• tenebrific •
te-nê-bri-fik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Causing darkness, darkening, obscuring, obfuscating.
Notes: Although tenebrific is usually used as a synonym of tenebrous, there is a subtle semantic difference: tenebrous [te-nê-brÍs] means "dark, shadowy; obscure, unclear; gloomy or pessimistic", while today's Good Word means "causing" any of those conditions. Tenebrious is a widely accepted misspelling of tenebrous that has crept into the language. Both adjectives have nouns, tenebrificity and tenebrosity or you can always just add -ness: tenebrousness, tenebrificness.
In Play: Keep in mind that today's word implies an action while tenebrous implies a state: "A tenebrific writer writes tenebrous prose." Although this adjective may refer to actual darkness, it usually refers to the metaphorical stuff: "The committee was well on its way to resolving the problem when Lotta Bolloni woke up and made several tenebrific proposals that threw the meeting into chaos."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a creation based on Latin tenebrae "darkness", which came from the Proto-Indo-European root tem(a)-/tom(a)- "dark", the same root found in Sanskrit tamisra "dark". It also appears in Latin temere "to dishonor, disgrace". In Russian it shows up in temno "dark" and ten' "shade, shadow", and t'ma "darkness". In German it appears in Dämmer "dusk, twilight" underlying the Dämmerung of Richard Wagner's opera, Die Götterdämmerung "The Twilight of the Gods". (We are again grateful for a word from a long-time Agora faithful, Katy Brezger, who loved the shades of meaning found in words like today's as much as we do.)
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