Intermediate+ Word of the Day: eve

eve (noun) /iv/ LISTEN

You probably know the word eve because it is used in Christmas Eve (the day before Christmas) and New Year’s Eve (the day before New Year’s Day). However, eve doesn’t have to be used only in the names of these days; it can simply be the day before anything. More figuratively, it is also the period that precedes or leads up to any event, such as a crisis, a war, etc. Eve is also an archaic or literary term for evening.

Example sentences

  • The young people are going on a pub crawl for New Year's Eve.
  • On the eve of our departure, we packed our bags and made sure everything was ready.
  • The summer of 1939 was the eve of war in Europe.
  • Before they parted, the friends made plans to meet again that eve.

In pop culture

Killing Eve is the title of a BBC drama series. You can see the trailer for the series here:

Did you know?

Eve is also a female given name, meaning ‘living’ or ‘life,’ and it was the name of the first woman, according to the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, God creates Eve as a companion for Adam, the first man. They live together in the Garden of Eden until Eve, tempted by a serpent (that’s another word for a snake), ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and shared it with Adam. God had forbidden them to eat the fruit of that tree, and so he cast them out of the Garden. According to the Bible, all of humanity is descended from these first two humans.

The animated character EVE in the Disney-Pixar movie Wall-E is named for the Bible character, because she appears as a companion to the main character Wall-E, who is lonely, as Adam was in the Bible, and because the director and co-writer of the movie, Andrew Stanton, saw her story as an inversion of the Biblical story of Eve. You can see a clip of the moment Wall-E meets Eve in the movie here:

Origin

Eve, meaning ‘evening,’ and in particular the time between sunset and darkness, dates back to the early 13th century. The Middle English eve, originally even (the terminal n was dropped), evolved from the Old English æfen, and can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic root æbando-m though its origin before then is uncertain. Eve is related to the Old Saxon aband, the Old Frisian ewnd, the Dutch avond, the Old High German aband, the German Abend, the Old Norse aptann, and the Danish aften (all meaning evening). It is, of course, also related to evening. The Old English verbal noun æfenung comes from the verb æfnian, ‘to become evening,’ from æfen. Originally, evening was specifically the time around sunset (when it is becoming evening), while eve was from then until darkness, but eventually, evening took on a more general meaning and replaced eve in this sense. The meaning ‘the day before a saint’s day or festival’ appeared in the late 13th century, and has been used figuratively, meaning ‘the moment before any event,’ since the late 18th century. The name Eve first appeared in the Old Testament of the Bible. The English form we are familiar with comes from the Late Latin, which can be traced back to the Hebrew Hawwah (a living being), from the base hawa (he lived). It is related to the Arabic hayya and the Arameic hayyin, with the same meaning.

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