Word for Wednesday: Trim

blog home

Do you celebrate Christmas? Have you trimmed your Christmas tree yet? 

Today’s Word for Wednesday is a Janus word (also known as a contranym or auto antonym). This means it has two contradictory meanings. The term is named for the god of beginnings Janus, whose image – usually depicted with two heads, one looking back into the past and the other looking forward into the future – is often found carved over doorways and gates.

In the context of Christmas, trim means ‘to decorate’ or ‘to adorn’. For example: 

  • Each year the family gathers to trim the Christmas tree.
  • For Christmas dinner, we had turkey with all the trimmings.

If you hear it during the rest of the year, trim is probably being used to mean ‘to cut away excess’. For example: 

  • I need to get my hair trimmed
  • The gardener trimmed away the plant's dead leaves. 

Trim comes from the Old English ‘trymman’ meaning ‘make firm’ or ‘arrange’ and the first recorded use of the word is from the 1520s. The ‘decorate’ or ‘adorn’ meaning of the word dates back to the 1540s and the ‘cut away’ meaning dates to 1966. 

Can you think of any other words which have multiple contradictory meanings? You can learn more about other Janus words here

Whether you trim your tree as soon as Thanksgiving is over or wait until Christmas Eve, we’d love to see a photo of it. You can send us a picture of your tree on Facebook or Twitter! 

04 Dec 2019
blog home

"Thank goodness for Spellzone during this remote learning phase. The site is easy for students to navigate independently and they're really enjoying the activities and spelling games. You get an awful lot for your money with Spellzone. Really reassuring is the very prompt response with helpdesk queries. I've very rarely needed the helpdesk, but when I have, the issue has been addressed and sorted within a very short time."

Sarah Taggart, Oasis Academy Lord's Hill