December 18, 2012
paragon (noun)
\PAIR-uh-gahn\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a model of excellence or perfection
How do you use it?
To me, the symphony the orchestra played last night is a paragon of beauty.
Are you a word wiz?

Which of the following items do you think played a role in the origin of "paragon"?

Answer A is a perfect choice. The Old Italian word "paragone," from which "paragon" is derived, refers to a special kind of stone called a touchstone. A touchstone is a black stone that people formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver. They would rub gold or silver on the touchstone, and look at the streak left on the stone to determine the metal's purity. Italian "paragone" comes from the verb "paragonare," meaning "to test on a touchstone." The Italian words can be traced farther back to a Greek word for a whetstone (a stone used to sharpen tools), itself from the Greek word for "point."
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