improve vocabulary


Kartik Raichura
Staff member
Oye BondRaj...

I think you will get the MP helper of the month ka certificate soon :)


MP Guru
What else is necessary to build a strong vocabulary than the following.....

1. A good dictionary (With pronunciation, Usage and root word)

(Suggested - Oxford Advance Learner's Dictionary or Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

2. An efficient vocabulary trainer (I've read only "Word Power Made Easy" by Norman Lewis. Any other books....???)

3. Insatiable passion for words..... (Don't leave an unknown word which comes across you...)

4. Dedication


MP Guru
1. Have an exuberant and rupturous New Year..!!!

2. Raja Harischandra was known for his voracity.

3. Decorous Balu is known for his ribald head.

4. M. Schum is fastidious than Montoyo in that race.

5. He acquiesced to the proposal after a great commotion.

6. These are copious ! All are copied from the original.

7. Last decadence was excellent for the company. The whole ten years company was nourishing in all aspects.

8. The criminals were expatiated to Andaman Islands earlier.
1. rapturous - great pleassure or enthusiasm
rupturous - burst

2. voracious - gluttonous, ravenous
veracious - truthful by nature

3. decorous - dignified behaviour
ribald - disrespectively humorous; obscene

4. fastidious - meticulous; punctillious (doesn't have any connection with fast (not fastness, which means stronghold)

5. No one can acquiesce (silently agree) with a commotion (noisy disturbance)

6. copious - abundance (no relation with copy)

7. decadence - moral or cultural decline (its not decade)

8. expatiate - to elaborate
expatriate - to exile; to banish
expiate - to make amends for; atone


MP Guru
X-Bonus: Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived lives of the parents. -Carl Jung

importune (im-pawr-TOON, im-pawr-TYOON, im-PAWR-chuhn) tr.verb

1. To beset with insistent or repeated requests; entreat pressingly.

2. Archaic. To ask for urgently or repeatedly.

3. To annoy; vex.

importune intr.verb

To plead or urge irksomely, often persistently.

importune adjective


[French importuner, from Old French importun, inopportune, from Latin
importunus : in-, not. + portus, port, refuge.]

"There's a poignant little scene halfway into Primary Colors. It's primary
night in New Hampshire, and candidate Jack Stanton (John Travolta) stands
alone on a rainy street, knocking on car windows and importuning drivers
for last-minute votes like a squeegee guy cadging a dollar."
The Arts/Cinema, Time, Richard Corliss,03-16-1998;

This week's theme: Words about the quality of speech.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--implore
X-Bonus: It is our relation to circumstances that determines their influence over us. The same wind that carries one vessel into port may blow another off shore. -Christian Bovee

implore (im-PLOHR) tr.verb

1. To appeal to in supplication; beseech: implored the tribunal to have

2. To beg for urgently; entreat.

implore intr.verb

To make an earnest appeal.

[Latin implorare : in-, toward. See IN-2 + plorare, to weep.]

"She also implored airlines to reduce airfares if they were to compete with
their Zimbabwean counterparts. Administrative secretary of the Mukuni Curio
Sellers Association Phenius Kachuzu also implored Government to abolish
visa fees."
Victoria Falls: Sleeping Beauty to Get Kiss of Life., Africa News Service,

This week's theme: Words about the quality of speech.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bluster
X-Bonus: Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot. -Sun Tzu [The Art of War]

bluster (BLUS-tuhr) intr.verb

1. To blow in loud, violent gusts, as the wind during a storm.

2. To speak in a loudly arrogant or bullying manner. To brag or make
loud, empty threats.

bluster tr.verb

To force or bully with swaggering threats.

bluster noun

1. A violent, gusty wind.

2. Turbulence or noisy confusion.

3. Loud, arrogant speech, often full of empty threats.

[Middle English blusteren, from Middle Low German blusteren.]

"There let him reign, the jailer of the wind,
With hoarse commands his breathing subjects call,
And boast and bluster in his empty hall."
Virgil, Aeneid: Part I, Great Works of Literature, 1 Jan 1992.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--caduceus
X-Bonus: Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference. -Libbie Fudim

caduceus (kuh-DOO-si-uhs, -shuhs, -dyoo-) noun

1. A herald's wand or staff, especially in ancient times.
Greek Mythology. A winged staff with two serpents twined around it,
carried by Hermes.

2. An insignia modeled on Hermes' staff and used as the symbol of the
medical profession.

[Latin caduceus, alteration of Greek karukeion, from karux, herald.]

"Much of the medical profession, it now turns out, has been practicing
under the wrong symbol. We are accustomed to seeing, in connection with
doctors and hospitals, a symbol called the Caduceus, two snakes entwined
around a staff, beneath a pair of wings. But the Minnesota Medical
Association says that's not right. The correct Greek symbol for medicine
is the staff of Aesculapius. "
Medical Symbol Wrong Says Minnesota Association,
All Things Considered (NPR), 6 Oct 1994.

One snake or two? The staff of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing
in Roman mythology, has only one snake curling around it. However, two
snaked caduceus, the symbol of trade and communication, is widely confused
with the Aesculapii staff. With that little tidbit let's start this week's
theme and learn some more words about symbols. -Anu

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--chevron
X-Bonus: If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive. -Samuel Goldwyn

chevron (SHEV-ruhn) noun

1. A badge or insignia consisting of stripes meeting at an angle, worn on
the sleeve of a military or police uniform to indicate rank, merit, or
length of service.

2. Heraldry. A device shaped like an inverted V.

3. A V-shaped pattern, especially a kind of fret used in architecture.

[Middle English cheveron, from Old French chevron, rafter (from the meeting
of rafters at an angle), probably from Vulgar Latin *caprio, caprion-, from
Latin caper, capr-, goat.]

"The famous Marlboro chevron is a military insignia. Both Marlboro and Pall
Mall carry military mottoes of conquering Roman emperors on every pack. One
analyst thinks the Marlboro chevron hard pack subconsciously functions as
a medal, which the smoker "pins on" himself each time he stuffs it in his
shirt pocket. Maybe, maybe not. But don't underestimate the industry's
commitment to finding powerful nonverbal hooks, particularly for young
beginning smokers. A lot of psychologists are reportedly on the payroll,
and rumor has it that they include child psychologists, too."
John Leo, Boyz to (Marlboro) men., Vol. 122, U.S. News & World Report,
06-02-1997, pp 18.

This week's theme: words about symbols.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--escutcheon
X-Bonus: What I do today is important because I am paying a day of my life for it. What I accomplish must be worthwhile because the price is high.

escutcheon (i-SKUCH-uhn) noun.

1. Heraldry. A shield or shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms.

2. An ornamental or protective plate, as for a keyhole.

3. Nautical. The plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's

Idiom: a blot on (one's) escutcheon. Dishonor to one's reputation.

[Middle English escochon, from Anglo-Norman escuchon, from Vulgar Latin
*scutio, scution-, from Latin scutum, shield.]

"The pride of the hovel is an escutcheon suspended against the wall, in
which are emblazoned quarterings of the arms of the Marquis of Caiesedo,
and of various other noble houses, with which this poverty-stricken brood
claim affinity."
Irving, Washington, Alhambra, The: Inhabitants Of The Alhambra

This week's theme: words about symbols.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--totem
X-Bonus: I am I plus my surroundings and if I do not preserve the latter, I do not preserve myself. -Jose Ortega Y Gasset [Meditations on Quixote] (1883-1955)

totem (TOE-tuhm) noun

1. An animal, a plant, or a natural object serving among certain tribal or
traditional peoples as the emblem of a clan or family and sometimes
revered as its founder, ancestor, or guardian. A representation of such
an object. A social group having a common affiliation to such an object.

2. A venerated emblem or symbol: "grew up with the totems and taboos
typical of an Irish Catholic kid in Boston" (Connie Paige).

[Ojibwa nindoodem, my totem.]

"'GM still worships at the totem of Sloan,' says Harvard's Zaleznik. 'You
have to burn your totems. It's not disrespectful.'"
Jeremy Main, Wanted: Leaders Who Can Make a Difference Mere Management
isn't Good Enough Anymore., Fortune, 28 Sep 1987, pp. 92.

This week's theme: words about symbols.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ideogram
X-Bonus: I live in the crowd of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself. -Samuel Johnson

ideogram (ID-EE-uh-gram, AI-dee-) noun

1. A character or symbol representing an idea or a thing without
expressing the pronunciation of a particular word or words for it,
as in the traffic sign commonly used for "no parking" or "parking
prohibited." Also called ideograph.

2. A graphic symbol, such as *, $, or @.

"Butterflies flutter like the last load of laundry hung out to dry. The
beach looks littered with summer people's broken furniture but it is just
the tide's huge ideograms...--Jennifer Rose"
Altman, Meryl, Reconstructive criticism, Vol. XI, Women's Review of Books,
1 Jan 1994, pp. 17-8.

This week's theme: words about symbol
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--oriflamme
X-Bonus: It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people. -Giordano Bruno

oriflamme (OR-i-flam, AWR-) noun

1. An inspiring standard or symbol.

2. The red or orange-red flag of the Abbey of Saint Denis in France,
used as a standard by the early kings of France.

[Middle English oriflamble, banner of St. Denis, from Old French, variant of
oriflambe, possibly from Medieval Latin aurea flamma, auriflamma : Latin
aurea, feminine of aureus, golden (from aurum, gold + Latin flamma, flame.),
or alteration of Old French *lorie flambe, from Late Latin laurea flammula,
laureled standard : Latin laureus, of laurel + Latin flammula, banner,
diminutive of flamma, flame.]

"Press where you see my white plume shine amidst the ranks of war,
And be your oriflamme to-day the helmet of Navarre."
Thomas Babington Macaulay, Ivry.

This week's theme: words about symbols.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hieroglyphic
X-Bonus: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

hieroglyphic (hy-uhr-o-GLIF-ik, hy-ruh-) also hieroglyphical adjective

1. Of, relating to, or being a system of writing, such as that of ancient
Egypt, in which pictorial symbols are used to represent meaning or
sounds or a combination of meaning and sound. Written with such

2. Difficult to read or decipher.

hieroglyphic noun

1. A hieroglyph. Often hieroglyphics (used with a sing. or pl. verb.
Hieroglyphic writing, especially that of the ancient Egyptians).

2. Something, such as illegible or undecipherable writing, that is felt
to resemble a hieroglyph.

[French hieroglyphique, from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Greek
hierogluphikos : hieros, holy. See eis-. + gluphe, carving (from gluphein,
to carve.]

"The fascination with hieroglyphics, with emblems and impresas, or
`pictures without words,' as Ernst Robert Curtius tells us, has
continually occupied the minds of Western humanists since the beginning
of the fifteenth century. "
Zhang Longxi, What is 'wen' and why is it made so terribly strange?.,
Vol. 23, College Literature, 02-01-1996, pp 15(21).

This week's theme: words about symbols.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--earwig
X-Bonus: They came for the communists, and I did not speak up because I wasn't a communist; They came for the socialists, and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist; They came for the union leaders, and I did not speak up because I wasn't a union leader; They came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me. -Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)

earwig (EER-wig) noun

Any of various elongate insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of
pincerlike appendages protruding from the rear of the abdomen.

earwig tr.verb

To attempt to influence by persistent confidential argument or talk.

[Middle English erwig, from Old English earwicga : eare, ear + wicga, insect.]

WORD HISTORY: In an Anglo-Norman text written around the beginning of the
15th century we are told that elephants guard their ears diligently against
flies and earwigs. Elephants have good cause to protect themselves against
these insects if, as folklore has it, earwigs go through the ear into the
head. The earwig, however, prefers to dine on things such as flowers, fruit,
and small insects rather than brain tissue. Folklore is responsible, though,
for the insect's name, which was formed in Old English from eare, the Old
English source of our word ear, and wicga, "insect," a word presumably
related to our word wiggle.

"Suppose he was to do all this, and besides to blow upon a plant we've
all been in, more or less- of his own fancy; not grabbed, trapped, tried,
earwigged by the parson and brought to it on bread and water,- but of his
own fancy..."
Dickens, Charles, Oliver Twist, 1850.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories. -Anu


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--chaperon
X-Bonus: There is no right way to do wrong.

chaperon or chaperone (SHAP-uh-rohn) noun

1. A person, especially an older or married woman, who accompanies a young
unmarried woman in public.

2. An older person who attends and supervises a social gathering for young

3. A guide or companion whose purpose is to ensure propriety or restrict
activity: "to see and feel the rough edges of the society ... without
the filter of official chaperones" (Philip Taubman).

chaperon tr.verb

To act as chaperon to or for.

[French, from chaperon, hood, from Old French, diminutive of chape, cape,
head covering.]

WORD HISTORY: The chaperon at a high-school dance seems to have little
relationship to what was first signified by the English word chaperon,
"a hood for a hawk," and not even that much to what the word later meant,
"a protectress of a young single woman." The sense "hood for a hawk,"
recorded in a Middle English text composed before 1400, reflects the
original meaning of the Old French word chaperon, "hood, headgear." In order
to understand why our chaperon came to have the sense "protectress," we need
to know that in French the verb chaperonner, meaning "to cover with a hood,"
was derived from chaperon and that this verb subsequently developed the
figurative sense "to protect." Under the influence of the verb sense the
French noun chaperon came to mean "escort," a meaning that was borrowed into
English, being found first in a work published in 1720. In its earlier use
English chaperon referred to a person, commonly an older woman, who
accompanied a young unmarried woman in public to protect her. The English
verb chaperon, "to be a chaperon," is first recorded in Jane Austen's Sense
and Sensibility, begun in 1796 as a sketch called "Elinor and Marianne" and
published as a novel in 1811.

Denny's Apologizes to Black Students; Los Angeles Times, 6 May 1998.
"Four years after settling a discrimination lawsuit for $46 million,
Denny's apologized to 40 black sixth-graders and their chaperons who said
they were denied service at a Florida restaurant."

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--impeach
X-Bonus: The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

impeach (im-PEECH) tr.verb

1. To make an accusation against. To charge (a public official) with
improper conduct in office before a proper tribunal.

2. To challenge the validity of; try to discredit: impeach a witness's

[Middle English empechen, to impede, accuse, from Anglo-Norman empecher,
from Late Latin impedicare, to entangle : Latin in-, + Latin pedica, fetter.]

WORD HISTORY: Nothing hobbles a President so much as impeachment, and there
is an etymological as well as procedural reason for this. The word impeach
can be traced back through Anglo-Norman empecher to Late Latin impedicare,
"to catch, entangle," from Latin pedica, "fetter for the ankle, snare." Thus
we find that Middle English empechen, the ancestor of our word, means such
things as "to cause to get stuck fast," "hinder or impede," "interfere with,"
and "criticize unfavorably." A legal sense of empechen is first recorded in
1384. This sense, which had previously developed in Old French, was "to
accuse, bring charges against." A further development of the sense had
specific reference to Parliament and its formal accusation of treason or
other high crimes, a process that the United States borrowed from the
British. Although we have used it rarely at the federal level, impeachment
stands as the ultimate snare for those who would take advantage of the public

"Antipholus of Syracuse: Thou art a villain to impeach me thus:
I'll prove mine honour and mine honesty
Against thee presently, if thou darest stand."
Shakespeare, William, The Comedy of Errors: Act V, Scene I

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--dirge
X-Bonus: When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts....A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. -Sophia Loren

dirge (durj) noun

1. Music. A funeral hymn or lament. A slow, mournful musical composition.

2. A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work.

3. Roman Catholic Church. The Office for the Dead.

[Middle English, an antiphon at Matins in the Office for the Dead, from
Medieval Latin dirige Domine, direct, O Lord (the opening words of the
antiphon), imperative of dirigere, to direct.]

WORD HISTORY: The history of the word dirge illustrates how a word with
neutral connotations, such as direct, can become emotionally charged because
of a specialized use. The Latin word dirige is a form of the verb dirigere,
"to direct, guide," that is used in uttering commands. In the Office for the
Dead dirige is the first word in the antiphon for the first nocturn of
matins. The complete opening words of this antiphon are "Dirige, Domine, Deus
meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam," "Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy
sight." The part of the Office for the Dead that begins with this antiphon
was named Dirige in Ecclesiastical Latin, a use of dirige as an English word
that is first recorded in a work possibly written before 1200. Dirige was
then extended to refer to the chanting or reading of the Office for the Dead
as part of a funeral or memorial service. In Middle English the word was
shortened to dirge, although it was pronounced as two syllables. After the
Middle Ages the word took on its more general senses of "a funeral hymn or
lament" and "a mournful poem or musical composition" and developed its
one-syllable pronunciation.

"With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour'd around the coffin..."
Whitman, Walt, When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ennui
X-Bonus: Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. -Dandemis

ennui (on-WEE, ON-wee) noun

Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom.

[French, from Old French enui, from ennuier, to annoy, bore, from Vulgar
Latin *inodiare, from Latin in odio (esse), (to be) odious : in, in. + odio,
ablative of odium, hate.]

WORD HISTORY: Were they alive today, users of Classical Latin might be
surprised to find that centuries later a phrase of theirs would still
survive, although in the form of a single word. The phrase mihi in odio est
(literally translated as "to me in a condition of dislike or hatred is"),
meaning "I hate or dislike," gave rise to the Vulgar Latin verb -inodiare,
"to make odious," the source of Modern French ennuyer, "to annoy, bore." In
the Old French period a noun meaning "worry, boredom," came from the verb
ennuier. This noun in its Modern French form ennui was borrowed into English
in the sense "boredom," the English word being first recorded in 1732. People
may have needed a word for boredom in the polite, cultivated world of the
18th century, but at an earlier period, around 1275, we had already borrowed
the French verb ennuier, the source of our word annoy. One of the earliest
instances of annoy in English is, in fact, used in the sense "to bore an

"But, in their candid moments, they betrayed a lack of fulfillment and a
sense of ennui."
Leandro Coronel Victoria, Observer: The Court of Mang Pol's,
Filipino Express, The, 22 Oct 1995.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--acrostic
X-Bonus: I would rather be able to appreciate things I can not have than to have things I am not able to appreciate. -Elbert Hubbard

acrostic (a-KRAW-stik, a-KRAWS-tik) noun

1. A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first
in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence.

2. A set of words arranged in a square such that they read the same
horizontally and vertically. Also called word square.

[French acrostiche, from Old French, from Greek akrostikhis : akron, head,
end. acro- + stikhos, line.]

WORD HISTORY: An acrostic gives the reader two for one, and the etymology of
the word emphasizes one of these two. Our word goes back to the Greek word
akrostikhis, "acrostic," which is a combination of Greek akron, "head," and
stikhos, "row, line of verse." Literally akrostikhis means "the line at the
head," emphasizing the fact that an acrostic has in addition to horizontal
rows a vertical row formed of the letters at the "head" or start of each
line. In ancient manuscripts, in which a line of verse did not necessarily
correspond to a line of text, an acrostic would have looked particularly
striking, with each of its lines standing by itself and beginning with a
capital letter. Our word for this type of composition is first found in
English in the 16th century.

"A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; - read it forward,
backward, or across, it still spells the same thing."
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Self-Reliance: Part I.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--exorcise
X-Bonus: Every man has his follies - and often they are the most interesting thing he had got. -Josh Billings

exorcise (EK-sawr-size, EK-suhr-size) tr.verb

1. To expel (an evil spirit) by or as if by incantation, command, or

2. To free from evil spirits or malign influences.

[Middle English exorcisen, from Late Latin exorcizare, from Greek exorkizein
: ex-, ex- + horkizein, to make one swear (from horkos, oath).]

WORD HISTORY: An oath is to be found at the etymological heart of exorcise,
a term going back to the Greek word exorkizein, meaning "to swear in," "to
take an oath by," "to conjure," and "to exorcise." Exorkizein in turn is
formed from the prefix ex-, "thoroughly," and the verb horkizein, "to make
one swear, administer an oath to," derived from horkos, "oath." Our word
exorcise is first recorded in English in a work composed possibly before the
beginning of the 15th century, and in this use exorcise means "to call up or
conjure spirits" rather than "to drive out spirits," a sense first recorded
in 1546.

"Hoping it has exorcised the bugs from its cc:Mail-to-Domino tool, IBM's
Lotus division last week unveiled the newest version of its Domino Message
Transfer Agent for cc:Mail 2.0."
John Fontana, News & Analysis: Lotus Hopes New MTA Is Bug-Free,
InternetWeek, 2 Mar 1998.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--kaput
X-Bonus: Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. -Ambrose Redmoon

kaput also kaputt (ka-put, -poot, kah-) adjective

1. Having been destroyed; wrecked.

2. Having been incapacitated.

[German kaputt, from French capot, not having won a single trick at piquet.]

WORD HISTORY: The games people play can become deadly serious, as exemplified
by the word kaput. Our word is an adoption of the German word kaputt, whose
senses are similar to those of the English word. German in turn borrowed this
word from the French gaming tables, where capot as an adjective meant "not
having won a single trick at piquet." Devastating as this might be to a
piquet player, it would surprise kibitzers to see how widely the word's range
of meaning has been extended in German and English, in which it is first
recorded in 1895. For example, one's car can be kaput and so can oneself. As
for the ultimate source of French capot we cannot be certain, but it seems to
go back to a modern Provencal word, of which the first element is cap,

"But flying to Mars has proved particularly hazardous. A total of five
missions to the planet have gone kaput since the space age began."
Blazing a trail to Mars. The Economist, 9 Nov 1996.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--embargo
X-Bonus: The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men. -Alice Walker

embargo (em-BAHR-goh) noun

1. A government order prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or
out of its ports.

2. A prohibition by a government on certain or all trade with a foreign
nation: an embargo on the sale of computers to unfriendly nations.

3. A prohibition; a ban: an embargo on criticism.

embargo tr.verb

To impose an embargo on.

[Spanish, from embargar, to impede, from Vulgar Latin *imbarricare, to
barricade : Latin in-, in. + Vulgar Latin *barricare, to barricade (from
*barrica, barrel, barrier (from *barra, bar, barrier).]

WORD HISTORY: Could an embargo on alcoholic beverages be related to a bar
other than in the obvious way? The words embargo and bar are related, albeit
distantly. Embargo comes to us from Spanish, where it was derived from the
verb embargar, "to arrest, impede." This verb came from the Vulgar Latin
word -imbarricare, made up of the Latin prefix in-, "in, into," and the
assumed Vulgar Latin form -barricare, derived from Vulgar Latin -barrica,
"barrier." -Barrica, in turn, was derived from Vulgar Latin -barra, "bar,
barrier," the ultimate source of our word bar. Imbarricare meant essentially
"to impede with a barrier." Our word baris first recorded in English with the
sense "barrier," eventually developing the sense "a counter for serving

"Because most antibiotics are produced under U.S. patents they cannot be
exported to Cuba under terms of the embargo. Any third country or foreign
enterprise doing so can be slapped with U.S. sanctions. In December 1995
America's largest pharmaceutical corporation announced it would never do
business again with Cuba after sanctions were activated and a stiff fine
imposed when Merck provided medical information (and only information) to
Schwab, Peter, Cuban health care and the U.S. embargo.., Vol. 49,
Monthly Review, 11-01-1997, pp 15(10).

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--lucre
X-Bonus: Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them. -Paul Valery

lucre (LOOK-uhr) noun

Money or profits.

[Middle English, from Latin lucrum.]

WORD HISTORY: When William Tyndale translated aiskhron kerdos, "shameful
gain" (Titus 1:11), as filthy lucre in his edition of the Bible, he was
tarring the word lucre for the rest of its existence. But we cannot lay the
pejorative sense of lucre completely at Tyndale's door. He was merely a link,
albeit a strong one, in a process that had begun long before with respect to
the ancestor of our word, the Latin word lucrum, "material gain, profit."
This process was probably controlled by the inevitable conjunction of profit,
especially monetary profit, with evils such as greed. In Latin lucrum also
meant "avarice," and in Middle English lucre, besides meaning "monetary gain,
profit," meant "illicit gain." Furthermore, many of the contexts in which the
neutral sense of the word appeared were not that neutral, as in "It is a
wofull thyng ... ffor lucre of goode ... A man to fals his othe [it is a sad
thing for a man to betray his oath for monetary gain]." Tyndale thus merely
helped the process along when he gave us the phrase filthy lucre.

"Lucre is not of overriding importance, Merchant claims, though he is
known in the industry as a shrewd businessman."
Pia Ganguly, Celluloid Merchant: A candid conversation with Ismail
Merchant, India Currents, 31 May 1994.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--superman
X-Bonus: The truly just is he who feels half guilty of your misdeeds. -Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

superman (SOO-par-man) noun

1. A man with more than human powers.

2. An ideal superior man who, according to Nietzsche, forgoes transient
pleasure, exercises creative power, lives at a level of experience
beyond standards of good and evil, and is the goal of human evolution.
In this sense, also called overman.

[Translation of German Ubermensch : uber-, super- + Mensch, man.]

WORD HISTORY: Overman and Beyondman hardly seem likely names for a superhero,
but perhaps Overman might be "leaping tall buildings at a single bound" had
the German word Ubermensch been translated differently than it was. However,
Nietzsche's term for the ideal superior man was translated into English as
superman, first recorded in a work by George Bernard Shaw published in 1903.
Such a term comes to us through a process called loan translation, or calque
formation, whereby the semantic components of a word or phrase in one
language are literally translated into their equivalents in another language,
German Ubermensch, made up of uber, "super-," and Mensch, "man," thus
becoming superman. Because uber- can also be translated "beyond" and "over,"
we also find overman and beyondman as calques for the word Ubermensch, but
they did not take root. Shaw, in a letter written before 1917, noted that
"some of our most felicitous writers ... had been using such desperate and
unspeakable forms as Beyondman, when the glib Superman was staring them in
the face all the time." Hence, when it came to naming a new comic strip hero,
Superman was the logical choice, a name first recorded in 1938.

"Aristotle's preoccupation with the idea of a superman-monarch in the
foregoing passage gives us some indication of the impact his experience
as tutor to Alexander must have had on his life."
Aristotle, Philosophy of Aristotle: The Politics: Books 5 and 6, Monarch
Notes, 1 Jan 1963.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--sarcophagus
X-Bonus: You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down. -Mary Pickford

sarcophagus (sar-KOF-uh-guhs) noun

A stone coffin, often inscribed or decorated with sculpture.

[Latin, from Greek sarkophagos, coffin, from (lithos) sarkophagos, limestone
that consumed the flesh of corpses laid in it : sarx, sark-, flesh + -phagos,

WORD HISTORY: A gruesome name befits a gruesome thing, as in the case of
sarcophagus, our term for a stone coffin, often a decorated one, that is
located above ground. The word comes to us from Latin and Greek, having been
derived in Greek from sarx, "flesh," and phagein, "to eat." The Greek word
sarkophagos meant "eating flesh," and in the phrase lithos ("stone")
sarcophagos denoted a limestone that was thought to decompose the flesh of
corpses placed in it. The Greek term used by itself as a noun then came to
mean "coffin." The term was carried over into Latin, where sarcophagus was
used in the phrase lapis ("stone") sarcophagus, referring to the same stone
as in Greek. Sarcophagus used as a noun in Latin meant "coffin of any
material." This Latin word was borrowed into English, first being recorded
in 1601 with reference to the flesh-consuming stone and then in 1705 with
reference to a stone coffin.

"There are wonderful paintings ... and important archaeological finds
including the alabaster sarcophagus of an Egyptian pharaoh ... and a
pilaster capital from the Pantheon in Rome."
Filler, Martin, Soane and the stars. House Beautiful, 1 Jun 1996.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--iconoclast
X-Bonus: Do you know what a pessimist is? A person who thinks everybody is as nasty as himself, and hates them for it. -George Bernard Shaw

iconoclast (eye-KON-uh-klast) noun

1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or

2. One who destroys sacred religious images.

[French iconoclaste, from Medieval Greek eikonoklastes, smasher of religious
images : Greek eikono-, icono- + -klastes, breaker (from Greek klan, klas-,
to break).]

WORD HISTORY: An iconoclast can be unpleasant company, but at least the
modern iconoclast only attacks such things as ideas and institutions. The
original iconoclasts destroyed countless works of art. Eikonoklastes, the
ancestor of our word, was first formed in Medieval Greek from the elements
eikon, "image, likeness," and -klastes, "breaker," from klan, "to break." The
images referred to by the word are religious images, which were the subject
of controversy among Christians of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th and 9th
centuries, when iconoclasm was at its height. Those who opposed images did
not, of course, simply destroy them, although many were demolished; they
also attempted to have the images barred from display and veneration. During
the Protestant Reformation images in churches were again felt to be
idolatrous and were once more banned and destroyed. It is around this time
that iconoclast, the descendant of the Greek word, is first recorded in
English (1641), with reference to the Greek iconoclasts. In the 19th century
iconoclast took on the secular sense that it has today, as in "Kant was the
great iconoclast" (James Martineau).

"Years later, Annie's train ride transports her to London, where Hannah
the abrasive iconoclast has become Hannah the reluctant executive,
complete with power wardrobe and nifty little flat."
Marin, Rick, Bandwagon.(movie reviews), Harper's Bazaar, 1 Sep 1997.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--typhoon
X-Bonus: Why is it when we talk to God we're praying -- but when God talks to us, we're schizophrenic? -Lily Tomlin

typhoon (tye-FOON) noun

A tropical cyclone occurring in the western Pacific or Indian oceans.

[Probably alteration of Chinese (Cantonese) toi fung : Mandarin tai, great +
Mandarin feng, wind.]

WORD HISTORY: Perhaps few words better illustrate the polyglot background of
English than typhoon, with its Chinese, Arabic, East Indian, and Greek
background. The Greek word typhon, both the name of the father of the winds
and a common noun meaning "whirlwind, typhoon," was borrowed into Arabic (as
was many a Greek word during the Middle Ages, when Arabic learning both
preserved the classical heritage and expanded upon it, passing it on to
Europe). Tufan, the Arabic version of the Greek word, passed into languages
spoken in India, where Arabic-speaking Muslim invaders had settled in the
11th century. Thus the descendant of the Arabic word, passing into English
(first recorded in 1588) through an Indian language and appearing in English
in forms such as touffon and tufan, originally referred specifically to a
severe storm in India. China, another great empire, gave us yet another word
for a storm, in this case the hurricane that occurred in the waters around
China. This Chinese word in its Cantonese form, toi fung, was similar to our
Arabic borrowing and is first recorded in English guise as tuffoon in 1699.
The various forms coalesced and finally became typhoon.

"Research has shown that one way to make peers feel inferior is to deny
them the opportunity to have their say. Which is why getting trapped by a
talking typhoon can leave you feeling defeated and dominated."
Thomas, Rochell Denise, Putting the brakes on a motormouth: listen up
carefully to these tips on how to avoid being oratorically mugged!,
Cosmopolitan, 1 Dec 1996.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ombudsman
X-Bonus: When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame. -Dan Quayle, Former U.S. Vice President (1947-)

ombudsman (OM-budz-man, -buhdz-, -boodz-) noun

1. A man who investigates complaints, reports findings, and mediates fair
settlements, especially between aggrieved parties such as consumers or
students and an institution, an organization, or a company.

2. A government official, especially in Scandinavian countries, who
investigates citizens' complaints against the government or its

[Swedish, from Old Norse umbodhsmadhr, deputy, plenipotentiary : umbodh,
commission : um, about; + bodh, command. + madhr, man.]

WORD HISTORY: The word ombudsman looks as if its constituents would be
familiar, judging from the element man, but it is difficult to think of what
ombuds could mean. Ombudsman is from Swedish, a Germanic language in the same
family as English, and man in Swedish corresponds to our word man. Ombud
means "commissioner, agent," coming from Old Norse umbodh, "charge,
commission, administration by a delegacy," umbodh being made up of um,
"regarding," and bodh, "command." In Old Norse an umbodhsmadhr was a "trusty
manager, commissary." In Swedish an ombudsman was a deputy who looked after
the interests and legal affairs of a group such as a trade union or business.
In 1809 the office of riksdagens justitieombudsman was created to act as an
agent of justice, that is, to see after the interests of justice in affairs
between the government and its citizens. This office of ombudsman and the
word ombudsman have been adopted elsewhere, as in individual states in the
United States. The term has also been expanded in sense to include people who
perform the same function for business corporations or newspapers.

"Seventh, although many viewers are passive and reluctant to formally
express their dissatisfaction with TV programs, there is a need to
strengthen the ombudsman system which enables viewers to convey their
dissatisfaction with programs to the broadcasting companies or to the
Korean Broadcasting Commission."
Lee, Choon-ah, Women's Reception of Mass Media: Attitudinal and
Behavioral Characteristics, Women's Studies Forum, 1 Jan 1996.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--diatribe
X-Bonus: I hope, there will be no Reason to doubt; Particularly, that where I am not understood, it shall be concluded, that something very useful and profound is coucht underneath. -Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)

diatribe (DI-a-tribe) noun

A bitter, abusive denunciation.

[Latin diatriba, learned discourse, from Greek diatribe, pastime, lecture,
from diatribein, to consume, wear away : dia-, intensive pref. + tribein, to

WORD HISTORY: Listening to a lengthy diatribe may seem like a waste of time,
an attitude for which there is some etymological justification. The Greek
word diatribe, the ultimate source of our word, is derived from the verb
diatribein, made up of the prefix dia-, "completely," and tribein, "to rub,"
"to wear away, spend, or waste time," "to be busy." The verb diatribein meant
"to rub hard," "to spend or waste time," and the noun diatribe meant "wearing
away of time, amusement, serious occupation, study," as well as "discourse,
short ethical treatise or lecture, debate, argument." It is the serious
occupation of time in discourse, lecture, and debate that gave us the first
use of diatribe recorded in English (1581), in the now archaic sense
"discourse, critical dissertation." The critical element of this kind of
diatribe must often have been uppermost, explaining the origin of the current
sense of diatribe, "a bitter criticism."

"Despite his diatribe against Mr Fayed as an "inveterate liar", Mr
Hamilton conceded he still retained some residual sympathy for the way
he had been treated by the DTI inspectors."
Jon Hibbs, Political Correspondent, I am serving a life sentence, says
Hamilton Ex-MP claims `vagueness' of charges is a disgrace, The Daily
Telegraph, 15 Oct 1997.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--posthumous
X-Bonus: Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. -Ludwig Wittgenstein

posthumous (POS-chuh-muhs) adjective

1. Occurring or continuing after one's death: a posthumous award.

2. Published after the writer's death: a posthumous book.

3. Born after the death of the father: a posthumous child.

[Middle English posthumus, from Late Latin, alteration (perhaps influenced
by Latin humus, earth, and, or humare, to bury), of postumus, superlative of
posterus, coming after.]

WORD HISTORY: The word posthumous is associated with death, both in meaning
and in form. Our word goes back to the Latin word postumus, meaning "last
born, born after the death of one's father, born after the making of a will,"
and "last, final." Postumus was largely used with respect to events occurring
after death but not exclusively so, since the word was simply one of the
superlative forms of the adverb post, "subsequently, afterward." Because of
its use in connection with death, however, later Latin writers decided that
the last part of the word must have to do with humus, "earth," or humare, "to
bury," and began spelling the word posthumus. This form of the Latin word was
borrowed into English, being first recorded in a work composed before 1464.
Perhaps the most telling use of the word appears in the poet Robert Southey's
comment on the rewards of an author: "It was well we should be contented with
posthumous fame, but impossible to be so with posthumous bread and cheese.".

"No man, however, who is endowed with a fair share of common sense, and
not more than a fair share of vanity, will identify either contemporary
or posthumous fame with the highest good."
Huxley, Thomas Henry, Science And Culture.

This week's theme: words with interesting historiSubject: A.Word.A.Day--masco
X-Bonus: The nice thing about egotists is that they don't talk about other people. -Lucille S. Harper

mascot (MAS-kot, -kuht) noun

A person, an animal, or an object believed to bring good luck, especially
one kept as the symbol of an organization such as a sports team.

[French mascotte, sorcerer's charm, mascot, from Provencal mascoto, sorcery,
fetish, from masco, witch, ultimately from Late Latin, mask, specter, witch.]

WORD HISTORY: The word mascot, which usually denotes something or someone
that brings good luck, enjoys a positive meaning that is a distinct
improvement over the meanings of some of its ancestors. Mascot came into
English as a borrowing of the French word mascotte, meaning "mascot, charm."
The English word is first recorded in 1881 shortly after the French word,
itself first recorded in 1867, was popularized by the opera La Mascotte,
performed in December 1880. The French word in turn came from the Modern
Provencal word mascoto, "piece of witchcraft, charm, amulet," a feminine
diminutive of masco, "witch." This word can probably be traced back to Late
Latin masca, "witch, specter." Perhaps a mascot is as powerful as people
think; fortunately, it is now in our corner.

"In Texas it (Horny Toad) is the unofficial state reptile, the subject of
countless legends, and the mascot for Texas Christian University in Fort
Worth. "
Texas Horny Toad Population Dwindling, All Things Considered (NPR),
28 May 1993.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bigot
X-Bonus: The way up and the way down are the same. -Dostoevsky

bigot (BIG-uht) noun

One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or
politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

[French, from Old French.]

WORD HISTORY: A bigot may have more in common with God than one might think.
Legend has it that Rollo, the first duke of Normandy, refused to kiss the
foot of the French king Charles III, uttering the phrase bi got, his
borrowing of the assumed Old English equivalent of our expression by God.
Although this story is almost certainly apocryphal, it is true that bigot was
used by the French as a term of abuse for the Normans, but not in a religious
sense. Later, however, the word, or very possibly a homonym, was used
abusively in French for the Beguines, members of a Roman Catholic lay
sisterhood. From the 15th century on Old Frenchbigot meant "an excessively
devoted or hypocritical person." Bigot is first recorded in English in 1598
with the sense "a superstitious hypocrite.".

"The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you
pour upon it, the more it will contract."
Holmes, Oliver Wendell

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.


Subject: A.Word.A.Day--goatee
X-Bonus: program (pro'-gram) [n] A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to turn one's input into error messages.

goatee (go-TEE) noun

A small chin beard trimmed into a point.

[Alteration of goaty (from GOAT, from its resemblance to a goat's beard).]

WORD HISTORY: When assessing American contributions to the English language
and to fashion, let us not forget the goatee. Early comments on this style
of beard appear first in American writings, making this word an Americanism.
Although the style raises few eyebrows now, the early comments were not
favorable: "One chap's ... rigged out like a show monkey, with a little tag
of hair hangin down under his chin jest like our old billy goat, that's a
leetle too smart for this latitude, I think." This 1842 description, found
in William Tappan Thompson's Major Jones's Courtship, also reveals the
etymology of the word. The first actual recorded occurrence of the word,
found in Daniel Lee and Joseph H. Frost's Ten Years in Oregon, published in
1844, also sounds disapproving: "A few individuals ... leave what is called,
by some of their politer neighbors, a 'goaty' under the chin.").

"Ruth Rubinstein, a sociologist at the Fashion Institute in New York, sees
the resurgence of goatees as today's young men staking their claim to
something basic in an increasingly androgynous fashion world, where young
women wear baggy pants and caps backward with the boys."
Don Oldenburg; 1995, The Washington Post, Fashionable Guys are Taking it
on the Chin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 21 May 1995.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Subject: A.Word.A.Day--chivalry
X-Bonus: You wish to see; listen. Hearing is a step toward Vision. -St. Bernard

chivalry (SHIV-ahl-ree) noun

1. The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood.

2. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy,
honor, and gallantry toward women. A manifestation of any of these

3. A group of knights or gallant gentlemen.

[Middle English chivalrie, from Old French chevalerie, from chevalier,

WORD HISTORY: The Age of Chivalry was also the age of the horse. Bedecked in
elaborate armor and other trappings, horses were certainly well dressed
although they might have wished for lighter loads. That the horse should be
featured so prominently during the Age of Chivalry is etymologically
appropriate, because chivalry goes back to the Latin word caballus, "horse,
especially a riding horse or packhorse." Borrowed from French, as were so
many other important words having to do with medieval English culture, the
English word chivalry is first recorded in works composed around the
beginning of the 14th century and is found in several senses, including
"a body of armored mounted warriors serving a lord" and "knighthood as a
ceremonially conferred rank in the social system." Our modern sense, "the
medieval system of knighthood," could not exist until the passage of several
centuries had allowed the perspective for such a conceptualization, with
this sense being recorded first in 1765.

"Today's behavioral waters are considerably muddier than they were in
April 1912, when the great ship went down, taking many male passengers
who sacrificed their lives in the spirit of chivalry."
Ann Weber Toledo Blade, Did Chivalry Go Down With the Titanic?,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 17 Mar 1998.

This week's theme: words with interesting histories.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed:
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed.
But thy enternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee

~William Shakespeare

O My Luve is like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve is like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a'the seas gang dry.

Till a'the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi'the sun:
And I luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o'life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho'it were ten thousand mile.

~Robert Burns

I will not play Tug-o-War,
I'd rather play Hug-o-War.
Where everyone hugs, instead of tugs,
And everyone giggles and rolls on the rug.
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins;
Everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

-- Shel Silverstein --

Right now...
Somebody is thinking of you.
Somebody is caring about you.
Somebody wants to be with you.
Somebody hopes you aren't in trouble.
Somebody wants to hold your hand.
Somebody is praying for you.
Somebody hopes everything turns out alright.
Somebody wants you to be happy.
Somebody wants you to find him/her.
Somebody IS him/her.
Somebody wants to give you a gift.
Somebody hopes you're not too cold, and not too hot.
Somebody wants to hug you.
Somebody loves you.
Somebody is thinking of you and smiling.
Somebody wants to be your shoulder to cry on.
Somebody wants to go out with you and have a lot of fun.
Somebody wants you to believe in yourself and know they believe in you.
Somebody wants you to know you are always in his/her heart.
Somebody wants you to know that you are a part of matter how near or close you may be...
Somebody is playing a song that you love.
Somebody is helping you without your knowledge.
Somebody is your friend.
Somebody misses you more than you know.