Will saying farewell

Due to my dissertation and teaching demands later this year, I come at last to my “final word,” at least in this format, and at least for The Daily. There have been other ends to other quarters when I thought I’d come to the end of this column, only to be pleasantly proven wrong and to have been graciously given further chances to keep writing. This time, though, it’s different. 

But let me back up a bit, if you’ll indulge me. 

I first started exploring words in 2005 for the Bellevue Community College (now Bellevue College) Jibsheet (now The Watchdog). While at the UW for the first time, as an undergraduate, I wrote this column until I graduated the first time in 2009. Then I had the chance to muse over etymology from an American perspective while in the U.K., for The Cambridge Student. Since fall 2010 and my Ph.D. program in the Department of Communication, I’ve again written weekly etymologies. Altogether, that’s 11 years and counting, nearly nine of which, off and on, I’ve written for The Daily, or about 300 words. That’s a lot of life, and a lot of words. I’ve been a very lucky Will. 

The UW’s been home and the place with which I’ve most associated “Will’s Word of the Week.” I’ve had so many great editors and great readers here. Writing this last word makes me cry, as I think back on all of them. In and out of season I’ve had a wonderful, inspiring run. To all those editors and readers, and to the good old Daily, thank you.

This week’s word is, appropriately, “farewell.” The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines it as “an expression of good wishes at the parting of friends, originally addressed to the one setting forth, but in later use a mere formula of civility at parting … Now poetical or rhetorical, and chiefly implying regretful feeling.” It appears in the 14th century, a melding and immediate descendant of the phrase “fare well.” Over time, the interjection acquired a figurative, and a descriptive meaning, morphing into a noun, so one could speak a farewell to one’s past, say a last farewell, or speak of fond farewells. “To fare,” incidentally, comes to us via Germanic roots, itself having ancient inspirations that pop up in Greek as “πόρος,” meaning “way,” “passage,” or “ford,” and in Latin as, “port  re,” or “to carry.” I like the idea of wishing someone a good passage, or journey. 

But the idea of saying goodbye, or at least “see you later,” is carried by “farewell” in the sense we use it today. A good example of this can be found in Joseph Addison’s (1672-1719) The Spectator, in a line from a 1712 issue: “Writers, who have taken their Leave of the Publick, in farewel Papers (sic)”. 

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Writing about words for you all has been one of my greatest pleasures, a crazy amount of consistent fun, and a true honor. I plan on continuing to write about etymology, media history, and other interesting and varied newsy things on my relaunched blog/site, willmari.com, as well as via my Twitter account. I’d love to have some of you as readers there. 

If you have any parting word ideas or questions for me for the future, please send them along. If there’s a particularly favorite “Will’s word” you enjoyed, I’d love to hear about that, too. 

Thank you again, for all the words, and fare well, my friends. 


Reach columnist Will Mari at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @willthewordguy

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