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We all believe the first climbers to scale Mt. Everest (in 1953) were Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, but that may not be true. In 1924, two other bold adventurers, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, attempted to reach the top of Mt. Everest. They were last sighted near the summit by the expedition's geologist, who was 2000 feet below them.

In 1999, Mallory's body -- still intact after 75 years -- was discovered by a group of climbers. Were Mallory and Irvine on their way up or coming down? We don't know, and perhaps never will, unless other climbers find their cameras that may yield clues. Mallory's grandson, George Mallory II, reached the summit in 1995.

When asked why climb a mountain, Mallory's famous answer was, "Because it's there." This week's words in AWAD should perhaps be used in the same spirit. Why use these words when other similar words exist? Just because they're there in the dictionary.

During the rest of this week we'll see more words that are less-known synonyms of everyday words.

athenaeum (ath-uh-NEE-um) noun

1. A library or reading room.

2. A literary or scientific club.

[From Latin Athenaeum, from Greek Athenaion, a temple of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.]

See more usage examples of athenaeum in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

"Whole wings of libraries could be built around the literature of loss ... The Summer After June, Ashley Warlick's second novel, belongs in that vast annex of the athenaeum reserved solely for stories of mourning." Chris Bohjalian; Starting Over; The Washington Post; Apr 2, 2000.


Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence. -Henri Frederic Amiel, philosopher and writer (1821-1881)

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