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IE mel-1 false, bad, wrong


Note: You will also do roots, met-2 and mel-3 in Chapter 23.

The Hindi word for bodily excrements (urine, faeces, earwax, phlegm, sweat etc.) is mal. Maila means dirty, impure and malinta is dirtiness or gloom.

The English words from this IE root are:


Mel-1: Malice, malign

Mel-2: malady, malaise

Mel-3: malefactor, malfeasance, malefic


As we just saw, the prefix mal- means ‘bad.’ Its opposite is the prefix bene-. Wherever you see a word beginning with or containing bene- or bon-, you can be sure it means ‘well’.

The bene-, bon- words are presented below:


Bene-1: benefactor, beneficent

Bene-2: beneficiary, benign

Bene-3: bonny, bonhomie, debonair

Latin vitium a fault, defect

In Latin 'a fault,defect' meaning is 'vitium'.


Lalit gambled. He was a drunkard. He was a libertine!

Lahiri ji looked closely at the framed photograph hanging on the wall in front of him. Lalit smiling innocently on his seventh birthday. When had all this vice entered his house? He had been with his son all the time, had devoted his life to him. Why then did Lalit fall into these vicious habits?


Now what should he do? Should he arrange for Lalit’s bail? Arrange lawyers for him? For his ‘darling son’ who had made him proud by molesting a waitress in a casino? Lalit was drinking and gambling in Goa when he had said his company was sending him to Delhi! Lahiri ji’s face tightened. The boy had vitiated his trust. To get a bail for him would mean condoning his lies, his crimes. It would convince him that he could do as he pleased. No, he would not support his son in this case at all. He would not vituperate either. What effect would angry words have on shameless mendacity? He would just not see the face of his disappointing son ever again.


Looking at the photograph, Lahiri ji felt sudden, extreme anger. He felt like yanking that seven-year-old smiling boy out of the picture and slapping him till he was dead. How dare he cheat him like that? How dare he make a mockery of his upbringing?

Lahiri ji felt his life had been a waste.


Latin lavere to wash

A ‘lavatory’, more often known as a bathroom, is a washing-place for humans. A ‘lavanderie’ was the washing-place for clothes in medieval French homes. The word entered English as ‘laundry’.


The Italians called the streams that resulted from sudden, torrential rains and washed away their villages, ‘lava’. The people living around Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano in Italy, also used the word for the streams of molten rock that came down the mountain. This latter sense became predominant in English, when it took in the word around mid-eighteenth century.


Once upon a time, long, long ago, God became utterly despondent about mankind, because the man he had created in his own image had become vile and evil and showed no regard for Him or Nature anymore. So, He decided to wipe away all corrupt creatures and purge the earth by sending a great deluge. There was only one man who was good, Noah. So, to spare him this misery, God came in Noah’s dream, told him of the looming deluge and directed him to build a great boat. In the boat, Noah was to shelter only his family and a pair each of certain species of animals and birds. The obedient man did as he was told. Once his titanic triple-decker houseboat—known as Noah’s Ark—was ready and all the designated creatures were safely inside it, God sent a great rain that fell non-stop and deluged the whole of the Earth. The water rose so high that even the peaks of the highest mountains were submerged! Only Noah’s Ark survived the cataclysm.


After forty days, the rain finally stopped. Slowly, the water levels receded and the humans and the animals stepped out of the Ark to repopulate the blighted earth. God promised to never again send such a great flood and placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of this covenant. That is why, even today, after a rain stops, we see a rainbow. It is God’s way of telling us that He still remembers His promise.

The other washer-words are:

Lava re-1: lavish, alluvium

Lava re-2: ablution, antediluvian



Latin purus pure, clean

 means pure; agere means ‘to drive.’ So, how do you express the idea of driving something towards purity ? By combining purus and agere:

Purus+ agere = puragare -> purgare

Thus, the root purgare means ‘to purify.’


The words from purus or purgare are:

Purus-1: Purge, Purgatory, expurgate

Purus-2: puritan, purblind

These words are related with Sanskrit words paavanta (purity) pavitra (pure) and punya, (clean action, pure, as in punya bhoomi, punyalok, heaven)


Latin castus pure

A ‘caste’ is a social group that maintains the purity of its blood by strictly enforcing endogamy. No one is allowed to marry outside his caste. But equally importantly, no one is allowed to marry within his subcaste. All the people who are born into the same subcaste are considered brothers and sisters and so, marriage between them is considered incestuous. A couple who violates either of these two rules is severely punished and many a times, especially in the countryside, killed. Brutally.


Izzat’s parents were not so boorish though. They were very educated and sophisticated. So, when they discovered that their daughter was going around with a lower caste guy, they did not hack her to pieces. They just castigated her verbally. “Are you out of your mind?” her father shouted, feeling proud to be so modern that he was actually discussing this matter with his daughter—who did that, everybody else just slapped their girls into obedience. He continued, “Can you not see how the world will laugh at us if they come to know of this?” His wife added fearfully that if the world got even a whiff of Izzat’s affair, of the fact that she had been with an untouchable, no one would marry her. Startled by the ‘touch’ in ‘untouchable’, she looked in alarm first at her husband, then at her daughter and then asked the girl sharply, “Are you still chaste?”


Izzat felt too indignant to say anything. How dare her mother ask her such a thing, that too in front of her father! She looked with fiery eyes at her mother, her father slapped her. “Tell your mother how far you went with him,” he thundered.


Izzat ran into her room. Her father locked it from outside and told his wife to give her no food till she apologized. The girl had grown wings, he said, she needed to be chastised.


After three days of foodlessness, Izzat banged at her door. Her parents had been waiting for that. They unlocked the door and found her standing, her head hung down. Sorry papa, sorry mama, she said, without looking up. The parents looked satisfied. Their rebellious daughter had been suitably chastened. The mother brought food to her.


Two days later, they found her gone, with all her degree certificates and bank documents. They immediately vowed to never see her face again.


Very slowly however, over the years, they started wondering if they had done right. Apart from that one ‘wrong’ step, Izzat had been an ideal daughter. They had worried about the people, about what people would say. People had indeed said nasty things when Izzat ran away. But what surprised the old couple was that they survived that opprobrium! They could actually live through it! It had not killed them! And what surprised them even more was that people’s talk abated after some days. People’s interest in their domestic tragedy waned; it passed on to other things! If public memory was so short, the old, lonely parents started wondering, should they have sacrificed their only child for the people? None of those people were with them today. They were battling their old age alone. Could things not have been any other way?

Latin probus good

The Ramayana has a character called ‘Bali’ (South Indians call him Vali) who had immeasurable strength. He was the king of the vaanars, one of whom was Hanuman. Bali had a boon that whoever fought with him would lose half of his strength to him. He was ultimately killed by Rama, who was a sympathizer of Bali’s younger brother, Sugreeva.


The word from probus is simple- probity.

Also developed from probus is the Latin word probare which means ‘to prove good, to test.’ The verb ‘prove’ and its noun form ‘proof’ are both derived from probare. Probable’ means provable, that is, capable of standing a test. The other words from probare are:

Probare-1: Probe, disprove

Probare-2: approbation, disapprobation

Probare-3: reprove, reprobate

Latin verus true

In Latin 'true' meaning is 'verus'.


“I love your daughter very much and will keep her very happy.” The rich businessman who had come to ask for Dhaani’s hand told her father. The old man said that he would think and let him know. He then hired a detective to verify all the facts about the wannabe-groom. Two days later, when the aspirant came to him again, he gave his verdict—“No! Never! Not in my seven lifetimes!” The old man’s detective had reported that this man could vanish at will! Dhaani was sent to America the very next day to live with her brother for a few months; her father hoped fervently that bhoots could not travel that far and that their loves were as evanescent as they were.


‘Very’ started as meaning ‘truly’; somewhere along the way, it acquired the sense of ‘greatly’. A lover feels that ‘I love you’ falls too short in expressing his emotion. So he says emphatically, “I truly love you” and then “I truly, truly love you” and finally, “I love you very much”


To ‘verify’ somebody’s statements means to test their truth. After the verification is complete, you give your ‘verdict, that is, you speak what the truth is (verus +L. dict-, to say).

The other words from this root are:

Verily, truly-1: veracity, verity,

Verily, truly-2: veritable, verisimilitude

Verily, truly-3: veridical, aver


Phlegm: (n) the thick mucus that stays in our throat, more so during colds.

  • A related word is phlegmatic, meaning ‘calm, not easily disturbed.’
  • The woman came distraught into the police station with her husband to lodge a complaint about their missing son. She later asked her husband how those policemen could have been so phlegmatic about the loss of someone’s child. “Don’t they have children too?
    Don’t they know what a trauma this is? How could they have been so casual about the whole thing?” “It is their daily job,” her husband explained. “They deal with blood and gore and rapes and thefts many times each day and that has inured them.”
    Malice: (n) ill-will, desire to do harm; (adj), malicious.
    To speak about others with malice is called slander.
    The government decided the strategy to counter the malicious propaganda of the opposition.
  • A file containing a virus is called a malicious file. Viruses, Trojan horses, data-miners, etc., are called malwares, the short for malicious softwares. These are programmes designed to intentionally harm the normal working of a computer or to tap the personal data of a user and send it to unauthorized recipients through the Internet.

Malign: (v) to speak ill of, to harm the reputation of.

  • The minister accused of murdering a journalist he had illicit relations with, said that he had not even known her and that this was just an attempt of the opposition to malign him.

Malady: (n) illness

  • Love is a malady that no medicine can treat. As Ghalib says: Ishq se tabiyat ne, zeest ka mazaa paayaa/ dard ki dawaa paayi, dard laa dawaa paayaa. In love, I found all the pleasures of life, the cure for all the pains but I found a pain which is incurable.

Malaise: (n) vague feeling of not feeling well; feeling of discomfort or unease.

Origin: mal- + ease

  • The Chamba valley suffered from the malaise of dacoits.
  • He was a delicate little boy, quivering with the malaise of being unloved.
  • Corruption is a deep-rooted malaise of Indian polity.

Malefactor: (n) villain; evil-doer.

Origin: L mal-, bad + facere, to do

  • Mogambo is one of the most famous malefactors in the Indian cinema.

Malfeasance: (n) evil act, wrong act.

Origin: L mal-, bad + facere, to do

  • The Right to Information Act offers the common man to expose the malfeasance and wrongdoings of public officials.

Malefic: (adj) having an evil effect.

Origin: L mal-, bad + facere, to make

  • The planets Mars, Ketu and Shani are considered to be malefic by those who believe in astrology.
  • The family conducted a havan before moving into their new flat so that if there was any malefic influence on the flat, it would disappear.

Benefactor: (n) a large hearted person who does a kind act to somebody; one who leaves money for you in his will.

Origin: L bene-, good + factor, doer

  • In the front lawns of the college stood a statue of the benefactor whose generous bequest had allowed the college to construct its own building.
  • In the movie Bagban, Salman Khan’s character is an orphan who used to be a shoe-shine boy. He could study and get a good life only through the benefaction of Amitabh Bachchan’s character. Amitabh not only gave him love but also the money to complete his education. In turn, Salman also remained devoted to his benefactor even when Amitabh’s own children started neglecting him.

Beneficent: (adj) having a good effect, useful.

Origin: L bene-, good + facere, to make

  • Great intelligence is beneficent only when it is accompanied with wisdom.

Beneficiary: (n) a person who receives the benefits either of a project or of a person’s will.

Beneficiaries of a government scheme, beneficiaries of a will.


Benign: (adj) harmless

  • A life less ordinary’ is the autobiography of Baby Halder. She is a domestic help who studied up to only the seventh standard. She started writing her life story at nights in school exercise books given by her benign Delhi employer, who noticed her love for books.
  • 1855 Bonny: (adj) good, pleasing, happy
    Even a sight of her bonny baby warmed the young mother’s heart.
    When the ghost entered the haveli in which she had spent her life years ago, a wedding was evidently afoot, for the hall and the staircase blazed with light and bloomed with flowers. Smiling men and maids ran to and fro; opening doors showed tables beautiful with bridal white and silver; savoury odors filled the air; gay voices echoed above and below; and once she caught a brief glance at the bonny bride, standing with her father’s arm about her, while her mother gave some last, loving touch to her array; and a group of young sisters with delighted faces clustered round her.

Bonhomie: (n) friendliness, good-naturedness.

Origin: Fr bonhomme, from bon, good + homme, man

  • From the bonhomie between the Indians and Pakistanis living in London, no one could tell that their countries were archenemies of one another.

Debonair: (adj) courteous, gracious, and having a sophisticated charm.

Origin: Old Fr de bonne aire, ‘of good family’. The Latin prefix de, means ‘of,’ bon (or bonne) means ‘good’ in Latin and the Old French aire, means ‘nest’ or ‘family’.
  • Her boyfriend looked unusually debonair that evening, and the thought of entering the party on the arm of such a personable man caused Amita’s heart to swell with pride.

Libertine: (n) morally or sexually unrestrained.

Origin: L liber, free.

  • The word ‘liberty’, meaning ‘freedom’ too is from the root liber.

Vice: (n) a morally wrong habit.

Origin: L vitium, fault

  • Drinking alcohol excessively, gambling, mendacity, corruption, hypocrisy, sexual debauchery are some examples of vices.
  • The Sikh philosophy warns against five cardinal viceskaam (desire), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment), ahankaar (ego).

Vicious: (adj) immoral, evil, wrong.

Origin: from vice

  • In the 1980s, 75,000 people were killed in El Salvador’s vicious civil war.
  • A pet dog who starts attacking people is said to have turned vicious.

Molest: (v) to do unwanted sexual activity with somebody, usually a woman or a child, like unwanted touching, making indecent gestures, forcibly showing pornography, forced kissing, etc.


Vitiate: (v) to spoil, injure, make ineffective.

Origin: L vitium, fault

  • If one of the parties of a contract is found to have misrepresented facts or to have signed the contract under duress, the contract is vitiated.

Condone: (v) to remain silent about a wrongdoing and, thereby, imply tacit approval of the act.

Tacit: (adj) unspoken


Vituperate: (v) to criticize or scold in very harsh language

Origin: L vitium, fault + parere, to provide => ‘to provide a list of all faults of a person in a very abusive tone’


Mendacity: (n) habitual dishonesty,

  • Politicians are often mendacious. They will say—and say with a show of full conviction—anything that will get them votes, even if what they say is not true and they know it, even if they themselves don’t believe in what they say, even if they have been saying the exact opposite till a day before.

Despondent: (adj) in low-spirits, gloomy.

  • It was Bandhopadhay’s daughter’s wedding. The preparations were in full swing when an old man who lived in his street became suddenly ill. Bandhopadhay rushed him to the hospital and footed all the bill of his treatment. As a result, he could not afford to have an army band play at his daughter’s wedding any more. The ladies of his house were despondent at this. “What kind of a wedding will it be without a band?” They asked with hung faces.

Vile: (adj) of very little monetary, moral or social value; evil.

Origin: L vilis, cheap

  • Gabbar Singh is, perhaps, the vilest villain of Indian cinema. When Gabbar Singh maims Thakur, old Mrs Khanna grimaces, “How sick and vile! As if killing his family was not enough!” Each time she sees the movie, she says that.

Deluge: (n) flood; (v) to flood.

Origin: L de-, down + lavere, to wash


Titanic: (adj) huge in size or power.

Origin: from the Titans in the Greek mythology, who were giants who sought to rule the heaven but were ultimately defeated by the gods.


Cataclysm: (n) a violent flood; any violent upheaval that causes large-scale destruction or brings about a fundamental change
1871 The word Ark is also used generally for any place that offers shelter in a difficult time.

Origin: L arca, large box

  • Another word from this root is arcane.

Arcane: (adj) mysterious, understandable only by a select few.

Origin: L arca, large box => ‘hidden in a box’

  • To most people, technology and technical matters seem arcane.
  • The philosopher used many arcane words to explain his theory. Needless to say, the theory remained as ununderstood as before the lecture.

Blight: (v) to destroy, to cause to decay; (n) a disease, a cause of destruction.


Lavish: (adj) requiring or produced with no limit on expenditure; putting no limits in giving.

  • Mughal-e-Azam was the most expensive film ever made in Indian history. Its producer, a Parsi businessman called Shapoorji Pallonji, had no experience of filmmaking and agreed to finance the lavish project only because of his fascination for Akbar! But the money proved worth it because everybody who saw the film was lavish in his praise.

Alluvium: (n) sand, mud and other matter deposited by a flowing river in its plain or a delta.

Origin: L ad-, to + lavere, to wash

  • The Indo-Gangetic plain spans most of Pakistan, north and east India, southern Nepal and the whole of Bangladesh. It is the world’s largest stretch of alluvial soil. The alluvium is formed by the deposition of silt by the Indus and Ganges river systems.

Ablution: (n) washing the body, hands, etc., especially as a part of a religious ritual.

Origin: L ab-, away + lavere, to wash

  • In the traditional Indian families, women got up before their men in order to finish their ablution and keep themselves free to fetch water for them, help them get ready, prepare and serve their food.

Antediluvian: (adj) very, very old.

Origin: L ante-, before + deluge => ‘before the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible’

  • An ambassador car and a rotary dial telephone are considered antediluvian today.

Purge: (v) to purify

Origin: L purgare, to purify.

  • After the chain smoker left her house, she opened the windows so that her sitting room was aired and purged of his presence.
  • The Mahatma encouraged the congregation to purge their hearts and minds of all ill-thoughts and greed and let the light and love of God enter in.

Purgatory: (n) according to Roman Catholic theology, a place where the souls who have done some wrongs in their life are sent to purify themselves so that they can then be united with God in heaven. The souls who sinned terribly in their lifetime are not sent to the Purgatory but to Hell.

Origin: L purgare, to purify


Expurgate: (v) to make changes to the words, text or other material which is considered objectionable.

  • The song Sexy, sexy sexy mujhe log bolein was expurgated into baby, baby baby mujhe log bolein.

Puritan: (n) a person who is extremely particular about moral and religious matters.

Origin: L purus, pure

  • The Muslims who do not do anything the Quran tells them not to do are puritans.

Purblind: (adj) almost blind.

Origin: L purus, pure + blind. The word initially had a sense of ‘purely blind’ but slowly came to mean ‘almost purely blind.’

  • The purblind day was feebly struggling with the fog.

Endogamy: (n) marriage within a socially distinct group of people.

Origin: Gk endo-, in + gamos, marriage.

  • The opposite of endogamy is exogamy.
  • Other words from gamos:
    Polygamy: (n) state having many marriages
    Bigamy: (n) state of having two marriages
    Monogamy: (n) state of having only one marriage

Incest: (n) sexual relationship with a close blood relative.

Origin: L in-, not + castus, pure


Boor: (n) a rude-mannered, unsophisticated person; a peasant.

Origin: G bauer, farmer

  • "Love makes gentlemen even of boors.’’ Henry Adams
  • The word ‘neighbour’ has the same root as boor.
  • Neighbour = nigh, near + bauer, farmer => ‘a farmer whose farm is near yours’

Hack: (v) to cut down.


Castigate: (v) to criticize very strongly for a wrongdoing; to punish in order to correct.

Origin: L castus, pure => ‘to make pure’

  • The child went to his father and said that he didn’t want to go to school anymore because one of his teachers had made him stand in the hot sun for one hour, with a bag on his head, for not doing his homework. “Tell me the name of the castigator,” his father demanded.

Whiff: (n) a slight blow of air; a slight smell.


Chaste: (adj) pure, especially sexually.

  • Seeta gave an agni pariksha to prove her chastity after her long confinement by Ravana. However, when Rama realized that some subjects of his still believed that she was unchaste, he asked Lakshmana to leave her at Rishi Valmiki’s ashram.
    Also see, continent.

Chastise: (v) to beat or give other physical punishment to a wrongdoer in order to correct him; to criticize very strongly.

Origin: L castus, pure => ‘to make pure’


Chasten: (v) to correct by physical punishment; to criticize strongly; to restrain; to purify.

Origin: L castus, pure


Probity: (n) honesty; uprightness.

Origin: L probus, good

  • Probity in governance is an absolute essential for efficient governance.
  • The Prime Minister expressed disgust at the lack of probity in many bureaucrats and announced the launch of a nationwide Corruption Weeding Mission.
    Opposite: improbity (rarely used)

Probe: (n) an exploration; a device used for exploration; (v) to explore, to explore with a probe.

Origin: L probare, to test

NASA has sent probes to Mars and Moon.


Disprove: (v) to prove false.

Origin: L dis- + probare, to test, to prove

  • The best way to counter an argument is to disprove it. Many people, however, start attacking the person who made the argument rather than the argument itself.
  • In a divorce case, if conflicting claims are made about a husband’s income—the alimony is decided based on that income—the wife’s statement is accepted by the court and the onus is on the husband to disprove it.

Approbation: (n) approval, official approval.

Origin: L ad-, to + probare, to test if something is good => ‘to find upon testing that something is good indeed.’ The word ‘approval’ has the same etymology.

  • The child’s drawing won the approbation of his teacher.
  • It was very easy to see that the husband had complete hold over his wife, for she continually glanced at him as she talked as if seeking approbation for what she said.

Disapprobation: (n) disapproval.

  • The lovers agreed to wait till their families’ disapprobation turned into approbation.

Reprove: (v) to express disapproval of something.

Origin: L re-, opposite of + probare, to prove to be good

  • In his anger, Jeevan had shouted at his mother and told her to get out of his room. He was soon reproved for his bad behaviour, by seeing her face turn pale, and tears course down her wrinkled cheeks, while she fixed upon him a look of such pain that it might have softened a far harder heart than his.
  • His aunt reproved him for setting a wrong role model for his siblings.

Reprobate: (adj) hardened in sin or evil ways, with no hope of improvement.

Origin: L re-, opposite of + probare, to prove to be good => ‘hopelessly bad’

  • The reprobate husband came home doddering drunk each day and beat his wife and children. When he came to his senses the next morning, he would feel so sorry and solicitous about their bruises and contusions that they could not help forgiving him. They became a happy family for a few hours. Yet, in the evening, he would start getting ready to join his friends for a carousal. The wife would plead with him to not go, would even shed tears and show him her still not healed arms and face. At such a moment, he would feel like a reprobate standing before heaven, hardened, insensible, and unmoved. He could not, not answer the call of the bottle. He just had to. He would guiltily step out of the house and the daily drama would be repeated all over again.

Contusion: (n) a bruise.

Carousal: (n) noisy, drunken party.


Emphatically: (adv) placing a lot of emphasis on one’s words


Veracity: (n) truthfulness

Origin: verus, true

  • “I don’t know whether I ought to tell it or not, but for the sake of veracity I will.” Thus began another gossip session between the neighbourhood aunties.
    The son came home after midnight and told his waiting mother that he got late because a friend’s mother was ill and they had to hospitalize her. When she asked about which friend he was, where he lived, where his mother had been admitted, what the doctors said and if she could go and see her, he became irritated and asked, “Is this a cross-examination? Do you doubt my veracity?”

Verity: (n) truth

Origin: L verus, true

  • It is an eternal verity that we reap what we sow.

Veritable: (adj) true

  • The jeweller took one real ruby and two exactly similar, fake ones. He then mixed them all together and asked the customer to pick up the veritable stone.
  • He was a veritable genius.

Verisimilitude: (n) likeness to truth.

Origin: L verus, true + similis, similar

  • The youth film was much praised for its verisimilitude. The characters looked, dressed, talked, behaved, thought like normal college students and, for a change, the college too seemed real, not an overly stylized, fairy-tale picninc spot.

Veridical: (adj) truthful

Origin: L verus, truth + dicere, to say

  • Science teachers often teach theories to their students as if they are veridical facts—whereas in reality, they are merely explanations.

Aver: (v) to declare positively and confidently.

Origin: L ad-, to + vertus, true

  • The newly elected Prime Minister averred that he would fulfil all the promises that his party had made to the people before the elections.

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