Words (7/15 to 7/21)

The Dictionary.com “Words of the Day” for the past week, with that website’s definitions and word origins, and the date of first known use taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (except where noted).

7/15: Apodictic (adjective) necessarily true or logically certain. Origin: Apodictic evolves from the Greek apodeiktikós, “proving fully.” First Known Use: c. 1645

7/16: Abject (adjective) utterly hopeless, miserable, humiliating, or wretched. Origin: Abject translates to the Latin equivalent of “thrown down.” First Known Use: 15th century

7/17: Torque (noun) the moment of a force that tends to cause rotation. Origin: Torque enters English from the Latin torquere, “to twist.” First Known Use: c. 1884

7/18: Canonical (adjective) authorized; recognized; accepted. Origin: Canonical derives from the Late Latin canon, “measuring line.” First Known Use: 15th century

7/19: Zugzwang (noun) a situation in which a player is limited to moves that have a damaging effect. Origin: Zugzwang combines two German words, zug, “move,” and zwang, “constraint.” First Known Use: early 20th century (Oxford Dictionaries Online)

7/20: Dearth (noun) an inadequate supply; scarcity; lack. Origin: Dearth relates to the same Old English root from which “dear” is derived. First Known Use: 13th century

7/21: Détente (noun) a relaxing of tension, especially between nations. Origin: Détente borrows from the French word that means “a loosening,” related to an Old French word for the catch of a crossbow. First Known Use: 1908

The abject zugzwang in which the nation found itself was relieved when its rival suddenly suggested a détente.

The prevailing sound this week is a very hard one. These, in my opinion, are not the loveliest words in the language. Still, a good deal of use can be made of them.

Abject and dearth are good words that appropriately sound negative — simple words with very specific definitions that, if used correctly, can be quite effective.

Détente has very specific historical connotations, which hinder its use.

Apodictic and canonical come across as academic.

Torque is a nice little word that conveys physical action, so it can be very good for use in fiction writing. I think that experimenting with the word and its context could yield interesting results.

It would probably be distracting, unfortunately, to use zugzwang, but the definition is an interesting one. The situation is familiar to chess players, but it can be applied to any situation in which a decision must be made.

I think I’ll go with dearth for my favorite word of the week. It’s a desolate-sounding word, and it’s quite interesting how two letters tacked on the end make it so. I like the connection with dear. The idea is that the supply of something is not only scarce, but deeply missed. This word also appears to be the oldest of the seven. What can I say? I like old words.

Note: I myself had to look up moment as it is used in the torque definition. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s sixth definition, part amoment means “tendency or measure of tendency to produce motion especially about a point or axis.” Those especially studied in physics would know this already, I’m sure.

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