• paramour •
pæ-rê-muwr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: An illicit lover, mistress or fancy man, inamorata or lothario.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a beautiful, pleasant surrogate for all those embarrassing synonyms in Meaning above. It stands alone in the English lexicon, a lexical orphan.
In Play: Here is a word you may use in polite company: "Commoners have mistresses; kings have paramours". It often comes in handy around the office, too: "The office staff could only keep up with their boss by asking his driver which of his paramours' apartments he had parked the car outside of that day."
Word History: Paramour was created from the French phrase par amour, comprising par "by, through, via" + amour "love". Par descended from Latin per "through, across", which Latin inherited from PIE per "forward, through, before, near", whence also English for, forth and fore, and German für "for" and vor "before". This word underwent metathesis to become pro "before" and the prefix pre- "before, earlier". Amour goes back to Latin amor "love", the noun from amare "to love", still alive in Italian amare, and Portuguese and Spanish amar. The source of this word is still debated. Most probably it is the result of a PIE root ama- "love, someone loved", visible in Albanian amë "Aunt", Icelandic amma "grandmother", Latin amicus "friend". It is the metathesized result of the first recognizable sound a many babies make, ma, which underlies the PIE word for "mother", mater-. We see this word in all the Indo-European languages' word for mother, such as Latin mater, Greek meter and English mother. (Today's is yet another delightful Good Word from Albert Skiles, wordmaster among our happy band of contributors.)
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