Word: paucity

Pronunciation: PAH-si-tee

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the presence of something only in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Continuing from last week’s theme of advanced forms of common words, today’s vocabulary post features another word that you’re much less likely to see than its everyday counterpart. After all, when was the last time you heard someone refer to a lacking amount of something as a “paucity” as opposed to a “scarcity”? It’s another word that came up in a presentation at the scientific conference I attended, but I have yet to see it much in fiction!

A “paucity” of something is a small or insufficient amount or quantity of it. The word arose in late Middle English and can be traced back through the Old French noun paucite to the Latin noun paucitas, meaning “a small number”. This noun comes from the adjective paucus, which means “few”.

Coincidentally, “paucity” is a word that I’ve used very few times myself, if ever. I read it occasionally in academic writing (such as in papers that describe a “paucity” of a particular species in a region), but in the right contexts, I believe it works just as well in fiction. If your characters often encounter lacking quantities or amounts of the things they need (and you’ve already overused more common words like “scarcity”), you may want to consider writing about the “paucity” of their necessities in your stories! Good luck!

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

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