Adamant, A Synonym for Diamond, Huh?


At least according to Fowler, adamant, as an adjective did not come into play until the 1930’s. I would love to find out how that happened.  Before it had always been used as a noun meant to describe a hard, strong rock.

I didn’t discover anymore in my Google search, but in the Oxford English Dictionary I found enough to suggest to Oxford’s Fowler that they change their date of adamant’s first usage for “something unshakable or inflexible,” or add that it didn’t become well-known, or in more common use, until the 1930’s.

Listed below, thanks to Oxford English Dictionary, are some uses that pre-date the thirties (in one instance, the eighteen thirties);

1816   Champion 2 June 174/2   Dr. Johnson was a thorough egotist: his misgivings—his asperities—his downright,adamant assertions..were all egotistical.
1873   Gentleman’s Mag. Jan. 99   Mr. Thornton..entreated the young beauty to reconsider her plans; but Lucy kissed him and was adamant.
1894   P. L. Ford Hon. Peter Stirling xxxviii. 217   But he was adamant that he must see those eyes again.
The next two seem to shed light on the transition from noun to adjective, at least in my imaginings.
1843   W. Mudge Tabernacle of Moses (ed. 2) xvi. 337   If the silvery tones of mercy will not soften man’s heart of adamant.
1915   Catholic World Oct. 85   What self-command! what a will of adamant in this slight, fragile, amiable woman!

At times I feel my nerd self  becoming adamant about wanting Oxford English to cross check with Oxford Fowler, but only when I wear my Adamant mask. At all other times I am happy just reporting.

6 thoughts on “Adamant, A Synonym for Diamond, Huh?

  1. neonwalrus January 13, 2014 / 6:57 pm

    from Safire’s review of *Semantic Antics* (6/22/2008):

    Book Description Publication Date: February 4, 2009 *”My favorite popular word book of the year”* -William Safire, *NY Times* 6/22/2008

    *A fun, new approach to examining etymology!* Many common English words started out with an entirely different meaning than the one we know today. For example:

    The word *adamant *came into English around 855 C.E. as a synonym for ‘diamond,’ very different from today’s meaning of the word: “utterly unyielding in attitude or opinion.”

    Before the year 1200, the word *silly* meant “blessed,” and was derived from Old English *saelig,* meaning “happy.” This word went through several incarnations before adopting today’s meaning: “stupid or foolish.”

    In *Semantic Antics*, lexicographer Sol Steinmetz takes readers on an in-depth, fascinating journey to learn how hundreds of words have evolved from their first meaning to the meanings used today.

    *From the Hardcover edition.*

    • fictionfitz January 14, 2014 / 7:33 am

      Thanks for this, you are a great researcher. I am still not sure how adamant made it from stone to unyielding. Someone must have thought picking a hard stone as unyielding a clever way to go and it caught on. I have Semantics Antics on my Kindle waiting list.

  2. Carole Webber January 13, 2014 / 7:22 pm

    I would be adamant about using that word properly

    • fictionfitz January 14, 2014 / 7:33 am

      and I think you just did.

  3. Marilyn Armstrong January 13, 2014 / 9:29 pm

    And when did “prioritize” become a verb knocking “to set priorities” out of the box? And “to do” become the all-purpose verb substituting for … everything? English is a great language. So many words, so few hard and fast rules 🙂

    • fictionfitz January 14, 2014 / 7:57 am

      Good examples!

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