Monday, October 20, 2003

Etymology Today from M-W: sententious \sen-TEN-shuss\
: given to or abounding in aphoristic expression or excessive moralizing
: terse, aphoristic, or moralistic in expression

Nowadays, "sententious" is usually uncomplimentary, implying banality, oversimplification, and excessive moralizing. But that hasn't always been the case, nor is it universally so even now. The original Middle English sense of "sententious" was "full of meaning," a sense adopted from Latin "sententiosus" (from "sententia," meaning "sentence" or "maxim"). In Modern English, too, "sententious" has sometimes referred to what is full of significance and expressed tersely. Or sometimes "sententious" simply suggests an affinity for aphorisms, as when it refers to the likes of Ben Franklin's Poor Richard (of almanac fame), the homespun philosopher given to such statements as "early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

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