Think on This: Thole

Thole. Not a misprint. Or a lispy stutter. A real word.

Know what it means? I didn’t, hadn’t even seen it ’til Merriam-Webster delivered its Word of the Day into my email box. 

What I love about the free subscription is being introduced to the really odd word and its etymology.

Discovering a word that’s fallen out of circulation or may be in use but is novel or out there is pure delight to this passionate wordsmith.

I can’t but marvel at and adore its existence. Even if I never again cross paths with the word or recall its definition, just to have met a new word is a joy.

For the odd and unfamiliar bird, I like to imagine the definition before reading it.

Take thole.

Sounds like an abnormal growth or fungus under a toenail. 

In fact, thole means: endure.

Thole has a long history in the English language. It existed in Middle English in its current form, and in Old English in the form tholian, but in these modern times, it tholes only in a few of England’s northern dialects. It has, however, a linguistic cousin far more familiar to most English speakers: the word tolerate traces back to Latin tolerare, meaning “to endure, put up with,” and tolerare and tholian share a kinship with the Greek verb tlēnai, meaning “to bear.”

Examples of THOLE (courtesy of Merriam-Webster):

“There was now temptation to resist, as well as pain to thole.” Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped, 1886

“They view bad weather—whether it be a temperature of minus 14 or the northerly wind that comes howling down the loch—as a pleasurable challenge rather than something to be tholed.” — Peter Ross, The Scotsman, Oct. 2012

Forced to thole severe neglect and abuse from infancy, I became a fiercely independent and self-reliant survivor and a cripple in receiving help from another. — Me, April 2019


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