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Jul 5, 2010
This week's theme
Words made with combining forms

This week's words
plutocracy
bibliolatry
epigraph
anemometer
stenosis

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

It's a good thing we don't have to go with the literal meaning of words or we'd be exercising in the nude in the gymnasia. The word gymnasium is derived from the combining form gymno-, meaning nude or bare (in ancient Greece, they did train in their birthday suits). Other words similarly formed are gymnoplast (protoplasm without surrounding wall) and gymnosophy (a form of philosophy practiced by those refusing to wear clothes).

What are combining forms? You can think of them as the Legos of language. As their name indicates, a combining form is a linguistic atom that occurs only in combination with some other form.

This week we'll feature five words made using combining forms:
pluto- (wealth), biblio- (book), epi- (upon), anemo- (wind), steno- (small)
and
-cracy (rule), -latry (worship), -graph (writing), and -meter (measure).

plutocracy

PRONUNCIATION:
(ploo-TOK-ruh-see)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Government by the wealthy.
2. A country or state governed by the wealthy people.
3. Wealthy ruling class.

ETYMOLOGY:
From pluto- (wealth) + -cracy (rule). From Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos (wealth, overflowing riches). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pleu- (to flow), that is also the source of flow, float, flit, fly, flutter, pulmonary, pneumonia, pluvial, and fletcher.

USAGE:
"California is much closer to a plutocracy than a grass-roots democracy. It takes lots of money to draft initiatives, get them on the ballot, and run a media campaign for or against them."
Bruce E. Cain; Five Myths About California Politics; The Washington Post; Jun 6, 2010.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
No matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom. -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

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