Printable Version
Pronunciation: raiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To split violently, rend. 2. Fracture, crack, line.

Notes: Here is a word, like cleave (cloven), known more for its past participle, riven, than for any other of its forms. In fact, riven is already well on its way to becoming an adjective: some dictionaries already list it as an adjective. It is a lexical orphan.

In Play: When you need a more poetical word for split or divided, this is the word for you: "The two US political parties are riven asunder more than at any time in their history." Other forms are still written and regionally heard: "The loss of her fiancé rived her heart in twain."

Word History: Today's Good Word was drawn from Old Norse (Viking) rifa "to tear apart", source also of English rift, Swedish riva "to tear, rip" and Danish rive "to tear, rip". Old Germanic came by its word, rifanan "to tear", from PIE rei-p- "tear, cut", which emerged in daughter languages with several suffixes. The Sanskrit word lekha "crack, line" came from PIE rei-kh- (all Rs became Ls in Sanskrit), source also of Welsh rhwygo "tear, rip", Lithuanian riekti "to slice", and German Reihe "row, line, series". With the suffix -st, we find Swedish rista "to carve" and Icelandic rista "carve, engrave".

Dr. Goodword,

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