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Nov 29, 2021
This week’s theme
Perfect synonyms

This week’s words
polyhistor
bombinate
echoism
cynophilist
timbrology

polyhistor
Image: me.me

Previous week’s theme
Toponyms from England
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The English language is overstaffed with words. There’s freedom. And if that doesn’t make you happy, you are welcome to take liberty. You could buy stuff or you could purchase it. Fill your belly or your stomach. That’s because the English language went around shanghaiing words from distant shores. Sometimes other languages came over and gave it words. Example: It received a generous infusion of words from French when William of Normandy conquered England in 1066.

So what to do with all those words? Over time even synonymous words develop shades of meanings. For example, the words beautiful and pretty are close, but not perfect equivalents.

That said, there are a few words in the language that have perfect synonyms. This week we’ll look at five of them.

polyhistor

PRONUNCIATION:
(pol-ee-HIS-tuhr)

MEANING:
noun: A person of great or wide learning. Also polyhistorian.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin polyhistor, from Greek polyistor (very learned), from poly- (much, many) + histor (learned). Ultimately from the Indo-European root weid- (to see), which is also the source of words such as guide, wise, vision, advice, idea, story and history. Earliest documented use: 1588. A perfect synonym of this word is polymath.

USAGE:
“Roberto Calasso is the consummate polyhistor. He has published books on such diverse subjects as Greek and Hindu mythology, Talleyrand and his age, and Tiepolo and his use of pink ...”
John Simon; Paris Review; New York Times Book Review; Nov 18, 2012.

“You have to be a polyhistor to run this place. They don’t call me genius for nothing.”
Clinton Smith; Deep Six; HarperCollins; 2004.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been. -Madeleine L'Engle, writer (29 Nov 1918-2007)

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