Word of the Week: Gubernatorial

Word: gubernatorial

Pronunciation: ɡoo-bər-nə-TO-ree-əl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: relating to a state governor or the office of state governor

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


George: What about candleholders?
Jerry: Too romantic.
George: Lingerie?
Jerry: Too sexual.
George: Waffle maker?
Jerry: Too domestic.
George: Bust of Nelson Rockefeller?
Jerry: Too gubernatorial.
Seinfeld (Season 2, Episode 9 – The Deal)

Despite its serious connotation, I first learned today’s Word of the Week from an episode of one of my favorite comedy shows, Seinfeld. After making his infamous “deal” with Elaine, Jerry learns the real challenge of maintaining a friends-with-benefits relationship when he tries and fails to find a birthday gift for her that won’t send the wrong message. This leads to the hilarious exchange above that ends with an exasperated George sarcastically suggesting the only item in the store with no romantic undertones, which Jerry still dismisses as “too political”. He does have a point: given that he was once the governor of New York, a bust of Nelson Rockefeller is indeed “gubernatorial”!

Anything defined as “gubernatorial” refers to a governor or the office of governor, particularly a state governor in the US. The word arose in the mid 18th century and comes from the Latin noun gubernator, meaning “governor”. This noun stems from the verb gubernare “to govern”, which in turn derives from the Greek verb kubernáō “to steer”.

For obvious reasons, the word “gubernatorial” comes up most often in the media during congressional election cycles. However, it’s important to note that while it may be confused for a general political word, this adjective refers specifically to the office of governor (the senate equivalent, for example, would be “senatorial”). If you write political fiction with characters who are or plan to be governors, “gubernatorial” may be a useful word for your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Paterfamilias

Word: paterfamilias

Pronunciation: pay-tər-fə-MI-lee-əs / pah-tər-fə-MI-lee-əs

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the male head of a family or household

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Father’s Day is this Sunday, so it’s a good week to share an uncommon synonym for “father”! Following the vocabulary word I shared for Mother’s Day, today’s Word of the Week is its equally exotic-sounding male counterpart. While the former holiday is dedicated to female heads of families everywhere, this upcoming holiday is a chance to celebrate every “paterfamilias” in your life!

A “paterfamilias” is the male head of a household or family. The word comes from the Latin phrase pater familias, meaning “father of the household”. This phrase comprises the noun pater “father” and the noun familia “family”.

Historically, a “paterfamilias” was the patriarch of a Roman family, established as the oldest living male in the household. His duties included managing his estate, exercising authority over every other member of his extended family, and actively participating in Roman political and social life. Similar to “materfamilias”, the plural form of “paterfamilias” is “patresfamilias”. If you write characters who are fathers and/or male heads of their households (especially for historical fiction about Ancient Rome), “paterfamilias” is a good word to include in your vocabulary!

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

Word of the Week: Palimpsest

Word: palimpsest

Pronunciation: PA-ləm(p)-sest

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Fun fact about me: I’m currently working from home as a freelance editor and proofreader. Recently, while researching the different types of editing, I came across an interesting word sometimes used for manuscripts that have been rewritten and revised a few times. Many authors can surely relate: when your writing has been so heavily edited that only traces of the original draft remain, you now have a “palimpsest” on your hands!

A “palimpsest” is a manuscript or other piece of writing material from which original writing has been erased to make way for new writing, but on which traces of the original work remain. The word arose in the mid 17th century and comes from the Greek adjective palímpsēstos, meaning “scraped again”. This adjective comprises two roots: the adverb pálin “again” and the verb psáō “to rub smooth”.

Note that while the word “palimpsest” usually refers to reused manuscript paper, it can also be used to mean “something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form”. In the editing world, this can double as a definition for a written work that’s gone through enough revisions to change most of the rough draft. If you really want to get creative, you can try to find a use for the adjective form “palimpsestic”, which means “relating to palimpsests”. If you spend much of your time writing and rewriting manuscripts (or have your characters do the same), “palimpsest” is a good word to know!

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

Word of the Week: Venerable

Word: venerable

Pronunciation: VE-n(ə)r-ə-b(ə)l

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


It’s Memorial Day in the US, a time to remember and revere the brave men and women who have died while serving in the military, so for today’s Word of the Week, I felt it appropriate to feature a vocabulary word related to respect. I’ve used this word several times before to describe people and characters worthy of high esteem, which is why I consider it especially fitting for today. After all, there are few people more “venerable” than those willing to risk their lives for the love of their country!

A “venerable” person is someone who deserves great respect, particularly due to character, age, or wisdom. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective venerabilis, meaning “respectable”. This adjective stems from the verb venerari, which means “to adore”.

In a more historical context, “venerable” is also used by the Catholic Church as “a title given to a deceased person who has attained a certain degree of sanctity but has not been fully beatified or canonized”, as well as by the Anglican Church as “a title given to an archdeacon”. Also worth noting is this adjective’s relation to the verb “venerate”, which means to “regard with great respect”. If you look up to certain people whose words and actions warrant reverence, you already have great inspiration for some “venerable” characters in your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Prelude

Word: prelude

Pronunciation: PRE-l(y)ood / PRAY-l(y)ood

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: an action or event serving as an introduction to something more important

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s a relatively common word that every writer should know. Sometimes when writing fiction, you may want to set up the world of your story before diving into the plot. In this case, a short introduction might be a good option to help you set the tone for the rest of your work. For writers and musicians especially, the “prelude” is a handy tool to keep in your arsenal!

A “prelude” is an event or action that serves as an introduction to something more important. The word arose in the mid 16th century and traces back through the French noun prélude to the Latin verb praeludere, meaning “to play beforehand”. This verb consists of the preposition prae “before” and the verb ludere “to play”.

In the context of art, a “prelude” is an introduction to a piece of music or literary work, such as an orchestral opening to an opera act or an introductory part of a poem. The word can also be used as a verb to mean “serve as a prelude or introduction to”. If you need to introduce important events or you like to include opening pieces in your stories or poetry (or have your characters do the same), “prelude” is a good word to know!

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