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Designed to achieve two goals: to add a large number of words to your permanent working vocabulary, and to teach the most useful of the classical word-building roots to help you continue expanding your vocabulary in the future.

Greek and Latin have been the sources of most of the words in the English Language. You could find much fun in this book that some of the fashion words are come from an elegent sources dated back to thousands of years. Also, you could enjoy the infinite discovery through reading it, which is not merely a dictionary, but a wonderful educational and enlightening book.


About the Author

Mary Wood Cornog is a contributor for Merriam-Webster Inc titles including: ‘Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder’

Since 1937. Merriam-Webster is America’s foremost publisher of language-related reference works. The company publishes a diverse array of print and electronic products, including Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition – America’s best-selling desk dictionary – and Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.

Merriam-Webster can be considered the direct lexicographical heir of Noah Webster. In 1843, the company bought the rights to the 1841 edition of Webster’s magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged. At the same time, they secured the rights to create revised editions of the work. Since that time, Merriam-Webster editors have carried forward Noah Webster’s work, creating some of the most widely used and respected dictionaries and reference books in the world.


Words from Mythology and History

aeolian harp A box-shaped instrument with strings that produce musical sounds when the wind blows on them.

• Poets have long been fascinated by the aeolian harp, the only instrument that produces music without a human performer.

According to the ancient Greeks, Aeolus was the king or guardian of the winds. He lived in a cave with his many, many sons and daughters, and sent forth whatever wind Zeus asked for. When Odysseus stopped there on his way home from Troy, he received a bag of winds to fill his sails. But while he was asleep, his men, thinking it contained treasure, opened the bag and released the raging winds, which blew their ships all the way back to their starting point. An aeolian harp produces enchanting harmonies when the wind passes over it. According to Homer, it was the god Hermes who invented the harp, by having the wind blow over the dried sinews attached to the shell of a dead tortoise.

cynosure (1) A guide. (2) A center of attention.

• Near the club’s dance floor, a young rock star was hanging out, the cynosure of a small crowd of admirers.

In Greek kynosoura means “dog’s tail,” and in Latin Cynosura came to mean the constellation Ursa Minor (Little Bear)—what we usually call the Little Dipper. The first star on the dog’s or bear’s “tail,” or the dipper’s “handle,” is Polaris, the North Star, long used as a guide for seamen or travelers lost on a clear night, since, unlike the other stars, it always remains in the same position in the northern sky, while the other constellations (and even the rest of its own constellation) slowly revolve around it. Since Cynosura also came to mean the star itself, the English cynosure now may mean both “guide” and “center of attention.”

laconic Using extremely few words.

• Action-film scripts usually seem to call for laconic leading men who avoid conversation but get the job done.

Ancient Sparta was located in the region of Greece known as Laconia, and the Greek word lakonikos could mean both “Laconian” and “Spartan.” The disciplined and militaristic Spartans, the finest warriors of their time, were known for putting up with extreme conditions without complaint. So English writers who knew their ancient history came to use laconic to describe the habit of saying few words. Today we can refer not only to a laconic person but also to laconic wit, a laconic answer, or a laconic phrase—such as “Men of few words require few laws,” uttered by a Spartan king.

mnemonic Having to do with the memory; assisting the memory.

• Sales-training courses recommend various mnemonic devices as a way of remembering peoples’ names.

The Greek word for memory is mnemosyne , and Mnemosyne was the goddess of memory and the mother of the Muses. So something that helps the memory is a mnemonic aid, or simply a mnemonic . Such traditional mnemonic devices as “Every Good Boy Does Fine” (for the notes on the lines of a musical staff with a treble clef) or the “Thirty days hath September” rhyme help to recall simple rules or complicated series that might otherwise slip away. (For extra credit, guess what “King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk” or “King Philip Could Only Find Green Socks” stands for.) Notice that the first m isn’t pronounced, unlike in other -mne- words such as amnesia and amnesty .

platonic (1) Relating to the philosopher Plato or his teachings. (2) Involving a close relationship from which romance and sex are absent.

• The male and female leads in sitcoms often keep their relationship platonic for the first few seasons, but romance almost always wins out in the end.

The philosopher Plato presented his theories in a series of dramatic conversations between Socrates and other people, now called the “Platonic dialogues.” Among many other important concepts, he taught that everything here on earth is a pale imitation—like a shadow—of its ideal form, and this ideal form is now often called the “platonic form.” But platonic is probably usually seen in the phrase “platonic love.” Because Socrates (through Plato) teaches that the philosophical person should turn his passion for a lover into appreciation of beauty and love of a higher power and of the universe, close but nonsexual friendship between two people who might be thought to be romantically attracted is today known as platonic love or friendship.

sapphic (1) Lesbian. (2) Relating to a poetic verse pattern associated with Sappho.

• The Roman poets Catullus and Horace composed wonderful love poems in sapphic verse.

The poet Sappho wrote poems of self-reflection but also of passion, some of it directed to the women attending the school she conducted on the Greek island of Lesbos around 600 B.C. Even though most of the poems survive only as fragments, they have been greatly admired for many centuries. They were written in an original rhythmical pattern, which has become known as sapphic verse. Later admirers, such as the Roman poets Catullus and Horace, honored her by adopting the sapphic meter for their own poetry. Because of Sappho, the island of Lesbos also gave its name to lesbianism, which writers often used to call sapphic love.

Socratic Having to do with the philosopher Socrates or with his teaching method, in which he systematically questioned the student in conversation in order to draw forth truths.