Everybody has their favorite words, and we at Membean are no different. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason behind why we like a particular word, whereas at other times there can be a highly specific rationale. So, here is a list of our favorite words, polled at the office, and listed in no particular order of preference:
1. defenestration: the act of tossing someone out a window. From the Latin word fenestra: “window.” cf. French: fenêtre
2. stygian: extremely and unpleasantly dark, gloomy, and frightening; pitch-black. A reference to a river in the Greek underworld, the Styx.
“I have a strange inexplicable fascination with that word. Probably all the fantasy books I consumed when I was younger.”
3. tenacity: unwilling to yield or give up; dogged.
“This has been my lifeline out of some daunting circumstances.”
4. meticulous: very precise, conscientious attention to details. From a Latin word meaning “timid, fearful.”
“Meticulous is something I’d like to be, though more often than not, I end up being light-years away … but I am nevertheless tenaciously working towards it!”
5. purfled: embroidered, decorated on the edges. From Middle English.
“I just love the sound of this word. When I first saw it when reading Chaucer, I fell in love.”
6. evanescent: lasting but a short time. From the Latin word vanus: “empty, hollow, illusory.”
“This word sounds like what it represents: so fleeting, so ephemeral …”
7. mellifluous: gentle and pleasant to listen to; sweet-sounding. From the Latin words mel: “honey,” and fluo: “flow.”
“I’m a music lover. My sister is a professional singer back in India, and she indeed has a mellifluous voice.”
8. nonplussed: so surprised and confused that you are not sure what to do. From the Latin words non: “not,” and plus: “more.” Your brain simply can “not” take in “more” when it is nonplussed.
“I love the image Membean has for nonplussed.”
9. autochthonous: native or indigenous to an area. From the Greek word chthonos: “earth.”
“It is a challenge to spell, and has a befuddling root in ‘chthon.’”
10. sangfroid: calmness and composure in the presence of troubling circumstances. From the French words sang: “blood,” and froid: “cold.”
“What you need when trying to pronounce it for the first time.”
11. kismet: fate, future, destiny, or fortune. From the Arabic word qasama: “assign, allot.”
“Because it appeared in a random sentence in an e-mail from a very friendly teacher before we’d even added a Level 6. Thanks Sue!”
12. transcend: surpass, exceed, be or go beyond the limitations of. From the Latin word scando: “climb, mount.”
13. scintillating: sparkling or shining brightly. From the Latin word scintilla: “spark, glittering spot.”
“Great word. Like the sound of it.”
14. Herculean: very hard to do; a “Herculean” task requires the strength of Hercules, the strongest of the Roman mythological heroes (Greek: Heracles) to complete.
“I think it’s a fun word to use in certain contexts and it tends to make my friends laugh when I pull it out. Naturally, I like that it’s an adjective directly derived from a character from classical myth. Isn’t it cool we have words like that and Sisyphean?”
15. schadenfreude: the taking of pleasure in the misfortune of others. From two German roots which mean “damage, harm, injury” and “joy, pleasure.”
There you have it. We hope that we have stimulated you to think of your favorite words! Let us know if you have one that you really like, and we’ll include it in a future post. Enjoy your summer reading–and perhaps you’ll come across a word that just makes you happy, or opens up a whole new world for you.