Word of the Day : May 12, 2013


adjective sess-kwuh-puh-DAIL-yun


1 : having many syllables : long

2 : using long words

Did You Know?

Horace, the Roman poet known for his satire, was merely being gently ironic when he cautioned young poets against using "sesquipedalia verba"-"words a foot and a half long"-in his book Ars poetica, a collection of maxims about writing. But in the 17th century, English literary critics decided the word "sesquipedalian" could be very useful for lambasting writers using unnecessarily long words. Robert Southey used it to make two jibes at once when he wrote "the verses of [16th-century English poet] Stephen Hawes are as full of barbarous sesquipedalian Latinisms, as the prose of [the 18th-century periodical] the Rambler." The Latin prefix "sesqui-" is used in modern English to mean "one and a half times," as in "sesquicentennial" (a 150th anniversary).


Jacob's editor advised him to do away with much of the sesquipedalian prose he favored and opt for simpler words that would reach readers of all ages and backgrounds.

"'You just don't see that many sesquipedalian writers like William F. Buckley Jr. in the media anymore,' said a colleague to whom I mentioned this topic." - From an article by Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2012

Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of "nepenthe," our Word of the Day for April 12? The answer is …


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