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Oct 30, 2009
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Eponyms

This week's words
byronic
orwellian
manichean
machiavellian
draconian

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

draconian

PRONUNCIATION:
(dray-KO-nee-uhn, druh-)

MEANING:
adjective: Unusually harsh.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Draco (late 7th century BCE), Athenian legislator, noted for the harshness of his code of laws.

NOTES:
Under Draco's laws even trivial offenses, such as idleness, brought capital punishment. When asked why he had instituted the death penalty for most offenses, he supposedly replied that the lesser crimes deserved it and he knew of no greater punishment for more important ones. Could it be an example of an aptronym (in Greek his name means dragon)? His laws were said to be written in blood instead of ink.

When it comes to lawmaking, the name of one of Draco's successors has entered the language in an opposite sense. The Athenian lawmaker Solon's reform to make Draco's laws humane earned him a place in the dictionary as an eponym meaning "a wise lawgiver".

USAGE:
"The 'criminalization of any criticism' of General Musharraf, his regime, and other state functionaries was an unprecedented draconian measure against the freedom of speech."
17 Retired Judges Want Revival of Constitution; Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan); Nov 28, 2007.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The tragedy of modern war is not so much that young men die but that they die fighting each other, instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals. -Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

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