Tag Archives: Italy

mayhem

  The word maim appeared in the early 14th century. As a verb, it originally meant to cause bodily hurt or disfigurement to, and subsequently to mutilate, to cripple. As a noun, it meant a lasting bodily injury, and subsequently a mutilating wound. The noun maim is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as […]

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caprice

caprice

  Audrey (1888), by Philip Richard Morris (The weekly newspaper Graphic commissioned twenty-one studies of Shakespeare’s heroines, which were exhibited in London in 1888.)       MEANING   a sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behaviour     ORIGIN   Via French, the English word caprice is from Italian capriccio, which, composed of […]

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sedan

sedan

  image: Dictionnaire illustré latin-français (1934) – Félix Gaffiot     The Romans used forms of litters, called basterna and lectica, which were portable beds or sofas adapted for a reclining posture. They had however a third type of litter, named sella gestatoria, which was a portable chair adapted for a sitting posture. The feminine […]

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paparazzi

paparazzi

  Walter Santesso (center) as Paparazzo in La Dolce Vita photograph: Cine Bazar       The common noun paparazzo and its plural form paparazzi were first used in English in the American magazine Time of 14th April 1961: Paparazzi on the Prowl ROMAN PHOTOGRAPHERS BLOCKADING SORAYA’S CAR Buzzing, hovering, darting, stinging. On Rome’s Via […]

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jeremiad

jeremiad

  Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem (circa 1630), by Rembrandt (1606-69)       Jeremiah (circa 650-585 BC) was a Hebrew prophet who foresaw the fall of Assyria, the conquest of his country by Egypt and Babylon, and the destruction of Jerusalem. He is traditionally regarded as the author or part-author of two Old […]

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Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke

  photograph: BBC goodfood       The name Jerusalem artichoke designates a North American sunflower, Helianthus tuberosus, cultivated for its underground edible tubers, and the tuber of this plant, which is cooked and eaten as a vegetable.   This name first appeared in 1620 in the form artichoke of Jerusalem. It is an alteration […]

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sybarite

sybarite

  Sybaris Valley in Calabria – photograph: Hydria Project     MEANING   A sybarite is a person who is self-indulgent in their fondness for sensuous luxury.     ORIGIN   With a capital initial, the word originally denoted a native or citizen of Sybaris, an ancient Greek city of southern Italy, traditionally noted for […]

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sycophant

sycophant

  amulet representing the ‘fig’ hand (mano in fica) illustration from The Evil Eye (1895) by Frederick Thomas Elworthy       MEANING   A sycophant is a person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage.     ORIGIN   The noun sycophant is from Latin sycophanta, meaning an informer, slanderer, […]

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ostracism

ostracism

  ostrakon against the Athenian statesman Themistocles (circa 528-462 BC) photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Giovanni Dall’Orto       MEANING   Exclusion from a society or group     ORIGIN   In Athens and other ancient Greek cities, ostracism was a political measure by which citizens whose power or influence was considered dangerous to the state were […]

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marguerite

marguerite

  ox-eye daisy flower photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Wills       Borrowed from French in the early 17th century, marguerite originally denoted the common daisy. It is now another term for the ox-eye daisy; also called moon daisy, this plant has large white flowers with yellow centres (scientific name: Leucanthemum vulgare, family Compositae).   The same […]

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