• versus •
vêr-sês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Preposition
Meaning: 1. Against, as opposed to. 2. In contrast to, in comparison with, alternatively.
Notes: Versus began its life in legalese to denote an action of one party against another. In this sense it is often abbreviated as vs. or simply v., as in 'Brown v./vs. Board of Education'.
In Play: This word is used today a much in sports as law: "No single sporting event has the emotional impact of the England versus Germany soccer games." Today's Good Word has crept even beyond these two interests: "The question of UK versus US English is alive and lively outside these two countries in the English-speaking world."
Word History: Versus is the Latin word for "turned against". It is the past participle of vertere "to turn, wind", which Latin inherited from Proto-Indo-European wer-/wor- "to turn, bend." The same word became wyrd "fate" in Old English, which went on to become weird today. English turned this word into the suffix -ward as in homeward and westward, too. English also subjected the word to metathesis to get wreath, writhe, and wrath. In Russian it became vertet' "to turn, wind" and vernyt' "to return". Other Slavic languages have similar verbs. With an -m suffix this PIE word became worm in English, vermis "worm" in Latin, which Italian turned into verme "worm". Little worms are called vermicelli in Italian. (Now it's time for accolades to William Hupy for suggesting today's Good Word, and for the more than 120 others he has brought to my attention since 2006.)
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