Word: prevaricate

Pronunciation: prə-VE-rə-kayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: speak or act in an evasive way

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


While there may be some times when you do want to engage in confrontation, most people prefer to avoid it and will even go out of their way to dodge unpleasant topics that would lead to awkward situations. Taking an opposite approach from last week’s vocabulary word, today’s Word of the Week refers to evasive speech and action, a concept I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Who among us hasn’t tried at least once to “prevaricate” our way out of a conversation?

To “prevaricate” is to act or speak in an evasive manner. The word arose in the mid 16th century in the sense “to go astray” and comes from the Latin verb praevaricare, meaning “to walk crookedly”. This verb comprises the preposition prae “before” and the verb varicare “to straddle”.

Interestingly, it seems to “prevaricate” is such a common goal that there are several ways to accomplish it. For instance, one way to speak evasively is through “circumlocution“, using long-drawn-out sentences when a few words could get you straight to the point. Another way is to use the rhetorical device of “paralipsis“, bringing up a subject by saying you won’t mention it so as to avoid being held accountable for the consequences. However they choose to go about it, if your characters tend to be evasive in their speech and actions, “prevaricate” may be a good word to add to your stories!

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

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