Eerie, occasionally spelt ‘eery’, is an adjective that means creepy, spooky, weird, or unsettling.
It is a very old word that has an interesting past. It has been part of our language since the time of Old English, but it is one of a small group of words whose meanings have actually reversed over time.
Originally, ‘eerie’ had a meaning similar to ‘fearful’ or ‘timid’. Over time, though, it’s meaning has flipped to meaning something that induced those feelings instead. This sense of the word was first recorded in 1792, and is the meaning we still attribute to it today.
Tristful is an archaic word that means to be melancholy or full of sadness. Like forswunk and forwallowed, it is a word which is said to be obsolete now, but it is so beautiful that I want to bring it back.
It came into the English language, as many words did, courtesy of the Normans and the Plantagenets, in medieval times. The Latin word tristis gave French the word triste, which gave English trist meaning sad or gloomy, and thus tristful.
I discovered this word today while looking for words to describe my feelings and state of mind at this point in my grief journey. Over the past few days, I have been feeling as though everything is too hard, and I just want to withdraw into my cocoon and wallow. I’m not angry, nor am I ungrateful, but I am definitely not numb. My emotions are very close to the surface, and at times I am unable to hold back the tears.
I know all of that is completely natural, and I know I need to accept it and work through it. I know it won’t last forever.
But I also needed the words to understand and express my emotions.
I have been using the term ‘melancholy’ a lot, and it describes my condition perfectly. However, I know that while one cannot actually wear a word out, it is entirely possible to cheapen it with overuse. Melancholy is a word that I love because it is so expressive, and because it’s beautiful to say and to hear, so I would hate to be guilty of turning it into a cliche.
Sad isn’t deep enough. Miserable would be appropriate, but it feels more temporary and somehow more minor than what I am experiencing.
I very quickly rejected morose and in a funk because both suggest sullenness or a bad mood, which is not reflective of my feelings or state of mind. Moody was no better.
When I saw tristful listed in my thesaurus under the entry for melancholy, I had an immediate sense of having discovered a gem that most people had laid aside and forgotten about. As I researched its meaning and etymology, I knew I had discovered the perfect alternative.
I’m disappointed now that I used the words ‘exhausted’ and ‘so tired’, because today I discovered an absolutely brilliant word I could have used instead: forswunk.
Forswunk is an adjective that means exhausted by hard work, or overworked. The verb is forswink: to tire or exhaust through labour.
Both are words from Middle English. I don’t even care that the Collins English Dictionary says these words are now obsolete. ‘Forswunk’ is a fabulous word and I’m going to use it.
To say “man, I am completely and utterly forswunk” is a much more expressive way to say that you’re “tired” or “beat” or “worn out” or “done in”. The only term that really comes close is the Australian vernacular term “knackered” which pretty much means the same thing.
So, if you hear someone saying they are knackered, meaning super tired, they’re probably Australian. And if you hear an Australian saying they’re forswunk, it’s probably me.