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Jul 9, 2007
This week's theme
Words about diplomacy

This week's words

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If you've ever wondered whether a diplomat had anything to do with a diploma, the answer is yes. The word diplomacy comes from diploma (from Greek diplo- double), which is, literally speaking, a document folded in double, those documents being the letters of international relations.

And that's how a diplomat is related to diplodocus, the dinosaur. The name of those herbivorous giants of the Jurassic era literally means two beams: a long neck and a long tail (Greek dokos: beam).

That's the joy of words. Begin with an ordinary word and you don't know where it might lead you to and what connections it might show. This week we feature words related to diplomacy. Enhance your savoir-faire in any diplomatic circle with these words from the world of international relations, treaties, and agreements.


(day-TANT) Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

noun: An easing of tension between rivals.

From French détente (loosening, relaxation). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ten- (to stretch) that's also the source of tense, tendon, tenor, pretend, extend, tenure, tetanus, and hypotenuse.

"Threats won't ease anyone's fears. Perhaps it's time to give detente a chance."
Mr. Lieberman's Rash Rhetoric; The Hartford Courant (Connecticut); Jun 13, 2007.

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


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