Words Galore

A Chimera from a 3rd century BC Greek Plate

Many words in the English language have interestig or unusual meanings or origins.  Understanding words that are outside the normal vocabulary but used in common dialogue is important for verbal and reading comprehension.  Here are a few interesting words and their origins:



scapegoat Someone who takes on the blame for others.  Origin: On the Hebrew Day of Atonement, a goat was sent into the wilderness with the sins of the people.
sophist One who attempts to mislead others with clever arguments   Origin: Greek word for wisdom
rigamarole Statements that are disjointed or confused  Origin: Refers to the “ragman role” that King Edward of England forced Scots to sign in allegiance to him but was actually a very confused mess of papers
chimera A foolish fancy or idea that won’t work  Origin: In Greek mythology, an animal that was a confusing mix of goat, lion and serpent
solecism Guilty of blunder or provincialism in writing or speech.  Origin: When Athens established the province of Soloi, the speech of the inhabitants degenerated into a dialect unacceptable to the Athenians
simony When someone is guilty of trying to make money out of something that is sacred  Origin: The sorcerer Simon Magnus tried to buy from the Apostles the ability to confer the Holy Ghost by laying on hands.
Hector Person calling out from an audience who quarrles with, teases or bullies a speaker   Origin:  The Trojan hero Hector who was noble but constantly upbraiding the Trojans to behave nobly
paragon A standard of true worth or outstanding example  Origin: Italian word for touchstone, a dark stone (like jasper) that gold was rubbed against to test the purity of the gold
picayune Worthless  Origin: In New Orleans in 1805 writer complained of not being able to buy anything for less than $.05.
romance In early European times, tales told of heroes and rescued damsels in distress in the language of the people which derived from the Latin language which came from Rome. 

The Trojan Hero Hector Being Carried Dead from Battle

Tomorrow:  More Words Galore.      Rita Bay


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2 responses to “Words Galore

  1. Fascinating. Can’t wait to see tomorrow’s words.

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