January 23, 2012
chasm (noun)
\KAZ-um\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a deep split or gap in the earth
How do you use it?
We hiked along the gorge, careful to stay away from the edge of the chasm.
Are you a word wiz?

What famous writer was alive when "chasm" first came into English?

"Chasm" was first used in English in 1596, right in the middle of Shakespeare's illustrious career--though he never used "chasm" himself. In the 16th and 17th centuries, English went through a huge vocabulary boom: some experts think that as many as 87,000 words first showed up in the English language in those two centuries. (In comparison, those same experts think that in between 1000 and 1400, 46,000 words were added to English). Many of those 16th- and 17th-century words were Latin or Greek words that were borrowed into English. "Chasm" is one of those words: it comes from the Greek "chasma."
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