12 Words For New Beginnings And Starting Over

Cheers to a fresh start

As the celebrations of a new year continue—with the Lunar New Year starting on Jan. 22, 2023—you may be thinking about the fresh start ushered in by this coming year. This is a season of joyous beginnings for many. And one of the words we can use to refer to it may surprise you: it’s commencement. How is that, you ask?

Commencement is both “the ceremony of conferring degrees or granting diplomas at the end of the academic year” and also “an act or instance of commencing; beginning,” reflecting an earlier use of the word. Not surprisingly then, it comes from the Latin cominitiāre (“to begin”).

Like graduates, we’re embarking on a new beginning—how meaningful it will be remains to be seen! But let’s take a look at the different and sometimes unusual words used to talk about beginnings and starting over.

From genesis to exordium, here are new ways to talk about your freshest endeavors.


For some, new beginnings can represent the incunabula of sweeping life changes. This word means “the earliest stages or first traces of anything.” Used in a different context, however, incunabula can refer to copies of books produced before 1501 from movable type.


The word genesis can be traced back to the Greek gígnesthai meaning “to be born.” When written with a capital G, it refers to the first book of the Bible, but it is often used in a non-Biblical sense to mean “an origin, creation, or beginning.”



What does amen mean at the end of a prayer? Find out here!


The beginning stages of a project or idea are often a little messy or imperfect. This word addresses that early state of disarray with three definitions: “not yet completed or fully developed,” “just begun or incipient,” or “not organized; lacking order.” Inchoate comes from Latin incohāre meaning “to begin, start work on.” An inchoation is a beginning or origin.


Coming from the Latin incipere meaning “begin, take in hand,” the word inception refers to a beginning, start, or commencement. Fans of the 2010 film of the same name might be familiar with another sense of the word: in science fiction, inception means instilling an idea into someone’s mind by entering their dreams.


Did you know you can use other films to brush up on your classic books? Read our article on some surprising movies that were inspired by literature. 


Coming from a Latin term meaning “become raw again,” recrudescence means “breaking out afresh or into renewed activity.” As the Latin root suggests, this word was first used in medical contexts to describe a recurrence of symptoms after a period of remission, but it later took on a more rosy sense referring to the revival of something good.


Do you usher in the new year with a grand speech reflecting on the year prior and detailing your resolutions for the months to come? If so, we trust you had a pithy and effective exordium.

Used in this context, this word refers to the introductory part of an oration or treatise, but it can also be used to mean “the beginning of anything.”

ab ovo

This expression meaning “from the beginning” translates literally from Latin to “from the egg.” In literary contexts, it refers to a narrative that begins at the earliest possible chronological point as opposed to a story that starts in the middle (in medias res).

This usage can be traced back to the Latin poet Horace, who used the expression to note that Homer began the tale of the Trojan War in the middle of the story rather than with the twin egg from which Helen was born.


To say something is nascent is to say that it is in its earliest stages of existence or development. This word comes from the Latin nāscī meaning “to be born.” As you may have guessed, the word natal meaning “of or pertaining to a person’s birth” shares this Latin ancestor.


To inaugurate something is to make a formal beginning of, as in, The end of World War II inaugurated the era of nuclear power. It can also mean “to induct into public office or introduce into public use with a ceremony.” Omens are at the heart of this term, as it comes from the Latin inaugurāre meaning “to consecrate by augury (a person chosen for priesthood or other office).” An augur is a soothsayer, or “one of a group of ancient Roman officials charged with observing and interpreting omens for guidance in public affairs.”


Do you know the difference between inaugurate and swearing in?


The word alpha has many meanings. But before English speakers came to use it to describe the most dominant person (or animal) in a group, they were using it in reference to the first letter of the Greek alphabet to mean “the first; beginning,” in contrast with the word omega (“the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet”).

And many more synonyms

If you’ve got a fresh craving for more synonyms to describe your point of departure or square one, look no further than Thesaurus.com. For example, you might try:



Start your new year—or just a new you—with this list of words that will empower you as you embark into fresh terrain.

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