Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for June 28, 2021 is:
whilom WYE-lum adjective
“On the eastern side settlement and agriculture have all but obliterated the whilom tallgrass prairie, so that it is hardly visible to anyone who would not seek it out on hands and knees….” — William Least Heat-Moon, PrairyErth, 1991
“Alamo project leadership dropped its plan to move the cenotaph after the [Texas Historical Commission] denied the relocation last year…. [General Land Office] Commissioner George P. Bush, a whilom supporter of the move, laid fears of relocation to rest earlier this year as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg shuffled committee leadership to adapt to the new plan.” — Isaiah Mitchell, The Texan (Austin, Texas), 30 Mar. 2021
Did you know?
Whilom shares an ancestor with the word while. Both trace back to the Old English word hwīl, meaning “time” or “while.” In Old English hwīlum was an adverb meaning “at times.” This use passed into Middle English (with a variety of spellings, one of which was whilom), and in the 12th century the word acquired the meaning “formerly.” The adverb’s usage dwindled toward the end of the 19th century, and it has since been labeled archaic. The adjective first appeared on the scene in the 15th century, with the now-obsolete meaning “deceased,” and by the 19th century it was being used with the meaning “former.” It’s a relatively uncommon word, but it does see occasional use.