Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Eke \EEK\ , transitive verb;
1. To gain or supplement with great effort or difficulty -- used with 'out'
2. To increase or make last by being economical -- used with 'out'

This is one of those words that is in every crossword ever. It's also one of those rare words that is pure English, through and through.

According to Etymonline.com:
The word dates back to about 1200 and comes from eken, meaning "to increase, lengthen." Eken is probably a variation of echen, from north England and the English Midlands, derived from Old English ecan, eacian, and eacan, all meaning "to increase" and all coming from eaca ("an increase"). Eaca comes from a proto-Germanic word *aukan, which comes from proto-Indo-European *aug-, meaning "to increase" (which is also where augment comes from). The modern usage is usually to eke out, and that phrase dates back to the 1590's and means "to make something go further or last longer," like if you eke out your income by taking a second job.

Historical linguists are constantly trying to rebuild and recreate old versions of modern languages to see what the linguistic landscape looked like at various points in time. One of the theories of the whole science of historical linguistics is that if you go back far enough there was a proto-language that is the common ancestor for all modern tongues - the "Adam" of human language, if you will. So far this has not been discovered, but linguists have learned a lot about the way languages are related and they organize these relationships into something resembling genealogical family trees.
The most studied language family is proto-Indo-European (PIE). PIE was a language that long ago split into 6 groups: Italic, Hellenic, Germanic, Celtic, Anatolian (extinct), and Tocharian (extinct). Italic is the ancestor of Latin, and therefore all the Romance Languages. Hellenic is the forbear of Greek, and Celtic is the basis of all the Gaelic languages spoken in Ireland and Scotland. The Germanic family tree includes English, German, the Norse languages, Dutch, and the like. Language families roughly correlate to geographic regions, but there are no real lines separating one from another because language exists in a continuum. For Example, in Parisians speak French and Berliners speak German, but along the French-German border the language is a mixture of the two: either German-sounding French or French-sounding German. This type of overlapping is an example of the fluidity of spoken language and is the basis for how languages split from each other in the first place.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Tuesday, October 26

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