Printable Version
Pronunciation: wæks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive!

Meaning: 1. To grow, increase, expand gradually over time. 2. To become.

Notes: Today we ignore the stuff of candles and focus on the moon, which waxes and wanes. You've probably wondered what the moon waxes; well, it waxes itself, for the intransitive verb wax simply means to increase gradually. A waxing moon is one whose size is increasing; a waning moon is one whose size is decreasing.

In Play: We all get mooned every nightToday's word appears mostly in crystallized phrases like 'wax and wane' and 'wax poetic' (get or become poetic), which is a shame; we should protect and promote the use of native English words like this one (see History): "I love spring, when the countryside waxes green and exudes its annual salmagundi of blossoms." The second sense of today's verb is usually used in conjunction with an adjective: "Whenever you ask Robin Banks how he obtained the startup money for his company, he always waxes mysterious and reticent."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a rarity: a purely English word, not borrowed from another language. The root began its life as Proto-Indo-European *wegs "grow, increase". The PIE [g] became [k] in Germanic languages like English, where [ks] is often spelled X, so wegs became Old English weaxan and today's wax. In Greek the [w] and the vowel traded places, a process known as metathesis, so that we get Greek auxein ([awksein]) "to increase", as in auxiliary, and Latin augere "to increase", as in augment. The Latin root is also lurking at the base of author, a word borrowed from the French version of Latin auctor "creator", someone who increases things as well. (Well, it is time to wax grateful to Rohn Solecki and Dana Black for suggesting today's Good Word, so thanks to both of you.)

Dr. Goodword,

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