• apron •
ay-prên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An article of clothing worn in front of the body to protect the clothing beneath. 2. A similar article worn as part of a distinctive style of dress, as by bishops, Freemasons, and native costume. 3. Anything resembling an apron in form or function.
Notes: This word refers to a common household item worn to protect the underlying clothing when cooking or cleaning house, but they are also worn by all sorts of artisans and workers on the job. The word comes with three adjectives, aproned "wearing an apron" and apronless "not wearing one"'; then we also have apronful "the capacity of an apron" held upwards.
In Play: While aprons are usually worn to protect the clothing beneath, exceptions do occur: "When Ernie returned home, he found his wife wearing nothing but an apron and a smile." This word also plays a big part in the metaphorical phrase 'apron strings': "Harvey Milquetoast is tied to his mother's apron strings so fast, he can't eat dessert without his mom's permission."
Word History: Today's Good Word resulted from the misanalysis of the phrase 'a napron'. In other words, 'a napron' became 'an apron' along the way from Middle to Modern English. (By the way, the same thing happened in Middle English to 'a naddre', which was reanalyzed 'an adder'.) Napron was borrowed from French napron "small tablecloth", the diminutive of nappe "tablecloth", which Old French created from Latin mappe "napkin, towel" by simply switching the initial nasal consonant from M to N. Map started out as Old French mapemonde "map of the world" from Latin mappa mundi "napkin of the world", since maps were drawn at that time on pieces of cloth the size of a napkin. Mapemonde was filched by Middle English as mapemounde, latter clipped down to map. (This was Jackie Strauss's 100th contribution since 2007 in a long list of Good Words as fascinating as today's.)
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