The Hidden Power of Words: ‘Closet’

posted in: Language 0

closet |ˈkläzit|
a cupboard or wardrobe, esp. one tall enough to walk into


Today’s Word: Closet

Common Phrases and Usage in American English: “He pushed all his clothes into the closet and quickly shut the door. One of these days he was going to clean out the closet, but today was not that day.”  “She led such a closeted existence that she didn’t know about the internet.” “They were closeted hockey fans and only watched games in private.”

My Take on the Definition and Guess as to the Origin: I thought it would be only fitting to follow-up on the last featured Hidden Power of Words entry ‘edit’ with a place that people are almost interested in editing — their closet! Hmm, well seeing as how closet often refers to a storage area for clothing (though ‘closet’ can refer to a small room such as in broom closet or water closet), I guess that the word has origins in the word ‘clothing,’ or perhaps even ‘cloth,’ maybe with origins in Middle English?  The words ‘closet’ & ‘cloth’ kinda look/sound similar, no?

Drumroll Please:

ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting a private or small room): from Old French, diminutive of clos ‘closed’ (see close)

Well, that was not exactly what I was hoping for, but at least I was right about the Middle English! Of course we just have to take a look at the origin of the word ‘close.’ Here it is:

ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French clos (as noun and adjective), from Latin clausum ‘enclosure’ and clausus ‘closed,’ past participle of claudere

Huh, very interesting. I have two random observations about these word origins:

Random Observation Number One: Nowadays it is a bit ironic how it is becoming more and more difficult to actually physically close the door to and secure one’s closet when one’s closets are of packed full with belongings.

Random Observation Number Two: When talking about real estate listings, closets aren’t referred to as small rooms, but as closets. Will the 21st century closet become the size of a normal room to which we are currently accustomed? Oh, wait a minute, actually we do have a 20th/21st century closet/room hybrid. Ever hear of the phrase “walk-in closet?”

Note: Dictionary used for definitions and references is The New Oxford American Dictionary, Version 2.2.2 (118.1), Apple Inc., Copyright 2005-2011.

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.
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