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While reading Paulo Coelho's novel, I came across a word that left me doubting whether it was of English origin. Following is the sentence:

She fell in love for the first time when she was eleven, en route from her house to school.

What is the meaning of the word en?

Please elaborate on its meaning, origin and usage.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The en here doesn't mean anything except as part of 'en route', which is imported from French and means 'on or along the way'. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enroute. There are other phrases of this kind, such as 'en banc' or 'en prise'.

There is another word 'en' which is printer's jargon and means the width on the page occupied by the letter 'n' (and is half an 'em').

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3  
+1 en and em are also used to indicate two types of dashes. It really has nothing to do with the question, but en and em dashes are one of those things that make books look good. –  s.m Jan 16 '11 at 12:04
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Oooh thanks! I've been using "em" in CSS for years, and never wondered where it came from! –  Lohoris Jan 16 '11 at 15:24

The word 'en' is actually of French origin. It can mean 'on', 'in', 'inside' or 'along' depending on context. The disambiguation page on Wikipedia says : "En route is a French phrase which means "on the way" or "along the way". "

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The only other uses of "en" I can recall hearing in English are "en passant" and "en guarde". Those are both technical terms (from chess and fencing respectively), and were borrowed into English wholesale. I suspect "en route" is of the same provenence, but from road racing. –  T.E.D. Jul 31 '12 at 21:23

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