Word of The Day for Thursday, November 11, 2010


whi•lom (HWAHY-luhm, WAHY-)

1. former, erstwhile
2. at one time, formerly

Synonyms: erstwhile, late, old, once, onetime, other, past, quondam, sometime, former
Related Words: while

Sentence Examples:
• I could eat no more, so I turned to my whilom informant to learn as much as I could and sought to draw him out with far-fetched gossip. -The Satyricon, Petronius Arbiter

• The fact that I could not have known my departed relation did not prevent two of my cousins, elderly maiden ladies who had had that privilege, from writing to me in great indignation at my having ventured to travesty my old aunt. They had found me out (I am always being found out), and the vials of their wrath were poured out over me. In my whilom ignorance, in my lamblike innocence of the darker side of human nature, I actually thought that a disclaimer would settle the matter. -The Lowest Rung, Mary Cholmondeley

The Storyline
"And I ran into Andy, the other day," her mother continued. "He's looking well. He's getting married next June." Anna snapped back to the conversation at the mention of her whilom beau.

before 900;  ME; OE hwilum  at times, dative plural of hwil while

The word dates to Old English, at a time when the language was heavily inflected — adjectives, nouns, and verbs taking different endings depending on the job they were doing. Whilom — then spelt hwilom — was the dative plural of hwil, the same word as our modern while. As English progressively lost its inflections, the word became a fossil, with its ending stuck to it permanently; at the same time the meaning shifted to mean something of a former time, a change that was complete by the fifteenth century.
Sources: Dictionary.com
Why This Word:
While whilom has close synonyms and has largely become itself - former, erstwhile - it has a poetry about it. Not just any noun is suited to taking whilom as a modifier. Like the more common erstwhile, whilom carries, by dint of its archaism, a certain nostalgia for the former thing being described.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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