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The decadence of the modern society was exemplified when a drug-addict killed his own parents after they refused to give him more money. He then hewed their bodies into small pieces, tied those in a sack and threw the sack into a gutter.

Criminals like him really deserve the harshest punishments possible, and they often get them too. However, one day, the convict will complete his sentence and come out. Then what? Statistics say that most probably he will ‘fall back in crime’. The rate of recidivism is very high in our country. This indicates the failure of the prisons to reform and rehabilitate the prisoners.

Latin petere to fall,seek

‘To fall’ and ‘to seek’ seem two entirely different actions. Are you wondering how can they be represented by the same word? Imagine a group of children who have fallen together upon a cake, each seeking to have the most of it himself. So, there you are! You fall upon a thing you seek badly. All those children are ‘competitors’ (L. com-, together).

To fall upon something once again is a ‘repetition’.


And, what is a ‘petition’? It is the act of falling at the feet of an authority seeking some favor or mercy. The Emperor got so offended by the jocular remark of the court jester that he ordered him to be immured immediately and beheaded the next morning. As soon as she heard the news, the jester’s poor wife came running to the court and genuflected before the emperor, beseeching him to please forgive her husband. Her moving petition, her miserable tears seemed to propitiate the emperor. He asked her to get up, and asked his minister to release the jester.


What is the word that we can use for the emperor? Petulant, someone who (or more descriptively, whose wrath) comes ‘falling’ upon others at the slightest provocation.


‘Look before you leap,’ the wise say. Hardly anyone listens, the young least of all. They fall right into an action, without giving it even a moment’s thought. That is why the phrase impetuous youth’ is so common. Associated with impetuousis the word impetus.

Looking up in the sky, you notice the absence of clouds and reflect that the weather seems propitious for the farmers this year. Untimely storms had destroyed the standing crops last year.


‘Perpetual’ rains are those that keep falling throughout the year (L. per-, throughout). Thus, the word perpetual is used in the sense of ‘everlasting, never-ending.’ And, to ‘perpetuate’ something is to make it last forever.


Decadence: (n) decay of morals, self-control, arts, etc.

Origin: L de-, down + cadere, to fall => ‘a falling down’ => ‘a decay’. The word ‘decay’ too has the same etymology.

  • It is decadent to irresponsibly lavish your money on self-centred transitory pleasures like ridiculously expensive clothes or drinks or foods or cars or holidays when you are surrounded by acute poverty and can use your money to help the poor.
  • We can also say that the rich people we talked about in the above sense lead a decadent life. This is because their life is about unrestrained, self centred pleasure seeking.

Hew: (v) to cut with an axe, sword, etc.

  • The woodcutter’s axe fell down in water. He prayed to the goddess of the lake to return his sole means of livelihood to him. The goddess knew that he was a good man. Thinking that here was a chance to reward him for living his life with probity, she appeared before him with an axe made of gold. The woodcutter however sadly declined it. He said: “My job is to hew wood, mother. This dainty axe of gold will not be able to hew even one branch. Mother, please give me my iron axe! I can earn the gold myself.”

We can also use the word hack instead of hew.


Recidivism: (n) falling back in crime. A criminal who does that is called a recidivist.

Origin: L re-, back + cadere, to fall => ‘to fall back (into crime)’


Rehabilitate: (v) to restore to good condition.

The word ‘emperor’ is from the Latin root imperare, which means ‘to command.’ Three related words are:


Imperial: (adj) related to an emperor or his empire

Imperious: (adj) acting like an emperor, dictatorial

Imperative: (n) command of an emperor. Everyone was bound to follow the command of an emperor. So imperative also means ‘a duty you are bound to do.’


Jester: (n) a person who is in the habit of cracking jokes or playing pranks; a professional clown employed by a king.

Origin: jest+ er

Jest: (n) a joke, a good-natured teasing, a non-serious talk to have fun.


Immure: (v) to imprison.

Origin: L in-, in + murus, wall => ‘to confine within walls’

The other word from the root murus is ‘mural.’


Mural: (n) an artwork painted on a wall or a ceiling; a very large picture or painting that covers most of a wall; (adj) related with, done on or or put on a wall.

  • The caves of Ajanta have colourful murals which depict the stories of various lives of Buddha. The murals of Ajanta are frescoes. This means that these paintings were done not with oil-based colours on a canvas but with water-dissolved pigments on fresh, moist plaster.

The word fresco means ‘fresh’ in Italian.

Genuflect: (v) to stand on bent knees, as a mark of respect or worship.

Origin: L genu, knee + flectere, to bend


Beseech: (v) to request someone very humbly, saying “please! Please! Please!”

  • Three-year-old Fateh and his mom had stopped their car at the traffic lights. A beggar woman came to them and, putting her bowl through the open window, beseeched them to give her something so that she and her baby could eat something. His mom shook her head and said ‘no’. The beggar waited and walked away. Then, Fateh asked his mother, “Mama, mama, why did’nt you take the bowl she was giving to you??”

Propitiate: (v) to calm down someone angry.

Origin: See propitious


Petulant: (adj) one who gets irritated over the slightest things; (n) petulance.

Origin: L petere, fall => ‘one who rushes at things’ => ‘one who rushes into anger’

  • Mahendra was 22 years old but behaved like a petulant child of two. He had to be constantly humoured and fussed over by his mother.

Impetuous: (adj) superfast, one who rushes into things without giving them a thought first.

Origin: L in-, in + petere, to fall => ‘one who dives straight into something without thinking about it first’ => ‘one who rushes at things’

  • The cricketer’s bowling was impetuous and so was he. He was always in a hurry to make statements, most of which he had to retract later with apologies.

Impetus: (n) the force with which a body falls into something else.

Origin: L im-, in + petere, to fall

  • Imagine throwing a ball up in the sky. It will come back with a thud, creating a little crater where it will land, before bouncing up again. That thud is the ball’s impetus. However, Physics tells us that the force with which the ball lands is only a manifestation of the force that you applied to send the ball up in the first place. This is why the word impetus is also used for any force that sets a body into motion.

Propitious: (adj) favourable

Origin: L pro-, fowards + petere, to fall => ‘falling towards you’ => ‘falling in favour’

Origin: L pro-, forword + peterd, to seek, to go to => ‘the one to whom you go to’ => ‘favourable, kind’ so propitiate means ‘to make favourable’.


Perpetual: (adj) lasting forever.

Origin: L per-, throughout + petere, to fall => ‘falling throughout a given time period’ => ‘never stopping’

  • Perpetual happiness gets boring.
  • Wealth is ephemeral, knowledge perpetual.

Perpetuate: (v) to make everlasting, to save from extinction.

Origin: verb form of perpetual

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