• smaragdine •
smê-ræg-deen • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Related to emeralds, particularly having their color.
Notes: This word is the adjective accompanying the noun smaragd "green precious stone; emerald". These words are justifiably rarely used, given the choice between this word and a lovelier one for the same stone. However, its history is absolutely fascinating, showing how emerald and smaragd share the same source!
In Play: The basic meaning of this adjective is "related to emeralds": "Hermione turned down the emerald ring offered her by Gilliam when he referred to the stone as 'smaragdine'." (I don't blame her.) But this word may refer to anything that is brilliantly green: "The smaragdine lake in front of Gilliam's summer home was connected by an equally smaragdine lawn."
Word History: Speakers of Vulgar (Street) Latin didn't like S + consonant clusters at the beginning of words, so they added an E before such, as Spanish escuela and French école "school", Spanish estado and French état "state" show. French even took its distaste for the cluster further and eliminated the S altogether. The English word emerald was borrowed from French émeraude. We can tell from the acute over the E that Old French must have been esmeraude, from Street Latin esmaraldus, going back to Classical Latin smaragdus. (Latin didn't like the combination GD, either.) The Portuguese and Spanish word for "emerald" is esmeralda. Latin smaragdus was converted to English smaragd in the borrowing, and it underlies today's Good Word. Latin borrowed smaragdus from Greek smaragdos "green gem". Greek may have gotten its word from a Semitic language but there is no earlier trace of it in PIE. (Debby Moggio deserves our gratitude for seeing the possibilities in this fascinating Good Word and sharing them with us.)
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