Word: effigy

Pronunciation: E-fi-jee

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a sculpture or model of a person

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


There’s a funny story to how today’s Word of the Week made it onto my vocabulary list. I actually learned the word “effigy” a long time ago from studying vocabulary flashcards, but I had forgotten it until recently when it came up in a conversation I had with my best friend. We were talking about the distant future, and he said that if aliens ever uncover his Minecraft Creeper plush toy, they might think it was an “effigy” of something humans believed was a divine being. It does, after all, look uncannily extraterrestrial.

An “effigy” is a likeness of someone in the form of a model or sculpture. The word comes from the Latin noun effigies, which stems from the verb effingere, meaning “to fashion artistically”. This verb is comprised of the preposition ex “out” and the verb fingere “to shape”.

Note that a common use for an “effigy” is as “a roughly made model of a particular person, made in order to be damaged or destroyed as a protest or expression of anger”. In this case, it’s normal to refer to the person whose likeness is being destroyed as being “burned in effigy”. There also seem to be certain restrictions for how to use the word “effigy”: for example, the term usually applies to lying statues for funerary art, but not necessarily standing statues or religious figures. If your stories contain any three-dimensional models made in the likeness of your characters, you may have a few “effigies” scattered throughout your fiction, though whether or not they should be labeled as such is up to you! Good luck!

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

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