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?

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?

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