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In the year 1494 in Italy, a 15-year-old girl called Lisa Gherardini married a silk and cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo and became Lisa del Giocondo. When their second son was born, her husband commissioned a painter to do a portrait of her. The painter lingered over the painting for years, often diverting his attention to other, more immediate and lucrative commissions. Frustrated, Francesco cancelled the commission. Years later, shortly before his death, the painter finally completed the unfinished painting and bequeathed it to his assistant. Can you guess which painting it was?


In Italian, ma donna means ‘my lady’, just like the English word ‘madam’. Madam comes from the Old French ma dame. And, just like madam is shortened into ma’am, madonna is contracted into mona. So, what did the painter call that painting? Mona Lisa! It is also known as La Jaconde in French and La Gioconda in Italian, because Lisa del Giocondo was nicknamed Gioconda—the Italian word for jocund- as a pun on the feminine form of her married name Giocondo and her cheerful nature.

Latin ludere to play

Remember ‘Ludo’? That easy little board game is named after the Latin ludus, play.


The word ‘play’, and hence the root ludere, is used in two senses. First, there is the play we go to watch in a theatre; associated to it are the words preludeinterlude and ludicrous. The second sense—the games that people play or that are played upon people- leads to the words below.

A woman who is playing the game of ‘catch me if you can’ with you is being elusive.


Suresh was nonplussed. He ought to gift something on Tapan’s—his best friend’s—wedding, but what? He had spent hours, yet the answer eluded him. His wife laughed. “Oh darling, there is one gift for which his wife will really thank you!” “What?” Suresh eagerly asked. “Tell me fast!” “Give him deodorants,” she winked, alluding to Tapan’s problem of bad odour.

In another city, Om Prakash Verma was overwrought. His plot, which he had spent his life’s savings to purchase, had been usurped by a local builder whose goons now did not let him even come near it. He went to the police station and complained to the inspector. The inspector soothed him and then...advised him to pay five lakh rupees. “Oh, it’s not only ours. I’ve included the builder’s share too,” the inspector clarified, thinking that was why the old man looked so shocked. “So, you are all together in this!” Verma ji felt like screaming. “Together, you play games with unsuspecting people. The police colluding with the criminals!” He left in disgust, worrying about his plot and his country and how anyone could ever get justice in such a system.

The other words that have these playful origins are:

Ludere-1: illusionillusoryillusive

Ludere-2: deludedelusion

Latin durus hard,lasting


Do you remember the Duracell bunny in TV ads? While all the other bunnies in the ad fall down exhausted one after the other, he keeps going on and on and on. “Duracell battery—lasts longer, much longer,” the voice-over announces.


Zany: (adj) clownish


Antics: (n) playful or funny gestures.


Jocose: (adj) joking

Origin: L jocus, joke

  • Everyone loved him for his jocose manner. He was the life of every get-together and had a funny line ready for every person and every thing.

Jocular: (adj) joking, in the habit of joking.

Origin: L jocus, joke -> joculus, little joke. Joculus is a diminutive of jocus


Jeopardy: (n) risk; (v) jeopardize.

Origin: L jocus, play, game + partir, to divide into parts => ‘a divided game’ => ‘both sides are equal’ => ‘both chances are equally- can win,

can lose’ => ‘risky situation, whose outcome is uncertain.’

  • The smoker was told that smoking one more cigarette would put his life in jeopardy.
  • The minister jeopardized his life by going to negotiate with the terrorists without any security cover, as they had demanded.


Jocund: (adj) cheerful, happy.

  • Following the victory of India in the cricket World Cup, every street of the city was filled with jocund revelers dancing to the beats of drums and bursting firecrackers.

Linger: (v) to be slow in doing or leaving.

Origin: related with ‘longer’ => ‘to take longer’

  • Ravi, who used to live in Rupa’s neighbouring flat, was gone but his memory lingered. Why? She often remembered her last sight of him. His family had already said their goodbyes and gone downstairs but he had lingered, had stopped at the staircase and then, had looked back at her with wet eyes. He had been crying! She had been crying too. Why? Rupa still did not understand. 

Pun: (n) a play on words, utilizing the fact that two words have the same sound or that one word has two, totally different meanings.

  • Here’s a pun on the word ‘Principle’:

During the alumni meet of the school, an alumnus who was now a very successful businessman said this in his speech: “School had taught us to never forget our principles. So, Puri sir, I dutifully remembered you because you were the only principal I ever had.” The name of the school’s principal was Mr Romesh Puri.


Prelude: (n) an introduction to the main performance or work.

Origin: L pre-, before + ludere, to play => ‘that which is played before the main act’

  • The clash between groups of Hindu and Muslim boys was a prelude to the full-scale riots which happened two weeks later and left a hundred people dead.

Interlude: (n) a performance which is presented in between two acts of a play.

Origin: L inter-, between + ludere, to play => ‘in between the play’

  • The young singer’s first big scale public performance was during a play staged at the National Theater Festival in which he presented his songs as an interlude.

Ludicrous: (adj) ridiculous; laughable, nonsensical.

Origin: L ludere, to play => ‘playful’ => ‘funny’

  • “Where were you?” the father demanded.

“When I was coming home from the fields, I saw a stone levitating right in front of my eyes. When I went closer to it to investigate, a

spirit flew out of the stone and tried to get into me. I got so afraid that I just ran. I happened to run towards the fields. The spirit could

not run as fast. When I had gained a good distance from it, I climbed up a tree, saw it pass by and only after waiting for some more

time did I get down. I have come back home by the longer route because I was afraid that I would find the spirit again on the shorter

route. That’s why I got so late.” “Your story is ludicrous,” his father snapped. “Tell me honestly where you were.”


Elusive: (adj) hard to grasp; verb elude.

Origin: L e-, ex-, away + ludere, to play => ‘to playfully run away’ => ‘difficult to catch’

  • Despite decades of poverty alleviation schemes by the government, freedom from poverty has eluded most Indians.
  • Despite decades of government schemes, poverty alleviation has proved elusive.

Allude: (v) to make an indirect reference to. Such an indirect reference is called an allusion.

Origin: L ad-, to + ludere, to play => ‘to make a playful reference to something’


Collude: (v) to be secret partners in doing something wrong; noun collusion.

Origin: L com-, together + ludere, to play => ‘to play together’.

Ludere-1: illusion2502, illusory2503, illusive2504

Ludere-2: delude2505, delusion2506


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