Sunday, February 16, 2003

Etymology Today from M-W: supercilious \soo-per-SIH-lee-uss\
: coolly and patronizingly haughty

Arrogant and disdainful types tend to raise an eyebrow at anything they consider beneath them. The original supercilious crowd must have shown that raised-eyebrow look often, because the adjective "supercilious" derives from "supercilium," Latin for "eyebrow." (We plucked our adjective and its meaning from the Latin adjective "superciliosus.") The term has been used in English to describe the censoriously overbearing since the late 1500s, when playwright Ben Jonson used it thus: "There are, no doubt, a supercilious race in the world who will esteeme all office, done you in this kind, an injurie."

More E.T.: Latin derivatives: demulcent
: soothing

"Demulcent" derives from the Latin verb "demulcere," meaning "to soothe," which comes from a combination of the prefix "de-" with "mulcere," an earlier verb that also meant "to soothe." As an adjective, "demulcent" often applies to the soothing nature of medicines, but you could also use it to describe such things as a soothing melody or a soothing demeanor. The noun "demulcent" is used for a gelatinous or oily substance that is capable of soothing inflamed or abraded mucous membranes and protecting them from further irritation.

More E.T.: Indian derivatives: Golconda
: a rich mine; broadly : a source of great wealth

In the 16th century, Golconda was the capital of the Qutb Shahi kingdom in southern India. The city was home to one of the most powerful Muslim sultanates in the region and was the center of a flourishing diamond trade. Magnificent diamonds were taken from the mines in the hills surrounding Golconda, including Darya-e Nur (meaning "sea of light"), at 185 carats, the largest and finest diamond of the crown jewels of Iran. By the 1880s, "Golconda" was being used generically by English speakers to refer to any particularly rich mine, and later to any source of great wealth.

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