9 Words About Beginnings


For some, New Year’s resolutions can represent the incunabula of sweeping life changes. This word means "the earliest stages or first traces of anything." Used in a different context, however, incunabula can refer to copies of books produced before 1501 from movable type.


The word genesis can be traced back to the Greek gignesthai meaning "to be born." When written with a capital G, it refers to the first book of the Bible, but it is often used in a non-Biblical sense to mean "an origin, creation, or beginning."


Oftentimes, the beginning stages of a project or idea are a little messy or imperfect. This word addresses that early state of disarray with three definitions: "not yet completed or fully developed," "just begun or incipient," or "not organized; lacking order."

Etymologists trace inchoate to the Latin incohare, which originally meant "to hitch up." The root word cohum meant "strap fastened to the oxen's yoke." An inchoation is a beginning or origin.


Coming from the Latin incipere meaning "begin, take in hand," the word inception refers to a beginning, start, or commencement. Fans of the 2010 film of the same name might be familiar with another sense of the word: in science fiction, inception means instilling an idea into someone's mind by entering their dreams.


Coming from a Latin term meaning "become raw again," recrudescence means "breaking out afresh or into renewed activity." As the Latin root suggests, this word was first used in medical contexts to describe a recurrence of symptoms after a period of remission, but it later took on a more rosy sense referring to the revival of something good.


Did you usher in the new year with a grand speech reflecting on the year prior and detailing your resolutions for the months to come? If so, we trust you had a pithy and effective exordium.

Used in this context, this word refers to the introductory part of an oration or treatise, but it can also be used to mean “the beginning of anything.”


Many of us associate the word commencement with an awards ceremony at the end of an academic year. This sense of commencement reflects the earlier sense of the word: "an act or instance of commencing; beginning."

The ceremony marks a new beginning for graduated students to embark on their lives as professionals in their fields of study.

Ab ovo

This expression meaning "from the beginning" translates literally from Latin to "from the egg." In literary contexts, it refers to a narrative that begins at the earliest possible chronological point as opposed to a story that starts in the middle (in medias res).

This usage can be traced back to the Latin poet Horace, who used the expression to note that Homer began the tale of the Trojan War in the middle of the story rather than with the twin egg from which Helen was born.


To say something is nascent is to say that it is in its earliest stages of existence or development. This word comes from the Latin nasci meaning "to be born." As you may have guessed, the word natal meaning "of or pertaining to a person’s birth" shares this Latin ancestor.

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