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?

Word of the Week: Anathema

Word: anathema

Pronunciation: ə-NA-thə-mə

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: something or someone that one vehemently dislikes

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

George: Students can’t clean. It’s anathema. [Jerry looks confused] …They don’t like it.

Jerry: How long have you been waiting to squeeze that into a conversation?

Seinfeld (Season 2, Episode 6 – The Statue)

Yep, it’s another word from Seinfeld! I’m sure we all know someone who will occasionally learn a new word and sit on it until they finally find the right moment to show it off in conversation (even if they don’t always get it right). In George’s case, that moment is during a conversation with Jerry about the grad student who’s coming to clean the apartment. Although Jerry’s response focuses on the unusual word itself, George may have a point; messy dorm rooms everywhere attest to the idea that cleaning is “anathema” to students!

“Anathema” refers to someone or something that one vehemently dislikes. The word arose in the early 16th century as an ecclesiastical Latin noun meaning “excommunication”. This noun stems from the Greek noun anáthema “accursed thing”, which in turn derives from the verb anatíthēmi “to set upon”.

Aside from its first definition, “anathema” can be used in a more specific context as a word for “a formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine”. It can also function as a literary term meaning “a strong curse”. Interestingly, while the original Greek noun referred simply to an offering, the word was later influenced by the Hebrew noun herem “excommunication”, leading to the modern word’s negative connotation. If there are certain people or things your characters really don’t like, you may find a good use for “anathema” in your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Multifarious

Word: multifarious

Pronunciation: məl-tə-FE-ree-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: many and of various types

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Continuing from last week’s vocabulary entry, today’s Word of the Week is another word brought to my attention by Judith from I Choose How I Will Spend the Rest of My Life. Honestly, I found this one just as interesting as the first, if not more, which is hardly surprising given how many different topics I’ve covered on my blog and how many colorful descriptions I’ve used in my fiction. By all accounts, my interests are certainly “multifarious”!

“Multifarious” describes any group of things that are numerous and consist of various types. Similarly, “multifarious” can also describe a single thing with several varied aspects or parts. The word arose in the late 16th century and comes from the Latin adjective multifarius, meaning “manyfold”.

When including the word “multifarious” in your writing, note that its primary definition is mostly synonymous with “various” (as in “various things”) while its secondary meaning is more synonymous with “diversified” (as in “a diversified group”). In Law, it refers to “a lawsuit in which either party or various causes of action are improperly joined together in the same suit” (more commonly known as a “misjoinder”). To extend the word’s function, you can also use its derivative forms: the adverb “multifariously” and the noun “multifariousness”. If you tend to describe things that come in a wide variety, “multifarious” may be a good word for your stories!

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

Word of the Week: Ineluctable

Word: ineluctable

Pronunciation: in-ə-LƏK-tə-b(ə)l

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Today’s Word of the Week was suggested by Judith from I Choose How I Will Spend the Rest of My Life. She actually provided several words, all of which I found interesting, so expect to see at least one more of them appear in my vocabulary segment. When I think about it, it’s funny how well today’s word describes my approach to vocabulary; for me, the lure of an interesting new word is simply “ineluctable”!

“Ineluctable” describes something that can’t be avoided, resisted, or escaped. The word arose in the early 17th century and comes from the Latin adjective ineluctabilis, meaning “from which there is no escape”. This adjective comprises the prefix in- “not” and the verb eluctari “to struggle out.”

Though I’d never heard the word “ineluctable” before Judith suggested it for this segment, I’m sure it could easily be used as a substitute for such synonyms as “inevitable”, “irresistible”, and “inescapable”. If you want to broaden the word’s use in your writing, you can also use its derivative forms: the noun “ineluctability” and the adverb “ineluctably”. If your characters often run into situations they simply cannot avoid or resist, you may have fun writing about their “ineluctable” predicaments!

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

What If? Writing Prompts: History VII

This past week saw yet another anniversary of the September 11 attacks as well as the destruction left in the wake of a record-breaking hurricane sweeping the Atlantic, the second to hit the U.S. in less than two weeks. Remembering watching the news in school 16 years ago and wondering how much more devastating the effects of climate change can become have gotten me thinking a lot about the past and future of our world, so this week I was inspired to share another set of “What If?” Writing Prompts in the theme of history. What sorts of stories about historical events can you create from these ideas? Good luck!

What if… global political leaders had started working to address climate change decades sooner?

What if… the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had never happened?

What if… America had never started the Iraq War?

What if… Europe hadn’t begun to form what would eventually become the European Union after World War II?

What if… the Founding Fathers had established America as a direct democracy instead of an electoral college?

Enjoy writing more stories about history!

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!

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