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Word of the Week: Denouement

Word: denouement

Pronunciation: day-noo-MAH

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Today’s vocabulary post is a special one because it’s my last Word of the Week! This segment has been really fun to write and I’ll certainly miss it, but with all the major updates I’m planning for my blog, I won’t have room for it anymore. So with that in mind, I picked out one final word from the 100 most beautiful words in English that would be most fitting for my last vocabulary entry. Here’s to the “denouement” of my Word of the Week!

A “denouement” is the final part of a story in which the plot is tied together and the conflict is resolved. The word arose in the mid 18th century and is originally a French noun meaning “outcome”. This noun derives from the verb dénouer, meaning “to unravel”.

“Denouement” is a word that every fiction writer should know, as it’s an important part of any plot. After all the action has risen and fallen and the climax has reached its end, the “denouement” is the final part of the story when everything comes together: every remaining strand of the conflict is resolved and the story reaches its conclusion. Note that aside from its literary definition, “denouement” can also work in real-world contexts meaning “the climax of a chain of events, usually when something is decided or made clear”. Whether you use it to define the conclusions in your stories or simply keep it in mind when outlining your plots, “denouement” is a key word to have in your vocabulary!

Thanks for reading my Word of the Week segment! I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Word of the Week: Effloresce

Word: effloresce

Pronunciation: e-flə-RES

Part of Speech: verb

Definition:

  1. lose moisture and turn to a fine powder upon exposure to air
  2. reach an optimum stage of development; blossom

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I learned from the 100 most beautiful words in English. Spring is finally here, so what better time to learn a word related to flowers and blossoming? If you’re inspired to write floral poetry this season, you may find it fun to describe the way the flowers “effloresce”!

To “effloresce” is to blossom or reach an optimum stage of development. To “effloresce” is also to lose moisture and turn to a fine powder upon exposure to air. The word arose in the late 18th century and comes from the Latin verb efflorescere, meaning “to bloom”. This verb comprises the preposition e- “out” and the verb florescere “begin to bloom”, the latter of which derives from the noun floris “flower”.

While the more obvious definition of “effloresce” is “to blossom” due to its relation to the word “flower”, it also functions as a chemistry term referring to salts that crystallize on a surface or to a surface that becomes covered with salt particles. The noun form “efflorescence” is also a chemistry term for the migration of salts through a porous surface (though I much prefer its other meaning: “blossoming”). Be careful not to confuse the verb “effloresce” with “effervesce” (“to give off bubbles” or “to be vivacious and enthusiastic”) or the adjective “efflorescent” with “evanescent” (“soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence”)! If you love writing about flowers or other things that bloom, “effloresce” may be a great 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: Calumniate

Word: calumniate

Pronunciation: kə-LƏM-nee-ayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: make false and defamatory statements about

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s yet another word I learned from the Association game in the Elevate – Brain Training app. Like many of the words in the game, this one was a formal synonym for one of the common words in the given set—in this case, the word “insult”. It certainly works as a literary term; in stories where slander is rampant, expect certain characters to “calumniate” their enemies!

To “calumniate” someone is to make defamatory and false statements about them. The word arose in the mid 16th century and comes from the Latin verb calumniari, meaning “to accuse falsely”. This verb stems from the noun calumnia, which means “false accusation”.

The verb “calumniate” is related to the noun “calumny”, meaning “the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation”. If you have trouble remembering what these words mean, try associating them with the word “callous”, which means “showing or having an insensitive and cruel disregard for others”. If your characters make a habit of insulting others, “calumniate” may be a good 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: Gasconade

Word: gasconade

Pronunciation: ɡas-kə-NAYD

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: extravagant boasting

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I learned from the Pronunciation game in the Elevate – Brain Training app. I had no idea what it meant when I first read it, but after looking it up, I knew I’d have no trouble remembering its definition. Simply associate this word with the pompous Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and you’ll never forget that “gasconade” refers to exaggerated boasting!

“Gasconade” is a literary term for extravagant boasting. The word arose in the mid 17th century and comes from the French noun gasconnade, meaning “boasting”. This noun stems from the verb gasconner, which means “to brag”.

The word “gasconade” originates from the name Gascon, as the citizens of Gascony in southwestern France were considered prone to bragging; the word “gascon” is even synonymous with “braggart”. Notably, aside from a noun, “gasconade” also used to be a verb meaning “to talk boastfully” and an adjective meaning “of or pertaining to extravagant boasting”, but both these definitions have become obsolete. If your characters are excessively boastful, “gasconade” may be a good 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: Halcyon

Word: halcyon

Pronunciation: HAL-see-ən

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


I recently revisited the 100 most beautiful words in English for vocabulary inspiration, and after this one jumped out at me, I knew I had to write about it next. Although every story must have conflict to move forward, writers still find plenty of use for adjectives to describe times of peace and happiness. When writing about past times of idyllic tranquility, you can hardly get more poetic than “halcyon”!

“Halcyon” refers to a past time period that was idyllically peaceful and happy. The word arose in late Middle English and traces back through the Latin noun alcyon to the Greek noun alkuōn, meaning “kingfisher”. This noun is thought to be derived from two roots: the noun háls “sea” and the verb kuōn “to conceive”.

If you’re curious why the Greek word for “halcyon” means “kingfisher“, it’s because the word derives from the name of Alcyone in Greek mythology: after she threw herself into the sea to be reunited with her husband Ceyx in death, the gods took pity on the tragic couple and turned them both into “halcyon” birds, otherwise known as kingfishers. It’s from this story of Alcyone and Ceyx that the phrase “halcyon days” derives, denoting the calm period in winter when no storms occur. As you’d likely expect, “halcyon” also works as a noun, either as another word for a kingfisher of the genus Halcyon or the mythical bird that, according to ancient writers, had the power to calm the wind and waves. If you write stories that mention the peaceful days of the past or the creatures of Greek mythology, “halcyon” is an interesting word to include in your writing!

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

Word of the Week: Gourmandize

Word: gourmandize

Pronunciation: GOR-mən-dyz

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: indulge in good eating; eat greedily

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I learned from the Association game in the Elevate – Brain Training app. This word came up in a set containing the verb “eat”, and though I had never seen it before, it shouldn’t have been too hard to guess the correct answer, since it so closely resembles another word related to food. When presented with gourmet cuisine, one can’t help but to “gourmandize”!

To “gourmandize” is to indulge in good eating, typically in excess. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the French noun gourmandise, meaning “gluttony”. This noun stems from the noun gourmand, which means “glutton”.

Even if you’ve never heard this word before, its meaning should be easy to remember by its connection to the word “gourmet”. Like “gourmand”, “gourmet” can function as a noun to mean “a connoisseur of good food”, but only the former implies overeating. Aside from its main use as a verb, “gourmandize” is also a noun meaning “the action of indulging in or being a connoisseur of good food”. If you write stories about characters who love food and often eat too much, you may get plenty of use out of the word “gourmandize”!

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

Word of the Week: Gentrification

Word: gentrification

Pronunciation: jen-trə-fə-KAY-sh(ə)n

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I picked up from Merriam-Webster’s trending words. Back in November, a coffee shop in Denver came under fire for posting a sign that contained the phrase “happily gentrifying“. While the sign was meant as a joke, the fact that it was placed in a neighborhood once occupied primarily by minorities sparked a lot of backlash from local residents. Considering the word often implies the displacement of poor communities, it’s easy to see why most people wouldn’t consider “gentrification” funny at all!

“Gentrification” is the process of renovating and improving a district or house to middle-class standards. The word is the noun form of the verb “gentrify”, meaning to “renovate and improve (especially a house or district) so that it conforms to middle-class taste”. This verb derives from the late Middle English noun “gentry”, defined as “people of good social position, specifically (in the UK) the class of people next below the nobility in position and birth”.

Aside from its main definition, “gentrification” can also be used on a smaller scale to mean “the process of making a person or activity more refined or polite”. While Oxford Dictionaries‘ definition focuses on the positive side of “gentrification”, Merriam-Webster gives a more elaborate definition that mentions its most common consequence: “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents”. If you write stories about developing areas and the effects of that progress on the local population, “gentrification” is a good word to use in your writing!

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

Word of the Week: Shakespearean

Word: Shakespearean

Pronunciation: sheyk-SPEER-ee-ən

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: relating to or characteristic of William Shakespeare or his works

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Last one, I promise! After three consecutive weeks of writing about words derived from authors’ names, I’m capping off a full month of these words with an adjective taken from the name of one of the most famous writers in history! With Valentine’s Day only two days away, it seemed only fitting to end this list with the author behind Romeo & Juliet. Whether you’re describing a play, a poem, an actor, or a time period, there’s no question that some very clear imagery comes to mind whenever you hear the word “Shakespearean”!

“Shakespearean” (alternatively spelled “Shakespearian”) comes from the name of the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare. This word describes anything relating to or reminiscent of the author’s works. The adjective generally refers to his plays and sonnets, but can also refer to actors who perform his plays or the time period during which his works were written.

Like the others, this word is more complex than a dictionary definition can sum up in a single line, especially considering how diverse Shakespeare’s subject matter was. While the most obvious definition of “Shakespearean” refers to Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets themselves, it also functions as a noun meaning “an expert on or student of Shakespeare’s writings”. Again, like the others, make sure you always capitalize this word because it comes from a name. If your stories include references to the immortal bard’s works, “Shakespearean” is a good word to include in your vocabulary!

Bonus: For examples of clever “Shakespearean” insults, enjoy the following TED-Ed video!

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

Word of the Week: Kafkaesque

Word: Kafkaesque

Pronunciation: kahf-kə-ESK

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Yes, it’s yet another adjective derived from an author’s name! For today’s Word of the Week, we’re focusing on writer Franz Kafka, whose most famous stories centered around commonplace characters navigating a bureaucratic society with little or no reward to make their ordeals worthwhile in the end. Thanks to those stories, today we have a go-to word for the ridiculous obstacle course that is modern bureaucracy: “Kafkaesque”!

“Kafkaesque” describes anything reminiscent of Franz Kafka‘s works. In general, Kafka’s writing is famous for its nightmarish and oppressive qualities. When describing something as “Kafkaesque”, the most common image to come to mind is of unnecessarily convoluted and frustrating aspects of mundane life.

As with the last two vocabulary words derived from authors’ names, the full scope of the definition of “Kafkaesque” is a bit more complicated than dictionaries can sum up in a single line. Fortunately, also as with the previous examples, TED-Ed has the more complex meaning of the word covered with one of their amazingly animated videos, so I’ll just leave that here for your enjoyment. Remember that its origin from a proper noun means the word should always be capitalized. If your stories often feature unnecessarily convoluted plots, your writing itself may be more “Kafkaesque” than you realize!

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

Word of the Week: Dickensian

Word: Dickensian

Pronunciation: də-KEN-zee-ən

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: of or reminiscent of the novels of Charles Dickens, especially in suggesting the poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters that they portray

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Continuing on last week’s theme of words derived from authors’ names, here’s another adjective that you’re probably familiar with. Today’s Word of the Week comes from the name of Charles Dickens, who was famous for writing stories that shed light on the lower social classes of Victorian England living in poverty and misery. His works were so influential that to this day, any setting involving poor conditions and social injustice can be described as “Dickensian”!

Anything described as “Dickensian” is reminiscent of Charles Dickens‘s writing. As an adjective, the word refers to the poor social conditions and comically repulsive characters in the author’s stories. The word can also function as a noun meaning “a person who studies or admires the works of Charles Dickens”.

Like the word “Orwellian”, “Dickensian” is a more complex adjective than dictionary definitions might have you believe: as the TED-Ed video below explains, while it has a negative connotation when describing settings and living/working conditions, it can also be considered high praise when describing a novel, as it implies a level of wit and creativity akin to that of the brilliant Charles Dickens. Also like “Orwellian”, “Dickensian” should always be capitalized because it derives from a proper noun. If you write stories about miserable conditions and unjust social situations, “Dickensian” is an excellent word to keep on your vocabulary list!

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

About J.C. Wolfe

J.C. Wolfe is a fiction writer, biologist, and aspiring novelist of science fantasy and romance. A natural-born American and graduate in Marine Ecology from a university in Brazil, J.C. now writes for a living in California while spending free time blogging and penning stories and poetry.

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