Printable Version
Pronunciation: wes-têr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Verb

Meaning: 1. (Noun) A wind blowing from the west, a westerly. 2. (Verb) To move westward, as the sun westers or to wester from New York. 3. To change to a western direction, as a wind might wester.

Notes: We commonly use western without questioning where it comes from. It comes from west, of course. But if we look closely, there are two suffixes present on this word: -er and -n. Many words based on west have come and gone over the years. I will mention but one here: westerly. It serves as an adjective (a westerly wind), adverb (to move westerly), and noun (a westerly arose) to today's Good Word.

In Play: The noun wester is found today mostly in the compound northwester (or nor'wester), the name of the horrific storm that hits New England periodically. However, it still has a life of its own: "The evening was blessed by a warm wester, as the sun brilliantly westered to its rest." The verb we hear less often: "Harvey westered from Maine to California solely on the advice of Horace Greeley, 'Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.'"

Word History: Today's Good Word is purely English—as a matter of fact, for once French borrowed its ouest and Spanish its oeste from English! We find it throughout the Germanic languages: Dutch westen, German Westen, Danish and Norwegian vest, and Swedish väst. All these words came from a Proto-Indo-European word, wes-. With the suffix -per it also came to be Greek hesperos "evening" and Latin vesper "evening". Wes- is thought to be an extension of we- "to go down", which gave Sanskrit avah "downward". Downward is, of course, the direction in which the sun sets. (Today's Good Word is in memory of Seamus Heaney, 1995 Nobel Prize winner for literature, who passed away Friday, August 30, 2013. It was suggested by George Kovac, who was particularly fond of Heaney's poem, "Westering".)

Dr. Goodword,

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