בס״ד

Kavanot: Glossary

Thoughts on Tanach and the Davening

There's nothing I like more than obscure sesquipedalian words.

abrogate
Repeal a law or evade a responsibility (from the Latin "propose going away from a law")
adduce
Offer as evidence (from the Latin, "bring into")
ad hoc
For a single purpose (Latin, "for this")
adjure
To command as under oath (from the Latin, "swear to")
aggrandizement
The act of making something appear greater than is actually warranted (from the French, "magnification")
anathema
Something hated (from the Greek, "set up [for evil]")
antanaclasis
repeating a word with a different meaning (as "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana") (from the Greek, "echo")
antediluvian
before the Flood (from the Latin)
antinomian
Rejecting law or rules; in Christianity, the idea that the Law of Moses no longer applies (from the Greek, "against the law")
apodictic
Beyond dispute (from the Greek, "demonstrate")
aposiopesis
An unfinished thought or sentence suddenly broken off (from the Greek, "maintaining silence")
asteism
A genteel and ingenious insult (from the Greek, "urban", similar to "urbane")
bespeak
Indicate or signify (from the Old English, "speak about")
concupiscence
Lust (from the Latin, "strong desire")
bowlderize
Modify a work by removing vulgar or inappropriate parts (from Thomas Bowlder, who published a "Family Shakespeare" in 1807)
calque
Compound word or phrase translated literally from another language (as "flea market" from marché aux puces or תפוח אדמה from pomme de terre) (French, "copy")
coda
A final section of a musical piece that adds dramatic energy to the work as a whole (Italian, from the Latin, "tail")
cognate
Related by descent (from the Latin, "born together")
consequentialist
A theory of ethics that the rightness or wrongness of behavior is based on the result of that behavior (from the Latin, "that which follows")
cryptozoology
The study of legendary creatures (from the Greek, "study of hidden animals")
denouement
The fnal part of a narrative in which matters are explained or resolved (French, "unknotting")
deontological
A theory of ethics that is based on rules (from the Greek "study of duty")
detente
The easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation (French, "loosening")
droit du seigneur
The putative right of a feudal lord to have relations with his vassals' brides (French, "right of the lord")
epistemological
Relating to the theory of knowledge (from the Greek, "words about knowledge")
equanimity
A state of psychological stability undisturbed by emotions or pain (from the Latin, "even-minded")
eschatological
Having to do with the end of the world (from the Greek, "farthest")
exemplar
One that serves as a model that deserves to be copied (from the Latin, "that which is taken out")
exoteric
Intended to be understood by the general public, as opposed to esoteric (from the Greek, "external")
foofaraw
Fuss or attention given to a minor matter (origin unknown).
frisson
A sudden strong feeling or emotion (French, "shiver")
hapax legomenon
A word or phrase that occurs only once (making it hard to translate) (Greek, "said once")
hendiadys
The expression of an idea by the use of usually two independent words connected by and (as "nice and warm") instead of the usual combination of independent word and its modifier (as "nicely warm") (from the Greek, "from two to one")
hermeneutics
The study of interpretation (from the Greek, "of Hermes, the messenger of the gods")
heuristic
Discovered experimentally or by trial and error, rather than reasoned out (from the Greek, "find")
hoi polloi
The common people (Greek, "the many")
hylic
Relating to the physical world, as opposed to the spiritual (from the Greek, "matter")
ignominious
Shameful (from the Latin, "of no name")
in extremis
At the point of death (Latin, "in the farthest reaches")
inclusio
A literary device which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section (Italian, "inclusion")
incongruous
Inconsistent or not in harmony (from the Latin, "not agreeing")
inexorable
unstoppable (from the Latin, "not able to be prevailed upon")
kerygmatic
As used by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, relating to man's role as the bearer of the Divine message (from the Greek, "proclamation", via Protestant theology, the proclamation of the Divine will)
kismet
Fate (from the Arabic, "portion, lot")
lacuna
An unfilled space or gap (from Latin, "lake")
lèse-majesté
An offense violating the dignity of a ruler (French, "injured majesty")
leitwort
A repeated word or phrase in a text that draws attention to the meaning of the text, in Hebrew מִילָה מַנְחָה (German, "leading word"; in modern German it means "slogan", which is very different from its meaning in Tanach study)
liminal
Of a transitional stage or threshold (From the Latin, "threshold")
menhir
A large upright standing stone (from the Celtic, "long stone")
merism
Referring to a thing by enumerating its parts, as "day and night" for "always" or "ladies and gentlemen" for "everyone" (from the Greek, "division")
metonym
An expression used as a poetic substitute for something else with which it is closely associated, as in "White House" for "president' (from the Greek, "change of name")
milieu
Social environment (French, "central place")
monistic
The view in metaphysics that reality is a unified whole (from the Greek, "alone")
monolatry
The worship of only one god although other gods are recognized as existing (from the Greek, "single worship")
muster
To assemble or call up soldiers (from the Old French, "showing", from the same Latin as "monster")
necromancy
The practice of communicating with the dead, especially in order to predict the future (from the Greek, "prophecy of the dead")
nomos
The philosophical concept of law and jurisdiction (Greek, "law or custom")
nonce
Used on one occasion (from Middle English as a mis-division of "then anes", meaning "the one")
numinous
Having a mysterious, holy quality (from the Latin, "divine will")
pace
With due respect, used to express polite disagreement or contradiction (Latin, "peace," pronounced pa-kay)
paean
A song of praise or thanksgiving (from the Greek, "physician, healing chant")
panacea
A solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases (from the Greek goddess of remedies)
paragon
A perfect example (from the Greek "side of a whetstone", used to test metal)
paralipsis
The rhetorical strategy of emphasizing a point by seeming to pass over it (from the Greek, "neglect")
parturition
Childbirth (from the Latin, "desiring to bring forth")
peregrination
A wandering journey (from the Latin, "travel abroad")
perfidy
Treachery (from the Latin, "faithless")
perseverate
To repeat insistently (from the Latin, "be very strict")
polyptoton
Using the same word in different forms, as Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (from the Greek, "having many cases")
polysemous
Having multiple meanings derived from one basic origin (as "total", meaning "add a list of numbers" and "completely destroy"), as opposed to homonymous, which implies multiple meanings of different origins (as "tire", meaning "fatigue" and "car wheel cover") (from the Greek, "many signs")
preterite
The simple past tense, which indicates that the action described happened in the past, as opposed to the past perfect which indicates action before the context (which itself happened in the past). "He ran" is preterite; "he had run" is perfect past (from the Latin, "past")
quotidian
Of or occurring every day (from the Latin, "daily")
rectitude
Morally correct behavior or thinking (from the Latin, "straight")
redux
Brought back, repeated (from the Latin, "returning")
reification
The process of regarding something abstract as a material or concrete thing (from the Latin res, "thing")
running dog
One who blindly follows orders, lackey (calque from the Chinese)
samizdat
The clandestine distribution of banned literature (from the Russian, "self-published")
semiotics
The study of signs and symbols as elements of communication (from the Greek, "significance")
sesquipedalian
Characterized by long words; long-winded (from the Latin, "one-and-a-half feet long")
soporiferous
Inducing sleep (from the Latin, "bearing sleep")
status quo ante
The state of affairs that existed previously (Latin)
stich
A verse of poetry (from the Greek, "a row")
sui generis
unique (Latin, "of its own kind")
suzerainty
A situation in which a powerful state controls the foreign affairs of a tributary state while allowing it internal autonomy (from the Latin, "overlord")
synecdoche
Referring to something by a part, "hungry mouths to feed" (from the Greek, "received together")
telos
The ultimate purpose (from the Greek)
terminus ante quem
The latest possible date for something (Latin, "the end before which")
theurgy
The act of compelling a supernatural power to do something (from the Greek, "god-working")
transgressive
Involving a violation of socially accepted boundaries (from the Latin, "step across")
triptych
A picture in three panels, or figuratively, a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together (from the Greek, "three-fold").
vagaries
Unexpected and inexplicable changes in a situation (from the Latin, "wandering")
vestment
A garment, especially a ceremonial or official robe (from the Latin, "clothing")
vicissitude
A difficulty or hardship beyond one's control (from the Latin, "turning")
vignette
A short scene (from the French, "little vine", as the decorative border around an illustration)
vociferous
Loud and insistent (from the Latin, "shout")
weltanschauung
A comprehensive understanding of the world from a specific viewpoint (German, "world view")