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When we first read stories like “So and so writer had written her first poem at the age of three,” or that “so and so had graduated at 12,” we often dismiss them as concocted, ‘cooked up’.

Sadly however for our egos, some of those stories are true. A few kids are precocious—they seem to arrive in the world ‘pre-cooked’—while we, the lesser mortals, have to fry our brains for years, first at school and then at college.

Decoction, culinary and kiln are the other words from coquere.

In Greek, the root is pepetein, to cook. The digestive enzyme found in our stomach, pepsin, derives its name from here, as do eupepsia and dyspepsia.


IE ed-  to eat

The word ‘eat’ itself is from this root. ‘Eat’ came into Modern English from the Old English word etan, to eat.


Then we have the Latin root edere, which means ‘to eat.’ The most famous word from edere, and one that gives nightmares to people of all age-groups and both genders, is obese. Second on the ederepopularity charts would probably be ‘edible’, which means eatable. Comestible is the less famous synonym of edible.

The banquet of the IE root ed- also serves the following words: Prandial, anodyne

Hope you enjoyed the multi-course feast!


IE poi to drink

Thodi si jo pi li hai, chori toh nahin ki hai…
The Hindi words piyo, peena, peeta, piyakad are from this IE root. Their English cousins are:

Poison, potion, potable, symposium



Latin bibere to drink

When a small child is drinking something, his mother ties a piece of cloth around his neck so that his clothes are not spoiled. That protective cloth is called a ‘bib’.

Cold drinks, alcohol—in fact, all potable liquids except water—are called ‘beverages’. One of those beverages also got its name from this root. Try and think. Bibere, bibere…which drink sounds similar to it? Hint: it is an alcoholic drink.


Meanwhile, let me list the other words from this root:

Imbibe, imbrue, imbue, bibulous

That alcoholic beverage, my dear, is beer.


IE gel- to swallow

What is the Hindi word for swallowing? Nigalna. It is made by combining ni, below (think of niche) and gala, throat, and so means ‘taking something below the throat’. Did you immediately look at the root in the heading the moment you saw the word gala? Yes, you are right. Gala is from this root.


The other words from gel- are:

Gel-1: Gulp, glut, glutton, deglutition

Gel-2: polyglot, gullet, gull

Gel- 3: gullible, gully

The root gel- also manifests itself as ger-. The ger- root mimics our throat sounds (that is, it is onomatopoeic).

Think of what else do we call our gala? We call it gardan, which is a Persian word. And, what do we call the act of taking a big gulp of water in your mouth, tilting your head backward and doing gr-gr-gr? Our word is garaara and the English word is ‘gargle’. Did you ever notice their similarity before?


The other English from the ger–root are:

Gr-gr-gr-gr 1: gorge, engorge, disgorge

Gr-gr-gr-gr 2: gurgle, ingurgitate, regurgitate

Gr-gr-gr-gr 3: gargoyle, gargantuan, jargon

We can also discuss here another similar sounding root meaning neck—the Latin collum. It is due to this root that the part of a shirt which encircles our neck is called a ‘collar’.


Collum words: accolade, decollate, decollete

IE swad pleasant

Needless to say, the Sanskrit word swaad has come from this root.


The Latin suavis means pleasant. It is found in suave and assuage. Related to this word is suadere, which means ‘to call something pleasant.’ Slowly, the root acquired the sense of ‘recommending, advising or urging.’ The words from this root are ‘persuade’ and dissuade.

The swadisht of Sanskrit becomes hwadist in Persian. In Greek too, the ‘s’ changes into ‘h’ and so the Greek word from this root is hedonism.

Latin sapere    to taste, have taste, be wise

The English 'bone' has its arisen from the Indo-European root ost-


All of a sudden, the people of Gagaland started dying. Each day, more than 2,000 deaths were reported in that tiny kingdom of one lakh people. The citizens were terrified! They failed to understand what had caused this spate of deaths.

After a week, an old man sailed into the island. He wore a white toga. Its silver sheen matched his flowing hoary hair and beard. He looked very sapient. So, a few men of the kingdom touched his feet in welcome. He smiled calmly and blessed them. That convinced them that he was no ordinary man but a sage. They told him about the ongoing deaths and asked for his advice.

The sagacious old man sat on a nearby rock and closed his eyes. There was pin-drop silence all around. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and asked them if they had all started eating a new fruit in the past few months? The astonished men said, “Yes, sir. We call it the Sapid Fruit. It is very tasty.One of our ships had brought it from distant lands a few seasons ago. We really loved it. And, we found that the fruit could grow on our soil. So the king ordered its large-scale plantation. This year, those plantations gave their first yield. But why?”

The old man shook his head. “That fruit which you so happily call the ‘Sapid fruit’ was placed on that ship by the Devil himself.”

The men gasped. The old man continued, “The Devil is savvy. He knows how to destroy whom. He knew that the savour and smell of the fruit would lure all of you. His job is to kill people, physically or morally. And, he succeeded admirably in your case. Remember, my children, that sapid things too can be bad.”

Latin odor smell

In Latin 'smeell' meaning is 'odor'.


The word odour has travelled as it is into English. And what do you call something which removes the smell from your clothes when you haven’t bathed for three days? A ‘deodorant’. What word would people use for you and your clothes if you cannot find your deodorant and step out as you are? They would clinch your noses and call you, “Eeeeh! Malodorous!”

The other words from this root are: Odoriferous, olfactory, redolent


Latin vestire   to clothe

The vastra of Sanskrit is a cognate of vestire.


When you ‘invest’ your capital, you give it a new form. The etymology says that you clothe it in a different style. To ‘invest’ a new emperor means to clothe him formally in the royal robes and install him in office. To ‘invest’ somebody with a power means to clothe him with it. But if he does not perform well, he is soon divested of all his duties.

A travesty clothes its subject with ridiculous-looking garbs so that anybody who sees it laughs.


Latin manere   to stay

The Sanskrit word mandir is related to this root. Mandir means a house, though now we use it almost exclusively to mean ‘a house of god.’ And guess what does mandira mean? Also written as mandura, it means a stable!


The Latin manere too names different kinds of dwellings. On one hand is a ‘mansion’ or a ‘manor’, which is the large and impressive house of a rich landlord, and on the other, is a  menagerie of animals!

To ‘remain’ means ‘to stay back.’ Something that stays throughout is ‘permanent’ (L. per-, throughout).

The other words from this root are:

Remnant, immanent, menial and ménage


IE weik-  house, dwelling

The English 'bone' has its arisen from the Indo-European root ost-


When Kaikeyi demanded the banvaas of Lord Ram, she asked that he ‘dwell’ in the forests. The Sanskrit words vaas, vaasi, aavaas and parvaas are from this root. The ‘v’ and ‘b’ sounds often interchange in our languages (think of vanvaas-banvaas, vaniya-baniya) and so the word we use for a village is basti. A building is called vaastu in Sanskrit; vaastugyaan and vaastukala is architecture and vaastushastra is the science of architecture.

The weik- words in English are:

Weik-1: ecology, economy, ecumenical

Weik-2: parish, parochial, vicinity

IE dem-  house, household

The English 'bone' has its arisen from the Indo-European root ost-


The Sanskrit word dampati is used for a married couple. It is formed by the combination of dama, house, and pati, master, and, therefore, literally means ‘master of a house’, a householder (house+holder). Before marriage, you belong to your parents’ house. Upon marriage, you set up your own and become a dampati.

The English words from this root are:

Dem-1: dome, domestic, domicile, major-domo

Dem-2: domain, dominion, dominate, domineer

Dem-3: donna, dungeon, madam, mademoiselle, despot

There is a hierarchy in every house. There will be a lord and there will be those who are lorded over. We have already seen the words related with ‘lord of the house.’ Let us now look lower in the power ladder.

Consider the word ‘domestic.’ It simply means ‘related with house’, as in ‘domestic duties’. But, when you ‘domesticate’ somebody, say, an animal, you force him to stay within the house though he may have preferred roaming freely in the wilds. There are many dem- words which carry this sense of ‘taming, using force to constrain.’

The Sanskrit word daman means suppression, subjugation. Damit is the one who is suppressed or subjugated. A rope that is used to tether the cattle is called daam or daamni. Lord Krishna is also known as Daamodar because in his childhood, his foster-mother Yashoda had unsuccessfully tried to tie his hands with a rope as a punishment for his naughtiness. The rope fell a few inches short. She brought out more rope from inside and attached it to the previous rope but this time too, it fell just a little short. This kept happening and she gave up in the end.

The English word tame itself is from the root dem-. The other words in the ‘taming’ sense of dem- are:

Dem-5: adamant, indomitable

Dem-6: daunt, dauntless

Indu told Meer that she too would observe the fast of Ramadan. Touched, the Muslim husband stroked his Hindu wife’s hair and told her that she need not to; it was very difficult; one had to fast from dawn to dusk and that too for 30 days; he would observe it on behalf of both of them.


“Do you think difficulties can daunt me?” Indu asked mischievously.

“Oh no, how can I!” Meer laughed. “I know how dauntless my little wife is. She can walk on fire, she can climb mountains, she can beat any goonda or her husband. My darling little wife is dauntless, indeed, and I am her poor, much daunted husband.”


Dismiss: (v) to remove from office or attention.

Origin:L dis-, away + mittere, to send


Concoct: (v) to cook up, to make by mixing ingredients.

Origin: a con–, together + coquere, to cook ‘to cook together’

  • “Are you saying that you never went out with Mr Rai?” The shocked journalist asked the famous Bollywood heroine Trisha Oberoi.
    “No,” she coolly replied. “Vineet and I have always been just good friends. All those stories of romance were concocted by the media.”
  • The expert chef concocted many different types of chaat.

Precocious: (adj) more mature than natural for a particular age.

Origin: L pre- , before + coquere, to cook => ‘cooked before time’

  • In the movie ‘Cheeni Kum’, Sexy is a precocious six-year-old who offers sensible relationship advice to a 64-year-old man!
  • Mozart, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Tathagat Avatar Tulsi were precocious as children. Mozart was only five when he composed his first symphony. Gauss made many mathematical discoveries in his teenage. Tathagat Avatar Tulsi , born in 1987, gave his 10th Board exams at the age of nine years, completed a Bachelor degree in Physics at 10, and finished his M.Sc. at 12. By 21, he had already completed his Ph.D from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
    Such precocious achievers are also called prodigies.

Decoction: (n) an extract obtained by boiling something in water.

Origin: L de-, down + coquere, to cook => ‘to cook down’ => ‘to boil down’

  • A warm decoction of the bark of the fig tree can be used as a mouthwash.
  • A decoction made from dried flower buds of pomegranate can ease cough and bronchitis.

Culinary: (adj) related with cooking or kitchen.

Origin: a coquere, to cook a culina, kitchen

  • The Hotel Management students showcased their culinary skills at the food fest.
  • The Punjabi boy boasted to his friends that his state is the home of many culinary delights.

Kiln: (n) a brick-lined or other oven used for baking, burning or drying something.

Origin: L culina, kitchen


Eupepsia: (n) good digestion.

Origin: Gk eu-, good + peptein, to digest


Dyspepsia: (n) indigestion

Origin: Gk dys-, bad + peptein, to digest. The Greek prefix dys- is a cognate of the Sanskrit prefix dus-. Both mean ‘bad.’

  • The visiting son-in-law of the house grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty dishes and ungratefully demanded plain food at the next meal.

Obese: (adj) overly fat.

Origin: L ob-, away + edere, to eat => ‘one who eats away’


Comestible: (adj) eatable; (n) comestibles: eatables.

Origin: L com- + edere, to eat + -iblis, able => ‘able to be eaten.’

  • Almost everyone gifted comestibles to Motu Chand on his birthday because they knew how fond of food he was. For the next few days, he swam delightfully in a sea of cakes, chocolates, cookies and wines.

Prandial: (adj) related with a meal.

Origin: L pram-, first + edere, to eat => ‘first meal’

  • A good way to avoid weight-gain is to make a habit of post-prandial walks instead of post-prandial naps.
  • The doctor suspected that the patient was diabetic and so, ordered him to get both fasting blood glucose and post-prandial glucose levels tested.

Anodyne: (n) pain reliever

Origin: Gk an-, without + odune, pain. Odune comes from the root ed-, to eat and means ‘that which seems to eat the body.’

  • The air was heavy with the perfume of the flowers and their beauty seemed to bring him an anodyne for his pain.
  • Anodynes or analgesics are colloquially known as ‘painkillers.’

Potion: (n) a drink having medicinal or magical properties.

Origin: L potare, to drink

  • The vaid made a potion based on rose oil, cow urine and bitter herbs that could, he claimed, cure all diseases.

Potable: (adj) drinkable

Origin: L potare, to drink

  • The water in our rivers and wells is no more potable and must at least be boiled before drinking.

Symposium: (n) a conference to discuss a topic. In ancient Greece, a symposium used to be a merry after-dinner meeting in which people drank together and talked.

Origin: Gk sym-, together + pinein, to drink

Imbibe: (v) to drink, to take in.

Origin: L im-, in + bibere, to drink

  • I opened the window and put out my head to catch the cooling breeze, and imbibe deep draughts of the pure morning air.
  • The habits imbibed in the childhood are very difficult to break.

Draught: (n) gulp


Imbrue: (v) to stain, to soak thoroughly.

Origin: same as imbibe.

  • Emperor Ashoka felt greatly sorry for having imbrued his hands in the blood of innocent people.
  • Rishi picked up the business book with enthusiasm but soon found himself imbrued in boring facts and figures.
  • The sky was imbrued in pale pink.

Imbue: (b) to soak thoroughly.

Origin: same as imbibe.

  • The movie Sholay is imbued with humour, drama and tension and makes for gripping viewing.
  • He could not tell whether she was imbued with sunshine, or whether it was a glow of happiness that shone out of her.

Bibulous: (adj) fond of drinking alcohol, related with drinking alcohol.

Origin: L bibere, to drink

  • After a particularly bibulous evening, Sharma ji came home and declared that he was going to resign from his job and contest in the next General Elections. His wife wisely refrained from making any comment. He had forgotten all about his resolution by the morning.

Glut: (n) full supply, overly full supply; (v) to feed till full; to feed till overly full.

Origin: L gula, throat -> gluttire, to gulp down

  • The glut of the mangoes in the market led to a falling of their prices.
  • The Chinese companies glutted the Indian markets with cheap goods.

Glutton: (n) a person who eats or drinks too much; a person who takes in too much of something.

Origin: L gluttire, to gulp down => ‘a person who gulps down everything.’

  • The purohit of the Zamindar was a glutton. His bigger than a football stomach was an ample proof of this.
  • The tennis player was a glutton for physical training. When a journalist asked her if following the same, hard routine everyday did not become monotonous, she smiled and said: “That’s the only way to reach the top.”

Monotonous: (adj) continuing in the same tone, without any variation; boring, routine; (n) monotony.

Origin: Gk mono, one + tonos, tone


Deglutition: (n) the process of swallowing.

Origin: L de-, down + gluttire, to swallow

  • Hunger is said to be the best sauce for poor food, but even hunger failed to make the jail food palatable. The food was so repulsive that two prisoners actually starved to death because they were unable to force their organs of deglutition to receive the nauseous food and pass it on to the stomach.

Palatable: (adj) acceptable to the sense of taste or to the mind. Opposite: unpalatable

Origin: palate, roof of the mouth + –able => ‘that which can be put into the to mouth.’


Polyglot: (n) one who knows many languages.

Origin: Gk poly-, many + glotta, tongue => ‘one who knows many tongues’

  • Vikram Seth is a polyglot. He can read and speak Hindi, Urdu, English, French, German, Welsh and Mandarin.

Don’t confuse a polyglot with a polymath.

Polymath: (n) one who is learned in many subjects.

Origin: Gk poly-, many + manthanein, to know

  • Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, botanist and a writer.

Gullet: (n) the throat; a gully.

Origin: L gula, throat

  • He caught the villain by the gullet and punched him on the nose with his fist.

Gull: (v) to trick or cheat.

Origin: L gula, throat => ‘to swallow’

  • The consumer courts exist to punish the companies which gull the consumers with false promises.
  • The Hindi movie Bunty aur Babli is about a pair of cheats who are forever ready to take advantage of any who have money and are foolish enough to be gulled by their tricks.

Gullible: (adj) easily tricked or cheated.

Origin: gull + able

  • The sadhu told the villagers that he was a descendant of Lord Ram. The gullible villagers bowed their heads and kissed his feet.
  • Several coaching institutes offer thick wads of money and attractive gifts like a car or an expensive laptop to top rankers in competitive exams so that they endorse the institutes’ claim to have coached them. The photographs of these students are then printed in wholepage ads in national newspapers to lure gullible students.

Gully: (n) a water channel or ditch cut in the ground by the force of water running violently fast.

Origin: L gula, throat => ‘a throat like structure in earth’s surface’

  • Through the midst of this hill jungle, there runs a deep gully or glen.

Glen: (n) a narrow valley.


Mimic: (v) to imitate.

Origin: Gk mimikos, to imitate. The word mime too is from the same root.

  • Aditi was an expert at mimicry. She regaled her friends with the mimicry of all their teachers.

Gorge: (v) to stuff oneself greedily; (n) a narrow deep cut in a hill which is surrounded by steep rock walls on both sides and at the base of which a stream usually runs.

Origin: L gurges, throat

  • Chenghiz Khan pursued Jalaal relentlessly. For 40 days, Jalal rode non-stop, managing somehow to stay ahead of Chenghiz Khan’s troops. They finally nailed him at a place from where escape seemed impossible: a gorge above a roaring river. But Jalaal spurred his horse over the cliff and into the river, more than a 100 feet below.

Engorge: (v) to stuff oneself greedily.

Origin: L en-, in + gurges, throat

  • The fat man engorged himself, then vomited so that he could gorge again.
  • The hungry child engorged the stale bread he found in the garbage dump.

Disgorge: (v) to throw out.

Origin: L dis-, away + gurges, throat

  • The huge yellow crane alternately gorged and disgorged immense quantities of mud.

Gurgle: (v) to flow in a broken manner making gr-gr-gr sound; to make such a sound; (n) the noise of gurgling or the act of gurgling.

Origin: L gurges, throat

  • It was impossible to talk near the mouth of the waterfall amidst the loud gurgle of the water before it plunged into the boiling pool farther down.

Ingurgitate: (v) to eat greedily or in great amounts.

Origin:L in-, in + gurges, throat

  • The kids ingurgitated the icecream.

Regurgitate: (v) to throw back, to vomit.

Origin: L re-, back + gurges, throat

  • The blood regurgitates into the ventricles of the heart.
  • A student can do extremely well in the Indian schools by simply memorizing facts and regurgitating them in the exams.
  • The baby regurgitated some of the milk he had drunk.

Gargoyle: (n) a water spout showing a man or an animal with an open mouth which projects from the gutter attached to the building’s roof and throws the water it receives away from the building.

Origin: L gurges, throat -> Old French gargouille, throat, a waterspout which throws water in the same manner as a gargling man does from his throat.

  • Between each of the windows of the house was a gargoyle presenting the fantastic jaws of an animal without a body, vomiting the rainwater upon large stones pierced with five holes to drain the water.

Gargantuan: (adj) huge

Origin: from a gluttonous giant named Gargantua.

  • After the guests had gone, father threw himself into a chair and gave vent to roars of Gargantuan laughter.
  • Even five burgers in one sitting could not satisfy his gargantuan appetite.

Jargon: (n) specialized vocabulary of a particular group of people or profession, which outside people find difficult to understand; any ununderstandable piece of writing or talk.

Origin: Fr. gargouille, throat => ‘to gargle’

  • Here are a few jargon terms related with electronics: megahertz, megapixel, MP3, FM, WiFi, etc.
  • Doctors regularly use jargon words that no one outside the medical field can understand. Examples include ectomy, phlebotomy,anaphylactic shock, antivert, cerebrovascular accident, diuresis, diplopia, etc.

Accolade: (n) the ceremony of conferring knighthood on someone by touching his shoulder with the flat side of a sword or by embracing him; any praise, award or honour

Origin: L ad-, to + collum, neck => ‘to touch the neck’ => ‘to embrace around the neck’

  • Arthur C. Clarke won great accolades for his science fiction. In 1964, his short story ‘Nightfall’ was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as the greatest science fiction story of all times, an accolade many still agree with.
  • To appear in print is an accolade by most people.

Decollate: (v) to cut down the head.

Origin: L de-, down + collum, neck

  • The emperor ordered the decollation of the evil minister.

Décolleté: (adj) a low-necked dress.

Origin: L de-, down + collum, neck

  • The actress appeared at the film awards ceremony in an elegant décolleté cream gown.

Suave: (adj) having polished manners.

Origin: L suavis, sweet => ‘pleasant’

  • Suave, polite and fashionably dressed, thirty-year old Sowmya Singh belies the traditional image of a dowdily dressed, aggressive and deliberately unfeminine woman politician.

Dowdy: (adj) shabbily dressed.

Belie: (v) to show false, to contradict, to lie about.

Origin: be + lie

  • She told him to go away. “No, I don’t love you,” she screamed. But, her eyes belied her words.

Assuage: (v) to soothe.

Origin: L ad-, to + suavis, sweet => ‘to take towards being sweet and pleasant’

  • The parents often brought expensive gifts for their daughter, perhaps to assuage their guilt at not being able to spend any time with her.
  • Time did not assuage his grief. Often, during office hours, while his colleagues were discussing the topics of the day, his eyes would suddenly fill with the memories of his dead wife.

Dissuade: (v) to change someone’s mind from doing something.

Origin: L dis-, away + suadere, to advice => ‘to advice away from something.’

  • Three-year-old Archi declared that she too would go with mummy and daddy to the movie. Her parents and her grandparents tried their best to dissuade her but she remained adamant. Finally, the poor parents cancelled their own plan because that movie was not fit for a child.

Hedonism: (n) belief that self-pleasure and happiness is the greatest goal of life.

Origin: Gk hedone, pleasure

  • He was well-known as a hedonist. He lived in a home that rivaled five-star hotels, flew in his own chartered plane and cruised in his luxury yachts.

Yacht: (n) a luxury boat.


Spate: (n) flood

  • The hill stream came down in a spate.
  • A sudden spate in the river swept down a horse that was crossing it and nearly drowned its rider.

Hoary: (adj) old, (for hair etc.) white with age, stale.

  • The young boy got beaten by the hoary-headed woman.
  • Diya was delighted to find a hoary diary of her grandfather.
  • The movie was hoary. Every dialogue of every scene could be predicted because hundreds of movies had told the same story before.

Sapient: (adj) showing great wisdom.

Origin: L sapere, to have taste => ‘to be wise’

  • Rachit’s father was fuming because a bird had just shit on his darling Ambasador. Watching his father’s anger inspired Rachit with the sapient reflection that it’s a terrible thing to be in love, even if only with a rickety, old car.

A sapient man is called a savant.

Savant: (n) very learned and wise.

Origin: L sapere, to be wise => ‘a wise man’


Sage: (n) a very wise man.

Origin: L sapere, to be wise -> sapidus, wise

  • The sage stood at the banks of the holy Ganga and performed the puja rituals.
  • The boy ignored the sage advice of his father and resigned from his job without having a backup.

Sagacity: (n) wisdom; (adj) sagacious

  • The woman managed her house with sagacity.
  • The Constitution makers of India had the sagacity to make the process of removal of a Supreme Court or High Court judge very difficult for the government. This has gone a long way to give the judges the courage to stand up fearlessly against the government if the need be.
  • How sagacious is it to be friends with one’s ex-lover?

Sapid: (adj) tasty; appealing to one’s mind.

Origin: L sapidus, tasty

  • Mrs Sharma prepared a most sapid family dinner on her son’s birthday.
  • Ravi, a professor of Mathmatics, had a sapid discussion on geometry with the 10-year-old son of the cousin whom he was visiting. He later exclaimed to his cousin that the boy was a genius.
    The opposite of sapid is not insapid but insipid.

Insipid: (adj) without any taste, dull, boring.

Origin: L in-, not + sapidus, tasty

  • The students yawned through the insipid lecture.
  • Art movies are usually insipid. So is hospital food.

The adjective form of ‘devil’ is diabolical. It means ‘devilish, related with a devil.’

  • When three members of her family got injured within a few days of each other, Sumitra Devi was convinced that some diabolical agency was shadowing her home and quickly organized a havan to ward off its evil influence.
  • Shiresh hatched a diabolical plan to marry his girlfriend to a rich, old man and to kill him after a year and then marry her and live on the dead man’s wealth afterwards.

Savvy: (v) to understand; (n) understanding; (adj) having full understanding.

Origin: L sapere, to be wise

  • “You don’t quite savvy girls, dear boy, do you?” The boy’s uncle teased him. Another uncle chipped in, saying: “Our Bobby can indeed be a girl’s delight—look at his eyes and dimple—but he doesn’t savvy how to make a girl want him. Look at your cousins, boy. They are all quite savvy in this regard.”

Savour: (v) to enjoy the taste of; to give a taste to; to have a taste of Origin: L sapere, to be wise

  • I set out on a walking tour to savour the leisurely pace of life in this old town.
  • He savoured the first drops of the monsoon falling on the baked earth.
  • At their reunion, the college friends fondly remembered their canteen where they savoured the pakodas and chatted endlessly.

Odour: (n) smell

Origin: L odor, smell

  • The bad odour in your mouth in the morning is caused by the bacterial decay of food particles stuck in it.

Malodorous: (adj) bad smelling.

Origin: L mal-, bad + odor, smell

  • The residents demanded that the malodorous garbage dumping site near their locality be shifted to the city outskirts.
  • Eating raw onions causes malodorous breath.

Odouriferous: (adj) carrying a smell.

Origin: L odor, smell + -ferous, carrying

  • The Champa tree—its biological name is Magnolia champaca—is odouriferous. In fact, Champa flowers are used to make Joy, one of the most expensive perfumes of the world.
  • Some gardeners say that roses and violets spring more odouriferous near garlic and onions, by reason that the last suck and imbibe all the ill odour of the earth.

Olfactory: (adj) related with the sense of smell.

Origin: L olere, to smell + facere, to do

  • The olfactory sense of blind people is said to be keener than others.
  • Sitting next to Beena is always an olfactory treat. She wears a great perfume.
  • Passing near the tannery was an olfactory torture.

Redolent: (adj) having a pleasant smell; smelling of something.

Origin: L re- + olere, to smell => ‘to smell, to smell of something.’

  • He spent half an hour in search of a bunch of redolent roses to carry home to his wife.
  • She was redolent of eau de Cologne and mint. He was redolent of alcohol.
  • The song ‘Kaisi paheli zindagani’ in the movie Parineeta was redolent of the Bollywood music of the 60s.
  • The kitchen was redolent of onions and cheese.

Divest: (v) to strip, as of clothes or ornaments, or property, rights, etc; (n) Divestiture.

Origin: L dis-, away + vestire, to clothe

  • The man divested himself of his clothes—he thought there was no reason why one should not die as he was born—and threw himself into the furious river. The only witness of his sad act was a sparrow perched on a tree.
  • Ratan Jain divested himself of one-third of his fortune and donated it to charity.
  • The trade unions all over the country opposed the government plans of divestiture of its majority holdings in public undertakings.

Travesty: (n) an action or thing that makes fun of something and makes it look ridiculous.

Origin: L. trans, over + vestire => ‘to disguise’

  • The model’s dress was a ridiculous travesty of a sari.
  • Justice in the village was a travesty; its panchayat passed whatever orders the village landlord asked it to.

Dwell: (v) to live; to spend much time or energy on something. The house where one dwells is called his dwelling.

  • “Before complaining to God that your house is not big enough, remember for a moment that there are people who dwell in the slums,” the saint preached.
  • The government gave asbestos sheets to the people who had lost their homes in the storm, so that they could rebuild their dwellings.

Menagerie: (n) a collection of wild animals; the place where they are kept.

Origin: from menage

  • The children were delighted to see the menagerie of circus animals.
  • Ritu kept a dozen dogs at her farm, and would turn her city house too into a menagerie if her father would let her.

Remnant: (n) a remaining thing.

Origin: L re-, back + manere, to stay => ‘that which stays back’

  • Devotees from far away came to visit the remnants of the famous church which was destroyed in a fire.
  • Lata ate the remnants of her brother’s birthday cake when nobody was home.

Immanent: (adj) living within, inherent.

Origin: L im-, in + manere, to stay

  • God is immanent in each one of us.
  • Social injustice is immanent in the caste system.
  • His friends cautioned him against the immanent risks of starting one’s own business.

Menial: (adj) lowly, regarded as a servant’s job; (n) a servant, a person doing lowly jobs.

Origin: L manere, to stay -> mansionem, house -> Old Fr. mesnie, household -> meignial, related with household

  • Cleaning excreta and removing dead animals are examples of menial jobs.
  • The best way to impress your boss is to do well all the tasks that he assigns to you, no matter how menial you regard them to be.

Ménage: (n) a household.

Origin: L manere, to stay -> mansionem, house -> Old Fr. mesnie, household -> mesnage, household

  • He made his new wife an allowance and established a menage with her.
  • “What sort of a menage is it which pays double the market price for a governess but does not keep a horse, although six miles from the station?” Sherlock Holmes in ‘Adventure of the solitary cyclist.’

Ecology: (n) study of the relationship of organisms with their environments.

Origin: Gk oikos, house + -ology, study


Economy: (n) study of resource management; efficient resource management.

Origin: Gk oikos, house + nemein, to manage => ‘to manage a house’


Ecumenical: (adj) general, universal, not related with only one religion or one type of people; interreligious.

Origin: Gk oikos, house -> oikein, to live in a house => ‘belonging to the whole earth that is lived on’ => ‘belonging to the whole world.’

  • The word ‘secular’ is many a times erroneously used in contexts where ‘ecumenical’ or ‘syncretistic’ fit far better.
  • India prides itself as an ecumenical society where people of all religions, regions, languages and colors live together in peace. Most Indians however still frown upon ecumenical marriages.

Parish: (n) a local church.

Origin: Gk para-, near + oikos, house => ‘near to one’s house’ => ‘neighbouring’


Parochial: (adj) related to a parish; narrow in one’s outlook, unable to think broadly.

Origin: same as parish.

  • Why worry so much about what your neighbours will say? It is so parochial to bind oneself to views which are not valid even a couple of hundred miles away.
  • The Shiv Sena is full of parochial nationalists who insist that Mumbai belongs only to the Marathi people and demand that people from other states should not be given jobs there.

Vicinity: (n) neighbourhood

Origin: L vicus, neighbourhood

  • The Taj Mahal is built in the vicinity of the Yamuna.
  • Cancer was rampant in the populations living in the vicinity of the chemical factories.

Rampant: (adj) widespread, unrestrained.


Domicile: (n) residence; (v) to take up residence, to provide with usually temporary residence.

Origin: L domus, house + colere, to live. The word ‘colony’ is from colere.

  • With few exceptions, all state government jobs are provided to the citizens with domicile in that state.
  • When his savings started drying up, the writer made up his mind to leave the hotel, and to rent some less posh and less expensive domicile.
  • The tree was hollow to an extent of about 50 ft in diameter, and from its flat, hard floor the detective judged that it had often been used to domicile men.

Major-domo: (n) the head servant of a household.

Origin: L major, chief + domus, house

  • The child was very fond of Nathu, his family’s gardener-cum-major domo.
  • When the old man woke up after a night of heavy drinking, his major-domo came to inform him that a visitor, a nervous young man, was waiting since an hour and seemed very anxious to meet him.

Domain: (n) territory under rule; field.

Origin: L dominus, master of a household

  • domain of arts, the domain of Pakistan, the domain of the housewife.

Dominion: (n) rule; power of ruling; a territory under rule.

Origin: L dominus, master of a household

  • India was a dominion of the British.
  • The British had dominion over India.
  • In British India, the state of Hyderabad was known as the Dominion of His Exalted Highness, the Nizam.

Domineer: (v) to rule in a dictatorial fashion; to dominate.

Origin: L dominus, ruler

  • In all animal species, the strong domineer over the weak.
  • The central peak of the island domineered over the neighbouring hills.
  • Rita’s mother-in-law totally domineered over her. She could not even breathe without first taking the old hag’s permission.

Hag: (n) a witch-like old woman.


Donna: (n) Italian title meaning ‘Lady’ prefixed to a woman’s name in order to show her respect.

Origin: L domina, lady of the house

  • The name Madonna literally means ‘my lady.’

A related word is Prima Donna.

Prima Donna:
(n) the lead female singer of an opera; a person who acts like the star singer of an opera and becomes furious if somebody does not treat him like a star.

Origin: L prima, first + donna, lady

  • The IIT students claim prima donna status in India.
  • “Why do you go off by yourself like a prima donna?” The father asked his son. “Come and sit with our guests!”

Dungeon: (n) a dark prison, usually underground.

Origin: L dominus, master -> domnion, master’s tower in a castle -> Fr. donjon, prison underneath a castle tower

  • To the clerk, his ill-lit, ill-ventilated, musty office, cramped with age-eaten files, seemed no better than a dungeon.
  • The prisoner was taken down dark, winding stairs to the bottom of the castle and fastened in a dungeon, with a great chain on his legs and with rats for company.

Despot: (n) a ruler with unlimited power, a dictator.

Origin: Gk dems-pot from demos, house + potis, lord

  • There are two kinds of government—the despotic and the democratic.
  • He was despotic and ready for any violence to get his way.
  • The businessman ruled his family like a despot; his family members were just supposed to quietly bow their heads to everything he said; they dared not squeak before him because he would immediately threaten to cut their allowance or throw them out of ‘his’ house.

Note that despot has parallel etymology to the Sanskrit word dampati.


Tether: (v) to tie with a rope; (n) such a rope.

  • The sun was hot, so he sought the shelter of a nearby tree, where he tethered his horse, and sat down upon the ground to smoke.
  • The runner started off at a pace which soon brought him to the end of his tether, and from that point merely dragged himself to the finishing line.
  • She had borne the torture in silence for a long time, but now she had come to the end of her tether.

Adamant: (adj) not changing one’s mind despite many requests, appeals or logical arguments; very hard to cut or break.

Origin: Gk a-, not + daman, to tame, conquer => ‘not tamed, not conquered’

  • He was adamant in resisting his aunt’s suggestion that he ask her husband- his uncle- for a loan.
  • He was adamant about going to the cave alone.

Indomitable: (adj) unconquerable

Origin: L in-, not + domare, to conquere + -able

  • Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable spirit.
  • When the king had attacked and conquered eight kingdoms in a row, he began to think that he was indomitable.

Daunt: (v) make afraid, become afraid.

Origin: L domare, to tame

  • The weak-hearted easily get daunted by difficulties.

Dauntless: (adj) fearless

Origin: daunt + less

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