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Nov 25, 2003
This week's theme
Words formed in error

This week's words

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(in-tuhr-NES-een) Pronunciation RealAudio

1. Of or relating to conflict within a group or nation.
2. Mutually destructive.
3. Characterized by bloodshed or slaughter.

From Latin internecinus (deadly), from internecare (to slaughter), from inter- + necare (to kill), from nex-, nec- (death). A few other words derived from the same root are pernicious, noxious, obnoxious, and necrosis. Some positive words originating from the same root are nectar, nectarine, innocent, and innocuous.

The original meaning of today's term was "deadly", from the prefix inter- (all the way to, completely) + necare (to kill), from nec- (death). While writing his 1755 dictionary, the great lexicographer Samuel Johnson erroneously believed the prefix inter- implied "between" (as in "international") and defined internecine as "endeavoring mutual destruction" that, thanks to his popular dictionary, became the primary sense of the word.

"Jones also gives us a portrait of how Enlightenment-era French citizens clamored for self-rule, and an account of the grisly, internecine feuding that led to the rise of Napoleon in 1799."
Washington Is Also Reading; The Washington Post; Mar 30, 2003.

"During the late 1980s, the veteran Amal militia began an internecine war against a radical Shi'ite upstart group named Hizbullah."
Matthew Gutman; Lawyer: Obeid, Dirani Not Linked to Arad; Jerusalem Post (Israel); Nov 9, 2003.


Why does no one confess his sins? Because he is yet in them. It is for a man who has awoke from sleep to tell his dreams. -Lucius Annaeus Seneca, writer and philosopher (BCE 3-65 CE)

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