Sunday, July 29, 2012


lucre [ˈlukər] n.

1.) Gain, profit, pecuniary advantage. Now only with unfavourable implication: Gain viewed as a low motive for action; ‘pelf’ (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption (either directly, or through French lucre) of Latin lucrum, from Aryan root lau-, leu-, lou-, whence Greek ἀπολαύειν to enjoy, Gothic launs, Old High German lôn, and Modern German lohn wages, reward.

"For a bisshoppe must be fautelesse as it be commeth the minister of God: not stubborne not angrye no dronkarde no fyghter not geven to filthy lucre: but herberous one that loveth goodnes sobre mynded righteous holy temperat and suche as cleveth unto the true worde of doctryne that he maye be able to exhorte with wholsom learnynge and to improve them that saye agaynst it" (The Epistle of Paul to Titus, William Tyndale (trans.), 1526).

(Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Unknown artist, ~950)

Friday, July 20, 2012


mulct [mʌlkt] v. t.

1.) To punish (a person, an offence) by a fine. Also occas. to subject to a penalty of any kind. (The penalty or amount is expressed by a second object, or introduced by in.)

2.) To deprive or divest of.

mulct n.

1.) A fine imposed for an offence. Also occasionally in wider sense, a compulsory payment (usually implying unfair or arbitrary exaction).

2.) A penalty of any kind.

3.) Misused by Massinger for: A blemish. Cf. quote 1619 in sense 2, which Massinger has unintelligently imitated (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: From Middle English multen, to fine, from Latin multare, mulctare, from mulcta, fine.

"To take from
The workmanship of heaven is an offence
As great as to endeavour to add to it;
Of which I'll not be guilty. Chastity,
That lodges in deformity, appears rather
A mulct imposed by Nature, than a blessing;
And 'tis commendable only when it conquers,
Though ne'er so oft assaulted, in resistance:
For me, I'll therefore so dispose myself,
That if I hold out it shall be with honour;
Or if I yield, Miranda shall find something
To make him love his victory."
(The Knight of Malta, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont, 1619)

(La Tentation de saint Hilarion, Nicolas François Octave Tassaert, ~1857)


Hi, all. Sort of a specialized word, I guess, but I couldn't resist an OED entry that insults the intelligence of the author of one of its citations! Here's the Massinger quote for those that are interested:

— Bertoldo: If so, what diverts
Your favour from me?
— Camiola: No mulct in your selfe,
Or in your person, mind or fortune.
(The Maid of Honour, Philip Massinger, 1632)

Friday, July 13, 2012


atrabilious [ˌætrəˈbɪlyəs] a.

1.) Affected by black bile or ‘choler adust’; melancholy, hypochondriac; splenetic, acrimonious (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: From Latin atra bilis, black bile (translation of Greek melankholia): atra, black; + bilis, bile.

"She liked London constantly, and stood in defence of it against me and my atrabilious censures of it, never had for herself the least wish to quit it again, though I was often talking of that, and her practice would have been loyal compliance for my behoof" (Reminiscences, Thomas Carlyle, 1881).

(Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough, ~1750)

Sunday, July 8, 2012


rodomontade [ˌrɒdəmɒnˈteɪd] n. Also rodomantade, rhodomontade, rhodomantade.

1.) A vainglorious brag or boast; an extravagantly boastful or arrogant saying or speech; an arrogant act.

2.) Boastful or inflated language; extravagant boasting or bragging (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, from Italian rodomontada, from Rodomonte, arrogant Saracen leader in Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Boiardo and Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.

"Cato himself says, that he took more cities than he stayed days in Spain. Neither is this a mere rhodomontade, if it be true, that the number was four hundred" (Plutarch's Lives Translated From the Greek by Several Hands, John Dryden (trans.), 1683).

(The Artist Moved by the Grandeur of Antique Fragments, Henry Fuseli, 1779)

Sunday, July 1, 2012


caitiff [ˈkeɪtɪf] n.

1.) Expressing contempt, and often involving strong moral disapprobation: A base, mean, despicable ‘wretch’, a villain (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of Old Northern French caitif, caitive, captive, weak, miserable: from Latin captīv-um captive. The central Old French form chaitif (whence modern French chétif, -ive, of little value, wretched, sorry, miserable) gave the English variant chaitif, frequent in 14–15th c., but did not displace the earlier Norman form. The transition of meaning has taken place more or less in most of the Romanic languages.

"O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked
Hannibal! I respected with her before I was married
to her! If ever I was respected with her, or she
with me, let not your worship think me the poor
duke's officer. Prove this, thou wicked Hannibal, or
I'll have mine action of battery on thee."
(Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare, 1623)

(Marats død I, Edvard Munch, 1907)