Word of the Day

preterit \PRET-uh-rut\
noun: past tense
While the past tense form of “sneak” is traditionally “sneaked,” the alternate preterit “snuck” is increasingly common.

“The next chapter introduces Elwin Cross Jr., a professor of linguistics at Marasmus State College…. He’s in his 50s, directionless, nearing a point in his life when ‘what is becomes what was and all the other verbs defining your existence go slumping into the preterite….'” — From a review of Jonathan Miles’ Want Not by Dave Eggers in the New York Times, November 10, 2013
Did you know?
The original form of today’s word, which dates to Middle English, has no final “e,” but “preterite,” as it appears in our second example, is another accepted styling of the word. Like many technical linguistic terms, “preterit” is ultimately Latin in origin: it comes from “praeter,” meaning “beyond, past, by.” (This meaning is also apparent in the now-archaic adjectival use of “preterit” to mean “bygone” or “former.”) Another word from “praeter” is “preternatural,” from the Latin phrase “praeter naturam,” meaning “beyond nature.” That word is typically used to describe what is so unusual or extraordinary as to seem outside of what can be accounted for by nature.


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