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The Hindi words vachan (speech, promise), vaachan (reading, narration), vaachnik (oral), vachas (talkative), vaak (speech, voice), vakya ( a sentence, word, speech), vyakt (expressed), vakta (speaker),vyakhyaan (speech, elaboration), and avaak reh jaana (be rendered speechless, stunned) as well as the Arabic vakaalat (advocacy) are cousins of the vocare words.


Latin cantere to sing

The next time you hear a cock give his wake-up call to the world, do go to him and thank him for his conscientious discharge of his duty. Or perhaps, give him a jaadu ki jhappi.


The poor creature will be touched. He may even start dancing with joy if you call him Mr Chanticleer. Indian cocks are not taught Latin roots by their mother hens, so he will not know what the word means but its length and sound will tell him it is something good. You are an Indian but not a cock and are reading Latin roots, so you can make out that chanticleer means ‘one who sings in a clear voice.’ Do not rush to flatter your croaking friends with this title though. The word is strictly reserved for cocks.

There are many more beautiful—and more human—words from this root.


Cantere-1: chantcantcantocantata

Cantere-2: incantationcantabilecantillate

Cantere-3: recantincentiveaccentuate

Cantere-4: chanteycanorous

Greek oide song
In Greek 'song' meaning is 'oide'.


Rimjhim closed her eyes and earnestly sang an ode to love. The performance, the emotion, the melody wet many eyes. Really, how pious, how divine a feeling love was, they all thought, and how well this talented girl had captured its essence in her song. They had never heard a song like that, they said. They loved it!

But a few people disagreed. Strongly. They had found her rhapsody childish. It was cloyingly sentimental, they said. Laughing over it very much, they did a parody of the song, much to the chagrinof all her admirers.

That experience in her very first public performance taught Rimjhim how subjective judgments on art were, and, how futile it was to try to be liked by everyone. She decided not to worry any more about what other people said about her work and to concentrate just on what made her feel good.


The art of versification is called prosody.

 to choose, read
 to choose, speak
The English 'eye' has its arisen from the Indo-European root okw-

A few years ago, Govinda had sung these laudatory lines f


The lucky guy who has been ‘selected’ by the college heartthrob to be her boyfriend has been ‘chosen apart’ from a large number of wannabes.

Duggu Dogra is a rich hotelier who brags about his eclectic taste in women; he claims he has had lovers of all colours and countries. While he is sentimental about a particular lady, he writes love poems to her because he believes that women like such romantic things. But I am sure you would want to cry out in sympathy for his girlfriends if you saw his illegible handwriting and the pathetic poetry that he makes them wade through. Here is a Dogra Doggerel:

When you walked into my life, it seemed that sun shone

And those years started seeming dark, when I was still alone

Each moment that you are away, I feel on thorns thrown

Each moment I think of you, may that to you be known

Please darling now promise to never, leave my heart’s throne

You are mine, oh my sunshine, and, I am your own

Like Duggu’s handwriting, maps seem illegible too. But at least a key can help you read a map. Such a key is called a legend. Of course, the word also applies to the wonderful stories that we have ‘read’ in our childhood and continue to read still, or maybe watch in movies like ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh.’ In this movie, as in all legends, it is difficult to separate the fact from the fiction. The story tellers add generous dollops ofmasaala to make the story interesting.

If given a choice, which movie would you watch, ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ or ‘Andaz Apna Apna’? Well, in my case, the ‘choice has been made beforehand’—I have a predilection for romantic comedies.

The other words from these two roots are:


Leg- 1: negligentdiligentintellect

Leg- 2: intelligentsiaintelligibleelitesortilege

Leg- 3: dialogue, dialectdialectical

Leg- 4: monologue, lexicondyslexia

The Greek legein means speech, as we have already seen. And what do we speak? That is described by a derivative of legein: logos. Logos means speech, word, reason. Can you think of why the Greeks would have used the same word for both speech and reason? ‘Logic’ is the eldest child of logos.


The logos bacha-log 1: logisticanalogoushomologous

The logos bacha-log 2: prologueepiloguesyllogism

The logos bacha-log 3: apologueapologylogomachy

As for the answer to my question, just think of how many times you have dismissed a man as “stupid” just because he could not speak properly, and have called a man ‘intelligent’ just because he talks impressively.


Latin verbum word
When you talk of ‘Verbal’ Ability, you are talking of your ability with words.


The word ‘Verb’, however, feels arrogant that it is the head of the family and so refuses to be used for just any word. ‘I will only describe actions,’ he declares haughtily. But the other members of the family are not so proud. They let themselves be used in the general sense of ‘words’. These meek members are:



Chant: (n) a short hymn that is sung together by devotees; a short mantra supposed to have magical properties.


Cant: (n) an insincere statement which is said to impress or to avoid telling the truth.

  • Politicians are masters of cant.
  • When asked what she hated the most, the actress replied that she was intolerant of cant. “I appreciate people who say it as it is,” she said.

Canto: (n) a division of a long poem.

Origin: L cantus, song

  • The Valmiki Ramayana is an epic poem. It is arranged into 6 books- Book of Youth, Book of Ayodhya, Book of Forest, The Empire of Holy Monkeys, Book of Beauty and Book of War. Each of these books is further arranged into cantos. Book of Youth has 77 cantos, Book of Ayodhya 119 cantos, Book of Forest 75 cantos and so on. Each canto tells a particular event. For example, the episode of Queen Kaikeyi asking King Dashrath to make her son Bharat the king of Ayodhya instead of Ram, is described in Canto 11 of Book of Ayodhya. The king’s anguish at her demand is told in the following canto, Canto 12. Rama’s departure happens in Canto 40 of the book. The intermediate cantos describe the drama that happened in between.

Epic: (n) a very long poem which tells the story of a hero’s adventures.


Cantata: (n) a medium-length narrative piece of music, religious in theme, and performed with vocal solos and a chorus. It is the shorter version of an oratorio.


Incantation: (n) a magical formula.

  • The magician asked the woman to put in all her jewellery into a box with the incantation Grooboodhooshoodhum”repeated five times and to open it a week later with the incantation “Muhdoohsoohdooboorg” uttered seven times. That would double her jewellery, he promised.

Cantabile: (adj) playing a musical instrument such that it resembles the human voice.

  • The old man’s piano could produce an unbelievably beautiful cantabile tone. This means, the piano sounded just like the humming of a lady.

Cantillate: (v) to recite musically.

  • Have you heard someone read Ek omkaar sat naam (the Sikh mool mantra) or the Gayatri mantra (Om bhur bhuvah swah) or passages from the Qura’n or the Bible? Does a person read these religious texts in a different manner from novels, newspapers or the other stuff he reads? Yes. We ‘read’ the novels and other books but we ‘recite’ the religious texts. That sing-song, musical manner of reading (a religious/liturgical text) is called cantillation. Note that cantillation only means musical recitation; it is not the same thing as singing.
    Cantillation involves fewer musical notes than singing.
  • Try to recall the sound of the Muslim call to prayer. That is an example of Quranic cantillation.

Recant: (v) to take back. (a re – means ‘back’)

  • The emperor Hiranyakashipu ordered his son Prahlad to recant his belief in Vishnu or else get killed.
  • The witness told the judge that the police was pressurizing her to recant her testimony. “They’ve all taken bribes from the murderer’s family,” she said, “and came to my house again and again to tell me that if I did not recant my statement, I would land in great trouble and they would not be able to protect me.” Everyone in the courtroom was stunned by the disclosure.

Incentive: (n) a reward promised as a motivation.

Origin: a in –, into + canere => ‘to set the tune’

  • Parents often use incentives to motivate their child to do unpleasant tasks. Example: “If you get 10 out of 10 in tomorrow’s test, I’ll buy you a big bar of chocolate.”
  • The Government of India offered ` 2 crore as incentive to any sportsperson who won a gold medal in the Olympics.

Accentuate: (v) highlight

Origin: from accent, which cornes from a ad –, to + contus, singing => ‘a particular way or tone of singing’

  • The innocence of her looks was accentuated by her plain dress of black cotton and by the little brooch and bracelet which were her sole ornaments.
  • The tight, straight coat accentuated her narrow waist.

Chantey: (n) a sailor’s song. Also called a shanty.

  • A major part of the sailors’ work was to manipulate the sails by means of heavy ropes. This involved a lot of physical labour. In order to make the repetitive and difficult work enjoyable, the group leader—known as the shantyman—would sing a line of a song. The rest of the sailors would then respond in chorus, tightening or relaxing their hold on the rope as the melody rose or fell. Thus, the chanteys also served to synchronize the movements of all sailors. Most chanteys were such call-and-response songs—the shantyman sang the first line and the others responded. He selected songs that suited the task in hand in speed and length.

Canorous: (adj) singing

  • The cuckoo and the nightingale are canorous birds.

Ode: (n) tribute

  • Saare jahaan se achha Hindustan hamaara’ is the poet Iqbal’s ode to his motherland.

Melody: (n) a sweet sounding, musical arrangement of sounds. Adjective: melodious, sweet sounding

  • Lata Mangeshkar has such a melodious voice that she is known as the Nightingale of India.

Rhapsody: (n) a song of great, enthusiastic praise; (v) rhapsodize: to talk or sing about with great enthusiasm.

  • Lata was shopping in one of the famous malls of London when lo! She found herself face-to-face with Amitabh Bachchan! He had just entered the showroom she was in. Not being able to think in her excitement, she forwarded her trembling hand to him for his autograph. He smilingly obliged. Just then, the shop manager came and escorted him to their collection. Lata hung around till he stayed in the showroom. She rhapsodized about the encounter for months.

Cloy: (v) to make sick with sweetness; (adj) cloying: something that is so sweet that you feel disgusted or sick.

  • No one can drink concentrated sugar syrup. It is cloyingly sweet.

Parody: (n) a performance that makes fun of another performance.

  • The students presented ‘Sholay Reloaded’—a parody of the movie Sholay—in the college annual function.

Prosody: (n) the art of writing verse.

  • The basic elements of music are: melody (sruti), rhythm (laya) and prosody (lyrics).
    Think of even a basic song. An example:

Twinkle twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are

Up above the world so high

Like a diamond in the sky.

It is the particular arrangement of words that enables us to read it in a sing-song voice. The writer could also have expressed the same thought as: These twinkling stars shine like diamonds in the sky, high above the whole world. I often wonder what they really are.

Can you recite the above two sentences? No. You can only read them like you read newspapers or books.


Eclectic: (adj) selected from many different sources.

  • The music album was an eclectic mix of songs from Bihar, Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and Bengal.
  • The menu of the restaurant was eclectic—it offered Mughlai, Rajasthani, Thai, Chinese, Italian and Continental cuisines.

Illegible: (adj) that which cannot be read. Opposite: legible, meaning ‘readable.’

  • Sushi picked up a tattered old letter from her grandfather’s trunk. The page was rotten. Only here and there was a sentence or a part of a sentence legible. The first that she could read was near the middle of the page:
    “His mother left for La. . . today, he . . . sty was stricken . . . terday. God give she does not die . . . and military. . . of Sha . . .”

Wade: (v) to walk through water, snow, sand, or another such substance which offers resistance to movement; hence, to move with difficulty or labour

  • It rained non-stop for a few hours in Chandrapur. As a result, the city was flooded, electricity went kaput and the people on the roads waded knee-deep in water.

Doggerel: (n) a nonsensical poem; a very badly written poem.

A similar word is drivel.

Drivel: (n) nonsensical talk.

  • “I do better things with my time than listening to the drivel of RJs,” Ramesh told his friend who had asked him who his favorite Radio Jockey was.

Legend: (n) an explanatory list of the symbols appearing on the map; a mythical story about an event or person. (adj) Legendary doesn’t mean just famous; it means so famous that myths are attached to him or it.


Predilection: (n) natural inclination towards one thing above all the others.

  • A survey found that between BE and MBBS, students show an increasing predilection for the engineering degree.

Negligent: (adj) not paying attention.

  • The child died due to the ayah’s negligence. After cleaning the floor with the disinfectant, she forgot to put it back on the shelf. The child, who was barely an year and a half, thought it was milk and drank it.

Diligent: (adj) applying great care and effort to his work. The opposite of negligent.

Origin: L di-, apart + ligere-, to choose.

  • The writer diligently researched historical records for his novel set in the Mughal era.

Intellect: (n) higher intelligence

  • Many people worry that the poor reading habits of the youngsters, and their addiction to television and video games, may make them a generation of a weakly developed intellect and imagination. 

Intelligentsia: (n) group of intellectuals.

  • The writer said that she worked hard to keep her language simple. “I do not try to be clever or scholarly in my writing,” she said. “I see no fun in being understood only by the intelligentsia. My writing is about the ordinary man. So I want that an ordinary man should be able to understand it.”

Intelligible: (adj) understandable

  • Traditionally, Hindi and Urdu were mutually intelligible languages. After partition, religious fundamentalists started identifying Hindi with Hindus and Urdu with Islam . The commonly used Urdu words in Hindi were replaced by weighty, tongue-tripping

Sanskrit words, and the Hindi words in Urdu, by Arabic or Persian words. This stilted Sanskritized Hindi was utterly unintelligible to a speaker of the stilted Arabicized Urdu.

Stilted: (adj) artificial, very stiff and formal, not natural.


Elite: (adj) highest class people.

  • The clientele of the restaurant consisted of the very elite of the city.

Sortilege: (n) divination by drawing lots.

Origin: a sors, fate + legere, to choose.

  • Many popular forms of fortune telling are based on sortilege—tarot reading, dice casting, flipping of a coin, etc. The practice of opening a book at a random page and then taking the words written on that page as divine advice too falls under sortilege. Another method is to think of a question, throw a set of three dice and then, read the answer in the sum of the obtained numbers. For example, a sum of three suggests that a favourable surprise is on the way; four suggests disappointment, six warns of obstacles etc. There are eighteen possibilities in all. Sortilege always offers a predetermined number of possibilities.

Dialect: (n) a regional variation of a language.

  • The language of Rajasthan is called Rajasthani. Rajasthani further has many dialects such as Marwari, Brijbhasha, Malwi, Dhundhari, Mewari, Hadoti, Wagdi and Shekhawati. 

Dialectical: (adj) related with debate.

  • Nobody can match the dialectical skills of Gaurav. He has won each debate he has participated in.

Lexicon: (n) dictionary

  • For most students, the idea of an English lexicon begins and ends with the Oxford English Dictionary.

Dyslexia: (n) a learning disorder in which the child is unable to recognize and understand written words and symbols.

Origin: L dys-,bad, ill + lexis, word

  • Aamir Khan’s movie Taare Zameen Par tells the story of a dyslexic child and how he suffers till one teacher is finally able to diagnose his dyslexia.

Logistics: (n) management of all the resources involved in a particular event.

Origin: Gk logos, reason -> logistikos, skilled in reasoning => ‘skilled in calculation’

  • The logistics of Maha Kumbh are mind boggling. 70 million people came to Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela of 2001! The administration had to arrange for their housing, food, toilets, garbage disposal, health care and security. It did it so well that the event passed without an accident.

Analogous: (adj) parallel to, similar to.

  • The relationship between a novel and its chapters is analogous to the relationship between an epic and its cantos.
  • The motion of the tilted earth around the sun is analogous to that of a spinning top.

Homologous: (adj) having the same relation, exactly similar to.

Origin: Gk homos, same + logos, word, ratio. Note: The word ratio means both reason and proportion.

  • The tribal people regard nature to be homologous to the maternal womb.
  • Most aspects of human physiology are closely homologous to corresponding aspects of animal physiology, and animal experimentation has provided much of the foundation of physiological knowledge.

Prologue: (n) an introduction, a foreword.

Origin: Gk pro-, befor + logos, speech

  • In the prologue to the novel, a young man is shown being murdered by a robber. The novel opens at five years after the day of that murder.

Epilogue: (n) an ending statement or speech at the end of a work.

Origin: Gk epi-, upon + logos, speech => ‘upon the end of a speech’

  • The novel ends with Samia’s and Arnav’s marriage. The epilogue shows them five years later, happily married and the proud parents of a baby boy. Samia’s parents too are shown playing with the child, indicating that they have forgiven the couple completely. So, the readers close the book with the satisfaction that the couple lived happily ever after.

Syllogism: (n) use of two statements together to reach a logical conclusion.

Origin: Gk syn-, together + logos reason => ‘to reason together’

  • A classic example of a syllogism is “All men are mortal. Ram is a man. So, Ram is a mortal.”

Apologue: (n) a short story, often with animal characters, that teaches a moral.

Origin: Gk apo-, away from + logos, speech => ‘to give a speech about something but staying away from that thing in the speech.’ => ‘to not talk in direct language’ => ‘to give your message using other things as symbols.’

qqThe Panchatantra stories are all apologues.


Apology: (n) a statement of defence or justification.

Origin: Gk apo-, off + logos, speech => ‘to speak in defence.’

A person who speaks in defense or support of something is its apologist.

  • Gandhi was an apologist of non-violence.
  • The Naxalites killed the editor of a leading Bihar newspaper because he was an apologist for strong government action against them.

Logomachy: (n) fight about words or their usage.

Origin: Gk logos, word + makhe, battle

  • Logomachy can arise from the use of the same word or phrase in different senses.
  • The two lovers agitated in a logomachy about the term ‘commitment.’

Verbose: (adj) using a lot of words.

  • In the movie Sholay, Jai, who likes talking to the point, often puts plugs in his ears to escape from Basanti’s verbose talks.

Verbatim: (adj) word by word.

  • The newspaper contained a verbatim account of the courtroom trial of the terrorist.
  • The eager fan took down his favorite writer’s speech verbatim.
  • The Muslims consider the Quran to be the verbatim word of God.

Verbiage: (n) wordy speech or writing.

  • Hum yeh kareinge! Hum woh kareinge! The neta’s verbiage went on for a whole hour.

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