Word of the Week: Epistemic

Word: epistemic

Pronunciation: e-pə-STE-mik / e-pə-STEE-mik

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: relating to knowledge or to the degree of its validation

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


So funny story: I originally had a different Word of the Week planned for today, but when I looked it up on Merriam-Webster for research, I noticed today’s vocabulary word ranked first among the trending words at the top of the page and knew I had to jump on it. According to the dictionary’s website, searches for this word rose over 16,000% following the publication of a Vox article that used it in its headline. After reading the article, I can see why this word would suddenly become so relevant today: America does in fact seem to be suffering an “epistemic” crisis!

Something described as “epistemic” is related to knowledge or to the degree of validation of that knowledge. The word arose in the 1920s and comes from the Greek noun epistēmē, meaning “science” or “knowledge”. This noun in turn derives from the verb epístamai, which means “to know”.

The word “epistemic” may sound familiar to those who know about “epistemology“, the branch of philosophy that studies the theory of knowledge and how it relates to concepts like truth, justification, and belief. Note that there’s a difference between “epistemic” and “epistemological”: the former refers specifically to knowledge itself while the latter refers to the study of knowledge. If your stories deal with themes of knowledge and the difference between truth and opinion, “epistemic” is a great word to add to your vocabulary!

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

Word of the Week: Minatory

Word: minatory

Pronunciation: MI-nə-toh-ree / MY-nə-toh-ree

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: expressing or conveying a threat

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


It’s Halloween tomorrow, so why not have some fun learning a new vocabulary word for the occasion? I came across this one after researching synonyms for “sinister” this week, and while I do think last year’s word was more fitting for Halloween, this year’s word is considerably more versatile in fiction. “Macabre” may be an excellent word for horror and Halloween-themed stories, but “minatory” can describe the threatening actions in all types of plots!

“Minatory” describes an action that conveys or expresses a threat. The word arose in the mid 16th century and comes from the Latin adjective minatorius, meaning “threatening”. This adjective derives from the verb minari, which means “to threaten”.

While “minatory” can describe any threatening action, note that Oxford Dictionaries labels it as a formal word, so you may want to limit its use to more proper contexts. Also notable is this word’s relation to the adjective “minacious“, which shares its Latin root and means “menacing” or “threatening”. If your characters tend to threaten each other, you may have fun writing about their “minatory” actions!

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

Word of the Week: Mercurial

Word: mercurial

Pronunciation: mər-KYOO-ree-əl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I learned from the Elevate – Brain Training app. Like other words featured in past Word of the Week entries, I picked this one up from the Pronunciation game, though I found it so interesting after reading it that I knew I had to look it up. Interestingly, I realized I had just learned a new word that I could use to describe myself; I’ve gone through so many changes of mind and mood in my life that I could easily be considered “mercurial”!

A “mercurial” person is someone who’s prone to unpredictable or sudden changes of mind or mood. The word arose in late Middle English in the sense “of the planet Mercury” and comes from the Latin adjective mercurialis, meaning “relating to the god Mercury”. This adjective stems from the proper noun Mercurius, the Latin name of the Roman god Mercury. The current definition dates from the mid 17th century.

As its Latin root suggests, aside from its main definition, the word “mercurial” also relates to Mercury, both in the sense “of or containing the element mercury” and the sense “of the planet Mercury” (this latter case should be capitalized because it refers to a proper noun). The word can also function as a noun to mean “a drug or other compound containing mercury”. Note that as a synonym for “volatile” and “temperamental”, “mercurial” should be used in a negative sense. If your characters are constantly changing their minds (or if you write about any of the different “Mercuries”), “mercurial” could be a great word to include in your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Cabal

Word: cabal

Pronunciation: kə-BAHL / kə-BAL

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a secret political clique or faction

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Continuing from last week’s vocabulary post, here’s another new word I learned from playing Destiny 2. The story campaign of the game centers around an attack on humanity by a hostile alien army, led by a warlord whose goal is to steal the “Traveler’s Light”, a gift of enlightenment to the human race, and keep it for himself. Given the tightly knit organization of its army, the political motives that drive its leader’s actions, and the negative connotation of the word itself, I’d say “Cabal” was an appropriate choice of name for this alien race!

A “cabal” is a secret political faction or clique. The word arose in the late 16th century and traces back through the French noun cabale to the Latin noun cabala. This noun derives from the Hebrew noun kabala, meaning “something received” or “tradition”.

According to Wikipedia, a more complete definition of “cabal” is “a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in an ideology, state, or other community, often by intrigue, usually unbeknown to persons outside their group”. The word originates from the name Kabbalah (one of several different spellings of the word), which refers to the Jewish mystical interpretation of Hebrew scripture. Today, the word carries a heavy negative connotation of secretiveness and insidious influence, and is frequently associated with conspiracy theories. If your characters are part of a secret group with shady political goals, you might have fun writing about the “cabal” in your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Philomath

Word: philomath

Pronunciation: FI-lə-math

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a lover of learning; a student or scholar, especially of mathematics, natural philosophy, etc.

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s an interesting word that I’ve recently picked up from two very different sources: the productivity app Habitica and the sci-fi action role-playing game Destiny 2. The Habitica blog mentioned today’s Word of the Week in a post featuring guilds dedicated to learning and studying, while Destiny 2 uses it in the name of one of its Warlock armor sets (Warlocks in this world being akin to scholars). Of course, regardless of whether I read it in a blog post or a video game, I know I can easily identify with this word; my whole life, I’ve always been a “philomath”!

A “philomath” is someone who loves to learn, especially such academic subjects as philosophy and mathematics. The word arose in the early 17th century and comes from the Greek noun philomathḗs, meaning “fond of learning”. This noun comprises two roots: the adjective phílos “loving” and the verb manthánō “to learn”.

The word “philomath” is considered a historical term and has an interesting background as a pseudonym: King James VI and I created the character Philomathes to represent one side of a philosophical dialogue in his dissertation Daemonologie, while Benjamin Franklin used Philomath os one of his many pen names. According to Oxford Dictionaries, this word was once used specifically as a term for an astrologer or prognosticator, but this definition has since become obsolete. Note that “philomath” should not be confused with “philosophy”, as the former refers to learning while the latter refers to wisdom. If your characters love to learn, you can have plenty of fun writing about a “philomath” or two in your stories!

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

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