In a word: Abecedarian

November 07, 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:


Oh, what the writers of the Phoenician and Hebrew languages started when the put aleph next to beth. That gave us the word alphabet, eventually, after they turned into the Greek alpha and beta. And from the shorthand term for the alphabet, the ABCs, we get the splendid word abecedarian (pronounced ay-bee-see-DAR-uh-an). It's from the late Latin abecedarius.

It can mean having to do with the alphabet, a synonym for alphabetical. But it can also be a noun, for a beginner, a novice, a tyro—someone just learning, like a child beginning to grasp the ABCs.

Example: From Cotton's translation of Montaigne: "There is an Abecedarian ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a Doctoral ignorance that comes after it."

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