On Tuesdays I stretch my vocabulary skills by introducing you to five new words. Here are this week’s words to know:

arcanum (noun):

  1. a secret; mystery (often arcana).
  2. a supposed great secret of nature that the alchemists sought to discover.
  3. a secret and powerful remedy.
  4. specialized knowledge or detail that is mysterious to the average person.

Word origin: Latin arcānum, from neuter of arcānus, “secret.”

Found in NY Times: I fudge, I make things up, but I also pounce on arcana.

Use it in a sentence: The arcana of small town decorum is often too nuanced for newcomers to decipher.

indelible (adjective):

  1. making marks that cannot be erased, removed, or the like.
  2. that cannot be eliminated, forgotten, changed, or the like.
  3. unable to be forgotten; memorable.

Word origin: Alteration of earlier indeleble, from Latin indēlēbilis: in-, not; dēlēbilis, capable of being effaced.

Found in Huffington Post: I know myself. I’ll need to write that adventure into my calendar with indelible pen, and I’ll have to fight with myself not to let work creep into that time.

Use it in a sentence: Being hectored as a child can leave indelible marks on self-confidence.

prurient (adjective):

  1. having, inclined to have, or characterized by lascivious or lustful thoughts, desires, etc.
  2. causing lasciviousness or lust.
  3. having a restless desire or longing.

Word origin: Latin prūriēns, prūrient-, present participle of prūrīre, “to yearn for,” “itch.”

Found in NY Times: Such journalistic reticence might be defended as a means to a less prurient and sex-obsessed culture, which heaven knows we could use.

Use it in a sentence: The group refused to watch “Charmed” because of Shane’s prurient interest in Alyssa Milano.

scabrous (adjective):

  1. having a rough surface because of minute points or projections.
  2. indecent or scandalous; risqué; obscene.
  3. full of difficulties.
  4. difficult to handle; knotty.

Word origin: from Latin scaber “rough, scaly,” related to scabere “to scratch, scrape.” Sense in English evolved from “harsh, unmusical,” to “vulgar” (1881), “squalid” (1939) and “nasty, repulsive” (c.1951).

Found in NY Times: “Clybourne Park” is breezier and less scabrous than “The Pain and the Itch.”

Use it in a sentence: Every once in a while I turn away from “literary fiction” and reach for the scabrous content of a Harlequin novel.

vaunt:

  1. (verb) to speak vaingloriously of; boast of.
  2. (verb) to speak boastfully; brag.
  3. (noun) a boastful action or utterance.

Word origin: Middle English vaunten, from Old French vanter, from Late Latin vānitāre, “to talk frivolously.”

Found in NY Times: Russian figure skaters fell, bobsledders flipped and, in a final embarrassment, the country’s much vaunted hockey team was smacked by Canada 7-3 and did not even make the medal round.

Use it in a sentence: While it is important to be confident during an interview, vaunting organizational achievements as purely your own often sends the message that you’re not a team player.

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While looking up “vaunt” I thought I would also look up the similar word “flaunt” which has a related meaning, and a similar pronunciation (especially since the letters v and f are so closely connected). My thought was that maybe they had the same word origin and had just evolved in different ways. What I found was much more mysterious.

The word flaunt is of “unknown origin,” though one entry compares it the word flanta, “to show off,” in Norwegian dialect.

The Online Etymology Dictionary give its history as such:

1560s, “to display oneself in flashy clothes,” of unknown origin; perhaps a variant of flout or vaunt. It looks French, but it corresponds to no known French word.

I love words of no known origin: it makes me feel Finnish or Basque!

So it’s possible that my instincts are correct and that vaunt and flaunt are etymologically related.

Or flaunt could just be Norwegian.

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