February 19th, 2015

words are sexy

Thursday word: dalliance

dalliance (DAL-ee-uhns, DAL-yuhns) - n., playful flirtation (obs.); wasting of time in idleness or trifles; a sexual affair that is not serious, esp. one that is illicit.


I mark the first sense as obsolete because speaking truthfully, no one uses it that way anymore. Given I first met the word in Elizabethan poetry and spend time at Renn Faires, however, the amorous meaning comes first to my mind. Possibly not to others, however -- the primary meaning in modern English is the second. Frankly, I'm not sure I approve of this diminution of the word -- the language needs more loving. Especially in times of war:

The slow campaign provided ample opportunity for dalliance with civilians.

Dates back to the early 14th century, when it was spelled/pronounced closer to daliaunce, from Anglo-Norman dalier, to chat, of unknown origin -- which makes sense given English is, famously, what you get when Norman soldiers try to pick up Saxon girls.

---L.