Printable Version
Pronunciation: -vên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To eat greedily, i.e. ravenously. 2. To rob and plunder, pillage, confiscate, take by force.

Notes: I recall growing up assuming that ravens were pigs in their eating habits, since ravenous seemed to be an adjective meaning "like a raven". For years this was how I differentiated ravens from crows: I assumed the latter ate more slowly since they had to dodge cars as they ate. All untrue. Ravenous comes from a verb that is wholly unrelated to black birds; it is even pronounced differently. Both ravenousness and ravenage serve as qualitative nouns for this adjective, meaning "voracity, rapacity". Older, distantly related nouns ravin and rapine have more or less the same meaning.

In Play: Today's Good Word is a particularly good one to introduce around the house: "OK, kids, no need to raven your food; we have plenty of time before the soccer game." It will rid the family vocabulary of that turkey of a word, gobble. This word applies equally to larger ravenous bodies, as in, "The invading forces ravened the countryside for all the Coca-Cola they could find."

Word History: Today's Good Word descended to us from Middle English ravin and raven "rapine, plunder, prey". Both these forms originated in Latin rapina, from rapere "to seize". Surreptitious "stealthy" came from the same root in Latin, surreptitius, from the past participle of surripere "to take away secretly", based on sub "below, secretly" + rapere. Other English words that owe their existence to this root include ravishing and rapid. The former originally meant "seizing forcibly" while the latter came to us via French from Latin rapidus "seizing or tearing away quickly".

Dr. Goodword,

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