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Nov 3, 2014
This week's theme
Well-traveled words

This week's words
Mata Hari

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with Anu Garg

Most everyday words in the English language, such as bread, house, and love, are home-grown, coming to us from Old English. But English does not shy away from adopting words from other languages. Often the path a word takes to join the English language is straightforward. The word table comes to us from Latin tabula, for example.

There are instances where a word has taken a scenic route on its way to English. Take the word cider, for instance. It traveled from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to French before landing on the shores of English language.

Travel changes everyone and words are no exception. By the time they reach us, they have encountered a little wear and tear. They have experienced some smoothing, picked up some new ideas, and often they have a slightly different shade of meaning (cider in Hebrew means strong drink).

This week we'll look at words that have accumulated enough frequent-flier miles to earn a free trip (or two) around the dictionary.



noun: An interpreter or guide.

From French dragoman, from Italian dragomanno, from Latin/Greek dragoumanos, from Arabic tarjuman, and Aramaic, from Akkadian targumanu (interpreter). Earliest documented use: 1300s. Akkadian is a now-extinct Semitic language once spoken in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and written in cuneiform. Earliest documented use: 14th century.

"The pig doesn't express himself in some exotic swine-dialect, the farmer has no need to summon a dragoman fluent in grunts, each understands the other perfectly."
Eric Ormsby; Ambitious Diminutives; Parnassus: Poetry in Review; 2008.

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

It is more often from pride than from ignorance that we are so obstinately opposed to current opinions; we find the first places taken, and we do not want to be the last. -Francois de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)

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