It’s hard for me to believe that today marks one month from the beginning of this blog. For those of you who have become regular readers, I hope you’re enjoying these little vignettes of uncommon words. I appreciate all of the kind comments and emails I have received.
Since today is the one-month anniversary of this blog’s exordium, I thought it would be apt to discuss the word anniversary. Actually, the more precise term might be:
mensiversary n. a one month anniversary.
The suffix –versary comes from the Latin root versus meaning to turn. The prefix anni- predictably comes from the Latin word annus meaning year (although annus originally referred to a time period of ten months). Thus, the resulting word anniversary is a turning of a year. Interestingly, the root versary, when combined with the prefix ad-, gives us the word adversary, literally meaning a turning against. Versus also gives us words such as verse and version.
Mensiversary is technically a nonce word – a word made up for the occasion, since it isn’t a word actually found in any established dictionary. However, unlike some nonce words that are completely random, mensiversary makes sense because of its component parts. We’ve already discussed –versary. Mensi- comes from the Latin mensis meaning month. This same root word also spawned menses, the monthly menstruation cycle of females, and also gives us the word moon which is so closely related to the regular cycle that is nearly a month in length. We often think of the Latin root for moon as being luna which gives us lunar and looney. However, luna comes, not from any measurement of a time period, but from the word light.
Along with the word moon comes the related word tide, which as we all know is periodic change of the sea level as influenced by the moon’s gravitation. Tide can also note an annual period of time and is most closely associated with ecclesiastical feast times, such as Christmastide and Eastertide.
The suffixes ennial, ennium, and enary all directly relate to the previously discussed annus, so when combined with metric prefixes result in specific anniversary periods, such as the common centennial for one hundred years, and the less common nonacentennial for a nine hundred year anniversary.
Within the Roman Catholic church, the word anniversary has a particular meaning of a Mass that is performed each year for the soul of a deceased, and an annueler is the priest that performs the Mass. And just to complete the thought, the perfect antonym of the word birthday is deathday – the day of a person’s death or anniversary of their death. Makes sense.
Jubilee is a word long associated with anniversaries. In ancient times, every fifty years the Israelites would observe a full year of rest, and would free slaves and leave the land untilled. Roman Catholics would observe a jubilee every twenty-five years in which the pope would grant indulgences and believers would be encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In England, a jubilee marks the annual celebration of royal accession to the throne. The word can also be used to mark a 25th or 50th anniversary.
So, happy anniversary to The Watchword and I promise not to publicly celebrate its bimensiversary.