In a word: coruscating

December 10, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be acquainted, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

CORUSCATING

To coruscate is to give off flashes of light, to glitter, to sparkle. The adjective coruscating (pronounced KOR-uh-skate-ing) is commonly used metaphorically, meaning brilliant or striking in content or style. Describing John Sterling, Thomas Carlyle wrote, "In coruscating wit, in jocund drollery."

(Jocund we encounter now much less than in the nineteenth century. It means "cheerful and light-hearted.")

Coruscate comes directly from the Latin coruscare, "to move quickly," "to glitter."

Example: From a comment on a 2008 article in National Review Online: "This calls to mind a JFK quote, from Ben Bradlee’s hagiography, if I’m not mistaken.  Some of the New Frontiersmen were starting to believe their own press, and one in particular relished some journalist’s description of the Kennedy brain trust as 'coruscatingly brilliant.'  The new president snorted and said, 'They keep forgetting that a few thousand votes the other way and they’d all be coruscatingly stupid.' "

 

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