Pronounced: KAB-ij, noun/verb

Notes: I don’t mean the plant or the food; it has other meanings that surprised me. Do you know them?

Yesterday’s word

The word plenipotentiary means

  • invested with full power
  • of or relating to a person invested fully to transact any business
Background / Comments

The word derives from two Latin roots: plenus (full) and potens (powerful). It is sometimes used in diplomatic titles: an ambassador plenipotentiary, or an envoy plenipotentiary; such people are not only concerned with foreign affairs, but have full power to act on behalf of the sending government. Sometimes “extraordinary” (in its more literal meaning) is also added: an “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” is an agent with full power, but assigned to a particular (not ordinary; extra-ordinary) mission.

First usage

This word showed up in the mid-1600s

Rejected Words

The word shambles was a borderline word. We normally use the word today to mean “a mess”, but it also means “a place of great slaughter”. Even though I knew both meanings, the origin was interesting: The word started in Latin as scamillum (little bench); in Old English, this became sceamol (a footstool; a table used for counting money or exhibiting goods). In Middle English, this became shamele with a more specific meaning (a table for the exhibition of meat for sale). In the 1400s, it became pluralized to shambles and meant “meat market” (this is the sense used in the New Testament). In the 1500s, it meant “slaughterhouse”, and then “a place of terrible slaughter or bloodshed”. Because such a scene can be messy, we get the modern meaning of “mess” or “a state of great confusion”.

Published by Richard

Christian, lover-of-knowledge, Texan, and other things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: