play: This word is used to refer to the lowest point in anything that has ups and downs: "Marian Kine's hopes of a wedding ceremony with William Arami hit their nadir when William became engaged to June McBride." Again: "Marvin's career was at a nadir when he suddenly inherited millions from an uncle and in the same week hit the lotto jackpot."
Word History: Today's word is one of many Arabic words that made their way into English. It reached English via Medieval Latin from Arabic nazir (as-samt) "opposite (the zenith)", from nazara "to see, watch". (Zenith comes from Arabic samt (ar-ras) "the way (overhead)", with the M misinterpreted as NI.) The Arabic root ntr "to see, watch" appears in an interesting name, Nebuchadnezzar, coming from Akkadian nabu-kudurri-usur "Nabu protect the borders", which is to say Nabu, a god + kudurri "borders" + usur "watch over, protect", the imperative of nazaru "to see, watch over, protect." (Let's hope our gratitude for recommending today's Good Word finds Jackie Strauss at the zenith of her life.)
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