Word: plagiarism

Pronunciation: PLAY-jə-ri-zəm

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


So I was doing vocabulary research on Oxford Dictionaries‘ website last week when I noticed that one of the top five trending words in the world was “plagiarism”, and I laughed to myself because I knew exactly why. Anyone following American political news right now has almost definitely heard about a rather embarrassing incident that happened last Monday night involving a speech delivered at the Republican National Convention, which apparently contained several lines lifted from a speech delivered at the Democratic National Convention eight years ago. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this incident at the time of writing this post, which is to be expected: no one would want to be accused of “plagiarism” in the middle of a political campaign!

“Plagiarism” is the act of stealing someone else’s work or ideas to pass off as one’s own. The word arose in the early 17th century and comes from the Latin noun plagiarius, meaning “kidnapper”. This noun stems from the noun plagium “kidnapping”, which likely derives from the Greek noun plagion, also meaning “a kidnapping”.

Truth be told, the word “plagiarism” has been sitting in my vocabulary list for quite a while. Being a writer and a biologist, I’ve long been familiar with this term; it’s a practice that artists and scientists alike are heavily discouraged from exercising, and that we’re advised to be on the lookout for when our work is widely circulated. Also noteworthy is the verb form of the word: to “plagiarize” is to “take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own”. If your characters tend to steal work from others to claim as their own, feel free to write about the “plagiarism” going on in your stories, as long as you don’t practice it yourself!

Bonus: if you found this particular news story entertaining, you may get a kick out of this video from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert! Enjoy!

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

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