Observing the (word) eclipse

We were out this morning trying to catch a glimpse of the eclipse and that got us thinking about how the word can be used.

Eclipse is both a noun and a verb in English.  In addition to its astronomical meaning it can be used to talk about making something seem less important, not as good or boring in comparison to something else…

Did you catch a glimpse of the eclipse today?

Did you catch a glimpse of the eclipse today?

“The economy will be the main issue in the next election.” – “All other issues will be eclipsed by the economic situation in the next election.”

“Bale played well but Ronaldo played even better.” – “Bale’s good performance was eclipsed by Ronaldo’s brilliance.”

“Joana’s working hard to improve her English because she wants to make a good impression at the job interview” – “Joana doesn’t want to be eclipsed by the other candidates at the job interview so she’s working hard to improve her English.”

Extra language notes

Notice how eclipse is often used in the passive voice (but we can also say:  “Joana wants to eclipse all the other candidates at the interview with her excellent English.”)

Other words with similar meanings are also related to the sun…

to outshine:  “Joana outshone the rest of the candidates and impressed the interviewers with her excellent level of English.”

to overshadow:  “Although the other candidates for the job were well-qualified, they were overshadowed by Joana’s brilliant CV and excellent language skills.”

A useful grammar pattern:  not (+ want) + to be + verb / not + wanting to + verb

In one of the examples above we saw “Joana does not want to be eclipsed by the other candidates…”

This is a useful pattern to use with verbs like eclipseoutshineovershadow and other verbs with out or over + verb

  • outdo (do better than)
  • outperform (perform better than)
  • outbid (offer to pay more for something than someone else e.g. at an auction)
  • outmaneuver (get an advantage over a competitor (e.g. in a battle or business negotiation)
  • overdo something (do too much)
  • overspend (spend too much)

Notice how some of these relate to competition…

  • Not wanting to be eclipsed by the other candidates, Joana worked hard to practise her English before the job interview.
  • We don’t want the launch of our new product to be outshone / overshadowed by anything our competitors might be doing.  Can we check that they aren’t planning anything big that month?
  • Messi scored an amazing goal just before half-time.  Not to be outdone, Ronaldo equalised with a brilliant goal two minutes into the second half.
  • Not wanting to be outbid for the painting, she raised her offer again.

…and others relate to being cautious…

  • We don’t want to overdo it.  I think a 3km run is fine for our first day of training, don’t you?
  • Not wanting to overspend, we set a strict limit on the budget for the project.

For more info on eclipse and other words related to the sun and moon, check out these links:

Eclipse in English and Portuguese

Macmillan dictionary definition of eclipse (check out the link to other ways to talk about making things seem less special and important): http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/eclipse_1

Oxford Learners Dictionary Topics – The sun and the moon

Watch some of the best timelapse videos of the solar eclipse from across Europe


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