Word Well Used – Merriam-Webster

1 Nov


An article discussing controversial policy decisions made by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels

The Use:

“What did provoke ire were two moves the governor thought would be more anodyne. He pushed through uniform adoption of Daylight Savings Time, in place of a county-by-county patchwork, and he leased the Indiana Turnpike to a Spanish-Australian consortium for 75 years.” – Neil King, Jr., Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2011

About the Word:

Anodyne means “not likely to offend or upset anyone.”

Another example usage is, “the otherwise anodyne comments sounded quite inflammatory when taken out of context.”

These uses suggest the word’s modern sense: bland or soothing.

Originally, anodyne had the more physical meaning of “serving to relieve pain.” In Greek, an means “without,” and odyne means “pain.”




An article about former British prime minister Tony Blair

The Use:

Regarding the demise of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milošević, Mullah Omar, and Charles Taylor:

“How can anybody with a sense of history not grant Blair some portion of credit for this? And how can anybody with a tincture of moral sense go into a paroxysm and yell that it is he who is the war criminal?” – Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, February 2011

About the Word:

paroxysm is a sudden violent emotion or action, an outburst – as in “a paroxysm of rage.”

It comes from a Greek word that means “to stimulate.” The oxymakes it a relative of oxygen.

By the way: tincture, another word well used in the quotation above, means “trace.”



means “the perfect example of something” or “the most important part of something.”

It comes from the Latin words quinta (“fifth”) and essentia (“essence”). In ancient and medieval philosophy, the “fifth essence” came after fire, air, water, and earth. It was believed to permeate all matter and to be what the heavens are made of. In other words, it represented the spirit – the “essential” part that can’t be seen – of any being or thing.



Sanctimonious means “pretending to be morally better than other people,” or “hypocritically pious or devout.”

Used properly, it’s a subtle yet meaningful put-down, and there’s no obvious synonym for it.

It comes from sanctity, meaning “sacred.”



One Response to “Word Well Used – Merriam-Webster”

  1. concatervate 14/06/2012 at 4:09 #


    : the state or fact of being bereaved or deprived of something or someone : the state or fact of being bereaved;especially : the loss of a loved one by death

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