A is for…

letter A

My dearest readers, I have been negligent in my duties as a Blogmistress. In my defence, a pile of work topped with a monstrous migraine may have had something to do with it.

In any case, today I’d like to introduce a new feature to my language posts. I’m going to call it my Vocabulary Series. It’s a simple concept. I’m going to work through the alphabet (in, well, alphabetical order), presenting two words from each letter in each post. I will review the etymology of the word, along with its definition, and then I will use it in at least one sentence. That’s it.

I do, however, want to encourage all of you to submit words you would like to see in this series.

Okay, so without further ado, here is the first word of this series:

Agony (noun)

Etymology: Comes from the Old French agonie or late Latin agonia, which came from the Greek agonia, meaning contest or mental struggle. This likely related to the Olympic games (or other games of competition), as the Greek word agon means to assemble for a contest. Its use to refer to mental anguish first appeared in the 14th century, followed by its use to refer to extreme physical suffering in the 16th century.

Definition: Anguish of the mind; extreme physical or mental suffering; death struggle; the final stages of a difficult or painful death

Example: The agony of trying to choose between a chocolate éclair and a profiterole was nearly too much for the Duchess to bear.

Example 2: Watching the Duchess through the window, the starving vampire’s body was wracked with agony.


And of course, given the title of my blog, it wouldn’t be right to touch on “A” and not look at the following word:

Apostrophe (noun)

Etymology: Adopted from the French apostrophe, which comes from the late Latin apostrophus, which was in turn adopted from the late Greek apostrophos, meaning turning away to one in particular. This came from the words apo, meaning away, and strephein, meaning turn.

Definition: A punctuation mark (’) used to indicate either possession or the omission of letters or numbers; omission of a sound or letter

Example: Nothing gets my goat more than a misplaced apostrophe.


Etymological information and definitions come from the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credits: “a” courtesy of high_resolution / Photoxpress.com;
Apostrophe courtesy of
 Google Images


18 thoughts on “A is for…

  1. Glee! I love this idea! I bet when you get to certain letters we would have chosen similar if not the same words to review. 😉

  2. This will be fun!!!
    The kids in Junior High used to try to tease me by saying I must read the dictionary, as if that were an insult. If only I’d had access to an etymological dictionary!!

    Now, for a request. Since you began with “agony,” how about including “ecstasy”?

    1. 🙂 Thanks Kylie! I used to read the dictionary for fun too. (Well, I guess I still do!)

      Ecstasy is a great request! I will put it on the list for E. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I do hope that Duchess has a stake or something nearby….
    Anyway, this sounds like a fun idea. There’s certain words that I’ve always liked, mainly because of their sounds. Such as, spleen. And marina, and wafting. And then of course there’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. 🙂

    1. I bet the Duchess is pretty good with a toothpick!
      Thanks Michael! I love the word spleen. Marina and wafting are great too. I’ll add them to the list. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is always fun to say out loud — or to get other people to try to say out loud.

  4. What a great idea. I love the etymology of words. And your sentences make me smile. Like Ted says, I think I’ve got the apostrophes, but commas are tough for me. I look forward to that post!

  5. Pish, I put commas wherever I feel like doing so and I’m sure it drives people bonkers, so I suggest Rebel for your R’s 😉 I’m the girl that highlights the words she looks up in the dictionary so I look forward to these posts, because, words, are, the best…

    1. LOL! Your comma usage might just give me another migraine! 😉 Love your suggestion of rebel. It is now on my list. Glad to hear I’m not alone in my relationship with my dictionary (okay, dictionaries).

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