Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Maurice from Rochester asked about terms that can express the constant flow of days represented by the words yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I’ll warn up front that some of them are obsolete, but I suppose that they could be revived.

In Latin, hesternus meant yesterday. Our word hesternal, of yesterday’s standing or date, is based on that word. Hestern was an earlier spelling. Latin also gave us pridie, basically “before this day.” That led to pridian, pertaining to the previous day.

From the Greek, we have ‘ημερα (hemera), meaning day. This has generated hemeralopia (day-blindness), hemerine (belonging to a day), Hemerobaptist (an obscure sect that practiced daily baptism), hemerobian (a family of insects known as day-flies), hemerocallis ( a day-lilly), and hemerology (a day book). And something ephemeral lasts barely a day.

From the Latin, we have hodie, today. This has given us hodiernal, of or belonging to the present day. Latin also contributed diurnalis, daily. Something diurnal can be done in one day, happens on a daily basis, or lasts only one day. And quotidian (from Latin for “every day”) means the same thing.

Latin contributed crastinum, the morrow. There was an obsolete English word crastin (the day after), but we know the root best from the word procrastinate, to defer or put off to the next day. The crastinal tense covers an event that will happen tomorrow.

So if you’re looking for adjective forms, you could do worse than hesternal, hodiernal, and crastinal.

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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