- To lie down or lean against an object
- To rest, as from physical or mental exertion
- To be recumbent in death (either literally or figuratively)
- To lay an object down or rest it on a surface
- To entrust something to a person or thing, as for safekeeping
- To intrinsically reside within
- Relaxation; often, recovery from exertion
- A state of mental tranquility; the absence of apprehension or worry
- A final state of rest, as in death
- A comfortable, prostrate position
- A position of inactivity
Think back to the last time you had to work really hard at something. Was it a tough workout that made your muscles ache? A complex exam that left you mentally exhausted? Or maybe it was just a particularly difficult day at work, after which all you wanted to do was plop down on the couch and veg in front of the television. Relaxation is always great, and it feels especially wonderful after you've had to exert yourself. That sensation of leisure you feel - the rest for your muscles and the relief for your tired mind - epitomizes the concept of repose.
Although repose has a plethora of definitions, they all share the concepts of rest and calm. As a verb, repose is used most often to refer in some way to the act of reclining or being recumbent. Sometimes this describes physical orientation: a person can repose by actually lying down or by leaning against something like a wall or fencepost for support. The word can also describe the act of laying out an object or setting it down - for example, you might repose your blanket across your bed (this usage is rare; you're probably more likely to see it written than hear it in conversation). Alternately, repose often refers to the act of relaxing or recovering. This usage typically has an extremely positive connotation, as it often implies a much needed break or a cessation of strenuous activity. After all, who doesn't welcome the chance to repose on a day off from work?
A few other, less common uses of repose as a verb have meanings that are somewhat more abstract. One such usage describes the ultimate slumber experienced in death. This can be literal (as in the act of laying prostrate in one's grave) or figurative (in which the state of being dead is akin to the act of resting). This form of repose can also be used as a noun, referring to the state of being dead or attaining final rest. Another, less somber use of repose as a verb can describe the act of storing or entrusting an object. This act is understood as coming from a place of trust; before you repose a secret with someone or repose a necklace in a safe-deposit box, you would have to be sure that you'd be putting it in a place where it could lie safe and undisturbed. But perhaps most abstract of all is the somewhat rare usage of repose to mean the act of being a fundamental part of something. This usage implies that some quality or object is quintessential to its vessel; for instance, it's safe to assume that a love of words will repose within the heart of every good lexicographer.
If all these verb applications are stressing you out, relax: the usages of repose as a noun are much more straightforward, and they all have to do with laying back and unwinding. In fact, probably the most common usage of repose refers to a welcome state of rest and relief, especially after a tough bout of exertion. Similarly, this sense of the word also describes a tranquil disposition, a state of being totally at peace with the world and being untroubled by anxiety. Both of these usages have an incredibly positive connotation; when you find repose, you're understood to be in a peaceful, relaxed frame of mind, happy to exist in the moment and undisturbed by physical or mental hardship.
Other applications of repose as a noun are perhaps more neutral, tending to describe physical positions as opposed to stress-free conditions. One such usage can describe any position of recumbence. A person or object in this type of repose is usually either directly laying down or else propped up against something - the common theme is that it is not upright or in any other way making an effort to support itself. Repose as a noun can also more generally describe any state of inactivity or lack of action. A pond, for instance, might be in repose if its surface was calm and undisturbed - a condition that would obviously change if you introduced an outside impetus like throwing in a rock.
Example: Saturday afternoon found Amy lounging in her backyard hammock, having given herself up to complete repose.
Example: After a long hike in the punishing heat, I was grateful for the chance to repose in the shade of a tree.
Example: After dealing with anxiety for years, Alex sought a therapist with whom he could repose his troubles.
Example: Many American workers take advantage of Labor Day as a chance for repose from the daily grind.
Reposeful: The adjective form of repose describes something as related to or characterized by leisure or a horizontal position.
Example: After a hard day's work, Jon always sought the reposeful quiet of his home library.
Reposefully: The adverb form of repose characterizes an action as related to the act of taking a break, resting, or lying down.
Example: The elderly couple spent the afternoon reposefully strolling on the beach.
Reposefulness: This noun describes the relaxed quality of repose, indicating a state of relief or inactivity.
Example: The reposefulness of the neighborhood at dawn always filled Jada with a sense of tranquility.
Reposed: This is the preterit form of the verb repose.
Example: Their grandfather's body reposed in a small cemetery down the road.
Reposing: This form of repose can be used as an adjective to describe something as inactive or at leisure or as a noun that specifies the act or state of relaxation.
Example: All set to climb into bed, I entered my room only to find the cat reposing on my pillow.
Example: In light of all the chores that had yet to be done, Donna found her husband's reposing to be somewhat inappropriate.
Reposes: The present tense form of repose is used when someone or something is currently resting or prostrate.
Example: The famous Mona Lisa currently reposes in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Does the second syllable of repose sound familiar? It should: the -pose in repose comes from the Latin pausare, a verb that means "to halt" or "to stop" - coincidentally, an origin it shares with the word pause! This shared root would influence the meaning of repose as it evolved through the centuries. From the initial pausare would rise the Latin repausare, which meant "to cause to stop" or "to make cease." Multiple versions of the word would follow in French, culminating in the first appearance of the English noun repose in the early fifteen hundreds. The arrival in English of repose as a verb would follow several decades later.
From Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Essay on Intellect":
God offers to every mind a choice between repose and truth. Take which you please - you can never have both.
Here, Emerson uses repose to state that obliviousness is easy, in a way. Truth requires hard work: to find it, one must take the choice of plumbing the depths of the mind and plunging headfirst into the travails of life. Of course, if relaxation is more your cup of tea, choosing ignorance (repose of mind per Emerson) might lead to bliss!
- Take a pause to repose.
- Relaxing pose: Repose
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of repose. Did you use repose in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.