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The Latin root agere has a sister in the Greek agein which means ‘to drive, lead.’ The words from agein are:

Agony, synagogue, antagonist, protagonist

The fifth word from the agein family is stratagem. Ravana kidnaps Sita through a stratagem. He makes a demon, Mareecha, assume the form of a golden deer and wander in front of the hut where Ram, Sita and Lakshman are living. Sita is bewitched by the beauty of that deer and asks Ram to hunt it for her. The deer runs away and Ram chases it, after instructing Lakshman to stay alert and to not leave Sita alone. After sometime, Sita and Lakshman hear Ram’s agonized scream from afar. Sita is greatly worried and asks Lakshman to go after him. Lakshman says that he thinks that that cry is not real but an enemy’s ruse to take him away from the hut. He assures Sita that Ram will be all right. “My brother is invincible,” he tells her. Sita gets angry. She accuses him of not being concerned enough for his brother and orders him to leave at once. Lakshman reluctantly follows her command, but draws a circular boundary around the hut and asks Sita to not step out of it, come what may. Shortly afterwards, Ravana appears in the guise of a sadhu and asks Sita to give him food. He refuses to accept Sita’s offering unless she steps out of the Lakshman Rekha. Not wanting to offend the sadhu, Sita fulfils his wish. Ravana immediately returns to his real form and carries Sita away.

Latin citare to put in motion

When something ‘excites’ you, it arouses your interest and puts in motion your mind or your heart or your hands.


The other words from this root are: cite, incite, resuscitate and solicitous.


Agony: (n) extreme mental or physical pain.

Origin: Gk agein, to drive -> agon, struggle

  • An Agony Aunt is a trusted counsellor with whom you share your troubles and who then advises you on what to do.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that a husband can seek divorce on the grounds that his wife caused him mental agony by constant nagging.
  • “Help!” The picnickers heard a woman’s agonized scream from deep inside the jungle and rushed in the direction of the voice to help.
  • She experienced such pain in her hands that even normal taken-for-granted tasks like brushing her teeth or lifting a vessel or writing were now an agony.

Synagogue: (n) a Jewish temple.

Origin: Gk syn-, together + agein, to lead => ‘an assembly’


Antagonist: (n) opponent, enemy; (n) antagonism: active enmity

Origin: Gk anti-, against + agon, struggle

  • Ravana is the main antagonist of Ramayana and Rama is its protagonist.
  • Urmila rose up to take her young daughter to her bed. “Come on beta, say good night to everyone,” she said. “Good night Papa. Good night Grandma,” the child obediently responded.

Won’t you say good night to Sham Uncle? Look, he’s waiting for you,” Urmila said, pushing the child a little towards Sham, a college friend of her husband. But the child only turned away from him and ran to her father.

“Silly Dani, silly Dani!” said Urmila. Sham felt some mistrust and antagonism in the small child. He could not understand it.


Protagonist: (n) the lead actor or character of a story.

Origin: Gk proto, first + agon, struggle => ‘the first fighter’

  • There can be any number of antagonists in a story but there can only be a single protagonist to tackle them all. It is wrong to talk of four protagonists of a novel.

Stratagem: (n) a clever trick used to mislead an enemy; any clever trick used to gain advantage over a competitor or to gain a goal.

Origin: Gk stratos, army + agein, to lead => ‘to lead an army’

  • A married Greek queen, Helen, ran away with Paris, the prince of the city of Troy. The angry Greeks marshaled a huge army and set sail to Troy to teach Paris a lesson. Troy was protected by high walls. So, they laid siege to the city. Sporadic battles between the Greeks and the Trojans continued for nine years. An intense battle was fought in the 10th year. Still no side could dominate the other. One morning, the Trojans discovered a huge wooden horse outside the city and found no trace of the Greek soldiers, their animals or their tents. The Greek ships too were not at the harbour. The Trojans thought that the Greeks had finally admitted their defeat and gone away. They brought the horse inside the city as a trophy of their victory and celebrated the whole day. In the night, when the Trojans were fast asleep, 30 Greek soldiers, who had hidden themselves in the wooden horse’s belly, stepped out and opened the gates of the city. The rest of the Greek army—which had sailed back to the city—marched in, destroyed the whole city and decisively won the battle.

What mere strength could not do in 10 years, stratagem did in hours.

Sporadic: (adj) occuring at irregular intervals in time.

Origin: Gk sporas, scattered. The word ‘spore’ too is from the same root.


Bewitch: (v) to attract; (adj) bewitching: so beautiful that one can’t think of anything else.


Ruse: (n) a way of doing something or getting something by cheating sombody.


Cite: (v) to mention something as a reason or an example.

  • The professor cited a passage from a research paper to prove his point.
  • “Pluck is greater than luck, my friends,” the lecturer said and then cited the example of Stephen Hawking whose whole body was slowly disabled by a motor neuron disease. “Who could be more unlucky?” the lecturer asked. “But Mr Hawking did not let this bog him down and today he is a leading physicist of the world.”

Incite: (v) to encourage somebody to do something violent.

Origin: a in–, into + citase, to move ‘to move into action’

  • The students of an IIT-JEE coaching institute in Patna clashed with the security and the staff of the institute alleging that it had collected exorbitant fees from them but had failed to cover the entire syllabi. The institute, however, denied the charge and alleged that rival institutes had incited the students.

Resuscitate: (v) to make somebody start breathing again; to revive

Origin: a re–, back + sub–, below + citare, to move ‘to move back from below the earth’ ‘to bring back from the under world’

  • The doctor tried hard to resuscitate the blue-faced child who had drowned in the pool.
  • The tribals held a mass prayer in which they sacrificed two young boys and washed their leader’s corpse with the boys’ blood. Their priest had told them that doing this would resuscitate their beloved leader. However, when the dead old man did not revive even after two hours, the priest angrily declared that at least one person among them had not prayed sincerely enough and so the Mother Goddess had rejected their offering.

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