Printable Version
Pronunciation: skrai Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To divine by gazing into something transparent or reflective: water, crystal ball, mirror, etc.

Notes: You may not recognize this verb because its inflectional forms are so different from its basic form: scries (3rd person), scried (past participle and tense) but scrying (present participle) and scryer "fortune-teller, crystal-gazer".

In Play: Today's word comes in handy around tax time (April 15 in the US) or any similar time when the source of things becomes murky: "We owe no taxes? What were you scrying in when you came up with these figures?" However, this word is useful any time you wish to indicate a wildly wrong guess without having to enunciate fortune-telling or crystal-ball gazing: "Umberto, you were scrying in a cracked crystal when you came up with the idea that Barbie Dahl would be interested in going out with you."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a truncation of the initial syllable (aphesis) of descry "to perceive, catch sight of" from Old French descrier "to call, cry out". Apparently in English it was confused with describe and/or descrive "to write out" to reach its current meaning before the aphesis. The root of descrier comes from Vulgar (street) Latin critare, the derivative of Latin quiritare "to cry out". The eponym of this word is thought to be Quirites, public officers to whom one would 'cry out' in times of need. However, this connection requires at best a great stretch of imagination.

Dr. Goodword,

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