Vocabulary Shout-Out

Great Movie Title. But Do We Know What "Insidious" Means?

Recently, it seems that Hollywood writers have been turning to dictionaries for inspiration when coming up with titles for films.

Last spring, countless children learned the meaning of despicable (not to mention minion) via Despicable Me 2. The vocabulary specimen Maleficent moved Ben Zimmer to contemplate this history of mal- words and their use in the creation of evil-sounding fictional names. Just last month, the film Insurgent challenged us to master not just this ten cent word, but also abnegation, amity, candor, dauntless, erudite, divergent, and allegiant, all crucial to the the Divergent franchise.

And now those of us who go to movies hoping to get scared out of our seats are offered Insidious: Chapter 3, which opens Friday.

Insidious refers to something that is "slowly and secretly causing harm," and certainly Insidious: Chapter 3's story of a girl who manages to summon an evil spirit when she reaches out to what she thinks is the ghost of her recently deceased mother will cement the meaning of this word in our brains forever.

But just in case you want to brush up on the word's nuances before heading to the film, check out the blurb from the insidious page in our Dictionary.

And remember not to confuse insidious with the similar-sounding invidious. As we explain here:

Insidious describes something that lies in wait to get you...invidious doesn't hide; it's hateful right away.

Though come to think of it, either one might have made a fitting way to title the over-the-top spiritual evil portrayed by this film.


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Comments from our users:

Sunday June 7th 2015, 3:02 AM
Comment by: qiu C. (China)
I am a student and I am not good at english even I love it ,but I think the article is great
Thursday November 26th 2015, 8:16 PM
Comment by: Shuvo (Bangladesh)
Keep trying, thanks for the share.
Thursday June 2nd 2016, 2:26 PM
Comment by: Ralph F. (DC)
hehe xd

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