Weird Words #9: Cherish

There are very few proper English words that I can honestly say are not in my vocabulary. This is one of them. I have no idea what it means, and I have never used it in a sentence other than to say that I don't get it.

I think this falls into a weird cognitive category of words whose meaning never got firmly attached for me. There are a number of reasons for this, but in this particular case, I think it's a combination of this word not being used by anyone in my immediate family, combined with the distracting voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant (the sound of the letters 'ch') at either end meaning that whenever anyone else used it, I just got hung up on the noise. Which is a weird noise.

My go-to dictionaries have the following to say about this word:

Doug Harper:

early 14c., cherischen, from O.Fr. cheriss-, extended stem of chierir (12c., Mod.Fr. chérir) "to hold dear," from chier "dear," from L. carus "dear, costly, beloved" (see whore). Cf. It., Sp., Port. caro; O.Prov., Catalan car. Related: Cherished; cherishing.

Deceptively simple. It seems to mean "the figurative act of holding onto something of value" - a combination of possession and affection?


1. To treat with tenderness and affection; to nurture with care; to protect and aid.
2. To hold dear; to embrace with interest; to indulge; to encourage; to foster; to promote; as, to cherish religious principle.
3. (obsolete) To cheer, gladden. 

(1) seems to have nothing to do with possession at all. Hmmmm. (2) is all over the place. (3) is deeply suspect.

Urban Dictionary:

1. cherish 111 up, 32 down
To love;
To Treasure.
"I cherish you dearly."

2. Cherish 101 up, 33 down
a beautiful & happy woman. one that loves deeply, a strong woman with a lot of friends. sexy with great legs. likes to have fun, does what she wants and doesn't what people think about it. loves life, friends & family. a loyal friend that you can count on to be there.
"Cherish is awesome!"

Colour me unenlightened; though I think we know what ballpark, or at least what county we're in.

1 a : to hold dear : feel or show affection for 
b : to keep or cultivate with care and affection : nurture 
2 : to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely 

I think I have a serious problem. If I read the definitions from Webster I kind of get it, up to the point when I read the example, when it all collapses again. I wonder if it's quantum.

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