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Venus, seen just before dawn, is said to be ‘Lucifer’, the ‘light-bringer’ (ferre, to carry). The poor student who is fumbling in the darkness of his subject wishes he too had a Lucifer to elucidate the obscure concepts. He imputes his plight to his bad teachers. They do not give lucid explanations, he says, either because they are not so sure themselves, and so try to get away by babbling some mumbo-jumbo, or because they think that ‘difficult looks brainy.’ Had his teachers not been so unintelligible, he would not have had to lucubrate all the night through.


The best communicators are those who say what they want in a pellucid, translucent manner. Real genius lies in simplicity.

IE  dyeu   to shine

The Sun is called divakar in Sanskrit, and a day, divas (din is its simplified form). Diya (also, diva) and Diwali too got their names from the light associated with them.


The Latin counterpart of divas is dies (pronounced as DEE-uhs), and is found in the following words:


Dies-1: diary, diurnal, journal

Dies -2: journey, sojourn, adjourn

Dies -3: quotidian, meridian, dismal

A ‘journey’ originally meant a day’s work, or a day’s travel. That sense is still preserved in the word ‘journeyman’, used for a workman hired on a per-day basis. A ‘diary’ and a ‘journal’ keeps a record of each day. Newspapers also do that. That is why they are called journals, and the people who work for them, journalists.


Now, let me ask you two questions.

  • The Sanskrit word divya has dual meanings. One, brilliant, and two, heavenly, celestial. Is the second meaning related with the first?
  • The Sanskrit words devah, devta (god), devi (goddess), daivi (meaning divine) and daiya, as found in the “Hai Daiya!” (Oh God) exclaimed by many Indians, are very close to the Sanskrit words for the day. Can you explain why?

Pause and think.

We believe that gods are paragons of goodness and that they live in the sky. Sky is also the source of daylight. We usually represent the good, the gods and the Heaven with shiny immaculate whites. We use Hindi words like tej and noor for them. Both mean ‘radiance.’ On the other hand, we associate the evil, the devil and the Hell with black, the color of the night.


In Latin too, the root for god is quite near to the root for day. It is deus and is found in:

Hai Daiya!: adieu, deity, deify

Devi Ma: divine, diva.

IE  kand-  to shine

“Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra, zulfon ka rang sunahra…” sings the hero to woo the heroine. Chaand is called ‘chaand’ because it shines; a candle is a candle for the same reason.


The people of Norway used to write candle as kindill. The idea of setting something on fire with a kindill led to the English verb kindle.


The root of candle is the Latin word candere. It means ‘to shine’ (obviously). It also means ‘white’, because that is the colour associated with intense shine. For example, an incandescent bulb shines because its tungsten filament becomes white hot.


In ancient Rome, the citizens who aspired for an office wore white togas and so were called ‘candidates’. White symbolizes honesty; that was why they wore white, and that was why we have the word candour.


The Latin word incendere, derived from candere, means ‘to set on fire’ because a burning thing shines. This is the root of incendiary and incense.


IE  ghel- to shine

All that glitters, wise old people say, is not gold. Glitter. Gold. Did you ever notice that English has a large number of words beginning from ‘gl’ which are related to the idea of shining? They all belong to the ghel- family.


Glittering gl-1: Glow, glower, gloaming

Glittering gl -2: gleam, glimpse, glint, gilded

Glittering gl -3: glimmer, glitz, glisten

Glittering gl -4: glister, glass, glaze

Glittering gl -5: glare, gloss, gloss over

Glittering gl-6: glance, glad (face shining with joy)

Glittering gl-7: gloat, glide, glissade, glib


Today’s ‘yellow’ is a changed version of the Old English word geolu, which, of course, came from ghel-.


Lacklustre: (adj) lacking brilliance, shine or enthusiasm; dull.

Origin: lack + luster


Elucidate: (v) throw light upon, to make clear.

Origin: L e-, out + lucere, to shine => ‘to make shine out’ => ‘to throw light upon’


Knotty: (adj) full of knots; difficult to understand or solve; intricate.


Impute: (v) to say ‘it is caused by’ or ‘it is a quality of.’

  • It is illogical to impute criminality to a race. No person is a criminal by birth or because he was born in a particular race.
  • The newspaper imputed corruption and dictatorship to the president of XYZ political party.

Lucid: (adj) clear, see-through; easily understood.

Origin: L lucere, to shine


Babble: (v) to talk meaninglessly.


Lucubrate: (v) to study or write, especially in the night; to write with great knowledge

Origin: L lucubrare, to work by lamplight, usually at night


Pellucid: (adj) clear, transparent.

Origin: L per-, through + lucere => ‘allowing light to shine through’

  • R.K. Narayan’s prose is as clear as a pellucid lake.
  • Her motives for the murder were not pellucid to the murdered man’s family.

Translucent: (adj) partially allowing light to pass through.

Origin:L trans-, through + lucere.

  • A frosted window glass is not transparent, but translucent.

Diurnal: (adj) related with a day or with daytime; active during the day.

Origin: L dies, day -> diurnus, day

  • Cows and buffalos are diurnal animals. Wolves and Owls are nocturnal.
  • During the curfew, the citizens could not do even their normal diurnal activities like going to the office or going for a walk or to the market or visiting friends.

Sojourn: (n) a temporary stay; (v) to stay temporarily at some place.

Origin: L sub-, under + diurnus, day => ‘to spend under a day’ => ‘to spend only some time at a place’

  • The warden was a woman of system with children. Even the feral ones went home tamed enough, after sojourning for a few months beneath her roof.
  • He had heard much about Paris being the city of art and love. So, he hoped to meet the woman of his dreams during his sojourn in Paris.
  • Mr Pathak returned to his home in the United States after a week-long sojourn in India where he had been on a pilgrimage.

Adjourn: (v) to postpone further proceedings to a later date or indefinitely.

Origin: L ad-, to + diurnus, day => ‘to another day’

  • The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day, barely 30 minutes after being convened, due to the ruckus created by the Opposition over a recent price hike by the Government.

Ruckus: (n) noisy situation.


Quotidian: (adj) daily, everyday, ordinary.

Origin: L quot, every + dies, day

  • Real love is that which survives quotidian married life.
  • Writing a masaala story is not difficult. It needs talent however to depict the quotidian in an interesting manner.
  • The common man votes not on the basis of abstract ideologies but on quotidian issues like the price of wheat, pulses and fuel, the availability of power or transport etc. He votes for anyone who makes his daily living a bit easier.

Meridian: (n) an imaginary circle passing through the two poles and any given point on earth; mid-day, noon.

Origin: L medius, middle + dies, day

  • We say 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. What does ‘a.m.’ or ‘p.m.’ mean? A.M. stands for ante-meridiem. The Latin prefix ante- means ‘before’. So, ante-meridian means ‘before noon.’ P.M. stands for post-meridiem, that is ‘after noon.’

Dismal: (adj) cheerless, dull; causing gloom.

Origin: L dies, day + malus, bad => ‘bad day’ => ‘unlucky day when everything goes wrong’

  • The parents were disappointed by the dismal performance of their son in the board exams.
  • The environmentalist painted a dismal picture of the future if pollution and unjudicious use of natural resources continued unabated.

Celestial: (adj) releated with the sky or the heaven.

  • The science of astronomy took a huge leap forward into the modern era with the invention of the optical telescope and its use to study the night sky and discover new celestial objects.

Immaculate: (adj) with not a single spot or stain or mistake.

Origin: L im-, not + macula, spot => ‘spotless’

  • It was wondrous for the Mehras to see their maid speaking immaculate English on the telephone. Seeing them stunned, she told them that she was taking English speaking classes for the past six months.
  • The Principal of the school retired with an immaculate service record. Not once in his teaching career of 32 years had anyone pointed a single finger at him.

Adieu: (n) goodbye, farewell.

Origin: L ad-, to + deus, god -> ‘I commend you to god’

  • Thousands of people poured into the streets to bid a tearful adieu to the brave soldiers who lost their lives in a terror attack on their city.

Deity: (n) god or goddess

Origin: L deus, god

  • It is hyperbolic to say that India is a land of 33 crore deities. Yes, Indians worship many gods and goddesses but not 33 crore!

Deify: (v) to elevate to godhood.

Origin: L deus, god deity.

  • It is a cruel paradox that the Indians deify women as Shakti and yet kill their girl children.

Divine: (adj) related with god; (v) to be able to know something that is either hidden or in the future; to guess.

Origin: L deus, god -> divus, god

  • Great artists and writers divine the most secret impulses of the soul, scent out what is buried in the subconscious, and bring it up to the surface.
  • Tarot cards, horoscopes, omens and crystal balls are some of the methods used to divine the future.
    Tarot cards, horoscopes, omens and crystal balls are some of the methods used for divination of the future.

Diva: (n) prima donna

Origin: L divus, god -> diva, goddess


Kindle: (v) to light a fire, to light up; to spark.

  • The teacher kindled a love for science in all his students.

Incandescent: (adj) white with heat; brilliant.

Origin: L in-, within + candere, to glow => ‘to glow from within’ => ‘to give off one’s own light when hot’


Aspire: (v) to desire strongly; to see as one’s ultimate goal.


Toga: (n) a flowing robe worn above the other clothes by male citizens in ancient Rome.


Candor: (n) honesty, frankness; (adj): candid.

Origin: L candere, white => ‘honesty’

  • Rishi called Sara for a walk and confided to her that he loved Rhythm, her best friend. She candidly told him that the probability of Rhythm’s ever reciprocating his feelings was zilch because she already had a boyfriend. He thanked her for her candour and gloomily went home.

Zilch: (n) zero


Incendiary: (adj) that which sets something on fire; (n) a person who deliberately sets something on fire.

Origin: L in, in + candere, to shine

  • An incendiary speech sets people’s emotions on fire. That is, it incites them violently against another group of people.
  • Though the police could establish that the fire in the crowded kapdaa bazaar was not accidental, it failed to find out the incendiary.

Incense: (n) an aromatic substance which is burnt in temples, etc., for the fragrance it produces upon burning; the fragrance of an incense;

(v) to make someone extremely angry.

Origin: L in, in + candere, to shine => ‘to set something or someone on fire’ => ‘to make someone so angry that he burns red-hot as if he was on fire.’

  • The vernacular name for incense is dhoop or agarbatti.
  • When Vijay Togad introduced his eldest daughter to wrestling, his village of Ludki in Haryana was up in arms: the elders were incensed at the idea of a local girl slugging it out in the mud.

Glower: (v) to look with extreme anger or dislike.

  • Twelve-year-old Ramu’s mother glowered at him when, instead of thanking his aunt for the t-shirt that she had brought for him, he refused to accept it saying that his friends would laugh at him if he wore an unbranded t-shirt like that one.

Gloaming: (n) twilight

  • The child never came out of the house in the twilight because his mother had told him that ghosts roamed in the gloaming. The gloaming was the time of the ghosts, his mother had said, because just like ghosts who were hung in the zone between life and nothingness, neither fully here nor fully there, the gloaming was hung between the day and the night.

Gilded: (adj) covered with gold or gold-coloured layer; looking very shiny and attractive on the surface but having little value underneath.

  • The bride and the groom were seated on gilded chairs that seemed royal enough to befit a king and a queen.

Glimmer: (v) to shine intermittently.

  • In the moonlight, the sequins on her sari glimmered like little stars.

Glare: (n) a very harsh light; (v) to look very angrily at someone.

  • When Ramu’s mother glared at him, he immediately realized that he had said something wrong.
  • He wore sunglasses to shield his eyes from the glaring sunlight.

Gloss: (n) a shine on the surface; something that makes a surface shine.

  • Lip gloss is used to make lips shiny.
  • Photographs are usually printed out on glossy paper and text on matte paper.

Gloss over: (v) overlook, neglect.

  • The army chief glossed over the killing of ten civilians in a crossfire between the army and the militants by saying that a few innocents are always killed in a war.

Gloat: (v) to look at something with an evil smile on one’s face; to feel such an evil satisfaction over something.

  • The killers gloated as the stabbed man struggled to reach the telephone. They had cut the telephone line before entering the house and were content that nothing would happen even if the man managed to wriggle to the phone.

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