• scend •
send • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive (No object)
Meaning: 1. To heave or ascend, as waves and ships do following the surges of the sea. 2. To pitch, fall, or plunge as waves and ships do following the surges of the sea.
Notes: This maritime word functions as both a verb and a noun. It is used so seldom English speakers have not decided what it means. Although most US dictionaries recognize only the first meaning above, the Oxford English Dictionary prefers the second. Since this word is ascend and descend without the prefixes (see Word History), the confusion is understandable. To make matters worse, since the C is silent, it is usually omitted, which makes it a homograph of send.
In Play: Since this word has two opposing meanings, I will give an example of each: "Herman enjoyed riding the scends of the ocean with his children at the shore." Now, here is the Good Word in its noun usage with the opposite meaning (number two above): "Surfers enjoy descending the scend of each wave as slowly as possible for the longest ride they can get."
Word History: Today's word is probably an aphetic form of both ascend and descend. Aphesis is the elimination of an unaccented initial piece (sound, prefix, etc.) of a word, as in 'coon, 'gator, and burger. The root of both these words, scend, goes back to a Proto-Indo-European word skand- "to leap, climb". We also find it in Sanskrit skandati "he jumps" and Old Irish scendim "I jump". It also shows up in Latin scandalum "trap, temptation", borrowed from Greek skandalon "trap", and borrowed by English as scandal. That is probably the root skand- in Latin scalae "steps, ladder", which English borrowed, via French, for its (musical) scale. (Let us now send Debby Moggio a scend of applause for her suggestion of today's Good Word.)