• whereas •
(h)wer-æz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Conjunction
Meaning: 1. In contrast to . . .. 2. (Law) Considering the fact that . . ..
Notes: Here is a word that swam upstream to leave the general vocabulary for a professional jargon: legalese. The usual direction is just the opposite, from a professional jargon to the general vocabulary. Since it is a conjunction, we can expect no derivational family.
In Play: This word is still perfectly at home in the general vocabulary: "Peter can sometimes be abrupt with people, whereas Paul blends thoughtfully into any conversation." However, it is heard most often in legal contexts: "Whereas the driver of the bus was goosed by a slap-happy passenger while driving, he cannot be held responsible for the ensuing crash."
Word History: This Good Word is twice as complicated as usual conjunctions. It is a compound comprising two words: where + as. Where originates in PIE kwo-, the stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. Who, what, where, and when with differing suffixes share the same source. In German we find the same word with pretty much the same array of suffixes wer, was, wo, and wann. Latin kept the original [kw] sound for its qui "who", quid "what", quo "where" (as in 'Quo vadis' "Where are you going"), and quod "when". In Russian, which dropped the [w], we find kto "who", čto "what" ([k] > [č] regularly), kogda "when". English as is a shortened form of also, which was eallswa "so as, likewise" in Old English. It is related to German als "as, than". Not much—if anything—more is known beyond this about the word.
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