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[ pree-am-buhl, pree-am- ]


the introductory statement of the U.S. Constitution, setting forth the general principles of American government and beginning with the words, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union. …”

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More about Preamble

English preamble, “introductory statement or paragraph,” which has the variant spellings preambel, preambile, preambul in Middle English, comes from Old French preamble, preambule, from Medieval Latin preambulum, praeambulum “preliminary statement, preface (in legal documents).” Praeambulum is a neuter adjective used as a noun from the Late Latin adjective praeambulus “walking before,” a compound of the Latin preposition and prefix prae, prae– “before, in advance” (usually spelled pre– in English and completely naturalized), and the verb ambulāre “to walk, walk for health or pleasure, stroll.” Preamble first appears in English in Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale” (from The Canterbury Tales, after 1387). The legal sense “introductory paragraph of a treaty, deed, will (or other legal document)” dates to the second half of the 16th century. Preamble, with a capital P, specifically refers to the opening statement of the U.S. Constitution, signed on September 17, 1787. Beginning with the momentous phrase “We the people,” the Preamble lays out the principles and purpose of the Constitution and the government it establishes.

how is Preamble used?

Is not the preamble the foundation of our Constitution; does it not contain the basic principles, and is not the accomplishment of these principles the aim, the end and the essence of our government and Americanism?

George M. B. Hawley, "Function of the Preamble," New York Times, July 16, 1933

… the Preamble is a declaration of purposes and the underlying spirit of the grand game, if such it may be called, of self-government and liberty to be played by the people of the United States.

Charles A. Beard, "A More Perfect Union and Justice," The Republic, 1944
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[ kley-muhnt, klam-uhnt ]


compelling or pressing; urgent: a clamant need for reform.

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More about clamant

The English adjective clamant comes from the Latin present participle clāmāns (stem clamant-), from the verb clāmāre “to shout, utter a loud noise.” The second sense in English, “compelling, pressing, urgent,” does not occur in Latin and is mostly a Scottish usage. Clamant entered English in the 17th century.

how is clamant used?

… despite the clamant need for economic and political measures which only peace can render possible, may it not be the part of the far-visioned statesmanship to face that inescapable issue now … ?

Henry P. Van Dusen, "China's Crisis," Life, September 2, 1946

I remember dwelling in imagination upon this or that dish till my mouth watered; and long before we got in for the night my appetite was a clamant, instant annoyance.

Robert Louis Stevenson, An Inland Voyage, 1878
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[ ri-fyoo-jee-uhm ]


an area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or a community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas.

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More about refugium

The biological or ecological sense of English refugium “an area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or a community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas,” is a straightforward borrowing of the Latin noun refugium. (The usual English plural is the Latin plural, refugia, but refugiums is also found.) The Latin noun does not have the modern English sense, of course, and means only “a place or means of shelter, a place to flee or retreat to.” Refugium entered English in the early 20th century.

how is refugium used?

Hence, it served as a refugium for animal and plant species that the ice cap displaced or destroyed elsewhere.

Dan O'Neill, A Land Gone Lonesome, 2006

Trees that survive in a refugium also may help speed the recovery of the surrounding ecosystem. Their seeds float across the charred landscape, producing a new crop of plants.

Carl Zimmer, "'Lifeboats' Amid the World's Wildfires," New York Times, October 12, 2018
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