Awesome (or Not)

AWESOME: adj. "arousing an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime"

Awesome derives from Norse. Around 1300, we find aue, meaning “fear, terror, great reverence.” Aue comes from an Old Norse word meaning “fright”: agi. Add the Old English adjective-forming element some (“tending to; causing; to a considerable degree”), and you get awesome, which meant “profoundly reverential” in the 1590s and “inspiring awe or dread” by the 1670s.

Reverential Fear

The translators of the King James Bible chose the word...


is a retired secondary teacher of English and philosophy. For forty years he challenged students to dive deep into the classics of the Western canon, to think and write analytically, and to find the cultural constants reflected throughout that literature, art, and thought.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #69, Summer 2024 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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