January 3rd, 2021

words 6
  • sallymn

Sunday Word: Evanescent

evanescent [ev-uh-nes-uhnt]

adjective:
1 soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearingl tending to vanish like vapor
2 (physics) denoting a field or wave that extends into a region where it cannot propagate and whose amplitude therefore decreases with distance

Examples:

Built over two years by engineer Thomas Cargill, it reached over 1,000 feet into the sea and featured an impressive castellated entrance. Visitors paid a penny a head to perambulate over the beach, the waves and way out across the sea. (Nehchal Sandhu, Leh to Keylong & back, 1982, The Tribune, December 2020)

The soufflé is as ephemeral and evanescent as the Blur Building by Diller Scofidio, and as difficult to carry off. (Gabriella Gershenson, The Structural Soundness of Your Favorite Desserts, According to Architects, Saveur, January 2017)

In times of strong emotion mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness (Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

Origin:

Early 18th century (in the sense 'almost imperceptible'): from Latin evanescent - 'disappearing', from the verb evanescere. (Oxford English Dictionary)

The fragile, airy quality of things evanescent reflects the etymology of the word evanescent itself. It derives from a form of the Latin verb evanescere, which means 'to evaporate' or 'to vanish'. Given the similarity in spelling between the two words, you might expect evaporate to come from the same Latin root, but it actually grew out of another steamy Latin root, evaporare. Evanescere did give us vanish, however, by way of Anglo-French and Vulgar Latin. (Merriam-Webster)

1717, 'on the point of becoming imperceptible,' from French évanescent, from Latin evanescentem (nominative evanescens), present participle of evanescere 'disappear, vanish, pass away,' figuratively 'be forgotten, be wasted,' from assimilated form of ex 'out' + vanescere 'vanish,' inchoative verb from vanus 'empty, void' (from PIE wano-, suffixed form of root eue- 'to leave, abandon, give out'). Sense of 'quickly vanishing, having no permanence' is by 1738. (Online Etymology Dictionary)