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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — down

Good evening Netizens...]

May 15, 2013

Word of the Day

  • down
  • audio pronunciation
  • \DOWN\


: an undulating generally treeless upland with sparse soil — usually used in plural b plural and often capitalized : treeless chalk uplands along the south and southeast coast of England
: a sheep of any breed originating in the downs of southern England

She lives in a large estate outside of the village, at the foot of the downs.

"They also said that it is increasingly difficult to walk on the Downs as there are cattle grazing and the ground has been 'churned up' and been made slippery by work carried out by the farm." — From an article by Hannah White in the Salisbury Journal (United Kingdom), March 27, 2013


Today's word has a number of homographs in English, all of which share etymological kinship to the same Sanskrit origins, though they followed different paths into modern English usage. The "down" we are featuring today can be traced back to Old English "dūn," which is related to Old Irish "dūn" ("fortress") and Sanskrit "dhūnoti" ("he shakes"). The noun "down" that is used for a covering of soft fluffy feathers comes from Old Norse "dūnn," which is also related to Sanskrit "dhūnoti." The adverb "down" (and the related preposition, adjective, verb, and noun) used to indicate a lower physical position or direction is from Old English "dūne," a shortening of "adūne," itself a combination of "a-" ("from, of, or off") and "dūne," the dative form of "dūn" (the Old English ancestor of today's word).

From Merriam-Webster Online at



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