Printable Version
Pronunciation: re-kwi-êm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A mass celebrated for the dead in the Catholic Church. 2. Homage to the dead in any artistic form: a poem, hymn, chorale, sermon, etc.

Notes: Today's good if solemn word is regrettably topical in light of the of the several requiems for unarmed black men killed by policemen in 2020-2021. It is related to at least one word with which it shares little or no semantic relationship. I love requiescence "state of rest or repose" and its adjective requiescent. Requiescat "prayer or sermon for someone deceased" is semantically closer.

In Play: This word applies fittingly to the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh: "The requiem for Prince Philip was an elaborate affair designed by the Prince himself." Requiems celebrate or bemoan the passing of anything, not just people, and they need not be musical: "I think what the boss had hoped would be a pep rally was really a requiem for this company. Sales are too far down to save it."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin requiem pure and unadulterated. It is the accusative case of requies "rest, repose", a word composed of the prefix re- "extra" + quies "quiet". In fact, English quiet comes from the French version of quies. Apparently, the Proto-Indo-European language contained a word kwei- "rest", which became hwei- in the Germanic languages. In English this word turned into while "a space of time" and the verb, "to while away time". While must have originally referred to a time of rest, for its Norwegian cousin, hvile, means "rest, peace", as does its Swedish verb equivalent, vila. (Let's say a requiem for any thought of forgetting to thank Kathleen McCune, who lives in Sweden, for suggesting today's unfortunately topical Good Word some time ago.)

Dr. Goodword,

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