• rapt •
ræpt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Carried away, enraptured, transported by sheer fascination. 2. Characterized by intense, finely focused fascination. 3. (Archaic) Having been lifted up bodily to heaven.
Notes: Today's word is evidence of how far the sense and pronunciation of a word can drift apart over time: it comes from the same Latin word as rape. Its noun is rapture, which brings a large family to the table: rapturous, rapturize "fall into ecstasies; praise rapturously", and rapturist "an enthusiast, someone who falls easily into raptures".
In Play: This word can be used to describe psychological states of people: "Gladys's description of dinner preparation in the late afternoon to a rapt audience was long remembered." It may also be used to modify psychological states: "Gladys knew how to hold her audience at rapt attention for long periods of time with her speeches."
Word History: English rape is still occasionally used in the sense of "seize and carry away". The sense of today's Good Word resulted from the figurative notion of being "seized and carried away to the heavens". It fits a rare past participle form in English, e.g. spelt, spent, slept, but it was actually borrowed from Latin raptus, the past participle of rapere "to seize and carry away". Latin inherited its word from PIE rep- "to grab, rip, snatch", the remains of which may also be seen in Sanskrit repas- "injury", and ancient Greek ereptomai "to bite off, feed on". The root of the Latin verb is found in many other words borrowed by English from Latin or its granddaughter French. French had turned Latin rapidus "fierce, impetuous" into rapide before English borrowed it. Surreptitious comes from Latin surrepticius, based on surreptus, the past participle of surripere "to take away secretly", a reduction of sub "under, below" + the combining form of rapere. (Anna Jung's suggestion of today's fascinating Good Word got Dr. Goodword's rapt attention. This is the result.)
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