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IE ne- not


“Nahin! Ye nahin ho sakta!”

How many times have you heard the heroes and heroines and their mothers in the Hindi movies close their ears in anguish and give out this maudlin cry, or have sung this standard song in an Antakshri, to corner your opponent by giving them a tough ‘th’ to start their song from: na na karte pyaar tum hi se kar baithe?

Our na and nahin are cognates of the basketful of words below:

Na: No, never, neither, none, nil, annulnullify, nor, not, naught

Na na: nefariousnihilismannihilatenegate

Na na na: abnegate, deny, renegaderenege

The word ‘naughty’ has come from naught. It meant ‘having nothing, that is, no goodness’ and was used for evil or immoral acts or persons. It has remarkably mellowed down since and is used for merely mischievous or disobedient kids today.


Now, the things get more interesting. You’ve heard people chanting Om Namah Shivay, haven’t you? The Sanskrit namah means ‘to bow, to offer a deferential salutation.’ It is a compound of na and mah, self, and therefore denotes a rejection of ego, a submission. Namaste is from namah+ te. Te means you- it’s a cousin of tu in today’s Hindi and thee in the English of old- and so Namaste means ‘I bow before you.’ A greeting of great humility indeed! Namaskar is made fromnamas+ kar and so means ‘an act of bowing.’ Namaz is the Persian counterpart of these words.

Latin cernere to separate, sift

You can associate this root with the Hindi word chhaan found in chhannana and chhantna. It looks similar and means the same.


The cernere words are:

Cernere-1: secretion, secreteascertain

Cernere-2: concertdisconcert

Cernere-3: discerndiscreetdecree

Latin unguere to smear

You can associate this root with the Hindi word chhaan found in chhannana and chhantna. It looks similar and means the same.


Look back at the root pungere, to prick. One of the words that came out of that root was a totally-different looking ‘point’. Similarly, jungere meant to join and it gave us ‘joint’. So, please do not look very shocked when I tell you that ungueregave us ointment.

Aunty Unguere is also the mother of the following words:


Latin usus to use


Of course the word ‘use’ has come from this root. The other words from ‘use’ are:

Useful words-1: usage, usurp

Useful words-2: disuse, misuse

Useful words-3: abusedisabuse

Useful words-4: peruseusuryutilitarian


Latin velle to wish, will

The words ‘will’, ‘wellness’ and ‘wealth’ are cousins of velle. Wealth simply means a state of wellness. But in our materialistic world, we regard only that person as well-off who has a lot of material possessions. So, wealth too came to be associated with goods and money.


Anguish: (n) great pain.


Annul: (v) to declare invalid, cancel.

Origin: L ad-, towards + nullare, to make null

  • The khap panchayat at Rumanda village in Haryana annuled the marriage of Sunder Lal and Lilawati because both were of the same  caste, and directed Lilawati to tie a rakhi on Sunder Lal’s wrist. However, in a rare show of personal courage, Lilawati refused to accept the panchayat’s fiat saying that she preferred death to accepting Sunder as her brother. Then, Sunder’s family too stood up in her support and said they were disgusted by the decision. 

Nullify: (v) to declare or make invalid or ineffective.

Origin: null + -fy, to make => ‘to make null’

  • When it was proved beyond doubt that the marriage had been forced upon the bride by the groom and his family, the court nullified the marriage. 

Nefarious: (adj) extremely wicked, villainous.

Origin: L ne-, not + fas,right => ‘against the law, against God’s law’

  • Ram initially became friends with Sundar and Jagmohan but when he heard of all their nefarious deeds, he quickly snapped all ties with them. 

Nihilism: (n) the belief that nothing holds any value or truth, and that nothing can be known.

Origin: L nihil, nothing


Annihilate: (v) to destroy completely; to reduce to nothingness.

Origin¨L ad-, towards + nihil, nothing

  • In the movie Paap ko jalaa kar raakh kar doongaa, the hero promises that he will himself that he will annihilate all evil from the world.

Negate: (v ) to deny, to nullify.

Origin: L negare, to deny

qqThe minister was accused of taking bribes from big industrialists to pass land development projects, but he negated the charges.


Abnegate: (v) to give up, renounce.

Origin¨L ab-, away + negare, to deny

  • Mothers are by nature self-abnegating. If there is a paucity of food, they go hungry themselves so that their children can sate themselves. 

Renegade: (n) traitor

Origin: L re-, back + negare, to deny

  • Shah Daaman had been ousted from power by his brother, Taaman, with the help of some of his ministers and friends. However, Daaman did not accept the back-stabbing so easily. He rallied all his supporters and attacked Taaman. Taaman was defeated in the war and Daaman became the king again. The first thing that he did was to put all his renegade ministers and friends to death.


Renege: (v) to go back on one’s words.

Origi: L re-, again + negare, to deny

  • Little children are often taught the rhyme: promise-breakers are shoe-makers. Another way of saying the same thing: those who renege on their promise are shoe-makers.

Deferential: (adj) respectful; noun deference: meaning respect.


Secrete: (v) to release a discharge; to hide.

  • The stomach secretes gastric juices which help in the digestion of food.
  • He secreted the precious documents in an old trunk in the store room of his house.
  • A secretary is one who can keep your secrets!

Ascertain: (v) to make sure.

Origin: L ad-,to + certain, sure. The etymology of ‘certain’ is as under:

L cernere, to decide -> certus, decided, sure

  • The widow’s role in her husband’s death is yet to be ascertained.

Concert: (n) harmony

Origin: L con-, together + cernere, to sift

  • Though the husband and the wife disagreed on most issues, they were in concert on the choice of a school for their young child.

Disconcert: (v) to disturb greatly.

  • Everyone was disconcerted by his crazy behaviour. He seemed to have lost his sanity!

Discern: (v) to distinguish something.; to recognize something as different from others; to understand.

Origin: L dis-, apart + cernare, to sift

  • “If you want to discern a man and know his soul, you must look, not at how he keeps silent, or how he speaks, or how he weeps, or even how he is stirred by the noblest ideas, but you had better look at him when he laughs. If a man has a good laugh, it means he’s a good man.” Fyodor Dostoevsky

Discreet: (adj) showing good judgment in speech or conduct.

  • They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighbourhood.
  • Shahzaada Salim was so besotted with Anarkali that he promised to make her the queen of Hindustan one day. When emperor Akbar learnt of his son’s indiscretion, he was furious and ordered immediate incarceration of Anarkali.
  • “It has been alleged that the cause of a very famous husband-poisoning with arsenic, was nothing less than a series of constant indiscretions like these that the wife had to bear in society. This husband used to give his wife, public little taps on her shoulder, he would startle her by a resounding kiss, he dishonoured her by a conspicuous tenderness, seasoned by those impertinent attentions the secret of which belongs to the French savages who dwell in the depths of the provinces, and whose manners are very little known. It was, it is said, this shocking situation,—one perfectly appreciated by a discerning jury,—which won the prisoner a verdict softened by the extenuating circumstances.

The jurymen said to themselves:

“For a wife to murder her husband for these conjugal offences, is certainly going rather far; but then a woman is very excusable, when

she is so harassed!” Petty Troubles of Married Life, by Honore de Balzac Indiscretion (n) the state of not being discreet


Decree: (n) authoritative order; (v) pass such an order.

  • Shih Huang Ti, the first Emperor of China, the man who unified the five kingdoms and built the Great Wall, decreed that every book written before he was born should be destroyed.

Anoint: (v) to make sacred in a ceremony by rubbing oil; to rub oil or an ointment.

  • The prince was anointed as a king in a huge ceremony which was attended by people from all over the kingdom. 

Unction: (n) an act of anointing; the use of oil in religious ceremonies; a soothing balm.

  • In christianity, a priest rubs olive oil or another pure plant oil on the forehead and hands of a dying man while reciting prayers. This anointing is said to bless the patient, forgive his sins and strengthen his soul to face the coming death. This ceremony is known as unction or extreme unction. 

Unctuous: (adj) oily

  • David Copperfield did not like the unctuous manner in which Uriah Heep talked. He wished he would talk naturally and honestly. 

Abuse: (v) to use wrongfully or exploitatively.

  • Sundar abused the trust that his friend Shaam had placed in him and told everybody of Shaam’s secrets.

Disabuse: (v) to clear a misconception of.

  • Rabi disabused his son of the belief that the sun revolved around the earth.

Peruse: (v) to read thoroughly.

  • “No book is duller than a book of jokes, for what is refreshing in small doses becomes nauseating when perused in large assignments.” From the book ‘The Best American Humorous Short Stories.’

Usury: (n) overcharging of interest.

qqThe moneylenders in villages give loans at usurious interest rates.


Utilitarian: (adj) useful

  • “There’s nothing very utilitarian about fiction or its creation, and I suspect that people are desperate to make it sound manly, backbreaking labour because it’s such a wussy thing to do in the first place.” Nick Hornby 

Volition: (n) will

  • A volunteer is one who steps forward to do a task out of his own volition, not because he is bound or forced to do it.

Benevolence: (n) desire to do good to others; desire that good should happen to everyone.

Origin: L bene-, good + velle,wish

  • Deol Sahab was a benevolent old man from whose door no one ever returned disappointed.

Malevolence: (n) desire to harm others.

Origin: L malus, evil + velle, wish

  • The villains of all stories are full of malevolence, usually towards the whole world, but definitely towards the hero.

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