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Jul 31, 2020
This week’s theme
Words having origins in tree names

This week’s words
corroborate
palmary
willowy
birch
fig

fig
Photo: Pinke

fig
Fig gesture, center
Pietá with the symbols of the passion, 1405-06 (detail)

This week’s comments
AWADmail 944

Next week’s theme
Words derived from body parts
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

fig

PRONUNCIATION:
(fig)

MEANING:
noun:1. A tree or shrub of the genus Ficus or its fruit.
 2. Something of little value.
 3. A gesture of contempt.
 
verb tr.:To dress up.
noun:Dress or array.

ETYMOLOGY:
For noun 1-3: From Old French fige, from Provencal figa, from Latin fica (fig, ficus). Earliest documented use: 1225. Also see fig leaf.
For the rest: Of uncertain origin. Earliest documented use: 1839.

NOTES:
It’s not clear why the fig has suffered such an undervaluation, historically speaking. The OED lists the first citation in this sense from “The Court of Love” (1450): “A Figge for all her chastite!” The word is also used for the obscene gesture of a fist with the thumb sticking out between two fingers. Another word given to us by the lowly fig is sycophant.

USAGE:
“We already knew that Mr. Trump cared not a fig for human rights in China. He reportedly told Mr. Xi last year that he would soften the US response to a crackdown in Hong Kong in order to get a trade agreement, his singular pursuit.”
Mr. Trump and China’s Camps; The Washington Post; Jun 21, 2020.

“The Australian Army Fanfare Team ... cut a vividly colonial set of figures in the public galleries, fully figged in scarlet tunics and pipeclayed helmets.”
Jonathan Green; The Last Word Express; The Age (Melbourne, Australia); Jun 3, 2003.

See more usage examples of fig in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Trust is the first step to love. -Premchand, novelist and poet (31 Jul 1880-1936)

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