What is buoyant?

Word count: 232 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: buoyant.

I’m just guessing, but I probably learned the adjective buoyant when I was in grade 3. (If that sounds too braggy, let me admit that I didn’t learn to spell it until I wrote this blog post!) Etymology, however, is a recent interest of mine, and in addition to learning the spelling of buoyant, I just acquired an understanding of the word’s origins.

I most recently encountered buoyant in Linda Spaulding’s novel, The Purchase. Here is the sentence in which it appeared:

The full moon was in a fit of fast swimming across the sky, moving among the scuttling clouds as if it were buoyant

After reading that sentence I raced to my etymology dictionary and learned that the word dates back to the 1570s, and is thought to come from the Spanish boyante, which is the present participle of the verb, boyar “to float,” from boya  meaning, “buoy.” This, in turn, came from the Dutch word boei meaning the same thing. Isn’t it fascinating how words from different languages mix and mingle to form utterly new terms? And yet, somehow, they still retain vestiges of their previous selves.

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