Printable Version
Pronunciation: re-vê-nênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Someone returning after a long absence. 2. Someone returning from the dead.

Notes: Today's Good Word is remarkable in its rarity. How commonly do we say, "Welcome, stranger" or (down South) "I haven't seen you in a coon's age" to someone we haven't seen in a long time? Well, everyone we say such things to is a revenant—especially if we thought they were dead. This word is a lexical orphan, except it may be also be used as an adjective, as 'a revenant cousin'.

In Play: Rip Van Winkle, of course, is the most famous revenant, but then all ghosts are equally good revenants. The frequency of circumstances in which we meet revenants belies its rarity: "Family reunions are enjoyable for all the revenants you see." This word may be applied jokingly to someone who has missed work for several days: "Well, look who's decided to come to work: our old revenant, Charlie!"

Word History: We ran today's Good Word back in July 2015, but since then the motion picture 'The Revenant' has garnered 12 Academy Award nominations, so I thought it a good idea to run it again. In French revenant is the present participle of revenir "to return". Revenue, that which is returned, is the feminine past participle of the same verb. This verb comprises re- "back, again" + venir "to come". Venir, believe it or not, goes back to the same source as English come: Proto-Indo-European gwe(m)- "to go, come". Greek bainein "to walk" shares the same origin. We met this word in the Good Word history of acerbate. (Today we must thank Sue Gold of Westtown School and a former student for recommending this Good Word after seeing the movie early on.)

Dr. Goodword,

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