Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed May 19 04:25:23 UTC 2010

Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> OED2 has "basilar" (derived from "basis") in two senses:
>   Of, pertaining to, or situated at the base, esp. at that of the skull. =
> basilar membrane, spec. the membrane in the cochlea that bears the organ =
> of Corti.=20
>   Of or belonging to a low moral nature or condition.
> neither of which is relevant to the many examples i pull up for "very =
> basilar", which all seem to mean 'basic, elementary'. the question is =
> how people arrived at "basilar".
> arnold

So the two senses in OED are (1) = basal, (2) = base. Hard to know
exactly why we need "basilar" as an alternative in either sense.

Here is the third sense, then: (3) = basic. Again hard to know exactly
why "basilar" instead.

But it's not new.

E.g.: From G-books:

[1878] <<We need more of this granitic power in man -- this integrity
which is basilar, essential.>>

[1896] <<To evoke and enlarge the best sentiments of men, to quicken
their joy by fitting them to bestow as well as to receive, this is
basilar in any true philosophy of education.>>

[1892] <<To them corn is basilar. It means not merely bread, but meat
and milk, and sleek, strong teams; strength in winter; speed for the

[1892] <<Such discussions would be widely different from a sober,
careful consideration of broad and well marked divergencies going to the
very basilar raw materials of the art ....>>

[1888] <<... all speak volumes of eloquent and unequivocal testimony to
the great basilar truth which underlay his motives, and gave order,
sequence, aye, aud even sublimity, to his faith and to his life.>>

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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