• burgeon •
Pronunciation: bêr-jên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive
Meaning: 1. To bud, sprout, to begin to grow or blossom (plants). 2. To grow and flourish (anything).
Notes: The media have frayed today's word a bit about the edges. The expression "burgeoning Enron scandal", heard on a nightly news broadcast at the time, was a gross understatement. Even if we say that Enron was a garden where unrequited felony burgeoned with abandon, some on the networks ignored the fact that it had come to full bloom. A burgeon is a gentle bud that flagrantly understates the explosion of the Enron scandal.
In Play: Of course everything in your garden burgeons in the spring. But other things burgeon in other gardens, too, "He was as yet unaware of the tenderness for her already burgeoning in him after their first encounter." Today's word may also be used by analogy with items that resemble buds, "A painful corn now burgeoned on her foot from constantly wearing her daughter's shoes."
Word History: Today's word in Middle English was burgeonen from Old French borjoner, a verb based on the noun burjon "a bud". This word may have descended from a presumable Vulgar Latin word burrio(n), which descended from Late Latin burra "a shaggy garment, a ball of wool". The semantic problem with this derivation is obvious. Some sources claim either the French word or the Vulgar Latin one is from a Germanic language, but they have no convincing evidence of such a borrowing. Our word today is unrelated to burro, a Spanish back-formation from borrico "donkey", a descendant of Late Latin burricus "small horse".