Printable Version
Pronunciation: wayn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive (no objects)

Meaning: To weaken, decrease, fade, lose interest in.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the antonym of the original verb wax "to grow, increase" or "to become", as 'to wax sentimental over a new granddaughter'. Waning is just the opposite, though it may not be used with adjectives as in "waxing sentimental". Today we think mostly of the moon waxing and waning, but in fact stock markets wax and wane, as they waxed out of an acute wane in 2009. The seasons of the year also wax and wane as does the warmth that goes with them. Finally, of course, most of us have energy levels that wax and wane, though once we have kids, waning becomes the dominant trend.

In Play: It is a good idea to remember today's Good Word together with its antonym. Here is an example that may help: "The boss's interest in the project waxes and wanes several times a day; I don't know if we will ever get it off the ground." Otherwise, today's word is a fetchingly old-fashioned expression for any kind of decrease: "Dwayne Pipes decided to make a dash for his car as soon as the rain waned again."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from an old Germanic word wano- "lacking," which is probably the source of wan "pale, sickly", as well. It was derived from an older Proto-Indo-European word we-no- "to leave, abandon, exhaust". In Latin this word turned up as vacare "to be empty". Vacare contains the root of several words English borrowed from that language, including vacant, vacuous, and that period of time when we vacate the workplace, vacation. Two other Latin words related to vacare, vanus "empty" and vastus "empty, deserted", led to French words that English borrowed as vain and vast. (Our interest in delightful words like the one Joe Heckel suggested for us today never wanes.)

Dr. Goodword,

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