This Week In Words: September 7–13, 2019

We’ve rounded up the top words heard, read, and discussed in the news this week. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. abate
    become less in amount or intensity
    "And that trend shows no sight of abating: on Tuesday, Mr. McCready actually performed better in the district’s Charlotte suburbs than he did when he lost by a smaller overall margin last year."
    New York Times (Sep 11, 2019)
    Republican State Senator Dan Bishop narrowly won a special election for Congress against Democrat Dan McCready. Bishop won by two percentage points in a district President Trump won by twelve in 2016. The special election occurred because the 2018 midterm results were thrown out due to election fraud committed by the state G.O.P.
  2. broach
    bring up a topic for discussion
    "The subject was first broached, according to an official familiar with White House deliberations, in a “principals only” meeting at the end of August."
    Washington Post (Sep 9, 2019)
    After inviting Taliban leaders to Camp David for peace talks, the President cancelled the talks on short notice and said he has no plans to continue negotiations. The decision to meet with the Taliban so close to the 9/11 anniversary sparked outrage on both sides of the aisle. A brooch is a decorative pin on your lapel; to broach a subject is to bring it up.
  3. comprehend
    get the meaning of something
    "'There was a lot of emotion built into that effort,' Ezzat said this year, as she contemplated the anniversary of a day she still can’t fully comprehend."
    Washington Post (Sep 11, 2019)
    Manal Ezzat barely escaped the Pentagon after it was attacked on 9/11. As a project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, after the attack she was instrumental in turning the damaged portion of the building into an interfaith chapel. Her team worked around the clock, finishing the three-year job in under a year, and donating their overtime pay to fund the chapel and neighboring memorial. Comprehend comes from the Latin for "grasp" or "grab".
  4. ineffable
    defying expression or description
    "'Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse”.'"
    Economist (Sep 10, 2019)
    President Trump fired National Security Advisor John Bolton via Twitter. The two had disagreed about many subjects, most recently Iran. Bolton was the third person to hold this powerful position in the administration. Ineffable comes to us from Latin, via French, and refers to something that language cannot express.
  5. latency
    time that elapses between a stimulus and the response to it
    “'This means we’re now in the latency window to start seeing more cancer cases.'"
    New Yorker (Sep 11, 2019)
    The 9/11 attacks did a tremendous amount of damage on that day, but their destructive effects are ongoing. Many people who spent time near Ground Zero after the buildings collapsed — first responders and civilians alike — have been diagnosed with cancer, likely from the toxic smoke and dust they inhaled. The numbers may increase since some of the slower forms of the disease can take decades to develop.
  6. magnanimity
    nobility and generosity of spirit
    "In a country where the government enjoys vast powers over farm ownership, Grace Mugabe will need Mnangagwa’s magnanimity to keep the land."
    Washington Times (Sep 10, 2019)
    Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe from 1980-2017, died this week. Workers on his farm hope that Mugabe's widow Grace will be permitted by the current government, which she has opposed, to keep the land, which would allow them to keep their jobs. From the same Latin root as magnum — as in a big bottle of wine or Dirty Harry's pistol — magnanimous is a much more elegant way of saying "it's big of you".
  7. placate
    cause to be more favorably inclined
    "The government promised last week to withdraw the bill but that failed to placate the protesters, whose demands now include democratic reforms and police accountability."
    Washington Times (Sep 10, 2019)
    The Hong Kong government finally agreed to withdraw the controversial bill that would have allowed residents accused of crimes to be extradited to the mainland for prosecution, but after weeks of massive protests it looked to be too little too late. Soccer fans in Hong Kong Stadium booed and turned their backs when the Chinese national anthem was played before a game, instead singing "Glory to Hong Kong". Placate comes from the same Latin root as placid or please.
  8. sanguine
    confidently optimistic and cheerful
    "Not every is so sanguine about EPA’s decision."
    Nature (Sep 10, 2019)
    The EPA is moving to limit the use of animals like rats and mice in research. While everyone shares this goal, some scientists are concerned that phasing out animal tests altogether will make it impossible to determine whether some chemicals are toxic. They say that while this decision sounds noble it's really a trick by chemical companies to avoid regulations. Sanguine has a cool origin in the Latin word for blood: someone red-faced is healthy and happy.
  9. thrall
    the state of being under the control of another person
    "DRC’s economy is already in thrall to volatile battery metal prices."
    Reuters (Sep 10, 2019)
    As more electric cars come on the market, demand for the metals used to make the batteries is increasing. This need for cobalt, lithium, and other metals is good news for the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the world's biggest cobalt producer. But political unrest in some countries where metals are abundant could make it hard for them to benefit as much as they might. If you're enthralled, you're captivated; if you're in someone's thrall you're their captive.
  10. wrought
    shaped to fit by altering the contours of a pliable mass
    "His aunt, Mary Albury, reflected on the three or four hours she spent in her hilltop home as the hurricane wrought havoc."
    Guardian (Sep 10, 2019)
    In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, residents of the Bahamas are struggling to recover after the almost total destruction of many areas. Wrought used to be the past participle of "work", which is why we still say "wrought iron". It is often associated with divinity, as in "what hath God wrought" from the Bible, which adds an "act of God" flavor to this piece about the devastation caused by a storm.
Created on September 11, 2019 (updated September 11, 2019)

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