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  • Mark Allen

‘Awe’ spreads faster than dictionaries can keep up

Wendalyn Nichols wrote an awesome post yesterday for the Web site Visual Thesaurus. As an aside, the Copyediting newsletter editor mentioned the misuse of “awe,” as in “awe, cute” instead of “aw, cute.”

“Awe” comes from an Old English word “ege,” which meant “terror” or “dread.” It has largely retained that meaning, although recently it has been used in a more positive sense, first in relation to something impressive, and lately to describe anything we think is pretty good, such as a blog posting. It’s certainly overused these days, and it may be creeping into descriptions of babies and kittens. Some babies and kittens may inspire “fear or wonder” (Oxford American’s definition). but the word we’re probably looking for is “aw.”