Words at Play : Top 10 Words Born in Conflict

#4: Draconian

Draco had a good side, but you wouldn't know it from the word that bears his name.

In 7th century B.C. Athens, the lawmaker Draco reformed the criminal justice system. Personal revenge was no longer acceptable; instead, Athenian criminals would answer to a code of justice.

So far so good ... except that Draco's laws were uniformly harsh. Almost every transgression was punishable by death.

These days, draconian means "cruel" or "severe," and is often still applied to laws or rules – as in this headline: "China's Draconian Instructions For Reporting On Google Revealed." (HuffingtonPost.com, Mar. 26, 2010)

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