Word of the Day : February 9, 2011


noun vuh-SISS-uh-tood


1 : the quality or state of being changeable : mutability

2 a : an unexpected change or fluctuation

b : a difficulty or hardship usually beyond one's control

Did You Know?

"Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better," wrote British theologian Richard Hooker in the 16th century. That observation may shed some light on "vicissitude," a word that can refer simply to the fact of change, or to an instance of it, but that often refers specifically to hardship or difficulty brought about by change. To survive "the vicissitudes of life" is thus to survive life's ups and downs, with special emphasis on the downs. "Vicissitude" is a descendant of the Latin noun "vicis," meaning "change" or "alternation," and it has been a part of the English language since the 16th century. In contemporary usage, it most often occurs in the plural.


A good investor cannot simply rely on the vicissitude of the market; one must also have patience and use strategy to invest wisely.

"Ten years is a lifetime in the art world, where the vicissitudes of trends and tastes can befuddle the most experienced." -- From an article by Scarlet Cheng in the Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2011

Word Family Quiz

What descendant of "vicis" can mean "experienced by watching, hearing about, or reading about someone else"? The answer is ...


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