Word: posit

Pronunciation: PAH-zit

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: assume as a fact; put forward as a basis of argument

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Sheldon: Is anyone else troubled by the Spiderman theme song?

Leonard: Why would it trouble you? […]

Sheldon: […] the Spiderman lyrics posit that “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can.”

Howard: Yeah, so?

Sheldon: I can think of many things Spiderman can’t do that a spider can.

The Big Bang Theory (Season 6, Episode 10 – The Fish Guts Displacement)

Here’s another word that I learned from a flashcard and first heard in context on The Big Bang Theory. While hanging out with his friends, Sheldon points out the major flaw in the Spiderman theme song: its assertion that Spiderman is capable of every feat possible to a spider. By subsequently listing examples of feats that only a spider could do – crawl into a person’s ear and die; legally leave Guatemala without a passport; and of course, copulate with a spider – he proves why the lyrics incorrectly state Spiderman’s complete similarity to spiders as fact (I’m sure we could all come up with a lot more examples if we tried, but let’s just focus on learning a new word for now).

To “posit” a statement is to put it forward as a fact or a basis of argument. The word arose in the mid 17th century and is based on the Latin root posit- “placed”. The participle positus is derived from the verb ponere, meaning “to place”.

Note that there are alternative definitions for the verb “posit”. According to Oxford Dictionaries, it can also mean “put in position” or “place”, while to “posit something on” is to “base something on the truth of a particular assumption”. In Philosophy, the word also functions as a noun to mean “a statement made on the assumption that it will prove to be true”. In any case, the definitions you’re most likely to come across have to do with stating something as fact, so keep this in mind if you decide to work “posit” into your stories. If you write characters who tend to assume things as truth, you can definitely get a lot of use out of this word!

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

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