Word of the Week

waywiser, n. [‘ An instrument for measuring and indicating distance travelled, esp. by road; spec. a pedometer or odometer. Now hist.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈweɪˌwʌɪzə/, U.S. /ˈweɪˌwɑɪzər/
Forms: 16– waywiser, 17–18 waywizer.

Origin:Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: way n.1, wise v.1, -er suffix1.
Etymology: < way n.1 + wise v.1 + -er suffix1, although the semantic motivation in sense 1 is unclear.

In sense 2 probably after German Wegweiser (Middle High German wegewīser); compare Dutch wegwijzer (Middle Dutch wechwiser), and also Swedish vägvisare (18th cent. or earlier), Danish vejviser (Old Danish weye wiisser), all denoting a person or object that shows the way (literally or figuratively); compare earlier way-post n. at way n.1 and int.1 Compounds 3.

1. An instrument for measuring and indicating distance travelled, esp. by road; spec. a pedometer or odometer. Now hist.
In quot. 1801: fig.

1651 R. Child Large Let. in S. Hartlib Legacie 80, I say 20. Ingenuities have been found even in our dayes, as Watches, Clocks, Way-wisers, [etc.].

1801 Monthly Mag. 12 98 It is with the spying-glass of conjecture, not with the way-wiser of record, that the bearing of their sources must be made out.

1802 Port Folio (Philadelphia) 17 July 223/2 The improved pedometer, or waywiser, which when worn in the pocket, ascertains the distance the wearer walks.

1969 G. E. Evans Farm & Village xiv. 148 This device works on the same principle as the measuring wheel used by the old road surveyors—a trundle wheel or way-wiser.

2011 B. Johnson Johnson’s Life of London 97 He [sc. Robert Hooke] was to be a familiar figure, striding around the ruins with his ‘waywiser’, his own invention for measuring distances.

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