What If? Writing Prompts: Holidays IV

December is here! Another year has come and gone, and with the holiday season about to shift into high gear, it’s a great time for some more “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s batch of prompts once again centers around the theme of the holidays. See what holiday stories you can write from these ideas! Enjoy!

What if… instead of giving presents, Christmas centered around a tradition of doing good deeds?

What if… your family only celebrated a made-up non-commercial holiday like Festivus in December?

What if… you received a mysterious Christmas present from a relative who had passed away?

What if… one Hanukkah, you and your family played a mystery game in which you’d get one new clue every night until someone won?

What if… every year, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, you had the power to make it January 1st of any year in history, but had to live that entire year until the following New Year’s Eve?

Good luck writing more stories about the holidays!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Word of the Week: Augur

Word: augur

Pronunciation: AW-ɡər

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: (of an event or circumstance) portend a good or bad outcome

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s an interesting word I found while searching for a synonym for “foreshadow”. You may recognize today’s Word of the Week as part of another more familiar word (which I featured in this segment earlier this year), though their meanings are considerably different. While it’s not exactly common, I’m sure we could all find a use for this word now and then; in such an unpredictable world, the least we can hope for is to determine if current events will “augur” well or badly for the future!

To “augur” is to foreshadow a good or bad outcome. The word arose in late Middle English and is originally a Latin noun meaning “diviner”. This noun’s origin is uncertain, but it’s related to the verb augurare, which means “to predict”.

When used in its primary sense, “augur” should be followed by an adverb describing the predicted outcome (e.g. to “augur well” or “augur badly”), though it can also be followed by the prediction itself (e.g. to “augur the end of the war”). The word also functions as a historical noun; in Ancient Rome, an “augur” was “a religious official who observed natural signs, especially the behavior of birds, interpreting these as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of a proposed action”. It should not be confused with the noun “auger”, which means “a tool with a helical bit for boring holes in wood”. If your stories involve a lot of foreshadowing of good or bad events, “augur” may be an excellent addition to your vocabulary!

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

Word of the Week: Deleterious

Word: deleterious

Pronunciation: de-lə-TI-ree-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: causing harm or damage

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s a word I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. Though I don’t remember where I first learned it, I was recently reminded of it while playing the Pronunciation game in the Elevate – Brain Training app. To be honest, I kind of wish I’d added this adjective to my shortlist of fiction vocabulary sooner; when “harmful” and “damaging” start to become overused, “deleterious” is a good synonym to turn to!

To be “deleterious” is to cause damage or harm. The word arose in the mid 17th century and comes from the Greek adjective dēlētḗrios, meaning “noxious”. This adjective derives from the noun dēlētḗr “destroyer”, which in turn stems from the verb dēléomai “to hurt”.

An easy way to memorize the definition of “deleterious” is to remember that it contains the word “delete”, which means “remove or obliterate”. Notably, Merriam-Webster expands the word’s definition to “harmful, often in a subtle or unexpected way”, so you may want to limit its use to this specific context in your stories. If your characters often harm others or cause damage, “deleterious” may be a good addition 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: Gramercy

Word: gramercy

Pronunciation: grə-MƏR-see 

Part of Speech: interjection

Definition: used to express gratitude or surprise

Source: Merriam-Webster


“Gramercy for thy courtesy,” replied the Disinherited Knight, “and to requite it, I advise thee to take a fresh horse and a new lance, for by my honour you will need both.”
Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott, 1820)

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, it’s a great time to learn a new word for expressing thankfulness! Today’s Word of the Week entry features a fascinating word I stumbled upon while looking up synonyms for “thankful”. Indeed, this word is so archaic that I couldn’t even find it in my usual source, Oxford Dictionaries, and instead had to look it up in Merriam-Webster. It never hurts to know as many expressions of thanks as possible, but if you truly want to impress someone with an obscure interjection, try “Gramercy!”

“Gramercy” is an interjection used to express surprise or gratitude. The word arose in the 14th century and comes from the Old French expression grant merci, meaning “great thanks”. The former adjective derives from the Latin adjective grandis “grand”, while the latter noun stems from the Latin noun mercēs “reward”.

Today, “gramercy” appears mostly as a proper noun, while the original use of the word as an interjection of gratitude or exclamation of surprise has since become archaic (case in point: the only examples in literature I could find, including the one above, were from stories set in the Middle Ages or earlier). Notably, the word also functions as a noun meaning “thanks” (also archaic), and can be written in the plural form “gramercies”. If you write historical fiction with characters who often need to express thanks or sudden strong feelings, “gramercy” may be an excellent word to work into your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Apoplectic

Word: apoplectic

Pronunciation: a-pə-PLEK-tik

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: overcome with anger; extremely indignant

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Remember that trending word from Merriam-Webster that I shared last week? Well, here’s the second word that was trending that week! This one comes from a Vanity Fair article published on November 1, which sparked a 38,000% increase in searches for today’s word after it was included in the article’s headline. Given the subject matter of the article, it’s easy to see why the author would opt for this word; when “furious” and “enraged” just aren’t enough to sum up someone’s anger, you can easily describe them as “apoplectic”!

To be “apoplectic” is to be extremely indignant or overcome with anger. The word arose in the early 17th century and traces back through the French adjective apoplectique and the Latin adjective apoplecticus to the Greek adjective apoplēktikós, meaning “stupefied” or “confused”. This adjective stems from the verb apoplēssein “disable with a stroke”, which in turn comprises two roots: the prefix apo “off” and the verb plḗssō “to strike”.

Before it fell into more general use, the word “apoplectic” was originally a medical term meaning “relating to or denoting apoplexy”, where “apoplexy” is defined as “unconsciousness or incapacity resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke”. Notably, the noun “apoplexy” has since gained an informal sub-definition related to the adjective form: “incapacity or speechlessness caused by extreme anger”. If your characters often get angry to the point of explosion, “apoplectic” may be an excellent 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: 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?

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