• sylvan •
sil-vên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Wooded, forested, or related to woods and forests. 2. Inhabiting or located in woods or forests. 3. Pleasantly rural, pastoral.
Notes: The British dictionaries (Oxford, Cambridge) accept the spelling silvan; in fact, the Cambridge Dictionary prefers this spelling. The rarely used adverb is sylvanly and the equally rarely used noun is sylvanity. It may also be used as a noun, referring to spirits that haunt the woods.
In Play: This word describes a wooded area or region: "I love living in the tranquil sylvan bliss of the country, far away from bustling cities." Anything related to woods or forests may be described as sylvan: "Here I can enjoy sylvan walks any day of the week." As a noun, we might encounter it in this sort of expression: "Remember to always put out your campfire. There are no sylvans in the woods to put it out for you."
Word History: English just touched up Middle French sylvain, which French inherited from Latin silvanus "pertaining to wood or forest" (later spelled sylvanus), the adjective to silva/sylva "woodland, forest, orchard, grove". We don't know where Latin got this word from. The Y in sylva and sylvanus is a misspelling, influenced by of Greek hyle "forest". The sylva was historically mistaken as a borrowing of this Greek word. The god of Roman forests was Sylvanus, spelled with a capital S, often associated with the Greek god, Pan. He was accompanied by the sylvanae, the plural of silvana "spirit of the forest". (Today's word was recommended by our resilient South African friend, Chris Stewart, who thinks it a mellifluous word.)
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