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Today's Word

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May 27, 2013
This week's theme
What a difference a letter makes

This week's words
lares and penates

Roman ruins on the Palatine Hill
Roman ruins on the Palatine Hill

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with Anu Garg

Mark Twain once said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter -- it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Twain had a point, but in the definitions of this week's words, replacing a letter with another is not going to make much difference. It's still the same word that's being defined. Each of this week's words has two definitions that differ by a single letter (e.g. lightning/lightening).

CONTEST: Can you think of a word like this? A word that has two definitions each of which differs by only one letter? Send your entries -- a word and its two (or more) definitions -- to contest@wordsmith.org. Be sure to include your location (city/state/country).

Readers with the winning entries will receive their choice of the word game One Up!, a signed copy of my book A Word A Day, or the T-shirt AWAD to the wise is sufficient. Send your entries before the weekend. Results will be announced in AWADmail.


(PAL-uh-tyn, -teen)

1. Of or relating to a palace.
2. Of or relating to a palate.

For 1: After Palatine, from Latin Palatium, the name of the centermost of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. Roman emperors built their palaces on this hill. The word palace also derives from the same source. Earliest documented use: 1436.
For 2: From French palatin, from Latin palatum palate (roof of the mouth). Earliest documented use: 1656.

"The palatine city Qal'a Bani Hammad in Algeria had terraced gardens and, in one of its palaces, an enormous rectangular pool."
D. Fairchild Ruggles; Islamic Gardens and Landscapes; University of Pennsylvania Press; 2008.

"The teeth, tongue, palate, and gum are subjected to a direct painful influence -- that is, direct pain which acts upon the minor palatine nerve."
Aleksandr Nevzorov; The Horse Crucified and Risen; Nevzorov Haute Ecole; 2011.

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

If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good. -Thornton Wilder, writer (1897-1975)

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