Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, September 15, 2018

piacular

[ pahy-ak-yuh-ler ]

adjective

expiatory; atoning; reparatory.

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What is the origin of piacular?

Piacular comes directly from the Latin adjective piāculāris “(of a rite or sacrifice) performed or offered by way of atonement; expiatory.” Piāculāris is a derivative of the noun piāculum “a sacrificial victim or expiatory offering,” itself a derivative of the verb piāre “to propitiate a god, remove or avert by expiation.” Finally, piāre is a derivative of the adjective pius “faithful, loyal, and dutiful to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred and friends.” Pius is one of the most potent words in Latin and typical of the Romans. The phrase pius Aenēās “loyal, faithful, dutiful Aeneas” occurs 17 times in the Aeneid. Piacular entered English in the 17th century.

how is piacular used?

T. S. Eliot made a fetish of using long-dormant adjectives like defunctive, anfractuous, and polyphiloprogenetive; he apparently felt piacular (meaning something done or offered in order to make up for a sin or sacrilegious action) was too run-of-the-mill, so he made up a new form: piaculative.

Ben Yagoda, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It, March 11, 2007

Sacrifices have generally been divided into three classes of (1) honorific, where the offering is believed to be in some sense a gift to the deity; (2) piacular, or sin-offerings, where the victim was usually burnt whole, no part being retained for eating …

W. Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, 1911
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Friday, September 14, 2018

interregnum

[ in-ter-reg-nuhm ]

noun

any period during which a state has no ruler or only a temporary executive.

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What is the origin of interregnum?

Interregnum, a straightforward borrowing from Latin, applies far back in Roman history, to the period of kings (traditionally, 753 b.c.–509 b.c.). An interregnum was the period between the death of the old king and the accession of the new one. During the time of the Roman Republic (509 b.c.–27 b.c.), an interregnum was a period when both consuls or other patrician magistrates were dead or out of office. The Roman Senate then appointed from among themselves an interrex (or a series of interregēs) with consular powers for five-day terms whose principal duty was to supervise the election of new consuls. Interregnum entered English in the 16th century.

how is interregnum used?

But now, he has been on the job for two decades, save for a brief interregnum when he switched posts with his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

Michael McFaul, "I've been in meetings with Putin. Here's what Trump can expect." Washington Post, July 15, 2018

During the two years of interregnum, during Dr. Aagaard’s administration and in the year of two following his resignation to accept a similar position at the University of Washington, all major clinical chairmanships fell vacant and new appointments had to be made.

John S. Chapman, "The Cinderella School of Medicine," The Alcalde, January 1962
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

exoteric

[ ek-suh-ter-ik ]

adjective

popular; simple; commonplace.

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What is the origin of exoteric?

Exoteric, the opposite of esoteric, comes from Latin exōtericus “popular (e.g., of books); not overly technical or abstruse,” a borrowing of Greek exōterikós “external, outside, popular.” The first element of the Greek word is the adverb éxō “out, out of, outside”; the last element, -ikós, is a typical adjective suffix. The middle element, -ter-, is usually called a comparative suffix, which is only one of its functions. The suffix -ter is also used in Latin and Greek to form natural or complementary pairs, e.g., Latin nōster “our” and vester “your,” and dexter “right (hand)” and sinister “left (hand).” The Latin adjectives correspond with Greek hēméteros “our” and hyméteros “your,” and dexiterós “right (hand)” and aristerós “left (hand).” Aristerós is a euphemism meaning “better (hand)” (áristos means “best” in Greek, as in aristocracy “rule of the best”). Exoteric entered English in the 17th century.

how is exoteric used?

I was on a holiday, and was engaged in that rich and intricate mass of pleasures, duties, and discoveries which for the keeping off of the profane, we disguise by the exoteric name of Nothing.

G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles, 1909

Practical or exoteric alchemy was concerned chiefly with attempts to prepare the philosopher’s stone, a hypothetical transmuting and healing agent capable of curing the imagined diseases of metals and the real ones of man.

John Read, "A grandiose philosophical system," New Scientist, February 21, 1957
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