Wednesday, February 03, 2016

SHANE'S Excellent New Words: Supercilious.

Welcome to another installment of "SHANE's Excellent New Words," a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

Why new words?

It's because a healthy vocabulary isn't about trying to show you're smarter than the rest. To the contrary, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even municipal corporate attorneys are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, for those of us who aren't swimmers, all we have is time during the period of the occupation.

This week, the word is supercilious. I've no idea why this word suddenly occurred to me during Monday's city council meeting.

Maybe it was Pavlov's dog park.

[soo-per-sil-ee-uh s]


1. haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression.

Origin of supercilious

1520-30; < Latin superciliōsus. See supercilium, -ous

A closer look is merited. Who'd have guessed that the Latin origin of supercilious is the word for eyebrow? It makes sense, though, doesn't it? Superciliousness is all about the expression, body language and attitude.

Word History:

The English word supercilious ultimately derives from the Latin word supercilium, "eyebrow." Supercilium came to mean "the eyebrow as used in frowning and expressing sternness, gravity, or haughtiness." From there it developed the senses "stern looks, severity, haughty demeanor, pride." The derived Latin adjective superciliōsus meant "full of stern or disapproving looks, censorious, haughty, disdainful," as it has since it entered English as supercilious in the 1500s. The super- in the Latin word supercilium means "above," and cilium was the Latin word for "eyelid." In many of the Romance languages, this word developed into the word for "eyelash." This development is probably reflected in the scientific use in English of the word cilium, whose plural is cilia. Cilia are the minute hairlike appendages of cells or unicellular organisms that move in unison in order to bring about the movement of the cell or of the surrounding medium.

No comments: