WILDERNESS (from the OED):
Old English wildēornes 'land inhabited only by wild animals', from wild dēor 'wild deer' + ness
1. a. (without article) Wild or uncultivated land.
1. b. (with article or other defining word) A wild or uncultivated region or tract of land, uninhabited, or inhabited only by wild animals; ‘a tract of solitude and savageness’ (Johnson).
1. c. A piece of ground in a large garden or park, planted with trees, and laid out in an ornamental or fantastic style, often in the form of a maze or labyrinth.
2. A waste or desolate region of any kind, e.g. of open sea, of air.
3. fig. a. Something figured as a region of a wild or desolate character, or in which one wanders or loses one's way; in religious use applied to the present world or life as contrasted with heaven or the future life
3. b. Rhetorically applied to a place (e.g. a building or town) which one finds ‘desolate’, or in which one is lonely or ‘lost’.
3. c. in the wilderness (in allusion to Numbers xiv. 33), (a) of a politician, political party, etc.: out of office; (b) gen. unrecognized, out of favour.
4. A mingled, confused, or vast assemblage or collection of persons or things. (Usually coloured by other senses; in reference to a growth of plants, nearly coinciding with 1b; in reference to buildings, etc., often approaching 3b.)
5. a. Wildness, uncultivated condition. Obs.
5. b. fig. Wildness of character, licentiousness. Obs. nonce-use.
As we were reminded by a friend the other day, the word wilderness has become almost valueless in its plurality of meanings and contemporary usage, much like the word nature or 'scape. That said, we still believe that wilderness can invoke particular places, stories, visions and ideas. Perhaps.
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