January 23, 2017
- chasm (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : a deep split or gap in the earth
- How do you use it?
- ". . . McDougal's cave was but a vast labyrinth of crooked aisles that ran into each other and out again and led nowhere. It was said that one might wander days and nights together through its intricate tangle of rifts and chasms, and never find the end . . ." (Mark Twain, _The Adventures of Tom Sawyer_)
- Are you a word wiz?
Mark Twain was writing _The Adventures of Tom Sawyer_ in the late 1800s. What famous writer was writing 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."