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Latin gradi to step, move

You may be an ‘undergraduate’, a ‘graduate’ or a ‘postgraduate’. These are the three degrees of higher education. A thermometer also tells you degrees, because it too has been graduated.


The temperature of the Rajwansh family shot up sharply when their recently widowed daughter-in-law announced her egress from the haveli instead of stepping, like all good widows, into the Retrogressor. The Retrogressor was a time-machine into which a widow was put after her husband’s last rites, ostensibly to take her back into her happy past with her husband, but of course, it was also a very convenient way of getting rid of her before she could demand her husband’s share of the property. Retrogression had become a prevalentcustom. Every family practiced it.


She, however, said that she planned to move to Bombay and take up a job. Her furious in-laws accused her of trying to degrade their family name. They tried emotional blackmail on her. They tried tointimidate her. They did all they could to change her mind.

“People cast all types of aspersions on widows who do not retrograde.” “Rogues of all kinds will aggress upon you if you live alone.” “Everybody will laugh at us. Think of your sister-in-law. No one will marry her.” “Perhaps you never loved our son enough. How pained his soul would be to see you doing all this…”


She did not waver and left. They never forgave that transgression.


Years progressed. So did she. She was a pioneer of the ‘Women against Retrogression’ movement that finally succeeded in getting that abominable practice banned.

Latin ire to go

When we ‘exit’ a cinema hall, we go out of it. The ‘initial’ stages of a project are when you are just going into it. The word ‘ambition’ originally meant ‘to go around to solicit votes,’ as suggested by its etymology (L. ambi-, around). Later, however, the word started being used almost exclusively for the reason why a man went around soliciting votes—a desire to attain power or wealth, etc.


The other words from this root are:

Ire-1: itinerary, itinerant, circuitous, concomitant

Ire-2: sedition, obituary, ambient

Ire-3: transient, transitory, transition

John Burroughs was a preeminent American essayist of the late 19th and the early 20th century. Here are presented excerpts from his article, ‘Transient and Permanent.’


“The clouds are transient, but the sky is permanent. The petals of a flowering plant are transient, the leaves and fruit are less so, and the roots the least transient of all. The dew on the grass is transient, as is the frost of an autumn morning. The snows and the rains abide longer... In our own lives, how transient are our moments of inspiration, our morning joy, our ecstasies of the spirit! Individuals, species, races, pass. Life alone remains and is immortal.”  

Latin cedere to go, withdraw

Something that you cannot let go away is ‘necessary’ (L ne-, not + cedere) for you.
To ‘exceed’ one’s limits is to go out of them. To go towards a door is to ‘access’ it (L. ad-, towards). Look at the following series:
1, 11, 121, 1331, 14641, 161051…
Can you figure out which number will succeed 161051? (‘Succeed’ means ‘to go after’. Here, the L. sub- means ‘after’). The one who comes after is called the ‘successor’.


In order to succeed, you have to work hard. It is not only the wise men, but also etymology that tells you so. ‘Success’ is that which ‘goes after’ (the effort).


When Surekha kept insisting on studying in the US, her father acceded though he would have liked his only child to stay and study nearer home. However, years later, when Surekha won a reputed research fellowship, he conceded that she could not have succeeded so much so soon in India.

An ‘accessible’ MP is the one to whom you can go to whenever you want; he is not cordoned off by innumerable rings of secretaries and security guards and lackeys.

The sight of all those MPs would shock our ancestors if they came back today. How absolutely the system of governance has changed, they will wonder! The word ‘ancestor’ is a simplified form of ‘antecessor’. Our ‘antecessors’ or predecessors are the people who went before us. (a ante– mass ‘bfore’)

The other words from this root are:

Cedere-1: Cede, precede, precedent

Cedere -2: antecede, antecedents, intercede

Cedere -3: recede, secede, recess

Cedere -4: cessation, incessant, decease

By the way, the successor of 161051 in the series above is 1771561. The general formula for the series is tn+1=11n.


Degree: (n) a step in a scale of intensity or amount.


Graduate: (v) to divide into regular steps or degrees (of height, difficulty, etc.).


Egress: (n) going out, esp. from an enclosed place.

Origin: L ex-, out + gradi, to step

  • The movie hall had two doors for ingress and two separate ones for egress.

Retrogressor: (n) a fictitious machine which, according to this story, was used to take widows back to a time when their husbands were still alive.

Origin: L retro-, backward + gradi.

Related word: retrogress, which means ‘to go backward.’

  • The panchayat of a Haryana village forbade its girls from stepping out of the village for education or work. It’s logic was that it wanted to nip in the bud the problem of girls bringing disrepute to their parents. The shocked national media termed the fiat retrogressive.
    “Which century is that village living in?” Many Indians wondered.

Degrade: (v) to lower in dignity or estimation.

Origin: L de-, down + gradi, step


Intimidate: (v) to make afraid.

Origin: L in-, in + timere, to fear.


Retrograde: (adj) going backward.

Origin: L retro-, back + gradi, to step

  • The apex court judgment that a woman kicking her daughter-in-law or threatening her with a divorce did not amount to cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC shocked most people. It was retrograde, they said, and would undo all the progress made by the government so far in prevention of domestic violence.
  • “When an animal, as it approaches maturity, becomes less perfectly organised than might be expected from its early stages and known relationships, it is said to undergo a retrograde development.” Charles Darwin, Origin of Species

Apex: (n) peak

  • The Supreme Court is the apex court of India.

Rogue: (n) a dishonest, unreliable person.


Aggress: (v) to commit the first act of hostility or offense; attack first. The attacker is called the aggressor and the act is called aggression.

Origin: L ad- , toward + gradi, step

  • India gave a befitting reply to Pakistan’s military aggression.
  • Policemen are usually aggressive in their manner to common people.

Waver: (v) to sway to and fro; to feel or show doubt, indecision, etc.

Origin: From wave+ er.

  • The captured soldier’s eyes did not blink or waver before the enemy’s gun.
  • Babban was confident that the police would not be able to get any secret out of him. However, when the inspector thrusted a gun on his forehead, he wavered. “All right,” he said just as the inspector was pressing the trigger, “I’ll tell you.”

Transgression: (n) violation of a law, command, or duty

Origin: L trans-, across + gradi => ‘to step across the (legal or moral) boundary’

  • The old man asserted to the journalists that his son, whom the police had accused to be a terrorist and killed in an encounter, was innocent and had not transgressed a single rule of law all his life.
  • Sumati was an untouchable woman of the 15th century. She learnt Vedas from a young Brahman and married him. The scandalized villagers decided to burn her for her double transgressions—reading the texts which only a Brahman had the right to read and breaking the caste barrier.

Progress: (v) to go forward in space or time or scope.

Origin: L pro-, forward + gradi.

The opposite is Regress, a going backward.


Abominable: (adj) hateworthy, exceptionally bad or distasteful.

Origin: L. ab-, away + omen=> ‘something said to be an omen for ill-luck and therefore pushed away and hated by by everyone.’

Related words: abominate, abomination

Abominate: (v) to hate.

Abomination: (n) a curse, hatred.

  • The artist said that he loved good smells as much as he abominated the ill ones.
  • “I abominate dishonest men,” the girl said fiercely. “Dishonesty is abominable.”
  • Dishonesty is an abomination. Dishonesty filled her with abomination.

Itinernary: (n) travel plan

Origin: L ire, to go -> iter, journey

  • Two friends from a Delhi-based business school made the following itinerary for a 2-day trip:
Day Time To Do
Midnight Take a sleeper bus to Jaipur
1 9am-6 pm Visit all heritage sites of Jaipur aboard the city-touring bus of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation.
6 pm-7.30 pm Roam in Bapu Bazaar/MI Road.
  7.30 pm Hire a cab to Chowki Dhaani
  8.30 pm–11.30 pm Chowki Dhaani
  12 am Check into the booked hotel.
2 6 am Take the train for Agra
  11 am Reach Agra. Hire a cab for a city tour.
  8:25 pm Board Shatabadi
  10:30 pm Delhi reached


Itinerant: (adj) wandering

Origin: L iter, journey

  • The Banjaras and the Gadia Lohars are itinerant tribes.
  • Gautam Budhha was an itinerant preacher. He spent 45 years travelling in the Ganga plain to spread his message.

Circuitous: (adj) circular

Origin: L circum, circle + ire, to go

  • When the car thief saw a police check point in the far distance he turned backwards and reached his home by a longer, circuitous route.

Concomitant: (n) that which comes together with something.

Origin: L con-, together + ire, to go

  • His wife thought that his increasing disregard of others was a concomitant of his growing bank balance. He was no longer the man she had fallen in love with and married—caring, principled, idealistic and poor.
  • Gray hair is a concomitant of growing age.
  • Most victims of the office-fire were killed not by the fire but by the concomitant smoke.

Sedition: (n) rebellion against government.

Origin: L sed-, apart + ire, to go

  • The British objected to Vande Maatram saying it was seditious, but did not mind Jana Gana Mana, which was even sung in schools.

The popular myth was that Rabindranath Tagore had addressed Jana Gana Mana to the British king.


Obituary: (n) death notice

Origin: L ob-. away + ire, to go


Ambient: (adj) related with surroundings.

Origin: L ambi-, around + ire, to go => ‘to go around’

  • The room temperature is also known as the ambient temperature.
  • The restaurant had the ambience of rural Rajasthan.

Transient: (adj) fleeting, existing only for a very short time.

Origin: L trans-, across + ire, to go => ‘going across’

  • Ruchir’s friends were all excited that he had seen Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai. “Oh wow!” one said. “Does he look as good in real life?” Another wanted to know. “Did you shake hands with him?” A third asked. “Well,” Ruchir clarified, “I had only a transient glimpse of him. I saw his car moving out of the Taj Mahal hotel. He was in the rear seat.”

Transitory: (adj) short-lived

Origin: L trans-, across + ire, to go => ‘going across’

  • Many alcoholics say that they drink in order to forget their worries. Alcohol gives only transitory peace.
  • A crush is transitory, love lasts for years.

Transition: (n) change from one state to another.

Origin: L trans-, across + ire, to go => ‘going across’

  • Adoloscence is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood.

Accede: (v) to agree.

Origin: L ad-, to + cedere, to go

  • The college administration acceded to the student’s demand of postponing the examinations by one week.

Concede: (v) to grant.

Origin: L con- + cedere, to go

  • Ten-year-old Bholey Prasad told his uncle wanted to be a hermit and live his life in a small hut surrounded by serene snow-capped mountains. His uncle had a hearty laugh, then said, “You cannot stop chattering for a minute now. How will you live without talking for 50 years?” Bholey was startled. He had not thought about this point. He considered it now and conceded that that aspect of his career choice would certainly be difficult.

Cordon: (n) a line of policemen that blocks off an area to general access; (v) to block off an area by a cordon

  • The road to the politician’s house was crowded with protesting villagers. They were shouting angry slogans against him and were kept back, with great difficulty, by a cordon of policemen.
  • As soon as the police came to know that the don was inside an empty house on the Dali street, they reached the place and cordoned off the area. Then, a task force of three policemen sneaked into the house hoping to catch him off guard.

Lackey: (n) servile follower

  • All the students teased the class topper as ‘the teachers’ lackey.’

Predecessor: (n) that which comes before.

Origin: L pre-, before + cedere, to go


Cede: (v) to surrender, to give up.

Origin: L cedere, to go

  • The king ceded the crown to his younger brother and retired from politics.
  • The French ceded Pondicherry to India in 1950.

Precede: (v) to come before.

Origin: L pre-, before + cedere, to go

  • An introduction to a book written by another person is called a foreword and precedes the preface, which is an introduction written by the book’s author.

Precedent: (n) that which comes before.


Antecede: (v) to come before.

Origin: L ante, before + cedere, to go

  • For Megha, a fever is usually anteceded by a cold.

Antecedents: (n) the prior whereabouts; the preceding circumstances.

  • People are recommended to check the antecedents of a household employee before hiring him or her.
  • The bride’s father hired a detective to check the antecedents of the groom.

Intercede: (v) to act on behalf of somebody; to act as a mediator in a dispute.

Origin: L inter, between + cedere, to go

  • Guddi’s grandfather, a firm follower of Baba Sarnath, held that it was only due to Babaji’s kind intercession that she had not once failed in her exams.
  • The child cried before his mother and begged her to intercede for him with his father and get his punishment revoked.
  • At first, when the invitations to the party had come, the mother had said the children could not go; but when the father interceded in the children’s favour, she reluctantly agreed,

Recede: (v) to go back.

Origin: L re-, back + cedere, to go

  • As we recede from the earth, the force of gravity diminishes in the inverse ratio of the square of the distance.
  • The director of the street play made the crowd recede so as to leave a larger space free around him.
  • “Meet my daughter, Mini,” Nalini’s fiancé introduced her to his eight-year-old daughter, “Mini, say hello to aunty.” When Mini kept mum, Nalini smiled and stretched out her hand, meaning to touch Mini. The girl receded. Nalini drew a step nearer; Mini’s recessionstill silent, became swift. She soon broke into a run and went out of the room. “Don’t worry. She’ll take some time to accept,” Nalini comforted her embarrassed fiancé.

Secede: (v) to separate from a union.

Origin: L se-, apart + cedere, to go

  • Pakistan initially had two parts—West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan, however, seceded from the union in a bloody war in 1971 and became the independent nation of Bangladesh.
  • The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan from the union of Pakistan.
  • The Constitution of India does not allow the Indian states to secede from the Union.

Recess: (n) a period of low activity; a backward corner of a room, etc.

Origin: from recede

  • It is impossible to know someone fully. Who knows what is hidden in the deep recesses of a person’s heart?

Cessation: (n) stoppage

Origin: L cedere, to go

  • Lulled by the repetitive chhuk-clink-chhuk-clink sound of the train, the man dropped asleep; he had not long slumbered when the sudden cessation of motion awoke him.

Incessant: (adj) unceasing, unstopping

  • “Oh be quiet and get out for some time, will you?” the harried mother shouted at her sons. “I am tired of your incessant quarrels.”
  • Incessant rainfall for two days flooded the low-lying areas of the city.
    1287 Decease: (v) to die.
    Origin: L de- + cedere, to go
  • A 10-day state mourning was announced in the honour of the deceased chief minister.
  • In Hinduism, the male family members of a deceased person put his or her dead body on a pier and carry it on their shoulders to the cremation ground amid the chanting of mantras.


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