Printable Version
Pronunciation: sem-pee-têr-nêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Emphatically eternal, everlasting, without beginning or end.

Notes: The question naturally arises, If we have eternal, why do we need today's Good Word? This is a good word to emphasize infiniteness or length of time in hyperboles. You can emphasize the idea of infiniteness in adjectival, adverbial (sempiternally), or noun form (sempiternality). "Why do you sempiternally ask questions?!" is more emphatic than the same sentence with eternally. Look out for the I in the middle of this word where you might expect an E.

In Play: Here is a dreamy example: "Greenpasture is a devoted potamophile who loves to stretch out along the riverbank and listen to the sempiternal flow of its waters." (Greenpasture, of course, does not live in the US southwest, where rivers usually flow annually, not sempiternally.) You will probably, however, have more opportunities to use this word in hyperboles than in its literal sense: "The Bickertons's sempiternal bickering got on everybody's nerves."

Word History: Today's Good Word seems to have been around eternally. It comes to us via French from the Latin compound adjective sempiternalis, based on semper "always" (as in the US Marine motto, semper fidelis "always faithful") + aeternus "eternal". Semper comes from a root meaning "as one, same, together" found in English same, Russian sam "self", Sanskrit sam "together", and Greek homo "same". Aeternus comes from PIE *aiwo-t- + the Latin time suffix -ernus. The same complex, *aiwo-t, reached English directly as aught.

Dr. Goodword,

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