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Jun 10, 2010
This week's theme
Words that appear plural but aren't

This week's words
taxis
starets
congeries
shambles
kudos

The Shambles
The Shambles, York
There are streets named shambles in many towns in England
Photo: Peter Edin

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

shambles

PRONUNCIATION:
(SHAM-buhls)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A state of great disorder.
2. A scene of carnage.
3. A slaughterhouse.

ETYMOLOGY:
From oak to acorn, from a little piece of furniture to a slaughterhouse. The word known today as shambles started out as scamnum (stool, bench). Over time the word's sense evolved to "a vendor's table", more specifically, a butcher's table. Eventually, the word came to be applied to a meat market or a slaughterhouse. From the state of disarray of such a place, today we use the word metaphorically to denote a place of complete disorder. That's the story of a slaughterhouse. To know what became of a fish market, see billingsgate.

USAGE:
"The program aims to rebuild a system in shambles before nearly 4,000 schools were destroyed."
$2 Billion Sought to Overhaul Ruined Haiti Schools; Associated Press; May 15, 2010.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. -Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882)

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