Printable Version
Pronunciation: shængk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. 2. The shaft, the part between two other things as 'lamb shank' (between the leg and knee) or the 'shank of an anchor' (between the ring and the crown). 3. The latter part (shank of the year) or early part or prime (shank of the evening) of a period of time. 4. (Verb, transitive) To mis-hit a ball, as to hit a baseball between the barrel and the handle.

Notes: Today's word has more meanings than are included in the Meaning above. It is seldom used these days in the first meaning, but the remaining meanings are roughly captured in the second. The first meaning, however, is used in two expressions that I favor, but are fast fading from view: the shank of the evening "the early part of the evening", and shanks' mare "on foot", as "I got there on shanks' mare". These phrases may be bit outdated, but I still hear them from time to time in the Poirot and Miss Marple TV series.

In Play: The first meaning of today's Good Word is seldom used these days, but does pop up occasionally in sentences like this: "Paul forsook garters for socks that went all the way up to the top of his shanks." This word is encountered in its third meaning(s): "Randolph spent all the money in his budget in the shank of the year, since he knew the company might cut that budget next year." When used with parts of the day, this word has just the opposite meaning: "Gladys Friday always arrives at work at some point in the shank of the morning."

Word History: Today's word was in Old English sceanca "leg, shank, shinbone". It developed from Proto-Germanic skanka-, which also became Modern German Schenkel "limb, thigh" and Schinken "ham", Dutch schenkel "shank", Danish and Norwegian skinke "ham", and Swedish skank "shank" and skinka "ham". Proto-Germanic got its word from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)keng- "crooked, lame". The PIE word also evolved into Sanskrit khañjati "limps" and Greek skazein "to limp". As you can see the PIE word had its greatest influence on the Germanic languages.

Dr. Goodword,

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