• providence •
prah-vê-dens • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Care and foresight in the management of resources, planning for the future. 2. The prudence and foresight shown by a deity in the care of the world and its creatures. 3. The deity itself (usually capitalized as Providence).
Notes: Today's word is the noun from the adjective provident with the common suffix -s, that is, provident-s, expressed by the spelling CE to throw speakers off track, as English is wont to do. Provident means "prudent, foresightful" and "thrifty, frugal". Providential overlaps provident in the first meaning, but its second meaning slipped into the third meaning of the noun: "divine". So, a providential escape is one that can be explained only by the intervention of the Almighty.
In Play: Foresight and prudent management of resources often provide happy results: "Armbruster's financial providence allowed him to retire a week before he would have been fired." Here is the way the adjectives work: "Finn and Haddie Fry are provident children who never leave their parents with nothing to do. It is providential that their parents are still among the living."
Word History: "Foresight" is not a coincidental meaning of this Good Word: it is based on the PIE word for "see", weid-, the same root that gave us vision and video. The Latin verb which became the French noun that English borrowed was providere "to provide for" from pro "ahead" + videre "to see". Envy goes back to Latin invidere "to look at enviously", while idea is the result of a dropped [w], resulting in ancient Greek idea "appearance, form, thought". History (and its telling reduction, story) comes from Greek histor "a wise, learned man". If we decode it, we find wid+tor where the [dt] regularly becomes [st]. The initial [w], as we saw in idea, drops off. In this case, the exposed vowel attracts a protective [h].
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