Word of the Day 4/2/2010

2 04 2010


Definition: Great, adj, adv, n-

  1. Thick, coarse, massive, big.
  2. Of things, actions, events: Of more than ordinary importance, weight, or distinction; important, weighty; distinguished, prominent; famous, renowned.
  3. Pregnant; far advanced in pregnancy: app. orig. referred to the stoutness of the body. Chiefly with with (child, etc.); {dag}occas. with of{dag}Also said of the body. (Confer BIG a. 4.) arch.


Compare with West Germanic: Old English gréat = Old Frisian grât, Old High German, Middle High German grô{hgz} (G. grosz).  “On the assumption that the primary sense is ‘coarse’ (sense 1 below), some scholars regard the word as cognate with ON. graut-r porridge, OE. grút fine meal, grot particle, grytta coarse meal, gréot sand, gravel, ON. griót stones. But the connexion is not free from difficulty, as the cognates of these words outside Teut. point to a root meaning ‘to pound’, a sense from which that of the adj. is not easily derived. It has been suggested (Stokes in Fick Idg. Wb.4 II. 119) that a cognate of the Teut. adj. may exist in the OIrish gruad (?:{em}pre-Celtic *ghroudes-) cheek (? lit. ‘thick or fleshy part’ of the face; cf. sense 2 below, and the contrasted notion in OE. {th}unwang lit. ‘thin cheek’, the temples). The prevailing senses in OE. are ‘coarse, thick, stout, big’; but the word also appears as an intensive synonym of micel MICKLE, which in the later language it superseded. In OHG. grô{hgz} had the senses of ‘big, awkwardly large’, and of ‘pregnant’, but was also used as a synonym of mihhil (though not with reference to length); in OS. grôt is recorded only in the sense of ‘great’, in which it is less frequent (and possibly more emphatic) than mikil. The development by which great has superseded mickle (not only in Eng. but also in Du., Ger., and Fris.) may be illustrated by reference to the mod. colloquial substitution of big for great, and to the supersession of L. magnus in Rom. by grandis big, full-grown (see GRAND a.).”

Modern Usage

Follows definition 2 mostly.

All definitions and etymology information was obtained using the Online Oxford English Dictionary.




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