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‘Duracell’ is purported to be a battery that lasts. That is why, it is such a good name for that product. ‘Durable’ goods, like a television, a car or a brick, last a long time too. In contrast are the ‘soft goods’, like cosmetics and comestibles, which come with an expiry date.


The ‘duration’ of an event is the time for which it lasts. When you tell your friends what happened ‘during’ the movie, you tell them what happened while it lasted.

Tough times never last but tough people do. This quality of lasting through tough times is called endurance.

Your best friend is abnormally silent; he is either angry or depressed about something, but which, and why? You will ask after his dour expression melts somewhat; touching him just now might cause explosions!

Indurateobdurate and duress are the other words from this root.

The Sanskrit word daru is related to durus. It means wood and is found in deodar (the wood of the gods), dram (tree), dramnakh (thorn) and dramaalay (forest). The Persian drakht meaning tree too is a cognate.

All these words stem from the IE root deru-, meaning ‘firm, solid, hard.’

Replace the ‘d’ of daru with ‘t’. What happens? You get teru- and which word of English is it similar to? Tree! Yes. The English words ‘tree’ and ‘true’ also belong to the deru- family. Had you ever wonderd before at the similar spellings of tree and true? They both have the idea of firmness.

Now, the state of being true is called ‘truth’, and the promise of truthfulness and loyalty is ‘troth’. The one whom you have made your own with your troth is your betrothed.

Truce and trysts too have the same trustworthy origins.


IE mel-2 soft

The Sanskrit words mulayam, malai and maluk are the cognates of the common English words ‘melt’ and ‘mild’, and of all the words below:


The Latin word blandus also has come from the same IE root. How, are you wondering? Say meladus through your nose. You’ll get melandus, which became blandus with time.


Somebody’s bland manner means his pleasantly gentle way of talking and doing things. A bland breeze is a softly blowing breeze.

Bland food is not so much fun though. It is mild, and to make it so, no condiments, and not much salt, is added to it. It does not excite the taste buds at all! When Rashi called the movie she had been to, bland, it was not in the sense of ‘soothing.’ Rather, she had implied that it was dull and insipid and had failed to arouse her emotions or interest.

To ‘blandish’ somebody is to soften his heart towards you by saying words and doing things that you know he will like. Seth Sitaram Sudhiram Chaubey was very rough and tough with everybody, but before his wife’s blandishments, he melted like ice. She could make him do anything; she was the only one who could.

IE mel-3 to crush, grind

A machine that grinds or pulverizes any solid substance, like grains, is called a ‘mill’. 


The 12 broad-surfaced teeth in our mouth, with which we grind down the food, are called ‘molars’. We call the crushed remnants of a building, malba. The process of rubbing or grinding is called malan in Sanskrit. The Hindi word for a wrestler is mall probably because it is his job to grind down his opponent. When someone tells his enemy, “Main tera maliamet kar doonga,” he is threatening to grind him to dust. The other words from this root are:

Mel-1: malleablemallet

Mel-2: maulmaelstrom

Mel-3: moulderemolumentimmolate


Endurance: (n) ability to bear difficulties or pain; last; verb endure; (adj). enduring: means lasting

Origin: L en-, in + durus, hard => ‘to harden oneself against difficulties’

  • A marathon is a run of 42 km. One needs endurance to finish it.
  • The young man endured great difficulties on his way to success.
  • Love and war are two enduring themes of literature.

Dour: (adj) extremely serious, unsmiling.

Origin: L durus, hard => ‘with a hard look on face’

  • Many students consider History to be a dour subject—a boring roster of dates and events—but it will begin to seem interesting if they view it as a story, with good guys and bad guys and action and drama. 

Indurate: (v) make hard.

Origin: L in-, in + durus, hard => ‘to harden’

  • The perfidy of his lover indurated his heart. He never could trust a woman again.

Obdurate: (adj) stubborn

Origin: L ob- + durus, hard => ‘hard-hearted’

  • “He was cruel enough to inflict the severest punishment and obdurate enough to be insensible to the voice of a reproving conscience.”
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
  • There is no worse torture in the world than listening to a song by someone who cannot sing but obdurately does so anyway.

Duress: (n) state of being pushed into doing something by use of force, threats or imprisonment.

Origin: L durus, hard => ‘hardness’

  • People admit their crimes to police because they are under duress.
  • A bank heist cannot be successful without guns. The bank robbers use the guns to threaten the bank staff. It is only under duress that the bank employees give them access to the money vaults.

(n) robbery

Stem from: (v) to originate from.

There is a homonym of the above stem.


Stem: (v) to stop the flow.

  • With alert patrolling, the city police stemmed the rise of thefts.
  • The government stemmed the flow of its highly educated professionals to the western countries by offering them great incentives for working within the country. 

Betrothed: (n) one with whom one is engaged to be married; verb: betroth: to engage to be married.

Origin: be + troth => ‘with troth’

  • In Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayeinge, Simran is betrothed to Kuljeet from her birth.

Truce: (n) a cease-fire.

Origin: Old Eng treow, pledge

  • India and Pakistan fought their first war over the Kashmir issue in 1949 but then a truce was arranged through the mediation of the

United Nations.


Tryst: (n) an appointment for a meeting, especially for a secret meeting between lovers; a place where such a meeting takes place.

Origin: related with ‘trust’

  • Shabbir, the goon of the Bombay underworld whom everyone feared, went for a tryst with his lover, who was the sister of a rival goon. He met her, spent time with her, and then, as he was walking back to his car, humming a song, somebody fired bullets after bullets at him from behind a wall. He died on the spot.
  • The speech that Jawahar Lal Nehru gave at 12 am of 15th August 1947 is popularly known as ‘The Tryst of Destiny speech.’ It started with these lines:

“Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.”

Mollify: (v) to soothe.

Origin: L mollis, soft

  • Little Ami knew that mama was really, really angry with her. She gently went to her mother, took her hand and kissed it. Her mother pushed her away. Instead, Ami embraced her and kissed her cheek and stroked her hair and kept saying sorry till her mama was finally mollified and smiled.

Emollient: (n) an ointment that allays irritation and soreness of skin and softens it; (adj) soft, making less harsh.

Origin: L e-, out + mollis, soft => ‘to soften’

The Indian word for emollient- malham- is from the same Indo-European root but it has entered our vocabulary through Arabic.

  • Emollients/moisturizers prevent the skin from be coming dry by forming an oily layer on the skin which traps the moisture in the skin.
  • Sujata had been brought up liberally by her widowed mother but now, when she wanted to marry a Christian boy, her mother refused. Sujata fought with her, accusing her of double standards and of caring lesser about her happiness than about what people may say. Her normally short-tempered mother remained emollient, “Sujata my dear,” she said in a tone full of soft, maternal love, “it is not people that I am worried about, it’s you.”

Amalgam: (n) a mercury alloy; any well-fused mixture of two or more things.

Origin: Gk malagma, a soft mass.

  • Other than iron and platinum, all the metals dissolve in mercury, and the resulting soft mass is called an amalgam.
  • India is an amalgam of diverse cultures, religions, languages and cuisines.

Smelting: (n) separation of metal from impurities by melting the metal ore.

Origin: from ‘melt’


Bland: (adj) without any flavour, dull.

  • The unremarkable voice of the actor completely suited the bland personality of the character he played.

Blandishment: (n) a flattering statement made to make the other person do something desirable.

  • Here’s a blandishment taken from the movie Andaaz apna apna:

“Aap mahaan hai! Aap shaktimaan hai! Balki mein to kehta hu ki... aap purush hi nahi hai!” “Kyaa ????!!!’’ ‘‘Mera matlab, aap mahapurush


Pulverize: (v) to grind into small particles.

  • “Muscle dekhe hai na mere, MUSSAL ke rakh doonga!” This dialogue is again from the movie Andaaz Apna Apna. The phrase ‘mussal ke rakh doonga’ translates into “I will pulverize you.”

Malleable: (adj) capable of being hammered into sheets.

Origin: L molere, to grind -> malleus, hammer

  • Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they get set in a shape, it’s hard to get them back the way they were.

Mallet: (n) a wooden hammer.

Origin: L malleus, hammer


Maul: (v) to beat badly.

Origin: L molere, to grind

  • A violent tornado mauled east Bihar, killing 80 people, besides rendering thousands homeless.

Maelstrom: (n) a whirlpool.

Origin: Dutch malen,to grind + strom, stream

  • The innocent boy was drawn into the maelstrom of crime.

Moulder: (v) to decay.

  • My running shoes mouldered in the back of my store-room.

Emolument: (n) payment or rewards for work done.

Origin: L e-, out + molere, to grind

  • The company extracted very hard work out of all its employees but the emoluments they received were also very handsome.

Immolate: (v) to sacrifice.

Origin: L im-, in + molare, to grind

  • One of the students protesting against the government’s reservation policy immolated himself for their cause by setting himself on fire.
  • The woman who did not have any child immolated the son of her neighbour because an occult practitioner—a taantrik—had told her that blood of a child would appease the gods who were angry with her.

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