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Dec 28, 2009
This week's theme
Words that have changed with time

This week's words
beldam
prude
quantum
sycophant
meticulous
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The new year is just around the corner. It brings new hopes, new ideas, new events. In a language, there's no new year -- it's always on the move. There's a constant churning in the waters of a language, words evolving, changing meanings, becoming obsolete, new words being born, gaining acceptance, and so on. This week we'll feature five words that today mean something quite different from their previous meanings.

beldam

PRONUNCIATION:
(BEL-duhm, -DAM)

MEANING:
noun: An old woman; a hag.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Middle English beldam (grandmother), from Old French bel (fine) + dame (lady). In Middle English, the prefix bel was used to indicate relationships, such as belsire or belfader (grandfather, ancestor). In Modern French belle is still used to indicate in-law relationships. A belle-mère is a mother-in-law or a stepmother, for example.

USAGE:
"Carr mixes her story with such amusing oddballs as Carthage's mother, a vinegary and vain beldam."
'Bog' Weighed Down by Mundane Events; Minneapolis Star-Tribune; Mar 16, 2009.

See more usage examples of beldam in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be. -Louis de Bernieres, novelist (b. 1954)

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