Printable Version
Pronunciation: vêrs Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To versify, to cast into verses, to write in verses. 2. To instruct, to inculcate, to familiarize by experience or study.

Notes: We know the verbal form of this word almost exclusively through the adjective well-versed. I cannot stand by idly while the other forms of the verb are lost. It is a regular verb with all the trimmings: an adjective and a noun with the same form as the present participle, versing, a past tense form identical with the past participle, versed, and a present tense form, verses.

In Play: Today's Good Word is a verb we should not leave behind: "Parents should verse their children in the art of living well." The level of versing is usually considered high, but versing can be low, too: "Barbie Dahl had not versed herself thoroughly in the demands of motherhood before she had her baby."

Word History: Today's Good Word came to English from Old French which, in turn, inherited it from versus, the past participle of vertere "to turn". Latin also derived versatilis "revolving, capable of turning to various tasks", which English borrowed as versatile once it had been smoothed off by French. It also came directly to English as -ward, as in toward "turning to", and inward "turning inward". It also passed through Old Germanic to come to rest in English as wring and wrong. The semantic connection to wring should be obvious. The meaning of wrong comes from the sense of wine turning or turning off the straight and narrow. (Ed Sizemore seems well-versed in the intricacies of the English vocabulary, so we thank him for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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