Word of the Day : April 13, 2014

tabula rasa

noun TAB-yuh-luh-RAH-zuh


1 : the mind in its hypothetical primary blank or empty state before receiving outside impressions

2 : something existing in its original pristine state

Did You Know?

Philosophers have been arguing that babies are born with minds that are essentially blank slates since the days of Aristotle. (Later, some psychologists took up the case as well.) English speakers have called that initial state of mental blankness "tabula rasa" (a term taken from a Latin phrase that translates as "smooth or erased tablet") since the 16th century, but it wasn't until British philosopher John Locke championed the concept in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1690 that the term gained widespread popularity in our language. In later years, a figurative sense of the term emerged, referring to something that exists in its original state and that has yet to be altered by outside forces.


"In those pioneering days, I was something of a tabula rasa in the kitchen, unless you count my knack for toasting a flawless Pop-Tart." - From an article by Andy Borowitz in Food & Wine, June 2003

"When city officials began handing out development contracts in the 1980s, there was no urban context to go by. It was as close as a city gets to tabula rasa: two square mile of parking lots, vacant warehouses and abandoned railroad tracks." - From an article by Matt Chaban in the New York Daily News, March 7, 2014

Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of "jingoism," our Word of the Day from March 11? The answer is …


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