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Nov 26, 2007
This week's theme
Words with built-in definite articles

This week's words
El Dorado

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with Anu Garg

What does the 'lute' of a musician have in common with the Norwegian sea monster 'kraken' and 'lariat' of a cowboy? All three words come with a built-in definite article. The word lute is from Arabic al 'ud (the wood), kraken has the suffixed Norwegian definite article (-en), and lariat is from Spanish la reata (the rope).

Words reveal buried civilizations. Begin digging and you come across layers of history. Passage of time muddies the original form of words and when we borrow them from another language, we don't realize that they're already hitched to an article before we add a new one.

Well, you don't have to hop across languages or travel through time to see this kind of redundancy in action. We have the ATM machine and the VAT tax and AC current in the English language.

This week we feature five more words that come with a packaged definite article.


(lan-YAP, LAN-yap) Pronunciation Sound Clip

noun: An unexpected benefit, especially a small gift a customer receives with a purchase.

From Louisiana French, from American Spanish la ñapa (the gift), from Quechua yapa (something added).

"Of little consequence, a tiny lagniappe and a green salad came compliments of the house."
M.H. Reed; In Ossining, a Restaurant With a Past; The New York Times; Sep 23, 2001.

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


Do something for somebody every day for which you do not get paid. -Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875-1965)

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