Word of the Week: Kakistocracy

Word: kakistocracy

Pronunciation: ka-ki-STAH-krə-see

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Happy Presidents’ Day! To celebrate, here’s a new political word to add to your vocabulary. Yes, I know I said I don’t like getting political on my blog, but with so many interesting words floating around my news feeds these days, I couldn’t pass up the chance to feature a few more of them in my Word of the Week segment! Don’t ask me where I found this one (not that it isn’t obvious); I just thought it was so eye-catching that I had to write about it here. It’s definitely relevant for many people this year; I’m sure none of us expected to be faced with the possibility of a “kakistocracy” in our lifetimes!

A “kakistocracy” is a government run by the least competent or suitable citizens of a state. The word arose in English in the early 19th century and was coined by English author Thomas Love Peacock as an antonym for “aristocracy” (in the sense “government of a state by its best citizens”). This noun comprises two Ancient Greek roots: the adjective kákistos “worst” and the noun krátos “power”.

Whenever I read the word “kakistocracy”, the first image that comes to mind is a dystopian society. What else would you expect from a government run by the least qualified people imaginable? The word certainly seems fitting for fiction about states on the verge of collapse, though it’s more terrifying to think it’s becoming common in nonfiction media. If your story is set in a world run by an incompetent government, you may have created your own “kakistocracy”!

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

Word of the Week: Enamor

Word: enamor

Pronunciation: i-NA-mər / e-NA-mər

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: be filled with a feeling of love for

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Romance writers will surely be familiar with today’s Word of the Week. Of course, you’ve probably read it most often in the passive voice, that is, as something you are rather than something you do. It’s a popular word in romance for sure; what better inspiration is there for love stories than the types of people who “enamor” us?

To “enamor” someone is to cause them to fall in love, while to be “enamored” with/of/by someone is to be filled with a feeling of love for them. The word arose in Middle English and comes from the Old French verb enamourer, meaning “to fall in love”. This verb comprises the prefix en- “in” and the noun amour “love”.

If you love writing romance (like I do), “enamored” is probably a common word in your stories. It can be used in the sense of feeling romantic love for a person as well as “having a liking or admiration for” a place or thing. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the word “enamor” used in its active form, which means to captivate or make someone fall in love. Still, feel free to use it however you see fit! If you tend to write stories about characters falling head over heels for each other, “enamor” is a good word to keep on your list! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

Word of the Week: Maudlin

Word: maudlin

Pronunciation: MAHD-lən

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Here’s an interesting word I stumbled across a few weeks ago. I can’t remember exactly where I read it, just that it caught my attention for how poetic it sounded. I don’t usually care for tragic words, but some may consider it fitting for February due to the impending pressure of Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping you don’t find yourself feeling “maudlin” this month!

To be “maudlin” is to be tearfully or self-pityingly sentimental. The word arose in late Middle English as a noun denoting Mary Magdalene and comes from the Old French name Madeleine. This name derives from the ecclesiastical Latin name Magdalena, also a reference to Mary Magdalene.

It’s easy to see how this adjective evolved from the image of Mary Magdalene, as she was often depicted weeping in religious art. The North American entry for this word in Oxford Dictionaries includes “often through drunkenness” in its definition, though this needn’t necessarily be the cause of such emotion. If your characters ever find themselves in a deep state of self pity or excessive sentimentality, you may want to consider including the word “maudlin” in your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Iconoclast

Word: iconoclast

Pronunciation: ai-KAH-nə-klast

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Here’s a word that’s made it on many vocabulary prep lists, or at least the ones I’ve studied. I remember always being intrigued by this word when I came across it in my flashcard stacks because it sounded so unusual and poetic. Of course, its definition isn’t quite as lyrical as its tone might suggest; I’d be interested in reading about an “iconoclast”, but not in being one!

An “iconoclast” is someone who criticizes or attacks cherished institutions or beliefs. The word arose in the mid 17th century in the sense “destroyer of religious figures” and comes from the Greek noun eikonoklástēs, meaning “breaker of images”. This noun in turn comprises the noun eikṓn “figure” and the verb klázō “to break”.

Aside from its primary definition, “iconoclast” can also refer to “a destroyer of images used in religious worship”. Oxford Dictionaries’ entry lists two historical examples as sub-definitions: 1) “a supporter of the 8th- and 9th-century movement in the Byzantine Church that sought to abolish the veneration of icons and other religious images”, and 2) “a Puritan of the 16th or 17th century”. If you’ve created a character who attacks or criticizes certain religious beliefs, institutions, or images, you’re definitely writing an “iconoclast” into your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Excoriate

Word: excoriate

Pronunciation: ik-SKO-ree-ayt / ek-SKO-ree-ayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: censure or criticize severely

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Have you ever witnessed someone say or do something so ridiculously stupid that to “criticize” them just wasn’t enough? Maybe you feel you’ve overused words like “censure” and “condemn” in your writing and find yourself looking for a fresh alternative. If so, you’re in luck, because just this month I learned a new word that addressed this same issue for me, a word that instantly caught my eye as an interesting potential addition to my vocabulary list. When people act far too dully for ordinary criticism, it may be time to “excoriate” them instead!

To “excoriate” someone is to criticize or censure them severely. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin verb excoriare, meaning “to skin”. This verb in turn consists of the preposition ex “out of” and the noun corium “hide”.

Though I wasn’t yet familiar with “excoriate”, the tone of the word and the context in which I saw it made it easy to understand from the moment I first read it. It’s worth noting that “excoriate” has a more formal connotation that “criticize”, so you may want to spare it for narrative writing over dialogue. If your characters tend to censure each other in the sharpest manner possible, “excoriate” could be an excellent addition to your vocabulary list!

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

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