Ten·​e·​brae | \ ˈte-nə-ˌbrā How to pronounce Tenebrae (audio) , -ˌbrī, -ˌbrē \

Definition of Tenebrae

: a church service observed during the final part of Holy Week commemorating the sufferings and death of Christ

First Known Use of Tenebrae

1651, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Tenebrae

borrowed from Medieval Latin, "office sung during Holy Week during which candles are extinguished after each psalm," going back to Latin tenebrae (plural) "darkness, obscurity," by dissimilation from *temebrai, going back to Indo-European *temH-s-ro-/*temH-es-ro- (whence also Sanskrit támisrāḥ, plural, "darkness, night," Germanic *þemestra- "dark"—whence Middle Dutch deemster "dark," Old High German dinstar, finstar), adjective derivative from a noun *temH-es- "darkness" — more at temerity

Note: Also most likely related are Old English þēostre, þīestre "dark, gloomy," Old Frisian thiustere, Old Saxon thiustri, assuming that *-ems-, through shift of m to a nasalized semi-vowel and denasalization, became a diphthong *-iu̯-. Old High German finstar (whence Modern German finster) and Middle Dutch vinster probably go back to a shift of *þim- to *fim- (the initial fricative taking on the labial quality of the following m), with later assimilation of m to n before following -st-.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Tenebrae

Time Traveler for Tenebrae

Time Traveler

The first known use of Tenebrae was in 1651

See more words from the same year

Statistics for Tenebrae

Cite this Entry

“Tenebrae.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Tenebrae. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on Tenebrae

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with Tenebrae

Comments on Tenebrae

What made you want to look up Tenebrae? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!