Printable Version
Pronunciation: prah-ve-nêns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Place of origin, source, derivation. 2. Proof of authenticity used in authenticating art and antiques.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a more eloquent way of saying origin or source; that is why it is employed mostly in the worlds of art and antiques. It comes without family, not even an adjective provenant, which usually accompanies nouns ending with -ence/-ance.

In Play: As mentioned above, when you want a more sophisticated word than source or origin, today's word works nicely: "I was afraid to ask the provenance of the laptop computer I purchased at the flea market." In the art and antique worlds a provenance should contain an unbroken history of ownership: "My Picasso came with a provenance, but it had a 20-year lacuna in it."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from French provenant "originating", the present participle of provenir "to originate", from Latin provenire, composed of pro- "forth" + venire "to come". As difficult as it may seem, both come and venire share the same provenance. It set out from the original Proto-Indo-European gwem- "to come". In Latin the [g] dropped off and the [w] became [v], a common occurrence in the history of IE languages. Then Latin added its own endings. In the Germanic languages, the [g] changed to [k] by regular rule and the [w] vanished. When all was said and done, we got venire in Latin and come in English. (Perry Lassiter has apparently been watching too much Antique Roadshow on PBS, for 'twas he who suggested today's Good Word in the Alpha Agora)

Dr. Goodword,

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