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Indulgent, Licentious, Illicit, Leisure

Indulge comes from Latin indulgere (treat with undue favour, give rein to). A father indulging his child is thus pampering her and when one indulges one’s craving, one allows one’s cravings a free rein. From this indulgent gets the sense of permissive or tolerant (as in, indulgent grandparents). Latin licere means to be […]

Interregnum, Regale, Regnant

Related to Latin regere (to guide, keep straight) is another Latin root rex (or reg-) meaning king. A regal stride or stance is thus ‘king-like’ and regalia literally means (rights and privileges) of the king or queen. Later, regalia also began to be used to refer to the crown, emblems, […]

The Incorrigible Criminal

Adding cor- to Latin regere (to guide, keep straight) gives us corrigere (to correct). A corrigible criminal can thus be corrected or reformed and a corrigible child is receptive of correcting advice. A hardened criminal on the other hand might prove incorrigible and an incorrigible youngster is difficult to control […]

Regime, Regimen, Regiment

The early societies of hunters and herders were often based on communism. But with the appearance of private wealth and the development of towns and cities inhabited by diverse people, some people emerged to ‘guide’ the rest. Gradually guides transformed into governors and governors into rulers. It’s interesting to note […]

Agility, Agency, Agitation

Latin agere means to do, drive or lead and gives us words such as agile (one who can do things easily or is quick-moving/active, as in, he has an agile mind), agility (this gymnast’s agility is exceptional), agent (person or thing that acts or does things, often on behalf of […]

Politic, Impolitic, Apolitical

Political originally meant concerned with policy or administration of the polis. As the competition for the control of city administration increased, people resorted to unfair means and the very word politics became synonymous with power struggle and manipulation (as in play politics or office politics). Politic (originally: constitutional), similarly carries […]

Nebulous or Nuanced

Did you know: Latin nebula (mist or fog), Sanskrit nabhas- (cloud, mists, sky) and Greek nephos (cloud) all come from the same root word. Sanaskrit nabhas- later evolved into nabh (नभ) in Hindi, used, for instance, in these famous lines from Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Madhushala (मधुशाला) तारक मणियों से सज्जित नभ बन जाए मधु का प्याला सीधा […]

No Text Without Context

Did you know: Texture, which we use in phrases such as this cloth has a fine texture to refer to how it ‘feels’ against our skin, derives from the Latin word texere, which means, to weave. Texture is also sometimes used more broadly to mean ‘distinctive quality’, as in the texture of life […]

The Virile Virtuoso

Vir, in Latin, refers to a man and virilis to being manly or worthy of a man. This root later evolved into virile and virility in English, which has come to refer to ‘masculine characteristics’ such as strength and vigour (esp sexual) and is now also sometimes used in expressions such as a […]

Sutra and Sartorial

Latin for sew is suere. If we add the prefix con- to it we get consuere (i.e. to sew together) from which derives the French word couture and the related term haute couture. Earlier couture simply referred to the art of dress making. Now it’s often used specifically to refer […]

Conjugal Bliss: Of Being Yoked Together

The yoke, much like the wheel, is one of those simple yet ingenious inventions that allowed humans to harness the power of domesticated animals – thus proving vital to the development of nascent agriculture, transport and trade. The ancient Indians called yoke yugam, the Greeks called it zugon and the […]

Vertigo and Acrophobia

Morbid fear of heights, especially when it is irrational (for e.g. when one is not particularly high up or is safely secured) – is often and incorrectly referred to as vertigo – perhaps, at least in parts, due to the popularity of Alfred Hitchcock‘s psychological thriller film by the same […]