• purblind •
pêr-blaind • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Almost blind, partly blind, having poor vision. 2. Lacking perception or insight, dull, dim-witted, stupid. 3. (Obsolete) Completely blind.
Notes: Purblind belongs to a short list of words beginning on the old prefix pur-, such as purloin, purlieu, and purview. Today's word is subject to all the derivations of blind: purblindly and purblindness.
In Play: We seldom see today's word in its literal sense of physical blindness: "Noah Zarque, purblind in his old age, keeps bumping into people he knows—both literally and figuratively." It is much more often encountered in its metaphorical meaning: "You would have to be congenitally purblind or willfully self-delusional not to spot the deception in commercial advertising."
Word History: Today's Good Word comprises the now archaic prefix pur- "completely" + blind. Middle English borrowed the Anglo-French preposition-prefix corresponding to Old French pur (Modern French pour), inherited from Vulgar Latin por, a variation of classical Latin pro "before, for". As a prefix, it picked up the perfective sense of "completely", hence the original meaning of purblind. Blind apparently arose from a zero vowel variant of PIE bhel- "shine, flash", from which English got blank, blanch, blond, bleach and several others. Russian used the non-zero form in its word for "white", belyi, the first component in beluga, the name of the white whale and sturgeon, source of the caviar of the same name. (Chris Stewart, our long-standing friend in South Africa, swears that his cat reminded him of all the words in English beginning with the prefix pur-. However they came to him, I thank him for reminding me of this one.)
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