- A brief stay or visit, as in a foreign place
- To stay as a visitor for a short period of time
If you've ever had the pleasure of staying at a cozy bed-and-breakfast, you're aware of how nice sojourns can be. These trips often seem somewhat disconnected from ordinary life. Reality is suspended; the world seems full of whimsy and new possibilities; fun diversions and interesting sights abound! Then again, maybe your sojourn is simply a weekend away from the house and kids. Either way, such a stopover usually provides a welcome respite from the chaos of day-to-day activity.
Sojourn is a delightful word that, in its noun form, describes a short stay in a place that is different from your usual milieu. This difference of environment is key, as a sojourn suggests that you are on a trip away from home, staying as a guest in a place which may be new or unfamiliar to you. The word is often used as a somewhat more affected way of describing a short vacation. Although the definition of sojourn is ostensibly neutral, the word is most commonly used in positive, light-hearted contexts.
Sojourn usually implies that you've enjoyed your stopover; for example, you're more likely to use sojourn to describe a restful trip to the English countryside than a week you had to stay in an evacuation shelter while hurricanes raged outside. You are also unlikely to designate a visit to a choleric relative as a sojourn. The word can also be used as a verb to describe the act of staying somewhere for a short period. Finally, sojourn is occasionally used metaphorically to describe a brief digression or change in activity.
Example: The young couple toured a number of wonderful places during their week-long sojourn in Europe.
Example: Feeling the need for a respite from city-life, Harvey decided to sojourn to the seashore.
Example: For a week during his college days, the famed Italian chef tried a sojourn in stir-frying.
Understanding the origins of sojourn requires a foray into (what else) Latin. The word's earliest ancestor is the verb subdiunare, formed from the prefix sub, or "under," and the suffix diunare, which refers to the duration of a day. Subdiunare, then, described the act of "spending the day," or (if you want to use modern terms), "taking a day-trip." The word would eventually evolve into the Old French verb sojorner, a term for "staying for a brief period." Sojourn first appeared in English as a noun during the mid-1200s; the verb form would follow several decades later.
Sojourned: The preterit form of the verb sojourn describes a past action of visiting or staying as a guest.
Example: Every summer when I was a child, my family sojourned for a week in a cottage at the seashore.
Sojourning: This form is used to describe when someone is currently vacationing or staying over somewhere, or as a noun to describe the act of doing such a thing.
Example: The young couple carried only a map and their knapsacks while sojourning in Europe.
Sojourns: The third-person present tense form of the verb sojourn is used when a singular subject stays as a visitor or makes a brief side-trip.
Example: "I hear he sojourns in the Bahamas with a different girl every month!" whispered the yenta.
Sojourner: This noun describes a person who stays as a guest or makes a short stopover.
Example: For a reasonable fee, the elderly woman allowed sojourners to stay in the spare room of her house.
From William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:
Sojourn in Mantua. I'll find out your man,
And he shall signify from time to time
Every good hap to you that chances here.
Give me thy hand. 'Tis late. Farewell, good night.
Here, Friar Lawrence advises Romeo to lay low in Mantua for a short time.
- Sojourn on a short journey.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of sojourn. Did you use sojourn in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.