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Latin par equal

Two students who are at ‘par’ have equal academic achievement. They are comparable. The word ‘compare’ comes from L. com-, with + par. When we compare two things, we see if they are equal to each other.


A man always hangs out with his equals. That is why, they are called his peers. After a young man’s peers bring him a surprise birthday cake and he cuts it, they all partake of it.


A ‘pair’ too is formed of equal objects. Parvati’s father refused to pair her with Sarvit, saying that she should, at least, have seen the disparity in their status before falling in love. But Parvati remained adamant. She married Sarvit. Her father disowned her.

To marry someone below one’s rank in the society was considered to be disparaging.


Latin minor less, small

A ‘minor’ is a person whose age is lesser than the legal age of responsibility. Minor matters are the matters of lesser importance. When we do six ‘minus’ five, we make six smaller by five units.

The Hindu mythology tells the story of a diminutive saint called Agastya. Once two demons hid at the bottom of the ocean and thus were beyond the reach of the gods. So, Indra, the king of the gods, appealed to Saint Agastya to help them. The tiny savant drank the entire ocean and held it within him till the demons were destroyed. Then, in order to save the sea animals who were dying too, he urinated the entire ocean. The mythology says that this is the reason why the sea water is brackish.


The other words from this root are:

Minor-1: minuteminutiaecomminute

Minor-2: minusculeminceminiature


IE pau few, little

The words paucitypauper, ‘poor’, ‘poverty’, ‘impoverished’ and pusillanimous have come from this root as have our words pau or payiyaa (one-fourth of a measure, hence very small), paai (the smallest Indian coin, equivalent to one-third of the paisa), and in the ‘ph’ variant of the root, phuar (little rain) and pheni (small vermicelli).


The Indians call their little one their put (found in Rajput as well), and their still little one their pota (grandson). In Latin and Greek too, the root pau has yielded words for children. Like puerile. Or like the following words.


The Greek paidos means ‘child.’ This word is similar to the Hindi word paudha (a child plant). The phrase ‘paidaa karna’, giving birth, is also probably related because one just-born is always very small.

Paediatricspaedophile and orthopaedics are some of the words from this root.


All children look up to their teachers, who lead them to knowledge and a good future. That is why teachers were called pedagogues, and the art of teaching, pedagogy. However, as the education system became more rigid, and original thought and curiosity of the children was stifled and the teachers began to insist that what they said and what was written in the books was true and was the only truth and began to scold or scorn the student who raised even the slightest “if” or “but”, the prestige of the word pedagogue too declined. The word pedant too had come from the same root, had meant the same and so, deteriorated similarly.

Latin vanus empty


To ‘vanish’ is to pass out of existence, emptying the space previously occupied. Beauty, the physical one, will vanish one day; it is evanescentephemeral.


The Latin phrase vana gloria means ‘empty pride.’ The resulting English word is vainglory. A vainglorious woman vaunts her beauty or her wealth or whatever she thinks she has and acts as if she is God’s gift to mankind. “No dear,” herexasperated husband finally does dare to disabuse her of her delusions, “not many people agree”. ‘Vain’ is the shorter version (only in spelling, not in attitude) of vainglorious, with the associated noun form ‘vanity’.


“The British were better than these Indian rulers,” little Chhotu’s grandfather would often tell him. “In vain did I go to jails! In vain did I waste my youth!” A ‘vain’ struggle for independence is one that has proved empty and ineffective. The old freedom fighter’s affection for his leaders had clearly waned. Their failure to live upto their promises and the wanton corruption and nepotism had disaffected him.


Mutilate: (v) to remove or damage body parts.

  • Colossal statues of Buddha stood in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. In March 2001, the Taliban tried to destroy them by firing at them with anti-aircraft guns. This mutilated the statues but did not obliterate them. So, then they blew them off with dynamite. 

Peer: (n) one’s equal in age, rank or qualification.

Origin: L par, equal

  • Most young people are introduced to drugs and alcohol by their peers. They feel peer-pressure to drink and smoke and worry that if they don’t do it, they will not be considered cool enough.

A related word is peerless.

Peerless: (adj) he who has no equals.

  • It is an ultimate compliment to call someone a peerless writer or sportsman or painter or actor or whatever he is.

Disparity: (n) inequality, difference.

Origin: L dis-, not + parity

Parity: (n) equality

Origin: L par, equal

  • There is a huge disparity in the developmental status of urban and rural India.
  • The Union of Private Schools Teachers demanded salary parity with the teachers of government schools.

Disparage: (v) to lower the rank or reputation of; to speak in a belittling manner.

Origin: L dis-, away + par, equality => ‘to marry away from an equal status’ => ‘to lower one’s rank’

  • The critics disparaged the movie saying that it was boring, preachy and badly made. One reviewer even called it ‘torturous’! These disparaging remarks shook the confidence of the director of that movie. It was his first movie.
  • The advertisement of the detergent soap SuperWash disparaged its rival brand Bubble.

Diminuitive: (adj) small in size; (n) small thing or person; (n) diminution; (v) diminish.

Origin: L de-, down + minuere, make small => ‘to take down in size and make smaller’

  • Mother Teresa was a diminutive but remarkable woman.
  • Cutting down of jungles by humans has led to a diminution of the natural habitat of many wild animals.

Brackish: (adj) somewhat salty.

Minute: (adj) extremely small in size or importance, related with fine details.

Origin: L minutus, small.

The unit of time called ‘minute’ is so called because it is an extremely small unit of time.
Bacteria are minute organisms that can be seen only under a microscope.
The tear in the sari was minor. It could be detected only on minute examination.


Minutiae: (n) small details.

Origin: L minutus, small

  • The film magazines, and now even national newspapers, eagerly report on even the minutiae of the film star’s lives.

Comminute: (v) to powder into minute particles; (adj) powdered.

Origin: L com- + minuere, to make small

  • Nanoparticles are produced by small scale mills that can comminute solids to sizes below 20 nanometer.

Minuscule: (adj) very small.

Origin: L minus, less -> minisculus, very less

  • A survey found that the number of men who shaved their chests was miniscule—a mere 2% of all the respondents.

Mince: (v) to cut (meat etc) into very small pieces, to say something difficult in softer words so that it doesn’t sound too harsh; to walk with

very short steps so as to look delicate.

Origin: L minuere, to make small

  • “I do not mince words Juhi,” Juhi’s brother said. “I believe in saying things as they are and the truth is that I did not find your boyfriend trustworthy.”
  • Seekh kabab is made from minced meat.
  • The girl walked on the stage with mincing steps, believing that would make her look like a delicate princess.

Miniature: (adj) on a small scale; (n) a small scale representation of something.

Origin: L minium, red colored lead -> miniare, to paint with red lead -> It. Miniatura, a small painting which illustrates a manuscript. The

sense of ‘small’ got attached to the word under the influence of the minor family words, to which the word miniature seems to belong.

  • Bonsai is the art of growing miniature trees.
  • The boy loved his miniature cars as much as his father loved his real cars.

Paucity: (n) the amount is lesser than required, scarcity.

Origin: L paucus, few

  • The family could not marry off their daughter well because of a paucity of money.

Pauper: (n) a very poor person.

Origin: L paucus, little -> pau- + parere, to produce => ‘one who produces little’ => ‘has little income’

  • Everyone was greatly inspired by the rise of the businessman from a pauper to a crorepati.

The other words from the root parere are: parents, oviparous, viviparous, viper.


Pusillanimous: (adj) becoming afraid easily, cowardly.

Origin: L pusillus, very small + animus, spirit => ‘very small-spirited’ => ‘faint- hearted’

  • The pusillanimous travellers through the jungle started shivering the moment they heard a distant roar of a lion. They got their nerve back only when a young man in their group laughingly revealed that the sound had come from a recording in his music player. 

Puerile: (adj) related to a child or childhood; so immature that looks childish.

Origin: L puer, little boy

  • Shashi was a full grown 23-year-old married woman but mindwise, she was still puerile. She totally lacked maturity.

Paediatrics: (n) branch of medicine that deals with children. Alternate spelling: pediatrics. Adjective: paediatric or pediatric

Origin: Gk paidos, child + -iatric, healing


Paedophile: (n) an adult who is sexually attracted to children. Alternate spelling: pedophile. Adjective: paedophilic.

Origin: Gk paidos, child + -phile, loving


Orthopaedics: (n) the branch of medicine that deals with bones and the tissue associated with them. A doctor who specilalises in

Orthopaedics is called an Orthopaedist. Alternate spelling: -ped- instead of –paed-.

Origin: Gk ortho-, straight + paidos, child


Stifle: (v) to suffocate or suppress.

Pedagogue: (n) a teacher of children; one who teaches by strictly adhering to the books and the rules and scolds his students if they show any imagination or curiosity or question what is written in the books.

Origin: Gk paidos, child + -agogue, leader => ‘one who leads a child (towards education)’ => ‘a child’s teacher.’

The word pedagogue has acquired a negative connotation with time but pedagogy remains neutral, and simply means ‘the art or way of



Pedant: (n) one who teaches by strictly adhering to the books and the rules and scolds his students if they show any imagination or curiosity

or question what is written in the books. Adjective: pedantic

Origin: Gk paidos, child + – agogue, leader L paedagogantem -> It. Pedante


Evanescent: (adj) vanishing or likely to vanish.

Origin: L ex-, out + vanescere, to vanish

  • The following quote from the movie ‘Kal ho na ho’ inspires us to live fully today because life is evanescent. We do not know whether we’ll be there tomorrow or not:

“AaJ ....aaj ek zindagi aur jeelo, aaj ek hassi aur baant lo, aaj ek sapna aur dekhlo , aaj ek aasoon aur peelo, aaj ek dua aur maanglo ...

AaJ ...kya pata....... kal ho na ho ”


Ephemeral: (adj) short-lived; living for only one day.

Origin: L epi- upon + hemer, day => ‘living only for one day.’

  • It is not how long you live but what you do with your life that matters. Flowers are ephemeral, thorns stay forever. Yet, it is flowers that people love, not thorns. 

Vainglory: (n) excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements; (adj) vainglorious.

Origin: L vana gloria


Vaunt: (v) to boast.

Wane: (v) decrease in strength or intensity.

Origin: related to the vanus words.

  • The man could never recover from his disease, and day by day, his strength waned.

Wanton: (adj) reckless, unrestrained, immoral.

  • “Nuptial love makes mankind; friendly love perfects it; but wanton love corrupts it.” Francis Bacon

Nepotism: (n) favouritism shown to one’s family or friends in business, politics, etc.

Origin: L nepotem, nephew, descendant. The word nephew itself is from nepotem. The Latin root nepotem is a cousin of the Sanskrit root

napat which means ‘grandson’ and is found in the Hindi word naati, daughter’s son

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