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IE swen- to sound
The word ‘sound’ itself is from this root. The Sanskrit words svan, svani and svar mean sound, and the science of phonetics is called svanan vigyan. The English called a swan by that name because it was a singer bird.


Two people are in consonance, if they make the same sounds on most issues. If they do not, if one says “No way!” when the other is saying “I’d love to,” that is the unfortunate state of dissonance.

It was wonderful to see the whole audience get up and sing in unison Mile sur mera tumhara, toh sur bane hamara…” The sonorous chant resonated till long afterwards.

Assonance and sonnet are the other words from this root.

Latin dorsum back
Endorsement of a brand by Amitabh Bachchan, the dorsal side of a whale and a dossier given by India to Pakistan about the Pakistanis involved in a terror attack in India all contain this root.



Latin manus hand
To do something ‘manually’ is to do it by hand. A ‘manual’ is a book that tells you how to do it. The ‘manufactured’ goods were made by hand (facere, to make). The machines came much later.


Common sense says that you cannot manufacture something out of nothing. However, a magician seems to do just that! Out of thin air, he produces a watch or a pigeon or a scarf. The audience knows it is legerdemain, but cannot fathom exactly how he did it.

Another thing people often cannot fathom is what they were thinking when they chose their rulers.

The Chief Minister’s lack of ethics was manifest. He had flatly refused to resign even though his son had been caught on camera, accepting bribe to pass a particular project. The people manifested theiroutrage by holding demonstrations and burning copies of the ruling party’s Election Manifesto, which ironically had promised them a corruption-free state.

Seasoned politicians, however, know how to manipulate the public. The next day, a bomb blasted off in a temple. Somebody said that he had seen two Muslim men around the area. That was it!Livid Hindus bolted towards the nearest Muslim locality. The mob kept growing each minute and within an hour, 100 Muslims had been killed. In the next hour, a mob of Muslims retaliated. By the time the riot was quelled, 500 people had been killed. For the next two days, the riot dominated every discussion, in the papers, on the TV and among people. Two days were enough to make them forget all about the corruption scandal.



Consonance: (n) harmony, agreement.

Origin: L con-, together + sonare, to sound => ‘to sound together’

  • The consonance of all witnesses was that the poor man was hit by a speeding truck.
  • The songs were not in consonance with the mood and the look of the film.
  • In Mughal-e-Azam, Shahzaada Salim does not sing a single song. Can you think why? Because that would not be consonant with a prince’s personality. Mughal princes listened to songs, they didn’t stoop so low as to sing themselves.

Dissonance: (n) lack of agreement, conflict.

Origin: L dis-, apart + sonare, to sound => ‘the sounds are apart’

  • There was dissonance within the party over the president’s choice of Chief Ministerial candidate.
  • The Ramayana begins with a dissonance in King Dashrath’s family about his choice of successor. He wants to crown his eldest son Rama whereas his third wife, Kaikeyi, wants the diadem to go to her son, Bharat. The conflict does not escalate however because Rama obediently submits to his step-mother’s wish and goes away. He returns only 14 years later and like all good stories, everybody lives happily ever after.

Unison: (n) in one sound; complete agreement.

Origin: L uni-, one + sonare, to sound


Sonorous: (adj) giving a clear or loud sound; resonant

Origin: L sonare, to sound

  • The hostages sat bundled and blindfolded in a large empty hall, listening to a loud watch ticking sonorously.
  • After coming out of the movie hall, people said that the real star of the movie Mr Bhagwaan was Amitabh Bachcha’s sonorous voice.

“It was so booming, so powerful. I thought that is exactly how God would sound if I ever heard him,” said one man. “Mr Bachchan doesn’t appear even once on the screen. He is God. He is invisible. But we don’t even miss him, because we are so much under the spell of his voice,” gushed a woman.


Resonate: (v) to resound, echo.

Origin: L re-, again + sonare, to sound.

A sound that resonates is a resonant sound.

: (n) agreement of the vowel sounds of two or more words in a poem when the consonant sounds which come after or before these vowel sounds do not agree.

Origin: L ad-, to + sonare, to sound => ‘to sound’

  • For example, consider the words strike and grind. These two words are not rhyming words. The consonant sounds of the two words do not agree. However, the ‘I’ of both the words has the same sound. So, strike and grind are assonant. Similarly, hat and man are assonant because the ‘a’ of both has the same sound.
  • Loose/choose is a perfect rhyme. Rude /loose is an assonant rhyme
  • Assonance is used in poems. For example, read this sentence: Fleet feet sweep by sleeping Greeks.’ Here, only the words ‘fleet’ and ‘feet’ are perfectly rhyming. Yet, the sentence sounds so good and poetic because ‘fleet’, ‘feet’, ‘sweep’, ‘sleeping’, ‘Greeks’ are assonant rhymes.

Sonnet: (n) a poem of 14 lines with a fixed rhyming scheme.

Origin: L sonare, to sound L son, song It sonetto, little song.

: (n) backing, support.

  • “We will teach them all a lesson,” the impassioned leader breathed fire through the microphone. “Tell me, my brothers, will we?” “Yes we will!!!” came the hearty endorsement from the crowd.

Dorsal: (adj) related with the back side of an animal.

  • The people on the boat were enjoying the beautiful silence of the sea when something black shot up from below the water. It was the dorsal fin of a shark!
  • The stomach side of an animal is called its ventrical side, and its back side is called the dorsal side.

Dossier: (n) a collection of documents related to a particular topic.

Origin: L dorsum, back fr. dossier, a bundle of papers with a label on the back of the file.

  • The Indian government handed over a dossier on Mumbai terror attacks to the Pakistan government. The 600-page long document contained detailed evidence on the involvement of five Pakistan nationals in the attack.

Legerdemain: (n) sleight of hand; a clever trick.

Origin: L levis, light -> Fr. léger, light (in weight) + L manus, hand -> Fr main, hand => Fr. léger de main, ‘quick of hand’.


Fathom: (v) to understand; to go to the depth of.

Origin: Fathom initially meant the distance from the middle fingertip of one hand to the middle fingertip of the other hand of a large man holding his arms fully extended. This length was later standardized to six feet, and has long been used as a nautical unit of depth. ‘To fathom’, therefore, came to mean ‘to measure the depth of (a sea or a subject).’

Unfathomable: (adj) that whose depth cannot be measured.


Manifest: (v) to show; (adj) perceptible to the senses, esp. to the sight; plain; obvious.

Origin: L manus, hand and –festus, that which can be seized => ‘that which can be seized by hand.’

Manifesto: (n) a public declaration of the principles, policies or intentions (of a government, king, or organization).

Origin: from manifest.


Irony: (n) an outcome of events which contrary to expectations.

  • The latin root vegere means lively, but ironically, the word from it, vegetable, has come to mean just the opposite.
  • It was ironical that the ship touted as ‘unsinkable’ sunk on its maiden voyage.

Maiden: (adj) first; (n) an unmarried girl.


Seasoned: (adj) experienced


Manipulate: (v) to work skillfully at something with one’s hands; to manage or influence skillfully, esp. in an unfair manner.


Livid: (adj) extremely angry; having discoloured skin, for example, black-and-blue due to a bruise or white from illness or emotion.


Bolt: (v) to run; to eat in a rush, usually gulp down in one go

  • Getting late for the office, Reena hurriedly buttered a slice of bread, bolted it and washed it down with a few gulps of juice.
  • After his father slapped him, the angry teenager bolted upstairs and locked himself into his room.

Retaliate: (v) to return like for like; to give tit for tat.


Quell: (v) to suppress or crush completely; extinguish.

Origin: Related to ‘Kill’

  • Police burst tear gas shells to quell violence in Mirpur.

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