Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wax & Wane

Doug asked about the pairing wax and wane. To grow and to shrink would be synonyms. Generally, the words are applied to the moon, but they have referred to people, qualities, eras, institutions, and nations.

Wax is descendant of a Greek word (αεχειν) that meant to increase. It shows up in

  • auxanography, a method of studying substances that promote or inhibit the growth of micro-organisms
  • auxanometer, an instrument for measuring growth in plants
  • auxesis, rhetorical amplification
  • auxetic, pertaining to auxesis or pertaining to a substance that stimulates plant growth
  • auxin, a growth hormone
  • auxochrome, a combination of substances that result in a dyestuff
  • auxospore, a spore formed by the excessive growth of an individual cell

That evolved into the Latin augere, also meaning to increase:

  • augend, the quantity to which an addend is added
  • augment, to make greater
  • august, to ripen

Wane, meaning to reduce in size, is indebted to a Frisian/Dutch/Norse cluster that meant to grow less.

SIDEBAR: Wax & Wane

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

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