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Nov 19, 2012
This week's theme
Toponyms and eponyms

This week's words
serendipity
mithridatism
rhadamanthine
elysian
icarian

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

There are thousands and thousands of them. In medicine, botany, chemistry, athletics, and other walks (and runs) of life. We use them all the time without even realizing it. They come with a whole story about themselves.

They are words derived from places or people, real and fictional, from history and mythology. They are known as toponyms and eponyms, from Greek topo- (place) + -onym (name), and epi- (upon) + -onym (name). This week we'll see five words coined after the names of people and places.

serendipity

PRONUNCIATION:
(ser-uhn-DIP-i-tee)

MEANING:
noun: The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by chance. Also, an instance of such a discovery.

ETYMOLOGY:
Coined by novelist Horace Walpole based on the fairy tale "The Three Princes of Serendip". The Princes were supposedly making these happy discoveries they were not looking for. From Persian Sarandip (Sri Lanka), from Arabic sarandib. Earliest documented use: 1754.

USAGE:
"To maximise serendipity, Yossi Vardi cleverly mixes specialised conferences with the more eclectic kind."
In Search of Serendipity; The Economist (London, UK); Jul 22, 2010.

See more usage examples of serendipity in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Men are often capable of greater things than they perform. They are sent into the world with bills of credit, and seldom draw to their full extent. -Horace Walpole, novelist and essayist (1717-1797)

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