Wednesday, January 28, 2009


evert [i·vûrt']
tr.v. To turn inside out or outward.

[Back-formation from Middle English everted, turned upside down, from Latin vertus, past participle of vertere, to overturn: ex- + vertere, to turn.]

Evert is not a common word. Yet, you would think it would be. We commonly turn things inside out, but rarely would someone say, "After washing my socks, I everted them and set them on the line to dry." Perhaps the reason we don't use evert is because invert ("to reverse the position, order, or condition of") is such a close synonym.

I doubt the surname of former tennis champion Chris Evert derives from its lower-case homonym. Last names are often odd versions of other words. Miss Evert's name might well be regional English for "effort" or some other similar sounding word.

The most common use of eversion is with bizarre animals that turn themselves inside out as a form of defense. Sea cucumbers, for example, evert themselves and eject their internal organs in order to discourage other animals from consuming them. I once had the displeasure of eating a sea cucumber at a Chinese restaurant. It had no flavor, but felt like a big hunk of mucus in my mouth.

Extroversion means much the same thing. It is used medically, for example, when a person's eyelids are turned inside out -- that is extroversion.

While evert is a good word we don't use much, everyday English is loaded with common terms containing the same -vert root. They include: avert ("to turn away; to prevent"); convert ("to change something into another form, substance, state, or product; transform; to persuade or induce to adopt a particular religion, faith, or belief); covert ("not openly practiced, avowed, engaged in, accumulated, or shown"); culvert ("a sewer or drain crossing under a road or embankment"); divert ("to turn aside from a course or direction; to entertain by distracting the attention from worrisome thoughts or cares; amuse"); extrovert ("an outgoing person, concerned with things outside himself"); introvert ("a person concered with his inner thoughts"); overt ("open and observable; not hidden, concealed, or secret"); pervert ("to cause to turn away from what is right, proper, or good; corrupt; to interpret incorrectly; misconstrue or distort"); revert ("to return to a former condition, practice, subject, or belief; Law, to return to the former owner"); and subvert ("to destroy completely; ruin; to undermine the character, morals, or allegiance of; corrupt").

There are also a number of less common -vert words in our lexicon. They include: advert to ("to turn attention to; to call attention to, as with an advertisement"); ambivert ("a person with personality characteristics found in both an extrovert and an introvert"); controvert ("to raise arguments against; voice opposition to"); intervert ("to turn to another course or use"); and obvert ("to turn so as to present another side or aspect to view").

No comments: