adj. growing old; aging

This 17th-century word comes from the Latin senescere, “to grow old.” In fact, you can find derivatives of this word in all of the Latinate languages, as well as in English. We get our words like “senior,” “senior,” “seneschal,” and “senium” from it (or more accurately from senex, which means “old” or “old man” [senis]) as well as “senate,” which is literally a “council of elders.”

Senescent in English carries no connotations that I’m aware of—it doesn’t mean “dilapidated” or “decrepit,” but neither does it carry the nobility that its Latin root did. It just means “aging,” as in “That senescent building has been around for a while,” or “The senescent man was turning grey at the temples.”

§1384 · September 27, 2006 · Tags: ·

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