Word: sententious

Pronunciation: sen-TEN-(t)shəs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


“Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,” he said sententiously.
1984, George Orwell (1949)

If it isn’t already obvious by the first word in the given example, I learned today’s Word of the Week from George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. The above excerpt is from a conversation between Winston, the Party-hating protagonist, and Parsons, his Party-loving neighbor. Without going into too much detail about why they’re discussing thoughtcrime, this line shows the latter is only too eager to call it out as the worst thing that can happen to a person. He may be dull, but given his extreme loyalty to the Party, it only makes sense that Parsons would be so “sententious” about this subject!

A “sententious” act is one that moralizes in an affected or pompous way. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective sententiosus, which derives from the noun sententia, meaning “opinion”. This noun stems from the verb sentire, which means “to feel”.

Interestingly, the original definition of “sententious” was “full of meaning or wisdom”, but this meaning eventually became obsolete and the word since took on a depreciatory sense. To a lesser extent, “sententious” can also be used as a synonym for “pithy” or “concise”, though it’s unclear how common this use is. If your characters often moralize issues in a pompous or self-important way, “sententious” may be a good word to use in your stories!

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

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