In a word: Vicissitudes

October 17, 2011

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. This week's word:

VICISSITUDES

All is flux, said Heraclitus, and we know all too well that many changes are not for the better. So it's useful to have vicissitudes (pronounced vuh-SISS-i-tyoods), a word identifying sudden changes in circumstances or fortune, usually unwelcome or unpleasant. It's a straight take into English of the Latin vicissitudo, which rises from vicis, "turn" or "change."

Example: From Cicero: "Nothing contributes to the entertainment of the reader more, than the change of times and the vicissitudes of fortune."

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