Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Word history: laconic

Laconic is a word whose definition always seems to escape me. I bet I look it up once a year.

But that should change now after reading this note on its history from my Word a Day calendar:
The study of the classics allows one to understand the history of the laconic, which comes to us via Latin from Greek Lakonikos. The English word is first recorded in 1583 with the sense "of or relating to Laconia or its inhabitants." Lakonikos is derived from Lakon, "a Laconian, a person from Lacedaemon," the name for the region of Greece of which Sparta was the capital. The Spartans, noted for being warlike and disciplined, were also known for the brevity of their speech, and it is this quality that English writers still denote by the use of the adjective laconic, which is first found in this sense in 1589.
And, whaddya know, Merriam-Webster lists "laconic" as a defintion for spartan.


At 3:25 PM, January 11, 2006, Blogger tongue-tied said...

Uncanny! If you had asked me to name one word whose meaning constantly slips away from me, I would have said "laconic" without hesitation. Runners-up are "lugubrious" and "insouciant."


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