Or if you prefer...

You can follow my blog here and receive each individual new post by email.

Join 156 other subscribers

Connect With Me

Latest Tweets (or Howls)

Books I’m Reading

Word of the Week: Pontificate

Word: pontificate

Pronunciation: pahn-TI-fi-kayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: express one’s opinions in a way considered annoyingly pompous and dogmatic

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


You know, maybe if you hadn’t been sitting there pontificating about what a great parker you were, you might have got the space.
– Elaine Benes, Seinfeld (Season 3, Episode 22 – The Parking Space)

Oh yes, I still like to watch Seinfeld reruns from time to time! A few weeks ago, I made a note to write about a word I heard in the parking space episode, when Elaine criticizes George’s pausing to brag about his parking skills as the reason he’s now stuck in a deadlock with Kramer’s friend Mike. She definitely has a point; his inclination to “pontificate” certainly didn’t help him in this situation at all!

To “pontificate” is to express opinions in an irritatingly dogmatic and pompous way. The word arose in late Middle English as a noun, while the verb dates back to the early 19th century. This word comes from the Latin noun pontificatus “the office of pontiff”, which in turn stems from the noun pontifex “high priest”. This noun comprises two roots: the noun pons “bridge” and the verb facere “to make”.

Relating to the Roman Catholic Church, a alternative definition for this verb is to “officiate as bishop”, and the word can also be used as a noun in the sense “the office or period of office of a pope or bishop”. As a verb, “pontificate” likely originated in the sense “to act like a pontiff”, that is, “to express one’s opinions pompously and dogmatically as if they were absolutely correct”. If your characters tend to go on and on about their opinions in the most overbearing and arrogant way possible, “pontificate” may be the next great word you can add to your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Meritorious

Word: meritorious

Pronunciation: me-rə-TOHR-ee-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: deserving reward or praise

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another new word I picked up from a Dictionary.com Word of the Day entry. As we continue through National Women’s History Month, it’s worth writing about a word that accurately describes the amazing people we celebrate in March. For all their value and hard work over generations, the efforts of women are indeed “meritorious”!

To be “meritorious” is to deserve praise or reward. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective meritorius, meaning “hired”. This adjective stems from the adjective meritus “deserved”, which in turn derives from the verb merere “to earn”.

Although I haven’t yet used it myself, I assume the word “meritorious” can be used to describe people as much as actions, though the latter seems to be more common. Naturally, an easy way to remember its definition is by the root word “merit”, which means “the quality of being particularly good or worthy”. In North American English, this adjective can also be used in Law to describe an action or claim, in the sense “likely to succeed on the merits of the case”. If you write characters who are worthy of reward and praise for their efforts, “meritorious” may be a good word to keep on your vocabulary list!

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

Word of the Week: Malfeasance

Word: malfeasance

Pronunciation: mal-FEE-zəns

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: wrongdoing, especially by a public official

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Fun fact: sometimes my mom likes to browse through articles and posts about the English language and send me the ones she finds interesting as ideas for blog post topics. A couple of weeks ago, she sent me a new suggestion for my vocabulary segment in the form of a Dictionary.com Word of the Day entry, and I admit I found the word so fascinating that I had to write about it on my blog. It’s hardly surprising why: like so many other words, “malfeasance” could potentially become a lot more common in the media this year!

“Malfeasance” is the practice of wrongdoing, especially by a public official. The word arose in the late 17th century and comes from the Old French noun malfaisance, meaning “wrongdoing”. This noun stems from the Latin verb malefacere “to do evil”, which in turn comprises the adjective malus “bad” and the verb facere “to do”.

Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as a Law noun, the word “malfeasance” is most appropriate for formal or legal contexts, though I assume it could work just as well in the narrative of a law-themed story. Despite being similar in meaning, it should not be confused with “misfeasance”, defined as “a transgression, especially the wrongful exercise of lawful authority”. A word that can be used to define someone who commits such wrongdoing is the derivative noun “malfeasant”, which can also be used as an adjective. If you write fiction about politicians who commit wrongful acts, a “malfeasance” could be a good plot point in your next story!

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

Word of the Week: Inveigh

Word: inveigh

Pronunciation: in-VAY

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: speak or write about something with great hostility

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I picked up from the Elevate – Brain Training app. Recently, the developers introduced a new game called Association, in which you’re given a set of three or four verbs and have to match each word that appears above them to its synonym in the set. I’ve been learning quite a few new words from this exercise, today’s example being one that I initially failed to correctly match to the verb “criticize”. Maybe you can’t always figure out a word’s meaning right away, but that would hardly be cause to “inveigh” against the gaps in your vocabulary!

To “inveigh” against something is to write or speak about it with great hostility. The word arose in the late 15th century in the sense “to introduce” and comes from the Latin verb invehere, meaning “to carry in” or “to assail”. This verb comprises the preposition in “into” and the verb vehere “to carry”.

While playing the Association game, I probably had trouble deducing the meaning of “inveigh” because it sounds similar to the word “convey”, which has a much more positive connotation. Indeed, the word didn’t always have a negative definition, though one way to remember what it means today could be to associate it with the word “vehement” (“forceful, passionate, or intense”), with which it shares a Latin root. If your characters tend to speak hostilely about others (or do things that warrant heavy criticism), “inveigh” may be a great word to add to your vocabulary list!

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

Word of the Week: Lachrymose

Word: lachrymose

Pronunciation: LA-krə-mohs / LA-krə-mohz

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: tearful or given to weeping

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


A few weeks ago, I shared a word to describe people who feel overly sentimental. Along those lines, here’s another word for those who tend to be especially tearful or inclined to crying. Maybe you didn’t get a chance to fully celebrate the month of love this year, but hopefully it hasn’t made you “lachrymose”!

To be “lachrymose” is to be given to weeping or tearful. The word arose in the mid 17th century in the sense “like tears” and comes from the Latin adjective lacrimosus, meaning “causing tears”. This adjective stems from the noun lacrima, which means “tear”.

I first heard this word in the 2004 movie A Series of Unfortunate Events, when Aunt Josephine shows the Baudelaire children the view of Lake Lachrymose from her window. Though I’ve loved the sound of it ever since, I would recommend the word mostly for poetry as opposed to narrative, simply for how formal it comes across compared to simpler synonyms like “teary” and “misty-eyed”. Still, if you think it fits the style of your writing, feel free to work it into a story. If your characters often find themselves getting emotional, “lachrymose” may be a good word to keep on your vocabulary list!

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

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?

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.

Follow The Wolfe's (Writing) Den on WordPress.com
Read More…

Community

Buried Scraps

Blog Stats

  • 47,772 visits

Copyright

Creative Commons License
The Wolfe's (Writing) Den by J.C. Wolfe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Advertisements

Pin It on Pinterest

Thanks for visiting my blog! Like what you're reading?

Subscribe for weekly broadcasts from my blog and future updates about my published works!

Thanks for subscribing!

%d bloggers like this: