Sunday, September 7, 2008

Words I had to look up II

stentorian (sten-TOR-ee-un), adjective.
Extremely loud. From Stentor, "a Greek herald in the Trojan War noted for his loud voice."
I looked up senator to see if it could be related. Nope, senator is from the Latin senex, "old man." (Insert your own senator joke here.)

rarefied (REHR-uh-fide), adjective.
Can mean less dense (as in air), but I needed definition two: "of, relating to, or interesting to a select group; esoteric." Now it makes sense: "Beyond that rarefied community, though, very few people have heard . . ." It's not a community high in the Himalayas, it's the relatively small group of serious Egyptologists.

hussar (huh-ZAHR or huh-SAHR), noun.
A soldier in a military unit based on the Hungarian light cavalry (horsemen) in the 1400s. The word traces through a Hungarian word for "highway robber" and a Serbian/Croatian word for "pirate" and eventually links up with the Latin cursus, "course," which also produced the word corsair which means a pirate or privateer. (Makes sense, but I didn't know corsair and hussar were related.) Cursus goes farther back to Latin currere, "to run." And course has a second meaning I didn't know, which is "to follow close upon, to pursue," an appropriate linkage for corsair.

dragoon (druh-GOON), noun.
A soldier in a military unit of heavily armed mounted troops. So the hussars are apparently the lightly armed, more agile riders, and the dragoons are the powerhouses (at least in Napoleon's time). It's from the French for "dragon," as far as I can tell.

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