Last night, as I lay on my pillow, last night, as I lay on my bed…
Yes, so it was. Last night, as I lay on my bed, suddenly an idea came to me: could the word very come from the Latin word for “truth”, veritas?
Interesting possibility. Phonetically it makes sense. I wanted to check it right away, but surprise! the electricity was down. (Yes, that happens quite often around here.) Nothing to be done, and I went to sleep. But, sometime between midnight and dawn, I awoke – and the current was back on.
Lights on, off with the old Webster from the shelf! And there, on the yellowed page, it was:
Very: from the Old French verai, true, from the hypothetical Low Latin veraius, from the Latin verus, true.
And verus obviously comes from veritas. I won’t deny it felt good.
But how did the adjective very – “true, genuine” – come to be the adverb very – “in a high degree”?
Our friend Webster does not say it, but I would bet very as an adverb is actually a short form of the adverb verily – “truly”. So the trajectory would have been:
(adjective) very > (adverb) verily > (adverb) very
And the evolution of the idea is also easy to follow. If something is truly good, it is good to the core, wholly, completely, intensely, good. Therefore, good in a high degree.
Very means truly. Who would have said it. Doesn’t truth have the strangest ways of intruding in our lives?