The Century Vocabulary Builder
Creever & Bachelor
Part 2 out of 7
The business street of the village
A cabin in the mountains
The office of a man approaching bankruptcy
The Potters' backyard
The second-hand store
The ugliest man.
For general accuracy and vividness:
The signs of an approaching storm
The arrival of the train
Mail-time at the village post office
The crowd at the auction
The old fishing-boat
A country fair (or a circus)
The inside of a theater (or a church)
The funeral procession
The political rally
<4. Mastery through Adapting Discourse to Audience>
For convenience, we have heretofore assumed that ideas and emotions,
together with such expression of them as shall be in itself adequate and
faithful, comprise the sole elements that have to be reckoned with in the
use of words in combination. But as you go out into life you will find
that these things, however complete they may seem, are not in practice
sufficient. Another factor--the human--must have its place in our
equation. You do not speak or write in a vacuum. Your object, your
ultimate object at least, in building up your vocabulary is to address men
and women; and among men and women the varieties of training, of stations,
of outlooks, of sentiments, of prejudices, of caprices are infinite. To
gain an unbiased hearing you must take persistent cognizance of flesh and
In adapting discourse to audience you must have a supple and attentive
mind and an impressionable and swiftly responsive temperament as well as a
wide, accurate, and flexible vocabulary. Unless you are a fool, a zealot,
or an incorrigible adventurer, you will not broach a subject at all to
which your hearers feel absolute indifference or hostility. Normally you
should pick a subject capable of interesting them. In presenting it you
should pay heed to both your matter and your manner. You should emphasize
for your listeners those aspects of the subject which they will most
respond to or most need to hear, whether or not the phases be such as you
would emphasize with other auditors. You should also speak in the fashion
you deem most effective with them, whether or not it be one to which your
own natural instincts prompt you.
Let us say you are discussing conditions in Europe. You must speak in one
way to the man who has traveled and in an entirely different way to the
man who has never gone abroad--in one way to the well-read man, in an
entirely different way to the ignoramus. Let us say you are discussing
urban life, urban problems. You must speak in one way to the man who lives
in the city, in another to the man who lives in the country. Let us say
you are discussing the labor problem. You must speak in one way to
employers, in another to employees, possibly in a third to men thrown out
of jobs, possibly in a fourth to the general public. Let us say you are
discussing education, or literature, or social tendencies, or mechanical
principles or processes, or some great enterprise or movement. You must
speak in one way to cultivated hearers and in another to men in the
street, and if you are a specialist addressing specialists, you will cut
the garment of your discourse to their particular measure.
The same principle holds regardless of whether you expound, analyze,
argue, recount, or describe. You must always keep a finger on the mental
or emotional pulse of those whom you address. But your problem varies
slightly with the form of discourse you adopt. In explanation, analysis,
and argument the chief barriers you encounter are likely to be those of
the mind; you must make due allowance for the intellectual limitations of
your auditors, though many who have capacity enough may for some cause or
other be unreceptive to ideas. In description you must reckon with the
imaginative faculty, with the possibility that your hearers cannot
visualize what you tell them--and you must make your words brief. In
narration you must vivify emotional torpor; but lest in your efforts to
inveigle boredom you yourself should induce it, you must have a wary eye
for signals of distress.
EXERCISE - Adapting
1. Explain to (a) a rich man, (b) a poor man the blessings of poverty.
2. Discuss before (a) farmers, (b) merchants the idea that farmers
(merchants) make a great deal of money.
3. Explain to (a) the initiate, (b) the uninitiate some piece of
mechanism, or some phase of a human activity or interest, which you know
at first hand and regarding which technical (or at least not generally
understood) terms are employed. (The exact subject depends, of course,
upon your own observation or experience; you are sure to be familiar
with something that most people know hazily, if at all. Bank clerk,
chess player, bridge player, stenographer, journalist, truck driver,
backwoods-man, mechanic--all have special knowledge of one kind or another
and can use the particular terms it calls for.)
4. Explain to (a) a supporter of the winning team, (b) a supporter of the
losing team why the baseball game came out as it did.
5. Discuss before (a) a Democratic, (b) a Republican audience your reasons
for voting the Democratic (Republican) ticket in the coming election.
6. Explain to (a) your own family, (b) the man who can lend you the money,
why you wish to mortgage your house (any piece of property).
7. Explain to the owner of an ill-conducted business why he should sell
it, and to a shrewd business man why he should buy it.
8. Discuss before (a) old men, (b) young men, (c) women the desirability
of men's giving up their seats in street cars to women. (Also modify the
question by requiring only young men to give up their seats, and then only
to old people of either sex, to sick people, or to people with children in
9. Explain the necessity of restricting immigration to (a) prospective
immigrants, (b) immigrants just granted admission to the country, (c)
persons just refused admission, (d) exploiters of cheap labor, (e)
10. Discuss the taking out of a life insurance policy with (a) a man not
interested, (b) a man interested but uncertain what a policy is like, (c)
a man interested and informed but doubtful whether he can spare the money,
(d) the man's wife (his prospective beneficiary), whose desires will have
weight with him.
11. Discuss the necessity of a reduction in wages with (a) unscrupulous
employers, (b) kind-hearted employers, (c) the employees.
12. Advocate higher public school taxes before (a) men with children, (b)
men without children.
13. Advocate a further regulation of the speed of automobiles before (a)
automobile-owners, (b) non-owners.
14. Urge advocacy of some reform upon (a) a clergyman, (b) a candidate for
15. Combat before (a) advertisers, (b) a public audience, (c) a lawmaking
body, the defacement of landscapes by advertising billboards.
16. Describe life in the slums before (a) a rural audience, (b) charitable
persons, (c) rich people in the cities who know little of conditions among
17. Describe the typical evening of a spendthrift in a city to (a) a poor
man, (b) a miser, (c) the spendthrift's mother, (d) his employer, (e) a
detective who suspects him of theft.
18. Describe the city of Washington (any other city) to (a) a countryman,
(b) a traveler who has not visited this particular city. (If it is
Washington you describe, describe it also for children in whom you wish to
19. Give (a) a youngster, (b) an experienced angler an account of your
20. Recount for (a) a baseball fan, (b) a girl who has never seen a game,
the occurrences of the second half of the ninth inning.
21. Describe a fight for (a) your friends, (b) a jury.
22. Narrate for (a) children, (b) an audience of adults some historical
23. Give (a) your partner, (b) a reporter an account of a business
transaction you have just completed.
24. Narrate an escapade for (a) your father, (b) your cronies in response
to a toast at a banquet with them.
INDIVIDUAL WORDS: AS VERBAL CELIBATES
Thus far we have studied words as grouped together into phrases,
sentences, paragraphs, whole compositions. We must now enter upon a new
phase of our efforts to extend our vocabulary. We must study words as
You may think the order of our study should be reversed. No great harm
would result if it were. The learning of individual words and the
combining of them into sentences are parallel rather than successive
processes. In our babyhood we do not accumulate a large stock of terms
before we frame phrases and clauses. And our attainment of the power of
continuous iteration does not check our inroads among individual words. We
do the two things simultaneously, each contributing to our success with
the other. There are plenty of analogies for this procedure. A good
baseball player, for instance, tirelessly studies both the minutiae of his
technique (as how to hold a bat, how to stand at the plate) and the big
combinations and possibilities of the game. A good musician keeps
unremitting command over every possible touch of each key and at the same
time seeks sweeping mastery over vast and complex harmonies. So we, if we
would have the obedience of our vocabularies, dare not lag into desultory
attention to either words when disjoined or words as potentially combined
into the larger units of thought and feeling.
We might therefore consider either the individuals first or the groups
first. But the majority of speakers and writers pay more heed to rough
general substance than to separate instruments and items. Hence we have
thought best to begin where most work is going on already--with words in
As you turn from the groups to the individuals, you must understand that
your labors will be onerous and detailed. You must not assume that by
nature all words are much alike, any more than you assume that all men are
much alike. Of course the similarities are many and striking, and the
fundamental fact is that a word is a word as a man is a man. But you will
be no adept in handling either the one or the other until your knowledge
goes much farther than this. Let us glance first at the human variations.
Each man has his own business, and conducts it in his own way--a way never
absolutely matched with that of any other mortal being. All this you may
see. But besides the man's visible employment, he may be connected in
devious fashions with a score of enterprises the public knows nothing
about. Furthermore he leads a private life (again not precisely
corresponding to that of any other), has his hobbies and aversions, is
stamped with a character, a temperament of his own. In short, though in
thousands of respects he is like his fellows, he has after all no human
counterpart; he is a distinct, individual self. To know him, to use him,
to count upon his service in whatsoever contingency it might bestead you,
you must deem him something more than a member of the great human family.
You must cultivate him personally, cultivate him without weariness or
stint, and undergo inconvenience in so doing.
Even so with a word. Commonplace enough it may seem. But it has its
peculiar characteristics, its activities undisclosed except to the
curious, its subtle inclinations, its repugnances, its latent
potentialities. There is no precise duplicate for it in all the wide
domain of language. To know it intimately and thoroughly, to be on
entirely free terms with it, to depend upon it just so far as dependence
is safe, to have a sure understanding of what it can do and what it
cannot, you must arduously cultivate it. Words, like people, yield
themselves to the worthy. They hunger for friendship--and lack the last
barrier of reserve which hedges all human communion. Thus, linguistically
speaking, you must search out the individuals. You must step aside from
your way for the sake of a new acquaintance; in conversations, in sermons,
in addresses, in letters, in journalistic columns, in standard literature
you must grasp the stranger by the hand and look him straight in the eye.
Nor must you treat cavalierly the words you know already. You must study
them afresh; you must learn them over and learn them better; you must come
to understand them, not only for what they are, but for what they will do.
What, then, is your first task? Somebody has laid down the injunction--
and, as always when anything is enjoined, others have given it currency--
that each day you should learn two new words. So be it,--but which two?
The first two in the dictionary, or hitherto left untouched in your
systematic conquest of the dictionary? The first two you hear spoken? The
first two that stare at you from casual, everyday print? The first two you
can ferret from some technical jargon, some special department of human
interest or endeavor? In any of these ways you may obey the behest of
these mentors. But are not such ways arbitrary, haphazard? And suppose,
after doing your daily stint, you should encounter a word it behooves you
to know. What then? Are you to sulk, to withhold yourself from further
exertion on the plea of a vocabulary-builder's eight-hour day?
To adopt any of the methods designated would be like resolving to invest
in city lots and then buying properties as you encountered them, with no
regard for expenditure, for value in general, or for special
serviceability to you. Surely such procedure would be unbusinesslike. If
you pay out good money, you meditate well whether that which you receive
for it shall compensate you. Likewise if you devote time and effort to
gaining ownership of words, you should exercise foresight in determining
whether they will yield you commensurate returns.
What, then, is the principle upon which, at the outset, you should
proceed? What better than to insure the possession of the words regarding
which you know this already, that you need them and should make them
The natural way, and the best, to begin is with an analysis of your own
vocabulary. You are of course aware that of the enormous number of words
contained in the dictionary relatively few are at your beck and bidding.
But probably you have made no attempt to ascertain the nature and extent
of your actual linguistic resources. You should make an inventory of the
stock on hand before sending in your order for additional goods.
You will speedily discover that your vocabulary embraces several distinct
classes of words. Of these the first consists of those words which you
have at your tongue's end--which you can summon without effort and use in
your daily speech. They are old verbal friends. Numbered with them, to be
sure, there may be few with senses and connotations you are ignorant of--
friends of yours, let us say, with a reservation. Even these you may woo
with a little care into uncurbed fraternal abandon. With the exception of
these few, you know the words of the first class so well that without
thinking about it at all you may rely upon their giving you, the moment
you need them, their untempered, uttermost service. You need be at no
further pains about them. They are yours already.
A second class of words is made up of those you speak on occasions either
special or formal--occasions when you are trying, perhaps not to show off,
but at least to put your best linguistic foot foremost. Some of them have
a meaning you are not quite sure of; some of them seem too ostentatious
for workaday purposes; some of them you might have been using but somehow
have not. Words of this class are not your bosom friends. They are your
speaking acquaintance, or perhaps a little better than that. You must
convert them into friends, into prompt and staunch supporters in time of
need. That is to say, you must put them into class one. In bringing about
this change of footing, you yourself must make the advances. You must say,
Go to, I will bear them in mind as I would a person I wished to cultivate.
When occasion rises, you must introduce them into your talk. You will feel
a bit shy about it, for introductions are difficult to accomplish
gracefully; you will steal a furtive glance at your hearer perchance, and
another at the word itself, as you would when first labeling a man "my
friend Mr. Blank." But the embarrassment is momentary, and there is no
other way. Assume a friendship if you have it not, and presently the
friendship will be real. You must be steadfast in intention; for the words
that have held aloof from you are many, and to unloose all at once on a
single victim would well-nigh brand you criminal. But you will make sure
headway, and will be conscious besides that no other class of words in the
language will so well repay the mastering. For these are words you
_do_ use, and need to use more, and more freely--words your own
experience stamps as valuable, if not indeed vital, to you.
The third class of words is made up of those you do not speak at all, but
sometimes write. They are acquaintance one degree farther removed than
those of the second class. Your task is to bring them into class two and
thence into class one--that is, to introduce them into your more formal
speech, and from this gradually into your everyday speech.
The fourth class of words is made up of those you recognize when you hear
or read them, but yourself never employ. They are acquaintance of a very
distant kind. You nod to them, let us say, and they to you; but there the
intercourse ends. Obviously, they are not to be brought without
considerable effort into a position of tried and trusted friendship. And
shall we be absolutely honest?--some of them may not justify such
assiduous care as their complete subjugation would call for. But even
these you should make your feudal retainers. You should constrain them to
membership in class three, and at your discretion in class two.
Apart from the words in class four, you will not to this point have made
actual additions to your vocabulary. But you will have made your
vocabulary infinitely more serviceable. You will be like a man with a host
of friends where before, when his necessities were sorest, he found (along
with some friends) many distant and timid acquaintance.
Outside the bounds of your present vocabulary altogether are the words you
encounter but do not recognize, except (it may be) dimly and uncertainly.
Some counselors would have you look up all such words in a dictionary. But
the task would be irksome. Moreover those who prescribe it are loath to
perform it themselves. Your own candid judgment in the matter is the
safest guide. If the word is incidental rather than vital to the meaning
of the passage that contains it, and if it gives promise of but rarely
crossing your vision again, you should deign it no more than a civil
glance. Plenty of ways will be left you to expend time wisely in the
service of your vocabulary.
EXERCISE - Analysis
1. Make a list of the words in class two of your own vocabulary, and
similar lists for classes three and four. (To make a list for class one
would be but a waste of time.) Procure if you can for this purpose a
loose-leaf notebook, and in the several lists reserve a full page for each
letter of the alphabet as used initially. Do not scamp the lists, though
their proper preparation consume many days, many weeks. Try to make them
really exhaustive. Their value will be in proportion to their accuracy and
2. Con the words in each list carefully and repeatedly. Your task is to
transfer these words into a more intimate list--those in class four into
class three, those in three into two, those in two into one. You are then
to promote again the words in the lower classes, except that (if your
judgment so dictates) you may leave the new class three wholly or
partially intact. To carry out this exercise properly you must keep these
words in mind, make them part and parcel of your daily life. (For a
special device for bringing them under subjection, see the next exercise.)
3. To write a word down helps you to remember it. That is why the normal
way to transfer a word from class four into class two is to put it
temporarily into the intermediary class, three; you first _see_ or
_hear_ the word, next _write_ it, afterwards _speak_ it.
The mere writing down of your lists has probably done much to bring the
words written into the circuit of your memory, where you can more readily
lay hold of them. Also it has fortified your confidence in using them; for
to write a word out, letter by letter, makes you surer that you have its
right form. With many of your words you will likely have no more trouble;
they will be at hand, anxious for employment, and you may use them
according to your need. But some of your words will still stubbornly
withhold themselves from memory. Weed these out from your lists, make a
special list of them, copy it frequently, construct short sentences into
which the troublesome words fit. By dint of writing the words so often you
will soon make them more tractable.
4. Make a fifth list of words--those you hear or see printed, do not
understand the meaning of, but yet feel you should know. Obtain and
confirm a grasp of them by the successive processes used with words in the
Another means of buttressing your command of your present vocabulary is to
define words you use or are familiar with.
Do not bewilder yourself with words (like _and, the_) which call for
ingenuity in handling somewhat technical terms, or with words (like
_thing, affair, condition_) which loosely cover a multitude of
meanings. (You may, however, concentrate your efforts upon some one
meaning of words in the latter group.) Select words with a fairly definite
signification, and express this as precisely as you can. You may
afterwards consult a dictionary for means of checking up on what you have
done. But in consulting it think only of idea, not of form. You are not
training yourself in dictionary definitions, but in the sharpness and
clarity of your understanding of meanings.
About the only rule to be laid down regarding the definition of verbs,
adjectives, and adverbs is that you must not define a word in terms of
itself. Thus if you define _grudgingly_ as "in a grudging manner,"
you do not dissipate your hearer's uncertainty as to what the word means.
If you define it as "unwillingly" or "in a manner that shows reluctance to
yield possession," you give your hearer a clear-cut idea in no wise
dependent upon his ability to understand the word that puzzled him in the
Normally, in defining a noun you should assign the thing named to a
general class, and to its special limits within that class; in other
words, you should designate its genus and species. You must take care to
differentiate the species from all others comprised within the genus.
You will, in most instances, first indicate the genus and then the
species, but at your convenience you may indicate the species first. Thus
if you affirm, "A cigar is smoking-tobacco in the form of a roll of
tobacco-leaves," you name the genus first and later the characteristics of
the species. You have given a satisfactory definition. If on the other
hand you affirm, "A cigar is a roll of tobacco-leaves meant for smoking,"
you first designate the species and then merely imply the genus. Again you
have given a satisfactory definition; for you have permitted no doubt that
the genus is smoking-tobacco, and have prescribed such limits for the
species as exclude tobacco intended for a pipe or a cigarette.
In defining nouns by the genus-and-species method, restrict the genus to
the narrowest possible bounds. You will thus save the need for exclusions
later. Had you in your first definition of a cigar begun by saying that it
is tobacco, rather than smoking-tobacco, you would have violated this
principle; and you would have had to amplify the rest of your definition
in order to exclude chewing-tobacco, snuff, and the like.
EXERCISE - Definition
1. Define words of your own choosing in accordance with the principles
laid down in the preceding section of the text.
2. Define the following adjectives, adverbs, and verbs:
Miserable Rebuke Wise
Angrily Rapidly Boundless
Swim Paint Whiten
Haughtily Surly Causelessly
3. So define the following nouns as to prevent any possible confusion with
the nouns following them in parentheses:
Wages (salary) Ride (drive)
Planet (star) Truck (automobile)
Watch (clock) Reins (lines)
Jail (penitentiary) Iron (steel)
Vegetable (fruit) Timber (lumber)
Flower (weed) Rope (string)
Hail (sleet, snow) Stock (bond)
Newspaper (magazine) Street car (railway coach)
Cloud (fog) Revolver (rifle, pistol, etc.)
Mountain (hill) Creek (river)
Letter (postal card)
4. While remembering that the following words are of broad signification
and mean different things to different people, define them according to
their meaning to you:
Honor Good manners
Generosity A good while
Charity A little distance
Modesty Long ago
So much for the words which are already yours, or which you can make yours
through your own unaided efforts. For convenience we have grouped with
them some words of a nature more baffling--words of which you know perhaps
but a single aspect rather than the totality, or upon which you can obtain
but a feeble and precarious grip. These slightly known words belong more
to the class now to be considered than to that just disposed of. For we
have now to deal with words over which you can establish no genuine
rulership unless you have outside help.
You must own a dictionary, have it by you, consult it carefully and often.
Do not select one for purchasing upon the basis of either mere bigness or
cheapness. If you do, you may make yourself the owner of an out-of-date
reprint from stereotyped plates. What to choose depends partly upon
personal preference, partly upon whether your need is for
comprehensiveness or compression.
If you are a scholar, _Murray's_ many-volumed _New English
Dictionary_ may be the publication for you; but if you are an ordinary
person, you will probably content yourself with something less expensive
and exhaustive. You will find the _Century Dictionary and
Cyclopedia_, in twelve volumes, or _Webster's New International
Dictionary_ an admirable compilation. The _New Standard
Dictionary_ will also prove useful. All in all, if you can afford it,
you should provide yourself with one or the other of these three large and
authoritative, but not too inclusive, works. Of the smaller lexicons
_Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Webster's Secondary School
Dictionary_, the _Practical Standard Dictionary_, and the _Desk
Standard Dictionary_ answer most purposes well.
A dictionary is not for show. You must learn to use it. What ordinarily
passes for use is in fact abuse. Wherein? Let us say that you turn to your
lexicon for the meaning of a word. Of the various definitions given, you
disregard all save the one which enables the word to make sense in its
present context, or which fits your preconception of what the word should
stand for. Having engaged in this solemn mummery, you mentally record the
fact that you have been squandering your time, and enter into a compact
with yourself that no more will you so do. At best you have tided over a
transitory need, or have verified a surmise. You have not truly
_learned_ the word, brought it into a vassal's relationship with you,
so fixed it in memory that henceforth, night or day, you can take it up
like a familiar tool.
This procedure is blundering, farcical, futile, incorrect. To suppose you
have learned a word by so cursory a glance at its resources is like
supposing you have learned a man through having had him render you some
temporary and trivial service, as lending you a match or telling you the
time of day. To acquaint yourself thoroughly with a word--or a man--
involves effort, application. You must go about the work seriously,
One secret of consulting a dictionary properly lies in finding the
primary, the original meaning of the word. You must go to the source. If
the word is of recent formation, and is native rather than naturalized
English, you have only to look through the definitions given. Such a word
will not cause you much trouble. But if the word is derived from primitive
English or from a foreign language, you must seek its origin, not in one
of the numbered subheads of the definition, but in an etymological record
you will perceive within brackets or parentheses. Here you will find the
Anglo-Saxon (Old English), Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian,
Scandinavian, or other word from which sprang the word you are studying,
and along with this authentic original you may find cognate words in other
languages. These you may examine if you care to observe their resemblance
to your word, but the examination is not necessary. It could teach you
only the earlier or other _forms_ of your word, whereas what you are
after is the original _meaning_. This too is set down within the
brackets; if your search is in earnest, you cannot possible miss it. And
having discovered this original meaning, you must get it in mind; it is
one of the really significant things about the word. Your next step is to
find the present import of the word. Look, therefore, through the modern
definitions. Of these there may be too many, with too delicate shadings in
thought between them, for you to keep all clearly in mind. In fact you
need not try. Consider them of course, but out of them seek mainly the
drift, the central meaning. After a little practice you will be able to
disengage it from the others.
You now know the original sense of the word and its central signification
today. The two may be identical; they may be widely different; but through
reflection or study of the entire definition you will establish some sort
of connection between them. When you have done this, you have mastered the
word. From the two meanings you can surmise the others, wherever and
whenever encountered; for the others are but outgrowths and applications
One warning will not be amiss. You must not suppose that the terms used in
defining a word are its absolute synonyms, or may be substituted for it
indiscriminately. You must develop a feeling for _the limits_ of the
word, so that you may perceive where its likeness to the other terms
leaves off and its unlikeness begins. Thus if one of the terms employed in
defining _command_ is _control_, you must not assume that the
two words are interchangeable; you must not say, for instance, that the
captain controlled his men to present arms.
Such, abstractly stated, is the way to look up a word in the dictionary.
Let us now take a concrete illustration. Starting with the word
_tension_, let us ascertain what we can about it in the _Century
Dictionary and Cyclopedia_. Our first quest is the original meaning.
For this we consult the bracketed matter. There we meet the French,
Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian kinsmen of the word, and learn that they
are traceable to a common ancestor, the Latin _tensio(n)_, which
comes from the Latin verb _tendere_. The meaning of _tensio(n)_
is given as "stretching," that of _tendere_ as "stretch," "extend."
Thus we know of the original word that in form it closely resembles the
modern word, and that in meaning it involves the idea of stretching.
What is the central meaning of the word today? To acquaint ourselves with
this we must run through the definitions listed. Here (in condensed form)
they are. (1) The act of stretching. (2) In _mechanics_, stress or
the force by which something is pulled. (3) In _physics_, a
constrained condition of the particles of bodies. (4) In _statical
electricity_, surface-density. (5) Mental strain, stress, or
application. (6) A strained state of any kind, as political or social. (7)
An attachment to a sewing-machine for regulating the strain of the thread.
Now of these definitions (2), (3), (4), and (7) are too highly specialized
to conduct us, of themselves, into the highway of the word's meaning. They
bear out, however, the evidence of (1), (5), and (6), which have as their
core the idea of stretching, or of the strain which stretching produces.
We must now lay the original meaning alongside the central meaning today,
in order to draw our conclusions. We perceive that the two meanings
correspond. Yet by prying into them we make out one marked difference
between them. The original meaning is literal, the modern largely
figurative. To be sure, the figure has been so long used that it is now
scarcely felt as a figure; its force and definiteness have departed.
Consequently we may speak of being on a tension without having in mind at
all a comparison of our nervous system with a stretched garment, or with
an outreaching arm, or with a tightly strung musical instrument, or with a
What, then, is the net result of our investigation? Simply this, that
_tension_ means stretching, and that the stretching may be conceived
either literally or figuratively. With these two facts in mind, we need
not (unless we are experts in mechanics, physics, statical electricity, or
the sewing-machine) go to the trouble of committing the special senses of
_tension_; for should occasion bid, we can--from our position at the
heart of the word--easily grasp their rough purport. And from other
persons than specialists no more would be required.
EXERCISE - Dictionary
For each of the following words find (a) the original meaning, (b) the
central meaning today. (Other words are given in the exercises at the end
of this chapter.)
Bias Supersede Sly
Aversion Capital Meerschaum
Extravagant Travel Alley
Concur Travail Fee
Attention Apprehend Superb
Magnanimity Lewd Adroit
Altruism Instigation Quite
Benevolence Complexion Urchin
Charity Bishop Thoroughfare
Unction Starve Naughty
Speed Cunning Moral
Success Decent Antic
Crafty Handsome Savage
Usury Solemn Uncouth
Costume Parlor Window
Presumption Bombastic Colleague
Petty Vixen Alderman
Queen Doctor Engage
To thread with minute fidelity the mazes of a word's former history is the
task of the linguistic scholar; our province is the practical and the
present-day. But words, like men, are largely what they are because of
what they have been; and to turn a gossip's eye upon their past is to
procure for ourselves, often, not only enlightenment but also
entertainment. This fact, though brought out in some part already,
deserves separate and fuller discussion.
In the first place, curiosity as to words' past experience enables us to
read with keener understanding the literature of preceding ages. Of course
we should not, even so, go farther back than about three centuries. To
read anything earlier than Shakespeare would require us to delve too
deeply into linguistic bygones. And to read Shakespeare himself requires
effort--but rewards it. Let us see how an insight into words will help us
to interpret the Seven Ages of Man (Appendix 4).
In line 2 of this passage appears the word _merely_. In Shakespeare's
time it frequently meant "altogether" or "that and nothing else." As here
used, it may be taken to mean this, or to have its modern meaning, or to
stand in meaning midway between the two and to be suggestive of both;
there is no way of determining precisely. In line 12 the word _pard_
means leopard. In line 18 _saws_ means "sayings" (compare the phrase
"an old saw"); _modern_ means "moderate," "commonplace";
_instances_ means what we mean by it today, "examples,"
"illustrations." (Line 18 as a whole gives us a vivid sense of the
justice's readiness to speak sapiently, after the manner of justices, and
to trot out his trite illustrations on the slightest provocation.) The
word _pantaloon_ in line 20 is interesting. The patron saint of
Venice was St. Pantaleon (the term is from Greek, means "all-lion," and
possibly refers to the lion of St. Mark's Cathedral). _Pantaloon_
came therefore to signify (1) a Venetian, (2) a garment worn by Venetians
and consisting of breeches and stockings in one. The second sense is
preserved, substantially, in our term _pantaloons_. The first sense
led to the use of the word (in the mouths of the Venetians' enemies) for
"buffoon" and then (in early Italian comedy) for "a lean and foolish old
man." It is this stock figure of the stage that Shakespeare evokes. In
line 22 _hose_ means the covering for a man's body from his waist to
his nether-stock. (Compare the present meaning: a covering for the feet
and the _lower_ part of the legs.) In line 27 _mere_ means
"absolute." In line 28 _sans_ means "without."
Of the words we have examined, only _sans_ is obsolete, though
_pard_, _saws_, and _pantaloon_ are perhaps not entirely
familiar. That is, only one word in the passage, so far as its outward
form goes, is completely alien to our knowledge. But how different the
matter stands when we consider meanings! The words are words of today, but
the meanings are the meanings of Shakespeare. We should be baffled and
misled as to the dramatist's thought if we had made no inquiries into the
In the second place, to look beyond the present into the more remote
signification of words will put us on our guard against the reappearance
of submerged or half-forgotten meanings. We have seen that the word
_tension_ may be used without conscious connection with the idea of
stretching. But if we incautiously place the word in the wrong
environment, the idea will be resurrected to our undoing. We associate
_ardor_ with strong and eager desire. For ordinary purposes this
conception of the word suffices. But _ardor_ is one of the children
of fire; its primary sense is "burning" (compare _arson_). Therefore
to pronounce the three vocables "overflowing with ardor" is to mix figures
of speech absurdly. We should fall into a similar mistake if we said
"brilliant fluency," and into a mistake of another kind (that of tautology
or repetition of an idea) if we said "heart-felt cordiality," for
_cordiality_ means "feelings of the heart." _Appreciate_ means
"set a (due) value on." We may perhaps say "really appreciate," but
scrupulous writers and speakers do not say "appreciate very much." A
_humor_ (compare humid) was once a "moisture"; then one of the four
moistures or liquids that entered into the human constitution and by the
proportions of their admixture determined human temperament; next a man's
outstanding temperamental quality (the thing itself rather than the cause
of it); then oddity which people may laugh at; then the spirit of laughter
and good nature in general. Normally we do not connect the idea of
moisture with the word. We may even speak of "a dry humor." But we should
not say "now and then a dry humor crops out," for then too many buried
meanings lie in the same grave for the very dead to rest peacefully
Even apart from reading old literature and from having, when you use
words, no ghosts of their pristine selves rise up to damn you, you may
profit from a knowledge of how the meaning of a term has evolved. For
example, you will meet many tokens and reminders of the customs and
beliefs of our ancestors. Thus _coxcomb_ carries you back to the days
when every court was amused by a "fool" whose head was decked with a
cock's comb; _crestfallen_ takes you back to cockfighting; and
_lunatic_ ("moonstruck"), _disaster_ ("evil star"), and "thank
your lucky stars" plant you in the era of superstition when human fate was
governed by heavenly bodies.
Further, you will perceive the poetry of words. Thus to _wheedle is_
to wag the tail and to _patter_ is to hurry through one's prayers
(paternoster). What a picture of the frailty of men even in their holiness
flashes on us from that word _patter! Breakfast is_ the breaking of
the fast of the night. _Routine_ (the most humdrum of words) is
travel along a way already broken. _Goodby _is an abridged form of
"God be with you." _Dilapidated_ is fallen stone from stone.
_Daisy_ is "the day's eye," _nasturtium_ (from its spicy smell)
"the nose-twister," _dandelion_ "the tooth of the lion." _A
lord_ is a bread-guard.
You will perceive, moreover, that many a dignified word once involved the
same idea as some unassuming or even semi-disreputable word or expression
involves now. Thus there is little or no difference in figure between
understanding a thing and getting on to it; between averting something
(turning it aside) and sidetracking it; between excluding (shutting out)
and closing the door to; between degrading (putting down a step) and
taking down a notch; between accumulating (heaping up) and making one's
pile; between taking umbrage (the shadow) and being thrown in the shade;
between ejaculating and throwing out a remark; between being on a tension
and being highstrung; between being vapid and having lost steam; between
insinuating (winding in) and worming in; between investigating and
tracking; between instigating (goading on or into) and prodding up;
between being incensed (compare _incendiary_) and burning with
indignation; between recanting (unsinging) and singing another tune;
between ruminating (chewing) and smoking in one's pipe. Nor is there much
difference in figure between sarcasm (a tearing of the flesh) and taking
the hide off; between sinister (left-handed) and backhanded; between
preposterous (rear end foremost) and cart before the horse; between salary
(salt-money, an allowance for soldiers) and pin-money; between pedigree
(crane's foot, from the appearance of genealogical diagrams) and crowsfeet
(about the eyes); between either precocious (early cooked), apricot (early
cooked), crude (raw), or recrudescence (raw again) and half-baked. To
ponder is literally to weigh; to apprehend an idea is to take hold of it;
to deviate is to go out of one's way; to congregate is to flock together;
to assail or insult a man is to jump on him; to be precipitate is to go
head foremost; to be recalcitrant is to kick.
Again, you will perceive that many words once had more literal or more
definitely concrete meanings than they have now. To corrode is to gnaw
along with others, to differ is to carry apart, to refuse is to pour back.
Polite is polished, absurd is very deaf, egregious is taken from the
common herd, capricious is leaping about like a goat, cross (disagreeable)
is shaped like a cross, wrong is wrung (or twisted). Crisscross is
Christ's cross, attention is stretching toward, expression is pressed out,
dexterity is right-handedness, circumstances are things standing around,
an innuendo is nodding, a parlor is a room to talk in, a nostril is that
which pierces the nose (thrill means pierce), vinegar is sharp wine, a
stirrup is a rope to mount by, a pastor is a shepherd, a marshal is a
caretaker of horses, a constable is a stable attendant, a companion is a
sharer of one's bread.
On the other hand, you will find that many words were once more general in
import than they have since become. _Fond_ originally meant foolish,
then foolishly devoted, then (becoming more general again) devoted.
_Nostrum_ meant our own, then a medicine not known by other
physicians, then a quack remedy. _Shamefast_ meant confirmed in
modesty (shame); then through a confusion of _fast_ with
_faced_, a betrayal through the countenance of self-consciousness or
guilt. _Counterfeit_ meant a copy or a picture, then an unlawful
duplication, especially of a coin. _Lust_ meant pleasure of any sort,
then inordinate sexual pleasure or desire. _Virtue_ (to trace only a
few of its varied activities) meant manliness, then the quality or
attribute peculiar to true manhood (with the Romans this was valor), then
any admirable quality, then female chastity. _Pen_ meant a feather,
then a quill to write with, then an instrument for writing used in the
same way as a quill. A _groom_ meant a man, then a stableman (in
_bridegroom_, however, it preserves the old signification).
_Heathen_ (heath-dweller), _pagan_ (peasant), and _demon_
(a divinity) had in themselves no iniquitous savor until early Christians
formed their opinion of the people inaccessible to them and the spirits
incompatible with the unity of the Godhead. Words betokening future
happenings or involving judgment tend to take a special cast from the
fears and anxieties men feel when their fortune is affected or their
destiny controlled by external forces. Thus _omen_ (a prophetic
utterance or sign) and _portent_ (a stretching forward, a foreseeing,
a foretelling) might originally be either benign or baleful; but nowadays,
especially in the adjectival forms _ominous_ and _portentous_,
they wear a menacing hue. Similarly _criticism_, _censure_, and
_doom_, all of them signifying at first mere judgment, have come--the
first in popular, the other two in universal, usage--to stand for adverse
judgment. The old sense of _doom_ is perpetuated, however, in
_Doomsday_, which means the day on which we are all to be, not
necessarily sent to hell, but judged.
You will furthermore perceive that the exaggerated affirmations people are
always indulging in have led to the weakening of many a word. _Fret_
meant eat; formerly to say that a man was fretting was to use a vigorous
comparison--to have the man devoured with care. _Mortify_ meant to
kill, then killed with embarrassment, then embarrassed. _Qualm_ meant
death, but our qualms of conscience have degenerated into mere twinges.
Oaths are shorn of their might by overuse; _confound_, once a
tremendous malinvocation, may now fall from the lips of respectable young
ladies, and _fie_, in its time not a whit less dire, would be
scarcely out of place in even a cloister. Words designating immediacy come
to have no more strength than soup-meat seven times boiled.
_Presently_ meant in the present, _soon_ and _by and by_
meant forthwith. How they have lost their fundamental meaning will be
intelligible to you if you have in ordering something been told that it
would be delivered "right away," or in calling for a girl have been told
that she would be down "in a minute."
You will detect in words of another class a deterioration, not in force,
but in character; they have fallen into contemptuous or sinister usage.
Many words for skill or wisdom have been thus debased. _Cunning_
meant knowing, _artful_ meant well acquainted with one's art,
_crafty_ meant proficient in one's craft or calling, _wizard_
meant wise man. The present import of these words shows how men have
assumed that mental superiority must be yoked with moral dereliction or
diabolical aid. Words indicating the generality--indicating ordinary rank
or popular affiliations--have in many instances suffered the same decline.
_Trivial_ meant three ways; it was what might be heard at the
crossroads or on any route you chanced to be traveling, and its value was
accordingly slight. _Lewd_ meant belonging to the laity; it came to
mean ignorant, and then morally reprehensible. _Common_ may be used
to signify ill-bred; _vulgar_ may be and frequently is used to
signify indecent. _Sabotage_, from a French term meaning wooden shoe,
has come to be applied to the deliberate and systematic scamping of one's
work in order to injure one's employer. _Idiot_ (common soldier)
crystallizes the exasperated ill opinion of officers for privates.
(_Infantry_--an organization of military infants--has on the contrary
sloughed its reproach and now enshrines the dignity of lowliness.)
Somewhat akin to words of this type is _knave_, which first meant
boy, then servant, then rogue. Terms for agricultural classes seldom
remain flattering. Besides such epithets as _hayseed_ and
_clodhopper_, contemptuous in their very origin, _villain_ (farm
servant), _churl_ (farm laborer), and _boor_ (peasant) have all
gathered unto themselves opprobrium; _villain_ now involves a
scoundrelly spirit, _churl_ a contumelious manner, _boor_ a
bumptious ill-breeding; not one of these words is any longer confined in
its application to a particular social rank. Terms for womankind are soon
tainted. _Wench_ meant at first nothing worse than girl or daughter,
_quean_ than woman, _hussy_ than housewife; even _woman is_
generally felt to be half-slighting. Terms affirming unacquaintance with
sin, or abstention from it, tend to be quickly reft of what praise they
are fraught with; none of us likes to be saluted as _innocent,
guileless_, or _unsophisticated_, and to be dubbed _silly_ no
longer makes us feel blessed. Besides these and similar classes of words,
there are innumerable individual terms that have sadly lost caste. An
_imp_ was erstwhile a scion; it then became a boy, and then a
mischievous spirit. A _noise_ might once be music; it has ceased to
enjoy such possibilities. To live near a piano that is constantly banged
is to know how _noise_ as a synonym for music was outlawed.
A backward glance over the history of words repays you in showing you the
words for what they are, and in having them live out their lives before
you. Do you know what an _umpire_ is? He is a non (or num) peer, a
not equal man, an odd man--one therefore who can decide disputes. Do you
know what a _nickname_ is? It is an eke (also) name, a title bestowed
upon one in addition to his proper designation. Do you know what a
_fellow_, etymologically speaking, is? He is a fee-layer, a partner,
a man who lays his fee (property) alongside yours. Do you know that
_matinee_, though awarded to the afternoon, meant primarily a morning
entertainment and has traveled so far from its original sense that we call
an actual before-noon performance a morning matinee? Do you know the past
of such words as _bedlam_, _rival_, _parson_,
_sandwich_, _pocket handkerchief?_ _Bedlam_, a corruption
of _Bethlehem_, was a hospital for the insane in London; it came to
be a general term for great confusion or discord. _Rivals_ were
formerly dwellers--that is, neighboring dwellers--on the bank of a stream;
disputes over water-rights gave the word its present meaning. A
_person_ or _parson_, for the two were the same, was a mask
(literally, that through which the sound came); then an actor representing
a character in a play; then a representative of any sort; then the
representative of the church in a parish. A _sandwich_ was a
stratification of bread and meat by the Earl of Sandwich, who was so loath
to leave the gaming table that he saved time by having food brought him in
this form. A _kerchief_ was originally a cover for the head, and
indeed sundry amiable, old-fashioned grandmothers still use it for this
purpose. Afterward people carried it in their hands and called it a
_handkerchief_; and when they transferred it to the pocket, they
called it a _pocket handkerchief_ or pocket hand head-cover. A
scrutiny of such words should convince you that the reading of the
dictionary, instead of being the dull occupation it is almost proverbially
reputed to be, may become an occupation truly fascinating. For clustered
about the words recorded in the dictionary are inexhaustible riches of
knowledge and of interest for those who have eyes to see.
EXERCISE - Past
1. For each of the following words look up (a) the present meaning if you
do not know it, (b) the original meaning, (c) any other past meanings you
Exposition Corn Cattle
Influence Sanguine Turmoil
Sinecure Waist Shrew
Potential Spaniel Crazy
Character Candidate Indomitable
Infringe Rascal Amorphous
Expend Thermometer Charm
Rather Tall Stepchild
Wedlock Ghostly Haggard
Bridal Pioneer Pluck
Noon Neighbor Jimson weed
Courteous Wanton Rosemary
Cynical Street Plausible
Grocer Husband Allow
Worship Gipsy Insane
Encourage Clerk Disease
Astonish Clergyman Boulevard
Realize Hectoring Canary
Bombast Primrose Diamond
Benedict Walnut Abominate
Piazza Holiday Barbarous
Disgust Heavy Kind
Virtu Nightmare Devil
Gospel Comfort Whist
Mermaid Pearl Onion
Enthusiasm Domino Book
Fanatic Grotesque Cheat
Auction Economy Illegible
Quell Cheap Illegitimate
Sheriff Excelsior Emasculate
Danger Dunce Champion
Shibboleth Calico Adieu
Essay Pontiff Macadamize
Wages Copy Stentorian
Quarantine Puny Saturnine
Buxom Caper Derrick
Indifferent Boycott Mercurial
Gaudy Countenance Poniard
Majority Camera Chattel.
2. The following words are often used loosely today, some because their
original meaning is lost sight of, some because they are confused with
other words. Find for each word (a) what the meaning has been and (b) what
the correct meaning is now.
Nice Awful Atrocious
Grand Horrible Pitiful
Beastly Transpire Claim
Weird Aggravate Uncanny
Demean Gorgeous Elegant
Fine Noisome Mutual (in "a mutual friend")
Lovely Cute Stunning
3. The following sentences from standard English literature illustrate the
use of words still extant and even familiar, in senses now largely or
wholly forgotten. The quotations from the Bible and Shakespeare (all the
Biblical quotations are from the King James Version) date back a little
more than three hundred years, those from Milton a little less than three
hundred years, and those from Gray and Coleridge, respectively, about a
hundred and seventy-five and a hundred and twenty-five years. Go carefully
enough into the past meanings of the italicized words to make sure you
grasp the author's thought.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of
these is _charity_.(1 _Corinthians_ 13:13)
I _prevented_ the dawning of the morning. (_Psalms_ 119:147)
Our eyes _wait_ upon the Lord our God. (_Psalms_ 123:2)
The times of this ignorance God _winked_ at. (_Acts_ 17:30)
And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me; for I perceive that
_virtue_ is gone out of me. (_Luke_ 8:46)
To judge the _quick_ and the dead. (1 _Peter_ 4:5)
Be not wise in your own _conceits_. (_Romans_ 12:16)
In maiden meditation, _fancy_-free. (Shakespeare: _A Midsummer
Is it so _nominated_ in the bond? (Shakespeare: _The Merchant
Would I had met my _dearest_ foe in heaven. (Shakespeare:
The _extravagant_ and _erring_ spirit. (Said of a spirit
wandering from the bounds of purgatory. Shakespeare: _Hamlet_)
The _modesty_ of nature. (Shakespeare: _Hamlet_)
It is a nipping and an _eager_ air. (Shakespeare: _Hamlet_)
Is mortals' chiefest enemy. (Shakespeare: _Macbeth_)
Most _admired_ disorder. (Shakespeare: _Macbeth_)
Upon this _hint_ I spake. (From the account of the wooing of
Desdemona. Shakespeare: _Othello_)
This Lodovico is a _proper_ man. A very handsome man.
Mice and rats and such small _deer_. (Shakespeare: _King Lear_)
This is no sound
That the earth _owes_. (Shakespeare: _The Tempest_)
Every shepherd _tells_ his _tale_. (Milton: _L'Allegro_)
Bring the _rathe_ primrose that forsaken dies. (_Rathe_ survives
only in the comparative form _rather_. Milton: _Lycidas_)
Can honor's voice _provoke_ the silent dust? (Gray: _Elegy_)
The _silly_ buckets on the deck. (Coleridge: _The Ancient
4. In technical usage or particular phrases a former sense of a word may
be embedded like a fossil. The italicized words in the following list
retain special senses of this kind. What do these words as thus used mean?
Can you add to the list?
Might and _main_
Time and _tide_
A bank _teller_
To _tell_ one's _beads_
Aid and _abet_
_Meat_ and drink
Getting off _scot_-free
An _earnest_ of future favors
A _brave_ old hearthstone
_Confusion_ to the enemy!
Giving aid and _comfort_ to the enemy
Without _let_ or hindrance
A _let_ in tennis
Cut to _the quick_
To _sound in_ tort (Legal phrase)
To bid one God_speed_
I had as _lief_ as not
The child _favors_ its parents
On _pain_ of death
I am _bound_ for the Promised Land
To _carry_ a girl to a party (Used only in the South)
To give a person so much _to boot_
5. Each of the subjoined phrases contradicts itself or repeats its idea
clumsily. The key to the difficulty lies in the italicized words. What is
their true meaning?
A weekly _journal_
_Unanimously_ by all
Most _unique_ of all
The other _alternative_
_Endorse_ on the back
_Incredible_ to believe
A _criterion_ to go by
An _appetite_ to eat
_A panacea_ for all ills
_Popular_ with the people
_Biography_ of his life
_Autobiography_ of his own life
A new, _novel_, and ingenious explanation
_Mutual_ dislike for each other
_Omniscient_ knowledge of all subjects
A _material_ growth in mental power
_Peculiar_ faults of his own
Fly into an _ebullient_ passion
To _saturate_ oneself with gold and silver
Elected by _acclamation on_ a secret ballot.
INDIVIDUAL WORDS: AS MEMBERS OF VERBAL FAMILIES
Our investigation into the nature, qualities, and fortunes of single words
must now merge into a study of their family connections. We do not go far
into this new phase of our researches before we perceive that the career
of a word may be very complicated. Most people, if you asked them, would
tell you that an individual word is a causeless entity--a thing that was
never begotten and lacks power to propagate. They would deny the
possibility that its course through the world could be other than
colorless, humdrum. Now words thus immaculately conceived and fatefully
impotent, words that shamble thus listlessly through life, there are. But
many words are born in an entirely normal way; have a grubby boyhood, a
vigorous youth, and a sober maturity; marry, beget sons and daughters,
become old, enfeebled, even senile; and suffer neglect, if not death. In
their advanced age they are exempted by the discerning from enterprises
that call for a lusty agility, but are drafted into service by those to
whom all levies are alike. Indeed in their very prime of manhood their
vicissitudes are such as to make them seem human. Some rise in the world
some sink; some start along the road of grandeur or obliquity, and then
backslide or reform. Some are social climbers, and mingle in company where
verbal dress coats are worn; some are social degenerates, and consort with
the ragamuffins and guttersnipes of language. Some marry at their own
social level, some above them, some beneath; some go down in childless
bachelorhood or leave an unkempt and illegitimate progeny. And if you
trace their own lineage, you will find for some that it is but decent and
middle-class, for some that it is mongrelized and miscegenetic, for some
that it is proud, ancient, yea perhaps patriarchal.
It is contrary to nature for a word, as for a man, to live the life of a
hermit. Through external compulsion or internal characteristics a word has
contacts with its fellows. And its most intimate, most spontaneous
associations are normally with its own kindred.
In our work hitherto we have had nothing to say of verbal consanguinity.
But we have not wholly ignored its existence, for the very good reason
that we could not. For example, in the latter portions of Chapter IV we
proceeded on the hypothesis that at least some words have ancestors. Also
in the analysis of the dictionary definition of _tension_ we learned
that the word has, not only a Latin forebear, but French, Spanish,
Portuguese, and Italian kinsmen as well. One thing omitted from that
analysis would have revealed something further--namely, that the word has
its English kinfolks too. For the bracketed part of the dictionary
definition mentions two other English words, _tend_ and _tense_,
which from their origin involve the same idea as that of _tension_--
the idea of stretching.
Now words may be akin in either of two ways. They may be related in blood.
Or they may be related by marriage. Let us consider these two kinds of
connection more fully.
As an illustration of blood kinships enjoyed by a native English word take
the adjective _good_. We can easily call to mind other members of its
family: goodly, goodish, goody-goody, good-hearted, good-natured, good-
humored, good-tempered, goods, goodness, goodliness, gospel (good story),
goodby, goodwill, goodman, goodwife, good-for-nothing, good den (good
evening), the Good Book. The connection between these words is obvious.
Next consider a group of words that have been naturalized: scribe,
prescribe, ascribe, proscribe, transcribe, circumscribe, subscriber,
indescribable, scribble, script, scripture, postscript, conscript,
rescript, manuscript, nondescript, inscription, superscription,
description. It is clear that these words are each other's kith and kin in
blood, and that the strain or stock common to all is _scribe_ or (as
sometimes modified) _script_. What does this strain signify? The idea
of writing. The _scribes_ are a writing clan. Some of them, to be
sure, have strayed somewhat from the ancestral calling, for words are as
wilful--or as independent--as men. _Ascribe_, for example, does not
act like a member of the household of writers, whatever it may look like.
We should have to scrutinize it carefully or consult the record for it in
that verbal Who's Who, the dictionary, before we could understand how it
came by its scribal affiliations honestly. But once we begin to reflect or
to probe, we find we have not mistaken its identity. _Ascribe_ is the
offspring of _ad_ (to) and _scribo_ (write), both Latin terms.
It originally meant writing to a person's name or after it (that is,
imputing to the person by means of written words) some quality or
happening of which he was regarded as the embodiment, source, or cause.
Nowadays we may saddle the matter on him through oral rather than written
speech. That is, _ascribe_ has largely lost the writing traits. But
all the same it is manifestly of the writing blood.
The _scribes_ are of undivided racial stock, Latin. Consider now the
_manu_, or _man_, words which sprang from the Latin
_manus_, meaning "hand." Here are some of them: manual, manoeuver,
mandate, manacle, manicure, manciple, emancipate, manage, manner,
manipulate, manufacture, manumission, manuscript, amanuensis. These too
are children of the same father; they are brothers and sisters to each
other. But what shall we say of legerdemain (light, or sleight, of hand),
maintain, coup de main, and the like? They bear a resemblance to the
_man's_ and _manu's_, yet one that casual observers would not
notice. Is there kinship between the two sets of words? There is. But not
the full fraternal or sororal relation. The _mains_ are children of
_manus_ by a French marriage he contracted. With this French blood in
their veins, they are only half-brothers, half-sisters of the
_manu's_ and the _man's_.
Your examination of the family trees of words will be practical, rather
than highly scholastic, in nature. You need not track every word in the
dictionary to the den of its remote parentage. Nor need you bother your
head with the name of the distant ancestor. But in the case of the large
number of words that have a numerous kindred you should learn to detect
the inherited strain. You will then know that the word is the brother or
cousin of certain other words of your acquaintance, and this knowledge
will apprise you of qualities in it with which you should reckon. To this
extent only must you make yourself a student of verbal genealogy.
EXERCISE - Blood
(Simple exercises in tracing blood relationships among words are given at
the end of the chapter. Therefore the exercises assigned here are of a
1. Each of the following groups is made up of related words, but the
relationship is somewhat disguised. Consult the dictionary for each word,
and learn all you can as to (a) its source, (b) the influence (as passing
through an intermediate language) that gave it its present form, (c) the
course of its development into its present meaning.
Captain Cathedral Governor
Capital Chaise Gubernatorial
Chef Shay Guardian
Cavalry Campaign Guarantee
Chivalry Champion Warrant
Camera Inept Incipient
Chamber Apt Receive
Serrated Inimical Poor
Sierra Enemy Pauper
Influence Espionage Work
Influenza Spy Wrought
2. The variety of sources for modern English is indicated by the following
list. Do not seek for blood kinsmen of these particular words, but think
of all the additional words you can that have come into English from
Indian, Spanish, French, any other language spoken today.
Alphabet (Greek) Piano (Italian)
Folio (Latin) Car (Norman)
Boudoir (French) Rush (German)
Binnacle (Portuguese) Sky (Icelandic)
Anger (Old Norse) Yacht (Dutch)
Isinglass (Low German) Hussar (Hungarian)
Slogan (Celtic) Samovar (Russian)
Polka (Polish) Chess (Persian)
Shekel (Hebrew) Tea (Chinese)
Algebra (Arabic) Kimono (Japanese)
Puttee (Hindoo) Tattoo (Tahitian)
Boomerang (Australian) Voodoo (African)
Potato (Haytian) Skunk (American Indian)
Guano (Peruvian) Buncombe (American)
That words marry and are given in marriage, is too generally overlooked.
Any student of a foreign language, German for instance, can recall the
thrill of discovery and the lift of reawakened hope that came to him when
first he suspected, aye perceived, the existence of verbal matrimony. For
weeks he had struggled with words that apparently were made up of
fortuitous collocations of letters. Then in some beatific moment these
huddles of letters took meaning; in instance after instance they
represented, not a word, but words--a linguistic household. Let them be
what they might--a harem, the domestic establishment of a Mormon, the
dwelling-place of verbal polygamists,--he could at last see order in their
relationships. To their morals he was indifferent, absorbed as he was in
his joy of understanding.
In English likewise are thousands of these verbal marriages. We may not be
aware of them; from our very familiarity with words we may overlook the
fact that in instances uncounted their oneness has been welded by a
linguistic minister or justice of the peace. But to read a single page or
harken for thirty seconds to oral discourse with our minds intent on such
states of wedlock is to convince ourselves that they abound. Consider this
list of everyday words: somebody, already, disease, vineyard, unskilled,
outlet, nevertheless, holiday, insane, resell, schoolboy, helpmate,
uphold, withstand, rainfall, deadlock, typewrite, football, motorman,
thoroughfare, snowflake, buttercup, landlord, overturn. Every term except
one yokes a verbal husband with his wife, and the one exception
(_nevertheless_) joins a uxorious man with two wives.
These marriages are of a simple kind. But the nuptial interlinkings
between families of words may be many and complicated. Thus there is a
family of _graph_ (or write) words: graphic, lithograph, cerograph,
cinematograph, stylograph, telegraph, multigraph, seismograph, dictograph,
monograph, holograph, logograph, digraph, autograph, paragraph,
stenographer, photographer, biographer, lexicographer, bibliography,
typography, pyrography, orthography, chirography, calligraphy,
cosmography, geography. There is also a family of _phone_ (or sound)
words: telephone, dictaphone, megaphone, audiphone, phonology, symphony,
antiphony, euphonious, cacophonous, phonetic spelling. It chances that
both families are of Greek extraction. Related to the _graphs_--their
cousins in fact--are the _grams_: telegram, radiogram, cryptogram,
anagram, monogram, diagram, logogram, program, epigram, kilogram,
ungrammatical. Now a representative of the _graphs_ married into the
_phone_ family, and we have graphophone. A representative of the
_phones_ married into the _graph_ family, and we have
phonograph. A representative of the _grams_ married into the
_phone_ family, and we have gramophone. A representative of the
_phones_ married into the _gram_ family, and we have phonogram.
Of such unions children may be born. For example, from the marriage of Mr.
Phone with Miss Graph were born phonography, phonographer, phonographist
(a rather frail child), phonographic, phonographical, and
Intermarriage between the _phones_ and the _graphs_ or
_grams_ is a wedding of equals. Some families of words, however, are
of inferior social standing to other families, and may seek but not hope
to be sought in marriage. Compare the _ex's_ with the _ports_.
An _ex_, as a preposition, belongs to a prolific family but not one
of established and unimpeachable dignity. Hence the _ex's_, though
they marry right and left, lead the other words to the altar and are never
led thither themselves. Witness exclude, excommunicate, excrescence,
excursion, exhale, exit, expel, expunge, expense, extirpate, extract; in
no instance does _ex_ fellow its connubial mate--it invariably
precedes. The _ports_, on the other hand, are the peers of anybody.
Some of them choose to remain single: port, porch, portal, portly, porter,
portage. Here and there one marries into another family: portfolio,
portmanteau, portable, port arms. More often, however, they are wooed than
themselves do the pleading: comport, purport, report, disport, transport,
passport, deportment, importance, opportunity, importunate, inopportune,
insupportable. From our knowledge of the two families, therefore, we
should surmise that if any marriage is to take place between them; an
_ex_ must be the suitor. The surmise would be sound. There is such a
term as _export_, but not as _portex_.
Now it is oftentimes possible to do business with a man without knowing
whether he is a man or a bridal couple. And so with a word. But the
knowledge of his domestic state and circumstances will not come amiss, and
it may prove invaluable. You may find that you can handle him to best
advantage through a sagacious use of the influence of his wife.
EXERCISE - Marriage
1. For each word in the lists of EXERCISE - Dictionary and Activity 1 for
EXERCISE - Past, determine (a) whether it is single or married; (b) if it
is married, whether the wedding is one between equals.
2. Make a list of the married words in the first three paragraphs of the
selection from Burke (Appendix 2). For each of these words determine the
exact nature and extent of the dowry brought by each of the contracting
parties to the wedding.
Hitherto in our study of verbal relationships we have usually started with
the family. Having strayed (as by good luck) into an assembly of kinsmen,
we have observed the common strain and the general characteristics, and
have then "placed" the individual with reference to these. But we do not
normally meet words, any more than we meet men, in the domestic circle. We
meet them and greet them hastily as they hurry through the tasks of the
day, with no other associates about them than such as chance or momentary
need may dictate. If we are to see anything of their family life, it must
be through effort we ourselves put forth. We must be inquisitive about
their conjugal and blood relationships.
How, then, starting with the individual word, can you come into a
knowledge of it, not in its public capacity, but in what is even more
important, its personal connections? You must form the habit of asking two
questions about it: (1) Is it married? (2) Of what family or families was
it born? If you can get an understanding answer to these two questions, an
answer that will tell you what its relations stand for as well as what
their name is, your inquiries will be anything but bootless.
Let us illustrate your procedure concretely. Suppose you read or hear the
word _conchology_. It is a somewhat unusual word, but see what you
can do with it yourself before calling on the dictionary to help you.
Observe the word closely, and you will obtain the answer to your first
question. _Conchology_ is no bachelor, no verbal old maid; it is a
Your second and more difficult task awaits you; you must ascertain the
meaning of the family connections. With Mr. Conch you are on speaking
terms; you know him as one of the shells. But the utmost you can recall
about his wife is that she is one of a whole flock of _ologies_. What
significance does this relationship possess? You are uncertain. But do not
thumb the dictionary yet. Pass in mental review all the _ologies_ you
can assemble. Wait also for the others that through the unconscious
operations of memory will tardily straggle in. Be on the lookout for
_ologies_ as you read, as you listen. In time you will muster a
sizable company of them. And you will draw a conclusion as to the meaning
of the blood that flows through their veins. _Ology_ implies speech
or study. _Conchology_, then, must be the study of conches.
Your investigations thus far have done more than teach you the meaning of
the word you began with. They have brought you some of the by-products of
the study of verbal kinships. For you no longer pass the _ologies_ by
with face averted or bow timidly ventured. You have become so well
acquainted with them that even a new one, wherever encountered, would
flash upon you the face of a friend. But now your desires are whetted. You
wish to find out how much you _can_ learn. You at last consult the
Here a huge obstacle confronts you. The _ologies_, like the
_ports_ (above), are a haughty clan; they are the wooed, rather
than the wooing, members of most marital households that contain them. Now
the marriage licenses recorded in the dictionary are entered under the
name of the suitor, not of the person sought. Hence you labor under a
severe handicap as you take the census of the _ologies_. Let us
imagine the handicap the most severe possible. Let us suppose that no
_ology_ had ever been the suitor. Even so, you would not be entirely
baffled. For you could look up in the dictionary the _ologies_ you
your self had been able to recall. To what profit? First, you could verify
or correct your surmise as to what the _ological_ blood betokens.
Secondly, you could perhaps obtain cross-references to yet other
_ologies_ than those you remembered.
But you are not reduced to these extremities. The _ologies_, arrogant
as they are, sometimes are the applicants for matrimony, and the marriage
registry of the dictionary so indicates. To be sure, they do not, when
thus appearing at the beginning of words, take the form _ology_. They
take the form _log_. But you must be resourceful enough to keep after
your quarry in spite of the omission of a vowel or two. Also from some
lexicons you may obtain still further help. You may find _ology, logy,
logo_, or _log_ listed as a combining form, its meaning given, and
examples of its use in compounds cited.
By your zeal and persistence you have now brought together a goodly array
of the _ologies_--all or most, let us say, of the following:
conchology, biology, morphology, phrenology, physiology, osteology,
histology, zoology, entomology, bacteriology, ornithology, pathology,
psychology, cosmology, eschatology, demonology, mythology, theology,
astrology, archeology, geology, meteorology, mineralogy, chronology,
genealogy, ethnology, anthropology, criminology, technology, doxology,
anthology, trilogy, philology, etymology, terminology, neologism,
phraseology, tautology, analogy, eulogy, apology, apologue, eclogue,
monologue, dialogue, prologue, epilogue, decalogue, catalogue, travelogue,
logogram, logograph, logo-type, logarithms, logic, illogical. (Moreover
you may have perceived in some of these words the kinship which exists in
all for the _loquy_ group--see (1) Soliloquy below.) Of course you
will discard some items from this list as being too learned for your
purposes. But you will observe of the others that once you know the
meaning of _ology_, you are likely to know the whole word. Thus from
your study of _conchology_ you have mastered, not an individual term,
but a tribe.
In _conchology_ only one element, _ology_, was really dubious at
the outset. Let us take a word of which both elements give you pause.
Suppose your thought is arrested by the word _eugenics_. You perhaps
know the word as a whole, but not its components. For by looking at it and
thinking about it you decide that its state is married, that it comprises
the household of Mr. Eu and his wife, formerly Miss Gen. But you cannot
say offhand just what kind of person either Mr. Eu or the erstwhile Miss
Gen is likely to prove.
Have you met any of the _Eu's_ elsewhere? You think vaguely that you
have, but cannot lay claim to any real acquaintance. To the dictionary you
accordingly betake yourself. There you find that Mr. Eu is of a family
quite respectable but not prone to marriage. _Euphony, eupepsia,
euphemism, euthanasia_ are of his retiring kindred. The meaning of the
_eu_ blood, so the dictionary informs you, is well. The _gen_
blood, as you see exemplified in gentle, general, genital, engender,
carries with it the idea of begetting, of producing, of birth, or (by
extension) of kinship. _Eugenics_, then, is an alliance of well and
begotten (or born).
Your immediate purpose is fulfilled; but you resolve, let us say, to make
the acquaintance of more of the _gens_, whose number you have
perceived to be legion. You are duly introduced to the following: genus,
generic, genre, gender, genitive, genius, general, Gentile, gentle,
gentry, gentleman, genteel, generous, genuine, genial, congeniality,
congener, genital, congenital, engender, generation, progeny, progenitor,
genesis, genetics, eugenics, pathogenesis, biogenesis, ethnogeny,
palingenesis, unregenerate, degenerate, monogeny, indigenous, exogenous,
homogeneous, heterogeneous, genealogy, ingenuous, ingenious, ingenue,
engine, engineer, hygiene, hydrogen, oxygen, endogen, primogeniture,
philoprogeniture, miscegenation. Some of these are professional rather
than social; you decide not to leave your card at their doors. Others have
assumed a significance somewhat un_gen_-like, though the relationship
may be traced if you are not averse to trouble, Thus _engine_ in its
superficial aspects seems alien to the idea of born. But it is the child
of _ingenious_ (innate, inborn); _ingenious_ is the inborn power
to accomplish, and _engine_ is the result of the application of that
power. Whether you care to bother with such subtleties or not, enough
_gens_ are left to make the family one well worth your cultivation.
Thus by studying two words, _conchology_ and _eugenics_, you
have for the first time placed yourself on an intimate footing with three
verbal families--the _ologies_, the _eu's,_ and the _gens_.
Observe that though you studied the _ologies_ apart from the
_eu's_ and the _gens_, your knowledge--once you have acquired
it--cannot be kept pigeonholed, for the _ologies_ have intermarried
with both the other families. Hence you on meeting _eulogy_ can
exclaim: "How do you do, Mr. Eu? I am honored in making your acquaintance,
Mrs. Eu--I was about to call you by your maiden name; for I am a friend of
your sister, the Miss Ology who married Mr. Conch. And you too, Mr. Eu--I
cannot regard you as a stranger. I have looked in so often on the family
of your brother--the Euphony family, I mean. What a beautiful literary
household it is! Yet it has been neglected by the world-yea, even by the
people who write. Well, the loss is theirs who do the neglecting." And
_genealogy_ you can greet with an equal parade of family lore: "Don't
trouble to tell me who you are. I am hob and nob with your folks on both
sides of the family, and my word for it, the relationship is written all
over you. Mr. Gen, I envy you the pride you must feel in the prominence
given nowadays to the _eugenics_ household. And it must delight you,
Miss Ology-that-was, that connoisseurs are so keenly interested in
_conchology_. How are Grandfather Gen and Grandmother Ology? They
were keeping up remarkably the last time I saw them." Do you think words
will not respond to cordiality like this? They will work their flattered
heads off for you!
EXERCISE - Relationships
1. For each of the following words (a) determine what families are
intermarried, (b) ascertain the exact contribution to the household by
each family represented, and (c) make as complete a list as possible of
Reject Oppose Convent Defer Omit Produce Expel
2. Test the extent of the intermarriages among these words by successively
attaching each of the prefixes to each of the main (or key) syllables.
(Thus re-ject, re-fer, re-pel, etc.)
In tracing verbal kinships you must be prepared for slight variations in
the form of the same key-syllable. Consider these words: wise, wiseacre,
wisdom, wizard, witch, wit, unwitting, to wit, outwit, twit, witticism,
witness, evidence, providence, invidious, advice, vision, visit, vista,
visage, visualize, envisage, invisible, vis-a-vis, visor, revise,
supervise, improvise, proviso, provision, view, review, survey, vie, envy,
clairvoyance. Perhaps the last six should be disregarded as too
exceptional in form to be clearly recognized. And certainly some words, as
_prudence_ from _providentia_, are so metamorphosed that they
should be excluded from practical lists of this kind. But even in the
words left to us there are fairly marked divergences in appearance. Why?
Because the key-syllable has descended to us, not through one language,
but through several. As good verbal detectives we should be able to
penetrate the consequent disguises; for _wis, wiz, wit, vid, vic_,
and _vis_ all embody the idea of seeing or knowing.
On the other hand, you must take care not to be misled by a superficial
resemblance into thinking two unrelated key-syllables identical. Let us
consider two sets of words. The first, which is related to the _tain_
group (see below), has a key-syllable that means holding:
tenant, tenement, tenure, tenet, tenor, tenable, tenacious, contents,
contentment, lieutenant, maintenance, sustenance, countenance,
appurtenance, detention, retentive, pertinacity, pertinent, continent,
abstinence, continuous, retinue. The second has a key-syllable that means
stretching: tend, tender, tendon, tendril, tendency, extend, subtend,
distend, pretend, contend, attendant, tense, tension, pretence, intense,
intensive, ostensible, tent, tenterhook, portent, attention, intention,
tenuous, attenuate, extenuate, antenna, tone, tonic, standard. The form of
the key-syllable for the first set of words is usually _ten, tent_,
or _tin_; that for the second _tend, tens, tent_, or _ten_.
You may therefore easily confuse the two groups until you have learned to
look past appearances into meanings. Thenceforth the holdings and the
stretchings will be distinct in your mind--will constitute two great
families, not one. Of course individual words may still puzzle you. You
will not perceive that _tender_, for example, belongs with the
stretchings until you go back to its primary idea of something stretched
thin, or that _tone_ has membership in that family until you connect
it with the sound which a stretched chord emits.
FIRST GENERAL EXERCISE FOR THE CHAPTER
Each of the key-syllables given below is followed by (1) a list of fairly
familiar words that embody it, (2) a list of less familiar words that
embody it, (3) several sentences containing blank spaces, into each of
which you are ultimately to fit the appropriate word from the first list.
(The existence of the two lists will show you that learned words may have
First, however, you are to study each word in both lists for (1) its exact
meaning, (2) the influence of the key-syllable upon that meaning, (3) any
variation of the key-syllable from its ordinary form. (A few words have
been introduced to show how varied the forms may be and yet remain
Also, as an aid to your memory, you are to copy each list, underscoring
the key-syllable each time you encounter it.
(The lists are practical, not meticulously academic. In many instances
they contain words derived, not from a single original, but from cognates.
No list is exhaustive.)
(carry on, do, drive): (1) agent, agitate, agile, act,
actor, actuate, exact, enact, reaction, counteract, transact, mitigate,
navigate, prodigal, assay, essay; (2) agenda, pedagogue, synagogue,
actuary, redact, castigate, litigation, exigency, ambiguous, variegated,
_Sentences_ (inflect forms if necessary; for example, use the past
tense, participle, or infinitive of a verb instead of its present tense):
It was ____ into law. The legislators had been ____ by honest motives, but
the popular ____ was immediate. The ____ of the mining company refused to
let us proceed with the ____. Nothing could ____ the offense. The father
was ____, the son ____. The student handed in his ____ at the ____ time
designated. Though ____ enough on land, he could not ____ a ship.
The ____ by missing his cue so ____ the manager that his good work
thereafter could not ____ the ill impression.
(burn): (1 and 2 combined) burn, burnish,
brunette, brunt, bruin, brand, brandish, brandy, brown.
_Sentences_: He plucked a ____ from the ____. The ____ hair of
the ____ was so glossy it seemed ____. He ____ his sword and bore
the ____ of the conflict. After drinking so much ____ he saw snakes in his
imagination, he staggered off into the woods and met Old ____ in reality.
(fall): (1) cadence, decadent, case, casual,
casualty, occasion, accident, incident, mischance, cheat; (2) casuistry,
coincide, occidental, deciduous.
_Sentences_: The period was a ____ one. He, gave but ____ attention
to the ____ of the music. On this ____ an ____ befell him. To the general
it was a mere ____ that his ____ were heavy. As a result of this ____ he
was accused of trying to ____ them.
(go): (1) cede, recede, secede, concede,
intercede, procedure, precedent, succeed, exceed, success, recess,
concession, procession, intercession, abscess, ancestor, cease, decease;
(2) antecedent, precedence, cessation, accessory, predecessor.
_Sentences_: He ____ the existence of a ____ that justified
such ____. The delegate ____ his authority when he consented to ____ the
territory. He would not ____ from his position or ____ for mercy.
At ____ the pupils ____ in forming a ____. His ____ was suffering from
an ____ at the time the Southern states ____. His agony ____ only with
(take): (1) receive, deceive,
perceive, deceit, conceit, receipt, reception, perception, inception,
conception, interception, accept, except, precept, municipal, participate,
anticipate, capable, capture, captivate, case (chest, covering), casement,
incase, cash, cashier, chase, catch, prince, forceps, occupy;
(2) receptacle, recipient, incipient, precipitate, accipiter, capacious,
_Sentences_: Though she ____ the officers, she did not prevent
the ____ of the fugitive. He ____ that the man was very ____. The mayor
skilfully ____ the alderman and proposed that ____ bonds be issued. The
sight of the money ____ him and he quickly gave me a ____. He uttered
musty ____, which were not always given a friendly ____. From the ____ of
the movement he plotted to ____ the leadership in it. The ____ took part
in the ____, but failed to ____ any of the game.
(cut, kill): (1) decide, suicide, homicide, concise,
precise, decisive, incision, scissors, chisel, cement; (2) patricide,
fratricide, infanticide, regicide, germicide, excision, circumcision,
_Sentences_: He could not ____ whether to make the ____ with
a ____ or a pair of ____. There was ____ evidence that he was the ____.
In a few ____ sentences he explained why his friend could never have been
a ____. The prim old lady had very ____ manners of speech.
(run): (1) current, currency, incur, concur,
occurrence, cursory, excursion, course, discourse, intercourse, recourse;
(2) curriculum, precursor, discursive, recurrent, concourse, courier,
_Sentences_: He ____ in the request that payment be made in ____.
The ____ was so strong that the ____ by steamer had to be abandoned. In
the ____ of his remarks he had ____ to various shifts and evasions. By his
____ with one faction, though it was but ____, he ____ the enmity of the
other. It was a disgraceful ____.
(speak, say): (1) dedicate, vindicate, indication,
predicament, predict, addict, verdict, indict, dictionary, dictation,
jurisdiction, vindictive, contradiction, benediction, ditto, condition;
(2) abdicate, adjudicate, juridical, diction, dictum, dictator,
dictaphone, dictograph, edict, interdict, valedictory, malediction, ditty,
indite, ipse dixit, on dit.
_Sentences_: The man ____ to drugs was ____ for ____ treatment of his
wife, and the ____ were that the ____ would be against him. He said, on
the contrary, that his character would be ____. The attorney for the
defense ____ that the judge would rule that the matter did not lie within
his ____. This would leave the prosecution in a ____. But the prosecution
issued a strong ____ of this theory, and said ____ were favorable for
proving the man guilty.
(lead): (1) induce, reduce, traduce, seduce, introduce,
reproduce, education, deduct, product, production, reduction, conduct,
conductor, abduct, subdue; (2) educe, adduce, superinduce, conducive,
ducat, duct, ductile, induction, aqueduct, viaduct, conduit, duke, duchy.
_Sentences_: We ____ the company to ____ the fare. They ____ ten
cents from the wages of each man, an average ____ of four per cent.
They ____ us when they say we have wilfully lessened ____. The highwaymen
____ the ____. If you have an ____, you can ____ an idea in other words.
(wander): (1) error, erroneous, erratic, errand;
(2) errata, knight errant, arrant knave, aberration.
_Sentences_: That ____ fellow came on a special ____ to tell us we
had made an ____. And his statement was ____ at that!
(make, do): (1) fact, factory,
faction, manufacture, satisfaction, suffice, sacrifice, office, difficult,
pacific, terrific, significant, fortification, magnificent, artificial,
beneficial, verify, simplify, stupefy, certify, dignify, glorify, falsify,
beautify, justify, infect, perfect, effect, affection, defective, feat,
defeat, feature, feasible, forfeit, surfeit, counterfeit, affair, fashion;
(2) factor, factotum, malefaction, benefaction, putrefaction, facile,
facsimile, faculty, certificate, edifice, efficacy, prolific, deficient,
proficient, artifice, artificer, beneficiary, versification, unification,
exemplification, deify, petrify, rectify, amplify, fructify, liquefy,
disaffect, refection, comfit, pontiff, ipso facto, de facto, ex post
facto, au fait, fait accompli.
_Sentences_: The opposing ____ by incredible ____ had found
it ____ to take over the ____ of the goods. By this ____ it ____ what
goodwill the owner of the ____ had for it, but it won the ____ of the
public. The owner, though seemingly ____ at first, soon ____ a scheme to
make the success of the enterprise more ____. By an ____ lowering of the
price of his own goods and by ____ that those of his rivals were ____,
he hoped to ____ the public mind with unjust suspicions. But all this did
not ____. In truth the ____ of it was the hastening of his own ____ and a
____ heightening of the public ____ toward his rivals. His directors,
seeing that his policy had failed to ____ itself, met in his ____ and
urged him to take a more ____ attitude.
(bear, carry): (1) transfer, prefer, proffer, suffer, confer,
offer, referee, deference, inference, indifferent, ferry, fertile; (2)
referendum, Lucifer, circumference, vociferate, auriferous, coniferous,
_Sentences_: With real ____ to their wishes he ____ to ____ the
goods by ____. The ____ of the sporting writers was that the ____
was ____ to his duties. After ____ apart, the farmers ____ the use of
their most ____ acres for this experiment. To be mortal is to ____.
(trust, believe, have faith): (1) fidelity, confide,
confident, diffident, infidel, perfidious, bona fide, defiance, affiance;
(2) fiduciary, affidavit, fiance, auto da fe, Santa Fe.
_Sentences_: He was ____ that the man was an ____. He had ____ in
a ____ rascal. He had been ____ for years and had proved his ____. Though
we are somewhat ____ in making it, you may be sure it is a ____ offer. His
attitude toward his father is one of gross ____.
(walk, go): (1) grade, gradual, graduate, degrade,
digress, Congress, aggressive, progressive, degree; (2) gradation,
Centigrade, ingress, egress, transgression, retrogression, ingredient.
_Sentences_: His failure to ____ from college made him feel ____
especially as his cronies all received their ____. The engine lost
speed ____ as it climbed the long ____. I ____ to remark that some members
of ____ are more ____ than ____.
(have, hold): (1) habit, habitation, inhabitant, exhibit,
prohibition, ability, debit, debt; (2) habituate, habiliment, habeas
corpus, cohabit, dishabille, inhibit.
_Sentences_: The ____ of the island ____ an ____ to live without
permanent ____. It was his ____ to glance first at the ____ side of his
ledger, as he was much worried about his ____. Most women favor ____.
(sound): (1) hale, hallow, Hallowe'en, heal,
health, unhealthy, healthful, holy, holiday, hollyhock, whole, wholesome;
(2) halibut, halidom.
_Sentences_: Though he lived in a ____ climate, he was ____. The food
was ____, the man ____ and hearty. He did not think of a ____ as ____. We
had ____ in our garden almost until ____. He wept at hearing the ____ name
of his mother. For a ____ month the wound refused to ____.
(go): (1) exit, transit, transition, initial, initiative,
ambition, circuit, perishable; (2) itinerant, transitory, obituary,
_Sentences_: The ____ was broken. It was his ____ shipment of ____
goods, and they suffered a good deal in ____. His ____ was to be regarded
as a man of great ____. His ____ was less effective than his entrance.
(throw): (1) eject, reject, subject, project, objection,
injection, dejected, conjecture, jet, jetty; (2) abject, traject,
adjective, projectile, interjection, ejaculate, jetsam, jettison.
_Sentences_: With ____ mien he watched the waves lash the ____.
His scheme was ____ to much ridicule and then ____, and he himself
was ____ from the room. From a pipe that ____ from the corner of the
building came a ____ of dirty water. He could only ____ what their ____
was. The ____ brought immediate relief.
(law, right): (1) judge, judicious, judicial,
prejudice, jurist, jurisdiction, just, justice, justify; (2) judicature,
adjudicate, juridical, jurisprudence, justiciary, de jure.
_Sentences_: The eminent ____ said the matter did not lie within
his ____. Though ____ in most matters, he admitted to ____ in this.
The ____ said he would comment in an unofficial rather than a ____ way.
She could not ____ her suspicions. He was not only ____ himself, but
devoted to ____.
(join): (1) junction, juncture, injunction, disjunctive,
conjugal, adjust; (2) adjunct, conjunction, subjunctive, conjugate.
_Sentences_: A ____ force had entered their ____ relationships.
At this ____ he gave the ____ that disturbances should cease. The tramp
halted at the ____ to eat his lunch and ____ his knapsack.
(swear): (1 and 2 combined) juror, jury, abjure, adjure,
_Sentences_: They ____ their loyalty. He ____ them to remember their
duty as ____. The ____ held the ____ guilty of ____.
(read, choose, pick up): (1) elegant, illegible,
college, negligent, diligent, eligible, elect, select, intellect,
recollect, neglect, lecturer, collection, coil, cull; (2) legend, legion,
legacy, legate, delegate, sacrilegious, dialect, lectern, colleague,
_Sentences_: In ____ he listened to the ____ and took an occasional
note in an ____ hand. She ____ an ____ costume. They ____ the only man
who was ____. He did not ____ to take up the ____. He was ____ rather
than ____. Her mind was too ____ to ____ all the circumstances.
(bind): (1 and 2 combined) ligament, ligature, obligation,
ally, alliance, allegiance, league, lien, liable, liaison, alloy.
_Sentences_: It was a pleasure that knew no ____. To belong to
the ____ carries ____. In studying anatomy you learn all about ____ and
____. The two nations were in ____. We may be sure of their ____. We will
take a ____ upon your property. As a ____ officer he was ____ for the
equipment which our ____ reported lost.
(light): (1) lucid, translucent, luminous,
illuminate, luminary, luster, illustrate, illustrious; (2) lucent,
Lucifer, lucubration, elucidate, pellucid, relume, limn.
_Sentences_: The ____ author spoke very ____. He gave us a ____
explanation of a very abstruse subject. The material was ____ even to the
rays of the feeblest of the heavenly ____. He ____ his theory by the
following anecdote. This deed added ____ to his fame.
(order): (1 and 2 combined) mandate, mandamus, mandatory,
demand, remand, countermand, commandment.
_Sentences_: The superior court issued a writ of ____. The case
was ____ to the lower court. His instructions were not discretionary,
but ____. At your ____ the ____ has been issued. The ____ promptly
____ the orders of the offending officer.
(send): (1) permit, submit, commit, remit, transmit,
mission, missile, missionary, remiss, omission, commission, admission,
dismissal, promise, surmise, compromise, mass, message; (2) emit,
intermittent, missive, commissary, emissary, manumission, inadmissible,
_Sentences_: The ____ could only ____ why so many of his people had
not attended ____. The ____ contained a ____ that no one would be held
____. The request was ____ that he would please ____. He ____ to his ____
without a protest. A ____ was appointed to investigate whether the
territory should be granted ____ as a state. His ____ was such as to ____
him to tarry if he chose.
(move): (1) move, movement, removal, remote,
promote, promotion, motion, motive, emotion, commotion, motor, locomotive,
mob, mobilize, automobile, moment; (2) immovable, motivate, locomotor
ataxia, mobility, immobile, momentum.
_Sentences_: The next ____ was his, and his ____ was profound.
The ____ of the ____ from across the alley enabled the ____ to surge in a
threatening ____ toward the rear of the building. At this ____ the ____
was great. The officer whose ____ had seemed so ____ was now enabled
to ____ strong forces for the campaign. The ____ began a slow ____
forward. His exact ____ was not known.
(suffer): (1) passion, passive, impassive, impassioned,
compassion, pathos, pathetic, impatient, apathy, sympathy, antipathy; (2)
passible, impassible, dispassionate, pathology, telepathy, hydropathy,
homeopathy, allopathy, osteopathy, neuropathic, pathogenesis.
_Sentences_: With an ____ countenance he spoke of the ____ of our
Lord. The ____ of the story moved her to ____. He allowed his ____ no
further expression than through that one ____ shrug. With a ____ smile he
settled back into dull ____. His plea was ____.
(foot): (1) pedal, pedestrian, pedestal, expedite,
expediency, expedition, quadruped, impediment, biped, tripod, chiropodist,
octopus, pew; (2) centiped, pedicle, pedometer, velocipede,
sesquipedalian, antipodes, podium, polypod, polyp, Piedmont.
_Sentences_: A ____ suggested that we could ____ matters by each
mounting a ____. The loss of the ____ was a serious ____ to the rider of
the bicycle. The ____ had me place my foot on an artist's ____. The
purpose of this nautical ____ was to capture a live ____. The ____ of
having so large a ____ for the statue had not occurred to us. A ____
scarcely recognizable as human occupied my ____.
(drive): (1) dispel, compel, propeller, repellent,
repulse, repulsive, impulse, compulsory, expulsion, appeal; (2) appellate,
_Sentences_: After the ____ of the attack the, mists along the
lowlands were ____. His manner was ____, even ____. The revolutions of the
____ soon ____ the boatmen to shove farther off. After his ____ he ____
for a rehearing of his case. The act was ____, but he felt an ____ toward
(hang, weigh): (1) pending, impending,
independent, pendulum, perpendicular, expenditure, pension, suspense,
expense, pensive, compensate, ponder, ponderous, preponderant, pansy,
poise, pound; (2) pendant, stipend, appendix, compendium, propensity,
recompense, indispensable, dispensation, dispensary, avoirdupois.
_Sentences_: The veterans felt great ____ while action regarding
their ____ was ____. We shall ____ you. An arm of it stood in a
position ____ to the ____ mass. He knew that fate was ____, and he watched
the ____ swing back and forth slowly. He gave a ____ argument in favor of
the ____ of the money. There is ____, that's for thoughts. Let us ____ the
question whether the ____ is needful. She was a woman of rare social ____.
Penny-wise, ____ foolish.
(seek): (1 and 2 combined) petition, petulant, impetus,
impetuous, perpetuate, repeat, compete, competent, appetite, centripetal.
_Sentences_: A great ____ force keeps the planets circling about
the sun. The complaints of a ____ woman led him to ____ the prize. The
sexual ____ leads men to ____ the race. The ____ was pronounced upon ____
authority to be ill drawn up. With ____ wrath he ____ the assertion. The
____ became noticeably weaker.
(fold): (1) ply, reply, imply, plight,
suppliant, explicit, implicit, implicate, supplicate, duplicate,
duplicity, complicate, complicity, accomplice, application, plait,
display, plot, employee, exploit, simple, supple; (2) pliant, pliable,
replica, explication, inexplicable, multiplication, deploy, triple,
quadruple, plexus, duplex.
_Sentences_: We ____ the thief's ____ with questions. He ____ that
others were ____ with him. The king ____ to the ____ that such ____ must
never be ____ in the realm thereafter. It would be a ____ matter to ____
the order. The manager had ____ confidence in his ____. She admired his
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