When a word starts with "non-" we can typically say that it is a negation of another word, however, there are a few confusing examples, and 'nonplussed' is one such word as there is no such thing as 'plussed'. This is because the word stems from the Latin phrase non plus, which means "no further, no more", referring to the original meaning of the word - a state in which no more can be said or done.
The word 'eclectic' sounds nothing like any other word in English, which is why it's one of the most commonly featured words in English dictionaries of difficult words. The word stems from the Greek adjective 'eklektikos', which means selective. In Ancient Greek philosophy, the term used to describe a worldview that doesn't ascribe to a specific philosophical doctrine, choosing the best ideas from a selection of different philosophies instead. The best of both worlds, if you will.
Remembering this word can be tough because its opposite, the word 'canny', though rare, means sly or cunning, which only makes things more confusing. However, in the past, 'canny' used to mean careful and knowing, and its opposite, 'uncanny' referred to being mischievous, especially in relation to supernatural spirits who are tricking people.
Here's another word that looks like it's a negative of another word, much like the words 'incorrect' or 'inconsistent', but it actually isn't at all. In reality, the word comes from the Latin verb inchoare, which means to start. Thus, the word 'inchoate' means that something is only beginning to form or develop.
Now, the word 'anachronistic' means that something doesn't fit the period of time it occurs in, but there is no such thing as 'chronistic' that would mean the opposite. In reality, the word comes from the Ancient Greek anakhronismós, which means 'the wrong time'. In English, the term has been used since 1617, and it referred to an error in the dating of something.
6. Hoi polloi
This is a difficult word to remember because you can't even tell what language it comes from and what it could possibly mean. In truth, the meaning of the word itself is pretty simple, it just means all people, in its strictest sense. Hoi polloi can also refer to 'the masses' as opposed to 'the ruling elite', especially in a negative, derogatory sense. Initially, though, the word 'hoi polloi' just meant the people in Greek, as opposed to the hoi oligoi, the oligarchs who ruled over the ancient Athenian democracy.
The Latin root negare gave English so many words - negative, negate, and, of course, abnegate. This makes distinguishing between these closely related terms difficult. While 'negate' refers to canceling out or preventing something from being effective, 'abnegation' refers to the denial or rejection of a specific belief or doctrine.
Don't confuse a martinet with a marionette, because these two terms are quite different. While a marionette is a person who is submissive and easily manipulated by others, a martinet is the opposite - a person who has strong beliefs and will not let others influence them or make them abnegate those beliefs (you see what we did there?).
Equanimity sounds a lot like equality and equity, and all of these words are, indeed, related and they all come from one Latin root - aequus, which meant steady, fair, calm, impartial, and even flat in Latin. Due to such a wide range of meanings expressed through this Latin word, in modern English, all of these three words mean very different things, with equanimity, in particular, referring to one's ability to maintain composure in difficult or stressful circumstances.
The last tricky word on our list is the term 'idiosyncratic', which is widely used and can mean a variety of things, hence all the confusion. It can refer to a very characteristic feature of a person or be used to describe odd behavior.
This is because many fields, from medicine to psychology and economics use the words 'idiosyncrasy' or 'idiosyncratic', and each field understands it as something different. In psychiatry, for example, it can refer to a mental condition of a patient, while in medicine it can mean an unexplained hypersensitivity or reaction to a specific compound. Across all of these cases, however, the word refers to something unique and personal, characteristic of just one individual, which is the broadest, original meaning of this Greek word.
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