ab ovo

Printable Version
Pronunciation: ah-bo-vo Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb

Meaning: From the beginning.

Notes: Rarely do we allow two words to serve as a Good Word, but this is one word in English (hence the pronunciation), though we still follow the Latin spelling (hence the spelling). It is a lexical orphan.

In Play: Now we can avoid that somewhat awkward 'begin from the beginning': "Please begin your story ab ovo." Anywhere you can say, 'from the beginning', ab ovo will feel comfortable while suggesting an erudition on your part: "Rhoda Book is writing a history of the suffragette movement ab ovo."

Word History: Today's Good Word obviously is a Latin phrase that English gobbled whole. It comprises ab "(out) from" + ovo "egg". Latin acquired ab from PIE apo "off, away", which also went into the making of Greek apo "(away) from", German ab "out from", and English of, off, and after. Russian dropped the initial A for its po "along, according to, for". Ovo is the ablative of ovum "egg", derived from PIE owyo-/owye- "egg", probably related to awi- "bird". Owye- emerged in Greek as ōion "egg", German as Ei "egg", Armenian as ju, genitive jvoj "egg", and Welsh wy "egg". Caviar originated from Persian khaviyar, a word derived from khaya "egg" + dar "holder" (an egg-holding fish). Khaya is a descendant of Middle Persian khayag "little egg", the diminutive of avya- "egg" from the same PIE word. (A show of gratitude now is due George Kovac, wordmaster and major contributor to the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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