Ariestess (ariestess) wrote in fandom_grammar,
Ariestess
ariestess
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ANSWER: What is the difference between "gold" and "golden"?

aqua_crescent asked, "What is the difference between 'gold' and 'golden'?"

With examples from Once Upon a Time

So what exactly is the difference between "gold" and "golden"?

In a nutshell, it's the difference between actually being made of gold versus having the color of gold, but let's look into it a little more in depth, shall we?

Gold can be used as a noun, an adjective, or even a verb. For the most part, when we hear the word gold, we get an instant image of either the precious metal or the color associated with said metal. Some of us will also see dollar signs, since gold is often equated with money and wealth. The word has been used since before 900 A.D. via Old and Middle English, as well as having Old Norse, Germanic, and Gothic instances. It can be found occasionally in the obsolete alternative of gould, mostly seen now as a last name. Interestingly enough, prior to 1923, it was considered the five hundred and eighty-sixth most common English word.

Golden, on the other hand, is used primarily as an adjective, but can also be used as a verb. This word is of Middle English back as far as 1225-1275, but is derived from the Old English word gylden, which was derived from the word gold, as well as Proto-Germanic, Dutch, and Danish words. Perhaps one of the more common uses of golden is in the Golden Rule of "Love your neighbor as yourself", which I've paraphrased from Leviticus 19:18. In this instance, golden is used as an ultimate ideal toward which one should strive.

Context is vital when trying to decide whether to use gold or golden. We can break this down to four basic rules for future reference.
  1. The easiest one to remember is if we're using it as a noun, it will always be gold.
    Cora blinked slowly, unable to comprehend the sight of spools of gold where straw had been the night before.

    Regina craved nothing more than to add Snow's pure heart of gold to her collection of hearts. It would be the ultimate revenge for her betrayal.
  2. If we're going for the more archaic verb usage, the decision appears to lie in whether we're browning something or turning something into a golden color. This is a pretty rare situation and probably won't be an issue for you.
    Using the modern convenience of an oven certainly makes it easier for Regina to watch the cookies gold to perfection.

    No matter how hard she tried, Cora could not make out the point where Rumplestiltskin would golden the straw into the shiny, precious thread.
    But if you do use either gold or golden as a verb, please let me know, as I'm curious to see it in action, so to speak.

  3. If we're working with these words as adjectives, then we need to decide specifically how we're using the word. Is it a literal meaning or a descriptive one?
    • If the word is meant to indicate something actually made of the substance, then we would use gold.
      Emma thought the gold lamp seemed out of place in Mr. Gold's pawn shop, but no one else questioned it.

      Princess Abigail could pick out actual gold items, as opposed to the fakes, more easily than she cared to, thanks to her father's curse.
    • If, on the other hand, we're trying to convey something that resembles the color of gold or an idyllic or ideal situation, then we would use golden.
      Charming smiled at the sight of Abigail's golden hair shining in the sun and wondered if that was a by-product of her father's curse.

      Regina never knew if her golden complexion came from genetics or her mother's magic.

      King George was sure that marrying his son off to Midas' daughter would usher in a golden era for his kingdom.
      As a side note, you can get away with not making this distinction between gold and golden by calling something "gold colored" if you really aren't sure how to put it.

  4. There is some debate over the use of gold or golden with regard to the fiftieth event of a series, as a wedding anniversary. While Dictionary.com lists this definition under gold, as in gold anniversary, it is normally seen as golden anniversary.
    Archaic: Midas' subjects enjoyed his generosity at the kingdom's gold jubilee.

    Modern: Midas' subjects enjoyed his generosity at the kingdom's golden jubilee.


In the end, while context is crucial, the best way that I know of to remember which word to use is this: If you're talking about something actually made of gold, use gold. If you're talking about something colored like gold, use golden.




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Tags: author:ariestess, language:word origins, word choice:correct use, word choice:similar words, word choice:subtleties, words:definition
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