Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-vêrt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive (takes a direct object)

Meaning: 1. To turn away from, to point in a different direction, to divert, as to avert attention away from the fire. 2. To prevent or ward off, as to avert an accident by taking precautions.

Notes: Today's word contains a root found in many English words referring to various types of turning: introvert, someone turned inward, extrovert, someone turned outward, pervert, someone who is just twisted. The noun, aversion, means "turning away" but also can refer to something that turns you away, repulses you, as 'an aversion to violence'. To avert is to simply turn away, but to divert is to turn away toward something else, as 'traffic might be diverted down a side road'.

In Play: Avert is used almost idiomatically with eyes these days, but other things may be averted: "Events in his life averted Adam Bahm from his studies at the peace institute for two years." We also find many things in our lives, negative and positive, that we may avert in the second sense of today's Good Word: "Constance Noring managed to avert success by consistently wasting time on the job."

Word History: This word came to us from our usual supplier: Latin, this time the verb is avertere "to turn away from". This word contains the remnant of ab "away from" + vertere "to turn". The original root, wer-t- "to turn, bend", also moved from Proto-Indo-European through Old Germanic to Old English, arriving at our doorstep as ward, the word in the second definition of today's word, "to ward off". Yes, that is it in words like toward and northward, too. It survives in Modern German werden "to become (turn into)" and in Russian vorot, found in povorot "a turn, turning point".

Dr. Goodword,

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