Word: axiomatic

Pronunciation: ak-see-ə-MA-tik

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: self-evident or unquestionable

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Penny: Hey, I think I know how you did the card trick.

Sheldon: Oh, please! If I don’t know, you don’t know. That’s axiomatic.

Penny: (to Howard) Come here. (whispers in his ear)

Howard: You’re right.

Penny: Not too bad for someone who doesn’t know what “axiomatic” means.

The Big Bang Theory (Season 4, Episode 18 – “The Prestidigitation Approximation”)

If you’re a fan of the popular comedy TV series The Big Bang Theory, you may remember the above dialogue from an episode where the brilliant but hopelessly arrogant Dr. Sheldon Cooper has trouble figuring out the secret behind a magic trick performed by his friend Howard Wolowitz. When his less-educated friend/neighbor Penny claims to have found the secret herself, he is quick to dismiss this as an obvious impossibility. After all (to hear Dr. Cooper tell it), in what universe could a waitress solve a problem too perplexing for a physicist? Turns out ours seems to be that universe, as Penny not only manages to further confuse Sheldon by apparently beating him to the right conclusion, but even rubs salt in the wound by making it clear that she isn’t even knowledgeable enough to grasp the full offense of his belittling remark.

(If you want to find out Howard’s secret yourself, you can watch all the episode’s card trick scenes in this video. The above dialogue starts at about 4:00. Very funny!)

To call a fact “axiomatic” is to claim that it’s already evident without the need for argument. In a way, it’s a fancy translation for the phrase “it goes without saying”. And now for a twist: for once, I’m bringing you a word that stems, not from Latin, but from Greek! “Axiomatic” is derived from axiōmatikos, which in turn comes from the Greek noun axiōma, meaning “that which is thought fitting” or “a self-evident principle”. Note that this is also the origin of the noun “axiom”, defined as “a self-evident truth”.

To be honest, I don’t remember ever hearing the word “axiomatic” before watching Sheldon use it on The Big Bang Theory. Outside of narrative, it seems to be a fitting word for dialogue spoken by academically advanced characters, especially those involved in the exact sciences. Bonus points if you can incorporate the word into an actual mathematical context; another definition for “axiomatic” is “relating to or containing axioms”, that is, “a statement or proposition on which an abstractly defined structure is based”. Feel free to get creative with the word; off the top of my head, it could prove especially versatile in science fiction writing. And that, my friends, is axiomatic!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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