Word of the Week: Up in the Air9:30 AM
Do you like laughing gas, zephyr winds and castles in the clouds? Then you'll enjoy this week's word: ethereal. It floats through the whole of heavenly, airy things. As Webster's 1828 dictionary, my favorite of all time, defines it - well, boo, it doesn't. That leaves my second favorite, the online Encarta Dictionary, which offers several definitions (obviously to show up its ancient predecessor):
1. very delicate or highly refined, such as ethereal lace or beauty
2. very light, airy or insubstantial, such as ethereal clouds
3. belonging to the sky or the celestial sphere, such as ethereal song
It comes from the Latin aetherius, which in turn came from Greece's aitherios, which derived from aithēr. That of course means upper air. Celestial realm - sky - heaven - that's the gist of it. For you literary ladies out there, ether in the literary world means the sky, or the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Ethereal stands in as its adjective. For the scientific-minded, ether can mean a liquid solvent, an organic compound with linked hydrocarbon groups or a hypothetical electromagnetic medium.
It's a beautiful word. Say it out loud: i thEARee ul. If you get stumped, just remember that it sort of rhymes with cereal - and that's about as antagonistic to ethereality as one can get, especially when it's soggy cereal. Not, if you get my meaning, very ethereal at all.