Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My Favourite Word : Awe

The Word Detective is calling for folk to send him their favourite word here.

My contribution to this is the word “awe”. Which is defined by
Answers.com as follows:

awe (ô) n.

A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might: We felt awe when contemplating the works of Bach. The observers were in awe of the destructive power of the new weapon.


  1. The power to inspire dread.
  2. Dread.

Awe is my favourite word because it’s the one capacity that humans have over animals. The capacity for awe is what makes me want to wake up in the morning. It’s the ever-present knowledge that there is something out there that will excite me, thrill me or scare me.

While I felt that the word was severely abused by White House spin doctors in the “shock & awe” bombings of Iraq, this is perhaps only further evidence of the heightened conscious capacity that we have as humans and that our capacity for awe can have a destructive and evil context as well as an affirming one.

Daniel Dennett, in Consciousness Explained, neatly encapsulates this as follows:
“When we understand consciousness - when there is no more mystery - consciousness will be different, but there will still be beauty, and more room than ever for awe."


Third World Ant said...

The trouble with awe is its derivative, awesome. Used in every sentence uttered by every American, it has lost the grandeur of its original intent.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the word 'portcullis'. Mostly for the sound of the word, partly for the weird spelling, partly for the romanticism of the era it invokes. Going to submit this to Word detective!

ATW said...

Fair enough, but most of life is full of awful derivatives. Portcullis though has few, in fact none that I can think of.