Monday, January 3, 2011

Descry

Descry \dih-SKRY\ , transitive verb;
1. To catch sight of, especially something distant or obscure; to discern
2. To discover by observation; to detect

I've tried to write this entry a couple times now and I keep having trouble because it's confusing. This word with the definition "to see, discern" entered the language around 1300, probably from Old French descrier. The definition "to proclaim" is attested to the mid-1300's and also came from Old French descrier.
Where the problem lies is in the history of descrier. When associated with "to see, discern" it is supposedly from Latin describere (a precursor to describe), but when associated with "to proclaim" it is supposed to derive from Latin quiritare (a precursor of cry). This issue could, of course, be solved if I could find an online dictionnaire ├ętymologique francais, but so far no such luck. Ah bon, c'est la vie!

Too add another twist to the line, the OED says descry is a variant of descrive, also derived from descrier.

Descrive (obsolete) verb;
1. To write down, inscribe; to write out, transcribe
2. To enroll
3. Describe
4. To draw, map out

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Monday, January 3
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

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