Monday, October 18, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: whilom\WYE-lum\
: former

"On the eastern side settlement and agriculture have all but obliterated the whilom tallgrass prairie...." (William Least Heat-Moon, The Atlantic, September 1991)

"Whilom" shares an ancestor with the word "while." Both trace back to the Old English word "hw?l," meaning "time" or "while." In Old English "hw?lum" was an adverb meaning "at times." This use passed into Middle English (with a variety of spellings, one of which was "whilom"), and in the 12th century the word acquired the meaning "formerly." The adverb's usage dwindled toward the end of the 19th century, and it has since been labeled "archaic." The adjective first appeared on the scene in the 15th century, with the now-obsolete meaning "deceased, late," and by the end of the 16th century it was being used with the meaning "former." It's a relatively uncommon word, but it does see occasional use.

Previous E.T.

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