Word for Wednesday: Weather

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January marks the shift into the new year and is named for Janus, the Roman god of beginning and transitions. Janus is usually depicted with two heads – one looking back into the past, and the other looking forward to the future.

With this in mind, this month’s Word for Wednesday theme is Janus words. A Janus word is a word with contradictory meanings. These words are also known as contronyms and auto antonyms.

Our first Janus word of the year is weather. As a noun, this word refers to atmospheric effects like wind, rain, and snow. It is the verb forms of weather that have contradictory meanings. 

One meaning of the verb weather is ‘to withstand’. For example: 

  • The ship is built to weather a storm.
  • The pandemic has really tested our ability to weather hard times. 
  • After weathering the long and difficult journey, she was ready for a long rest. 

Another meaning of the verb weather is ‘to deteriorate’. For example:

  • The cliffs have weathered over the years.
  • Her skin is weathered after a lifetime of working outdoors.
  • Though the denim has weathered at the knees, my old jeans still fit. 

The ‘withstand’ meaning of the word weather dates to the 1650s, while the ‘deteriorate’ meaning dates to the 1750s. Weather comes from the Old English ‘weder’, from the Proto-Germanic ‘wedra’. The spelling change from ‘d’ to ‘th’ began in the late-fifteenth century. 


05 Jan 2022
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