• tempest •
tem-pist • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A violently windy storm. 2. A tumult, uproar, violent disruption of any sort.
Notes: This word is known especially for its use in the phrase 'tempest in a teacup' referring to a brouhaha over a minor issue. We have other phrases with a similar meaning, 'making a mountain out of a molehill' and 'making a federal case of it', which simply refer to exaggerations. The adjective for both senses is tempestuous. Tempestive means "sesonable, timely".
In Play: This word usually refers to real storms: "We lost another tree to the most recent of the tempests that frequent the area." Another expression that is a favorite of poets is tempest-tossed, meaning "turbulent": "Thus had his age, dark, cold, and tempest-tossed, Shone truth upon Zonoras." (P. B. Shelley Prince Athanase, II, ii) Many of us lead tempest-tossed lives.
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French tempeste "storm; commotion; plague" (Modern French tempête), inherited from Latin tempestas "weather; storm, commotion". Tempestas was derived from tempus "(stretch of) time, season", which became temps "time; weather" in French. Tempus seems to have come from PIE ten- "stretch" with a suffix -p, for "stretch of time". Ten- turned up in English as thin, Sanskrit tantram "loom", Greek tonos "string" (borrowed by English as tone) and tetanos "stiff, rigid" (which things tend to become when stretched), Latin tenuis and Russian tonkii "thin, slender, fine".
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