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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


    The term awe initially originated in the 9th century from the Old English word "ege" meaning "terror or dread", but was then later replaced in the mid 13th century by the Old Norse word "agi", which more specifically meant " an act of terror". Awe as a noun is ideally used to describe an instant of immediate fear or may also be defined as the combination of fear with wonder. It is a subjective emotion and is entirely relative to an individual's perspective; that the experience of awe to one may not be the same to another.The current sense of the word tends to revolve around the idea of fear being mixed with reverence, and came about through the use of biblical references that referred to the veneration of a Higher Being. The feeling of "awe" is usually orchestrated between an object that is greater in strength or hierarchy in comparison to its subject. The difference in relationship is the basis for creating this concept of reverential fear. Its is also seen as the ability of that object to use fear as a way to instigate profound emotions, such as fascination and wonder. 

  Awe is used as a verb is subjective to the way of influence, becoming a source of inspiration through the means of terror.  The object must also be able to control or restrain the subject's reaction, using its own attributes as a way to inspire fear. For example the environment may stimulate this sense of awe, either by the heavy sound of thunder or lightning striking the ground, which are both significantly sublime and fill an individual with a sense of a tremendous amount of fear. In order to inspire fear, awe must be an objective fact, a medium used to carry out its message. The term may also be used as an adjective by combining it with verbs, creating relative compound words such as; awe-inspiring, awe-compelling, awe-filled, etc.

  The term awe is the root word for both awful and awesome, they currently meaning two different things though they initially began off meaning the same thing " full of awe" and "overpowering veneration".  In the word awesome, the suffix -some means "to have the quality of the given prefix", and therefore when combined with awe it generally means "having the quality of awe". In the word awful, the suffix -ful essentially means "full of", so awful means "full of awe". The word awful was derived before awesome, initially meaning " being awe-inspiring" and in the 17th century it was also used to describe things of " sublime magnificence" . The word began to drift away from its original meaning but did maintain some aspects of it, such as the ability to cause dread, and terror. But it is currently used to describe things that are terrible, frightening, horrible and even appalling. The term awesome is now used to describe things that are excessively impressive, amazing, even wonderful and also still maintains the idea of "inspiring admiration" from the previous definition.  The two terms did branch off into the two different streams awful defining dread while awesome defined veneration, but the combination of the two remains present at the roots, it is dread mixed with veneration, known as the root word awe.


               Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian., "Awe(n.)." Last modified 2012. Accessed November 21, 2012. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=awe.
               Wikipedia, "Awe." Last modified 2012. Accessed November 21, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awe.
               Random House Inc , "The Maven's Word of the Day: awe, awesome, awful." Last modified 2008. Accessed November 21, 2012. http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?
                Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press., "awe." Last modified 2012. Accessed November 21, 2012. http://www.oed.com/search?searchType=dictionary&q=awe&_searchBtn=Search

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