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Discover this week’s WOW

Posted in: Words, WOW by Sally Evans-Darby on 11 April 2012 | No Comments

This week’s WOW is tenebrous (adj): full of darkness, dark.

According to the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, this murky Middle English word probably first appeared in the anonymous dreamscape poem The Assembly of Gods, written in the fifteenth century. It’s likely that it was borrowed from the Middle French ‘tenebreus’, which in turn was borrowed from the Latin ‘tenebrae’, meaning darkness.

As well as its literal meaning of ‘dark’, it can also be used to describe anything obscure, opaque, or difficult to make out.

Is it still used nowadays or is it an archaic word that has fallen out of favour? A quick search of Google Books brings up a novel titled ‘The Tenebrous Hare’, but the synopsis seems to indicate the hare being tenacious rather than tenebrous. Are the two words connected?

And how about pronunciation – ten-ee-brous or ten-eh-brous?

Send me your thoughts on tenebrous below – if you’ve used or heard it recently, I’d be interested to hear from you.