Printable Version
Pronunciation: trê-vêrs (US); træ-vês (UK) Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To pass or go over, through, or across; to cross. 2. To turn in a different direction (especially artillery).

Notes: Notice that in the US we pronounce this word in a way that differs from the British pronunciation. The UK pronunciation is characterized by the placement of accent and the absence of the R. This verb may also be used as is for a noun or adjective, as 'the traverse of the mountain' or 'the traverse part of the cross'.

In Play: Today's Good Word usually refers to physical geography: "Harley Davidson traversed 300 miles of two-lane highways to reach Traverse City, Michigan." However, it may be used in reference to anything that may be crossed: "Myna Bird's speech on clothing styles traversed two centuries from 1815 to 2015."

Word History: Today's word comes from Old French traverser "to cross, place across" from Vulgar (colloquial) Latin traversare from Latin transversare "to cross, throw across". Transversare was based on transversus, the past participle of transvertere "to place or bend across", comprising trans- "across" + vertere "to turn". Latin just added its verbal endings to the PIE root wor-/wer- "turn, bend", converting the W to a V. The past participle of vertere is versus, which English simply copied in a different sense. The PIE root also made its way into English via English's Germanic ancestors as writhe, wreath and wrath. In Russian it became vertet' "to turn", and German werden and Dutch worden "to become", both originally "to turn (into)". (Joakim Larsson's recommendation of today's flighty Good Word traversed thousands of miles from Sweden to reach my desk.)

Dr. Goodword,

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