WORD LISTS

Did You Planet? Words With Surprisingly Spacey Origins

June 27, 2020
The stars and planets have given us lots of words, but some of them are unexpected. How many of these do you know?
capricious
Capricorn is the astrological sign of the ram. Goats leap about from place to place, and that's the likely origin of the term capricious: unpredictable, fickle, changeable.
Indeed, this entire operation reeks of the kind of “arbitrary and capricious” executive action that federal law forbids.
chronology
In Greek mythology, Chronos was the personification of time. He was often pictured in paintings and mosaics of that era turning the zodiac wheel, showing the procession of stars through the sky.
In the early morning hours, they serve up a kind of postgame report that offers a chronology of some of the conduct of protesters.
consider
Sidereus means "of the stars" or "starlike" in Latin, so to consider something was to consult the stars or an astrologer to see if the omens were good.
"Even before she mentioned it, though, I was kind of thinking that I might be considering tutoring students in lieu of teaching this fall," he said.
disaster
Aster is "star" in Greek, so a disaster was something that happened under a bad star.
Harvey was one of the worst disasters in American history, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas with winds at 130 m.p.h. and record-breaking flooding.
jovial
The Roman god Jupiter was also known as Jove. People born under that planet had a reputation for being joyful and merry.
He seemed far more relaxed and jovial than he did on his first training-camp videoconference call on July 3, when Trout expressed serious reservations about playing this season amid a global pandemic.
lunatic
The moon goes through phases, from bright and full to dark and new. Luna is Latin for "moon," so a lunatic originally meant someone whose moods could change dramatically.
He frequently calls the Turkish leader a lunatic and dictator on social media, and once compared him to Hitler.
martial
The word martian offers a clue for this one. Mars was the Roman god of war, and the area in Rome where troops were housed and trained was known as the Campus Martius: "The field of Mars."
Born in the borough of the Bronx, break dancing was created during the 1960s by street gangs who modified martial arts moves that were originally learned for defensive purposes.
mercurial
Mercury was the messenger of the gods, with wings on his shoes for flying at impossible speeds. The element Mercury, which is the only metal that's liquid at room temperature, is colloquially known as quicksilver for its color and rapid, shape-shifting movement. Someone or something mercurial can change quickly, even instantly, from one state to another.
But the virus continues to be as mercurial as it is disruptive.
mundane
Mundus means "world" or Earth" in Latin, so something mundane is earthy, humble, or common: the opposite of heavenly.
Maybe it was all the mundane tasks Shelton did in the withering Florida heat that his teammates never noticed but his coaches like Sherlock couldn’t miss.
saturnine
The Roman god Saturn had a reputation for being sad, mean, and treacherous. Saturnine means those things, and also has a relationship to the element lead. In medicine it's used to describe lead poisoning.
On one wall is the green, glowing, saturnine self-portrait of Andy Warhol.

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