Are you ready to broaden your vocabulary?

Published 8:49 pm Friday, July 10, 2009

When I was younger my grandmother would tell me stories of her childhood.

She grew up on a farm in Red Creek, NY and besides doing farm chores, watching over her younger brother and going to school—there was little else to fill her days.

So began her voracious appetite for reading. The Bible and classic literature were among her favorites. And then she had the somewhat unusual habit of curling up with a dictionary.

When I first heard this story I didn’t believe her because as an eight year old I could never imagine wanting to read a dictionary. In general, not many people think to settle down at night with a huge, cumbersome reference book.

But my grandmother was like that; she always wanted to learn something new and like sponge when it came to knowledge and learning about new things she soaked it up. Reading the dictionary was another way of doing this.

Just recently I decided to start a tradition in spirit of this here in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald office.

It all began with the word expeditious.

I used the word one day in the office and one of my co-workers wasn’t familiar with it. I explained that it meant quick or speedy and to define it better for him I looked it up via a dictionary (well, the internet kind).

Expeditious [ek-spi-dish-uh s] is an adjective, its meaning is characterized by promptness; quick and it originated between 1590 and 1600.

That’s how our “Word of the Day” began here at the Herald. It’s something we all enjoy as fumble to get the pronunciations correct and use it in a sentence. As a writer I particularly have fun with it because I like learning new words.

I’ve collected a few words for this column in hopes you too will learn something new.

Vagary [VAY-guh-ree or vuh-GER-ee], is a noun that means “an extravagant, erratic, or unpredictable notion, action, or occurrence.” The word derives from the Latin words “vagari” and “vagus.”

Doughty [DOW-tee] is an adjective that is defined as “marked by fearless resolution; valiant; brave.” Doughty comes from Old English “dohtig.”

Rampart [ram-pahrt] is a noun with a few definitions: 1. A fortification consisting of an embankment, often with a parapet built on top. 2. A means of protection or defense; a bulwark. 3. To defend with a rampart. Rampart developed from Middle French “remparer.”

Shibboleth [SHIB-uh-lith; -leth] is a noun meaning: 1. A peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular group of persons. 2. A slogan; a catchword. 3. A common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth. As you may have guessed from its pronunciation and its appearance, “shibboleth” is Hebrew for stream or flood.

Badinage [bad-n-AHZH] is a noun defined as “light, playful talk; banter.” Badinage comes from the French “badiner,” which means to trifle or to joke.

Verdant [VUR-dnt] is an adjective meaning green with vegetation; covered with green growth, green, lacking experience or sophistication; naive. Verdant derives from the French “verdoyant.”

Last but not least one of our most recent “Words of the Day.”

Bravura [bruh-VYUR-uh; brah-; -VUR-] is noun with a couple definitions: 1. A florid, brilliant style of music that emphasizes the technical force and skill of a performer; virtuoso music. 2. A showy or brilliant display. Bravura comes from the Italian “bravo” meaning “brave, excellent.”

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.