Words are the symbols of emotions, as well as ideas. You can show your feelings by the tone you use (‘You’re silly’ can be an insult, an accusation, or an endearment, depending on how you say it) or by the words you choose.  Consider the interesting types of people described in the following paragraphs, then note how accurately the adjective applies to each type.


Put the kettle on, Polly

They are friendly, happy, extroverted, and gregarious – the sort of people who will invite you out for a drink, who like to transact business around the lunch table, who offer coffee as soon as company drops in.

The adjective is: convivial

You can’t tire them

We all have the same amount of time – twenty-four hours a day. It’s not time that counts but energy.  Some people apparently have boundless, illimitable energy – they’re on the go from morning to night, and often far into the night, working hard, playing hard, never tiring – and getting twice as much done as any three other human beings.

The adjective is: indefatigable

No tricks, no secrets

They are pleasantly frank, utterly lacking in pretence or artificiality, in fact quite unable to hide their feelings or thoughts. They have something of the simple naturalness and unsophistication of a child.

The adjective is: ingenuous

The eagle’s eye

They have minds as sharp as razors; their insight into problems that would mystify people of less keenness or discernment is just short of amazing.

The adjective is: perspicacious

No placating necessary

They are most generous about forgiving a slight or an injury. Never do they harbor resentment, store up petty grudges, or waste energy on thoughts of revenge or retaliation.

The adjective is: magnanimous

One-person orchestras

The range of their aptitudes is formidable. If they are artists, they use oils, water colours, gouache, charcoal, pen and ink – anything!  If they are musicians, they can play strings, wind, keyboards – everything!  Such people can turn their hands to whatever is needed.

The adjective is: versatile

No grumbling

They bear their troubles bravely, never ask for sympathy, never yield to sorrow, never wince at pain.

The adjective is: stoical

No fear

There is not a cowardly bone in their bodies. They are strangers to fear, they’re audacious, dauntless, contemptuous of danger and hardship.

The adjective is: intrepid

No dullness

They are witty, clever, amusing; and they excel as conversationalists.

The adjective is: scintillating

City slickers

They are cultivated, poised, tactful, sophisticated, and courteous, at ease under all social circumstances. You cannot help admiring their self-assurance.

The adjective is: urbane

Can you match the words?

convivial = friendly

indefatigable = tireless

ingenuous = frank

perspicacious = keen-minded

magnanimous = noble

versatile = capable in many directions

stoical = unflinching

intrepid = fearless

scintillating = witty

urbane = polished, sophisticated

Do you understand the words?

convivial – hostile [= Opposite]

indefatigable – tireless [= Same]

ingenuous – worldly [= opposite]

perspicacious – obtuse [= opposite]

magnanimous – petty [ = opposite]

versatile – all-rounder [= same]

stoical – unemotional [= same]

intrepid – timid [= opposite]

scintillating – banal [= opposite]

urbane – rude [= opposite]


Eat, drink and be merry

The Latin verb vivo, to live, and the noun vita, life, are the source of a number of important English words.

Convivo is the Latin verb to live together; from this we get our English word convivial, an adjective that describes the kind of person who likes to go out and enjoy himself with good company.

Using the suffix –ity can you write the noun form of the adjective convivial?

Living it up

Among many others, the following English words derive from Latin vivo, to live:

vivid – possessing the freshness of life; strong; sharp – a vivid colour.  And –ness to form the noun.

revive – bring back to life. Noun: revival.

vivacious – lively, high-spirited. Nouns: vivacity or vivaciousness.

viva – an examination in the form of an interview. It is short for viva voce, with a live voice (Latin vox, vocis, voice).

Which came first?

Latin ovum, egg is the source of oval and ovoid, egg-shaped; ovulate, to release an egg from the ovary; and ovum, the female germ cell which, when fertilized by a sperm, develops into an embryo, then into a foetus, and finally, in about 280 days in the case of humans, is born as an infant.

The adjectival form of ovary is ovarian; of foetus, foetal.  Can you write the noun form of the verb ovulate?

Love also comes from ovum.  No, not the kind of love you’re thinking of. Ovum became oeuf in French, or with ‘the’ preceding the noun (the egg), l’oeuf, pronounced something like LǝRF. Zero is shaped rather like an egg (0), so if your score in tennis is fifteen and your opponent’s is zero, you shout triumphantly, ‘fifteen love!’

More about life

Latin vita, life, is the origin of:

vitamin – one of the nutritional elements essential for the body’s metabolism. For example, good eyesight requires vitamin A (found in vegetables, especially carrots).

vital – essential to life; of crucial importance, full of life and vigour. Add the suffix –ity to form the noun.

Revitalize is constructed from the prefix re-, again, back, the root vita, and the verb suffix.  It means to restore vitality to rejuvenate.

The prefix de– has a number of meanings, one of which is essentially negative, as in defrost, decompose, declassify, etc.  Using this prefix, can you find the verb meaning to rob of life, to take life from?

Vitalize, revitalize, and devitalize are used figuratively – for example, a programme or plan is vitalized, revitalized, or devitalized, according to how it’s handled.

French life

Sometimes, instead of getting our English words directly from Latin, they come to us via a European language, usually French. Here are two French phrases based on the Latin root vivo, to live.

joie de vivre. Literally joy of living, this phrase describes an immense delight in being alive, an effervescent keenness for all the daily activities that human beings can indulge in.  The opposite is ennui, a feeling of boredom, discontent with life.

bon vivant – the –NH a muted nasal sound. A bon vivant is a person who lives luxuriously, especially in respect to rich food, good drink, opera-going, etc.  It means, literally, a good living.  The bon vivant is, of course, a convivial person.

More good things

French bon, good, is from Latin bonus (see Session 5).  Here are some other words based on it:

bonhomie, good-natured friendliness. From French homme, man, so literally good-man-ness.

bon voyage. Have a good journey!

You can match the words

conviviality = love of good company

vivacious = high-spirited

devitalize = take life from

ovulation= release of the egg

vitality = strength, vigour

joie de vivre = effervescence; joy of living

ennui = boredom

bon vivant = one who lives lavishly

vivid = strong; sharp

ovoid = egg-shaped

Do you understand the words?

conviviality – bonhomie [is the same]

vivacious – apathetic [is the opposite]

vivid – dull [opposite]

oval – square [opposite]

revitalize – rejuvenate [ same]

ennui – boredom [same]

bon vivant – ‘man about town’ [same]

vitality – liveliness [same]

bon voyage – hello [opposite]

joie de vivre – boredom [opposite]



No fatigue

Indefatigable is a derived form of fatigue – in– is a negative prefix, the suffix –able means able to be; hence, literally, indefatigable means unable to be fatigued.  The noun is indefatigability.

How simple can one be?

Ingenuous is a complimentary term, though its synonyms naïve, gullible, and credulous are faintly derogatory.

To call people ingenuous implies that they are frank, open, and not likely to try to put anything over on you.

Ingenuous should not be confused with ingenious – note the difference in spelling – which on the contrary means shrewd, clever, inventive.  The noun form of ingenuous is ingenuousness; of ingenious, ingenuity or ingeniousness.

To call people naïve is to imply that they have not learned the ways of the world, and are therefore trusting beyond the point of safety.  The noun is naivety.

Credulous implies a willingness to believe almost anything, no matter how fantastic. Credulity, like naivety, usually results from ignorance or inexperience.

Gullible means easily fooled or easily imposed on.  It is a stronger word than credulous and is more derogatory.  Gullibility results more from stupidity than from ignorance or inexperience.

Belief and disbelief

Credulous comes from Latin credo, to believe, the same root found in credit (if people believe in your honesty, they will extend credit to you; they will credit what you say).  –ous is an adjective suffix that usually signifies full of.  So, strictly, credulous means full of believingness.

Do not confuse credulous with credible.  In the latter word we see combined the root credo, believe, with –ible, a suffix meaning can be.  Something credible can be believed.

Let’s note some differences:

Credulous listeners – those who fully believe what they hear.

A credible story – one that can be believed.

An incredulous attitude – an attitude of skepticism, of non-belief.

An incredible story – one that cannot be believed.

Nouns are formed as follows:

credulous – credulity

incredulous – incredulity

credible – credibility

incredible – incredibility

What people believe in

Credo, to believe, is the origin of four other English words.

Credo – personal belief, code of ethics.

Creed – a religious belief, such as Catholicism, Judaism, Protestantism, Hinduism, etc.

Credence – belief, as in, ‘I place no credence in his stories’.

Credentials – a document or documents giving evidence of a person’s standing.

Heads and tails

If ingenuous means frank, open, then disingenuous should mean not frank or open.  But disingenuous people are far more than simply not ingenuous.  They are crafty, dishonest, insincere – and they are all of these while making a pretence of being frank and above-board.  Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Similarly, a remark may be disingenuous, as may also a statement, an attitude, a confession, etc.  The noun is disingenuousness.

Can you match the words?

ingenious = clever; inventive; shrewd

credulous = willing to believe

gullible = easily tricked

incredible = unbelievable

creed = religious belief

credentials = document providing identity

ingenuity = shrewdness; cleverness

naïve = inexperienced; unworldly

Can you use the words correctly?

Use credulous, credible, or corresponding negative or noun forms in the following sentences:

She listened incredulously to her husband’s confession of his frequent infidelity, for she had always considered him a paragon of moral uprightness.

He told his audience an incredible and fantastic story of his narrow escape.

He’ll believe you – he’s very credulous.

Make your characters more credible if you want your readers to believe in them.

We listened dumb-struck, full of incredulity, to the shocking details of corruption and vice.

He has the most incredible good luck.

The incredibility of it!  How can such things happen?

Naïve people accept with complete credulity whatever anyone tells them.

‘Do you believe me?’ ‘Sure – your story is credible enough.’

I’m not objecting to the total incredibility of your story, but only to your thinking that I’m credulous enough to believe it!


How to look

The Latin root specto, to look, is the source of many common English words: spectacle, spectator, inspect, retrospect (a looking back), prospect (a looking ahead), etc.  In a variant spelling, spic-, the root is found in conspicuous (easily seen or looked at), perspicacious, and perspicuous.

A perspicacious person is keen-minded and astute. Per– is a prefix meaning through; so the word means looking through (matters, etc.) keenly.  The noun is perspicacity or perspicaciousness.

Perspicacity has a synonym acumen, mental keenness, keen insight.  The root is Latin acuo, to sharpen.


From acuo, to sharpen, come such words as acute, sharp, sudden, as acute pain, acute reasoning, etc; and acupuncture, the insertion of a (sharp) needle into the body for medical purposes.  The noun form of acute, referring to the mind or vision, is acuteness or acuity noun; in other contexts, acuteness only.

Acupuncture combines acuo, to sharpen, with punctus, point.  When you punctuate a sentence, you put various points (full stops, commas, etc.) where needed.  If you are punctual, you’re right on the point of time (noun: punctuality); if you’re punctilious, you are very careful to observe the proper points of behaviour, procedure, etc. (noun: punctiliousness).  And to puncture something, of course, is to make a hole in it with a sharp pointPungent comes from another form of the root punctus (pungo, to pierce sharply), so a pungent smell is sharp or spicy, pricking the nose; and a pungent wit sharply pierces one’s sense of humour.  The noun is pungency, not pungentness.

Some more looking

Perspicacious should not be confused with perspicuous.  Here is the important distinction:

Perspicacious means able to look through and understand quickly.  This adjective applies to persons, their reasoning, minds, etc.

Perspicuous is the other side of the coin – it means easily understood from one look, and applies to writing, style, books, and like things that have to be understood.  Hence it is a synonym of clear, simple, lucid.

The noun form of perspicuous is perspicuity, or perspicuousness.

A spectacle is something to look at; spectacles (glasses) are the means by which you get a comfortable and accurate look at the world.  Anything spectacular is, etymologically, worth looking at.

A spectator is one who looks at what’s happening.

To inspect is to look into something.

Retrospect is a backward look (retro, backward) – generally the word is preceded by the preposition in, for instance, ‘Most experiences seem more enjoyable in retrospect than in actuality’.

Prospect is a forward look; prospective is the adjective.  What’s the prospect for world peace?  Similarly, your prospective job or holiday is the activity in the future that you look forward to.  (The prefix is pro-, forward, ahead, before.)

If you introspect, you look inwards and examine your inner reactions (the prefix is intro-, inwards).  Too much introspection or introspectiveness may lead to feelings of anxiety.

There are times when you have to look around most carefully; you must then be circumspect – watchful, cautious, alert (circum-, around).  The noun is circumspection or circumspectness.

If something looks good or sensible, but actually is not, we call it specious.  A specious argument sounds plausible, but in reality is based on an error, a fallacy, or an untruth.  The noun is speciousness.

Can you match the words?

perspicacious = keen-minded

acumen = sharpness of mind or thinking

specious = plausible but actually false

punctilious = extremely careful, exact, or proper in procedure

pungent = sharp; spicy; piercing

perspicuous = clear; easy to understand

retrospect = a backward look

prospect = a forward look

introspective = looking inside

circumspect = wary, cautious, ‘looking around’

Do you understand the words?

perspicacious – dull witted [is the opposite]

acumen – stupidity [opposite]

acute – sharp [same]

acuity – perspicacity [same]

punctilious – casual [opposite]

pungent – bland [opposite]

perspicuous – clear [same]

retrospect – backward look [same]

circumspect – careless [opposite]

specious – true [opposite]


The great and the small

You are familiar with Latin animus mind. Animus and a related root, anima, life principle, soul, spirit, are the source of such words as animal, animate and inanimate, animated and animation.

Magnanimous (meaning generous-minded) contains, in addition to animus, mind, the root magnus, large, great; the noun is magnanimity.

On the other hand, people who have tiny minds or souls are pusillanimous – Latin pusillus, tiny.  Hence they are contemptibly petty and mean.  The noun is pusillanimity.

Other words built on animus, mind, include:

unanimous – of one’s mind.  If the judges of a competition are unanimous, they are all of one mind.  (Latin unus, one.)  The noun is unanimity.

equanimity – equal (or balanced) mind. Hence, evenness or calmness of mind; composure.  If you preserve your equanimity under trying circumstances, you do not get confused, you remain calm.  (Latin aequus, equal.)

animus – hostility, ill will. Etymologically, animus is simply mind, but has degenerated to mean unfriendly mind: ‘I bear you no animus, even though you have tried to destroy me’.

animosity – ill will, hostility. An exact synonym of animus, and a more common word.  ‘There is real animosity between Bill and Ernie’.

Teaser questions for the amateur etymologist

Recalling the root vivo, to live, how would you explain a vivarium?

Answer: Vivarium – enclosed area in which plants and (small) animals live in conditions resembling their natural habitat.  The suffix –ium usually signifies place where – solarium, a place for the sun to enter, or where one can sunbathe; aquarium, a place for water (Latin aqua, water), or fish tank; podium, a place for the feet (Greek pous, podos, foot), or speaker’s platform; auditorium, a place for hearing concerts, plays, etc.  (Latin audio, to hear).

Unus is Latin for one.  Can you use this root to construct words meaning:

animal with one horn:

of one form:

to make one:


one-wheeled vehicle:

Answer: (a) Unicorn (Latin cornu, horn).  (b) Uniform.  (c) Unify (-fy, from facio, to make)  (d) Unity.  (e) Unicycle (Greek kyklos, circle, wheel).

Annus is Latin for year; verto, versus, as you know, means to turn.  Can you explain the word anniversary in terms of its roots?

Answer: Anniversary – a year has turned.

Use inter-, between, to form words of the following meanings:

between states (adj.):

between nations (adj.):

between persons (adj.):

Answer: (a) Interstate.  (b) International.  (c) Interpersonal.

Use intra-, within, to form words with the following meaning (all adjectives):

within one state:

within one nation:

within the muscles:

Answer: (a) Intrastate.  (b) Intranational.  (d) Intramuscular.



Versatile comes from verto, versus, to turn – versatile people can turn their hand to many things successfully.  The noun is versatility.

Zeno and the front porch

In ancient Greece, the philosopher Zeno used to lecture on ‘How to Live a Happy Live’. Zeno would stand on a porch (the Greek word for which is stoa) and expound his credo as follows: people should free themselves from intense emotion, be unmoved by both joy and sorrow, and submit without complain to unavoidable necessity.  His followers were called Stoics, after the stoa, or porch, from which the master lectured.

If we call people stoical, we mean that they meet adversity with unflinching fortitude. Stocisim may be an admirable virtue (mainly because we do not then have to listen to the stoic’s troubles), but it can be overdone.

Fear and trembling

Intrepid is from Latin trepido, to tremble.  (You recognize the negative prefix in-.) Intrepid people exhibit fearlessness (and not a single tremble!) when confronted by dangers.  The noun: intrepidity, or, of course, intrepidness.

Trepido is also the source of trepidation – great fear, trembling, or alarm.

Quick flash

Scintilla, in Latin, is a spark from a fire; in English the word scintilla may also mean a spark, but more commonly refers to a very small particle (which, in a sense, a spark is), as in, ‘There was not a scintilla of evidence against him’.

In the verb scintillate, the idea of the spark remains; someone who scintillates sparkles with charm and wit.  The noun is scintillation.

City and country

People who live in the big city go to theatres, attend the opera, visit museums and art galleries, browse in book shops, and shop at designer boutiques. These activities fill them with culture and sophistication.  (Also they have the privilege of spending two hours a day going to and coming from work.)  As a result, city-dwellers are refined, polished, courteous – or so the etymology of urbane (from Latin urbs, city) tells us.  The noun is urbanity.

Urban as an adjective simply refers to cities – urban populations, urban life, urban development, etc.

The suburbs are residential sections, or small communities, close to a large city.  (Sub– has a number of meanings: under, near, close to, etc.)  Suburbia may designate suburbs as a group; suburban residents, or suburbanites, as a group.

Latin rus, ruris is the country, i.e. farmland, fields, etc.  So rural refers to country or farm regions, agriculture, etc.

Rustic as an adjective may describe furniture or dwellings made of rough-hewn wood, or furnishings suitable to a farmhouse; or, when applied to a person, is an antonym of urbane – unsophisticated, boorish, lacking in social graces, uncultured.  Noun: rusticity. Rustic is also a noun designating a person with such characteristics.

Urbane and rustic, when applied to people, are emotionally charged words. Urbane is complimentary, rustic derogatory.

Can you match the words?

magnanimity = big-heartedness; generosity

urbanity = sophistication, courtesy, etc.

unanimity = complete agreement, all being of one mind

equanimity = calmness, composure

animus = hostility, hatred

versatility = ability either to do many different things well, or to function successfully in many areas

stoicism = unemotionality; bearing of pain, etc. without complaint

intrepidity = fearlessness; great courage

trepidation = fear and trembling; alarm

scintillation = sparkling with wit, cleverness

Do you understand the words

Is it easy to preserve one’s equanimity under trying circumstances?  No

Do we bear animus towards our enemies?  Yes

Does a pusillanimous person often harbour thoughts of revenge?  Yes

Do we admire versatility?  Yes

Is stoicism a mark of an uninhibited personality?  No

Do cowards how intrepidity in the face of danger?  No

Do cowards often feel a certain amount of trepidation?  Yes

Is a rustic person suave and sophisticated?  No

Do dull people scintillate?  No

Is a village an urban community?  No

Which is which?


Concave refers to a surface that curves inward, and convex to a surface that curves outwards. Remember by saying ‘Concave – goes in like a cave.’


These are the words that geographers use to describe any particular position on the Earth. Longitude describes the distance east or west of the imaginary line that goes from the North Pole down through Greenwich and across West Africa on its way to the South Pole.  Latitude is the distance north or south of the Equator.

Remember which is which by saying ‘Latitude is FLATitude’ – it lies flat across the map.


The beautiful spiky shapes that form inside some caves are called stalagmites if they grow upwards from the floor, and stalactites if they grow down from the roof. Remember by saying ‘Stalactite – hold title.’

©Dodgsons KingsWay Sanctuary Church, 1973.


Published by:

Andrea Nicola Dodgson

I'm a R.o. Buddhist. And a U.N. Theatre tutor where I own all the Ethnography businesses as birth certificates involving Disney, MGM, Universal, Times Warner, 20th Century Fox, Sony, D.C., Tristar, Pixar, Columbia, and Paramount. And, I get Equipment here for it. I want all my equipment.. #Solidarity

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