• fantastic •
fæn-tæs-tik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Unbelievably extreme, extraordinarily great, superb, marvelous. 2. Wildly imaginative, totally remote from reality.
Notes: Here is another Good Word that has strayed from its semantic path. Originally, the adjective for fantasy, it is used far more often today in its figurative sense (1 above) than its original sense.
In Play: The first sense of today's word, as suggested above, gets greater usage: "Maude Lynn Dresser cane to the party in a fantastic outfit, handmade by her tailor." However, the original sense is still alive: "Hoggard belongs to the land of phoenixes, centaurs, mermaids, and other fantastic oddities far, far from the real world."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a modification of French fantastique, passed down from Late Latin phantasticus "imaginary", borrowed from Greek phantastikos "capable of imagination", the noun from phantazein "make visible". Phantazein is a word derived from phantasia "appearance, imagination", from phantos "visible", created from PIE bha- "to shine". This PIE word lies behind Sanskrit bha "light, shine", Armenian banam "I open, I shell", Greek phainein "to show, bring to light" and phos, photos "light", and Irish ban "white". It arrived in English in beacon. English borrowed many words from Greek words containing phos, photos, including photography, photon, and photocopy. (Now let's join hearts and thank Joakim Larsson of Sweden for yet another Good Word with a vagrant meaning.)
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