In a Word: Exiguous

February 07, 2011|By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. Use it in a sentence in a comment on his blog, You Don't say, and the best sentence will be featured next week.

This week's word: EXIGUOUS

Something that is small in size or amount, or meager, is exiguous (ex-IG-you-us).

The word comes from the Latin exiguus, "scanty," and in turn from the verb exigere, "to measure out" or "to weigh exactly." The associated noun for scantiness is exiguity.

Example: When Arthur Conan Doyle filed his first income tax return, his income from his medical practice was so exiguous that he owed no tax. The Inland Revenue wrote back that this was "most unsatisfactory," and he replied that he entirely agreed.

The tax authorities in Victorian England, it turned out, had no more sense of humor than those of the present day.

From last week: Commenting on lapidary, count48 said, "I am amazed that this word is considered obscure during the Age of Bling."

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