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[ drey-koh-nee-uhn, druh- ] [ dreɪˈkoʊ ni ən, drə- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


rigorous; unusually severe or cruel.

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More about draconian

Draconian “unusually severe or cruel” is based on Latin Dracō (stem Dracōn-), plus the adjectival suffix -ian. In ancient Athens, a city-state that is now the capital of Greece, Draco (known to his fellow Athenians as Drákōn) was a statesman who was famous—or infamous—for the unusually harsh laws he enacted. The Latin common noun dracō means “dragon, serpent” and appears in the motto of the school Hogwarts, from the Harry Potter series: Dracō dormiēns nunquam tītillandus, meaning “A sleeping dragon must never be tickled.” Latin dracō, originally an adaptation of Ancient Greek drákōn, is the source of English dragon, dragoon, and drake. Draconian was first recorded in English in the 1810s.

how is draconian used?

Wyatt was both a victim and a collaborator in a new kind of political system: the totalitarian state. The 16th century may have been the golden age of English literature, but it also fostered an increasingly draconian monarchy.

Ed Simon, “Among Tyrants,” Poetry Foundation, November 5, 2018

The U.S. Federal Reserve risks weak economic growth throughout this year due to its backward-looking, “draconian” rate hikes, warned Wall Street’s best-known tech sector bull [Cathie Wood].

Christiaan Hetzner, “Cathie Wood warns the Fed is ignoring dangerous signals as it plows ahead with draconian rate hikes,” Fortune, June 20, 2022
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[ dih-sent ] [ dɪˈsɛnt ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


disagreement with the philosophy, methods, goals, etc., of a political party or government.

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More about dissent

Dissent “disagreement with a party or government” comes by way of Middle English and Middle French from the Latin verb dissentīre, “to differ, disagree,” which is based on the prefix dis- “apart” and the verb sentīre “to feel, observe.” Dissent is both a verb and a noun, and the noun sense arose in the late 16th century, well over one hundred years after the verb first appeared in English. The Latin verb sentīre has two stems: sent- and sens-. The first of these is found in English sentence, sentient, sentiment, and sentinel, while the second appears in consensus, sense, sensible, and sensual—all of which relate in some way to feeling, thought, opinion, or observation. Sentīre is also the source of numerous Romance language words and phrases related to emotion and perception, including Spanish lo siento “I am sorry” (literally “I feel it”). Dissent was first recorded in English in the early 15th century.

how is dissent used?

Newsrooms should reflect the country, the world that they are covering, and the world is in the middle of some dissent and disagreement and debate right now. I don’t know how we’re supposed to escape that.

Dean Baquet, as quoted in “Dean Baquet Never Wanted to Be an Editor,” The New Yorker, February 18, 2022

Art not only makes concrete the notion that dissent is possible in times of darkness but also reminds viewers that dissent can manifest itself in beautiful and complex forms. Art is a strategy for political activism.

Emily Jungmin Yoon, as quoted in “Cold Comfort,” Poetry Foundation, October 1, 2018
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[ chois ] [ tʃɔɪs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the right, power, or opportunity to choose; option.

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More about choice

Choice “the right to choose” is a noun derived from the Old French verb choisir “to perceive, choose,” which comes from a long-lost source in one of the Germanic languages, perhaps Frankish. Unlike choice, the verb choose is native to English and was recorded in Old English as cēosan, in which -an marked an infinitive verb, just as adding the separate word to before a verb does today. Ultimately, both choice and choose are related to Ancient Greek geúesthai “to taste” and Latin gustus “tasting, flavor, sense of taste.” From the former, English has adopted ageusia “loss of the sense of taste” and dysgeusia “impairment of the sense of taste,” while the latter is the source of (through Italian) gusto “hearty or keen enjoyment” and (through French) ragout, a type of tasty meat stew. Choice was first recorded in English in the late 13th century.

how is choice used?

I was thinking all this time that she has a choice. Me or Lindy. Which is a lot better than I have. It just hit me, though, …. she probably doesn’t feel like she has a choice at all.

Julie Lawson Timmer, Untethered, 2016

Late June brought a series of housing squabbles—some serious, some so ridiculous and petty that we had no choice but to highlight.

Jack Flemming, “Real Estate newsletter: Renters wrestle a landlord in court,” Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2022
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