V is for…

Vampire_Zuko_for_Leo_by_Depsycho

Holy moly! Can you believe it’s nearly June? Wasn’t I complaining about the snow and the cold not that long ago? Well, I’m not complaining now. My garden is in full swing and I’m off to Toronto next week to attend the annual Editors’ Association of Canada conference.

Today, I’d like to bring you the next instalment of my Vocabulary Series. I’m going to visit upon you a veritable variety of vexing and vainglorious vocabulary beginning with the letter V.

This first word is a fabulous verb that conjures visions of indecisive sea anemones. It kind of sounds like the action it describes, don’t you think?

Vacillate (verb)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1590s, meaning to sway unsteadily. Comes from the Latin word vacillatus, which is the past participle of vacillare, meaning to sway to and fro or to hesitate. Its more modern meaning to describe an inability to make up one’s mind was first documented in the 1620s.

Definition:    To waver between two different opinions, options, or actions; to be indecisive; to sway unsteadily.

Example:   Viktor vacillated; he didn’t know if he should pursue the voluptuous blonde running down the hill or her vainglorious lover, who was heading for the forest. He flipped a coin.

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This next word is one of my favourite adjectives, in part because it’s so much fun to say. But it also makes a great insult!

Vacuous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1640s, meaning empty. Comes from the Latin word vacuus, meaning empty, void, or free, which is related to the word vacare, meaning to be empty. Vacare likely comes from a translation of the Greek word kenon, which means that which is empty. Its more modern meaning to describe a person was first seen in the 1840s.

Definition:   Unintelligent or expressionless; lacking substance or content; empty.

Example:   With a disappointed sigh, Viktor cornered his dinner. The young man’s vacuous gaze meant Viktor was in for an especially bland meal.

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Seeing as we’re at the letter V, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you about the origins of the words that describes one of my favourite monsters. Careful—the bonus word this week wants to suck your blood!

Vampire (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1700s, referring to a spectral being in a human body who leaves the grave at night to drink the blood of the living while they sleep. Comes from the French word vampire, or the German Vampir, which is seen in 1732 in an account regarding Hungarian vampires. The French and German words come from the Hungarian vampir, which comes from the Old Church Slavonic word opiri. Similar words can be seen in the Bulgarian vapir and Ukranian uper. Franc Miklošič, an expert on Slavic languages, believed that the origins of vampire can be traced to the Kazan Tatar word, ubyr, meaning witch. However, Max Vasmer, who was an expert in the etymology of Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, and Turkic languages, disagreed.

The meaning that describes a person who preys on others—especially emotionally or psychologically—was first recorded in 1741.

Definition:   A reanimated corpse that leaves its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with abnormally long and pointed canine teeth; a person who preys ruthlessly on others.

Example:   As the sun began to rise, Viktor wished he wasn’t a vampire. He really missed eating pesto and sleeping in a bed.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

————————————————————————————
Linking up with this weekend’s moonshine
grid, over at yeah write.

Hey, if you’ve got a blog post that’s burning
a hole in your virtual pocket, you should
link up too!
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Image credit: Depsycho @ deviantART

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28 thoughts on “V is for…

  1. Poor Viktor first he vacillated whether he should pursue the blonde or her lover, then he wished he wasn’t a vampire because he missed eating pesto and sleeping in a bed.
    I enjoyed reading these words and the sentences.Suzanne.

  2. Thanks for the lovely V words! I’m guessing vacuous and vacuum come from the same source. Funny how you don’t notice these things until you really stop to look at the words 🙂

  3. Vacuous describes more than a few people I know. I suppose some might say the same about me but I disagree and would happily defenestrate those who disagree. 🙂

  4. I love etymology and always wonder, who originally said the word and how did it…become an actual word?I also just love words. My thesaurus was my favorite book as a child…which makes me weird but…words are beautiful and I love the play of puns, connotations, alliteration, etc.

    1. I love that your thesaurus was your favourite book as a child! I used to read the dictionary for fun when I was a kid. Nothing wrong with being a little weird, especially when it comes to language. 🙂

  5. Such a great post — I love all your letters! One of my favorite classes in high school was etymology — and I’m convinced it helped me waive freshman English classes in college. Top this comment off with “vacuous” being one of my favorite words!

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