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Interesting Word Definitions

Updated on October 18, 2012

The English language is an interested language. It is filled with word that originate from other languages from around the world; from the Middle East to the New World: The word “admiral” means “commander of the sea” in Arabic. While words such as “chocolate” and “coyote”, which are from the Aztec / Nahuatl language, are common place words in everyday life. We use words the go as far back as Ancient Greece (“angel”; meaning messenger) to the Modern World of the 21st century (“ginormous”; giant and enormous mixed together).

We can use millennium-old words or create our own words; and there are “new” words being added to the dictionary every year.

With all these old and new additions to the english lexicon, I’ve noticed that there are words that we use on a regular basis that we tend to believe mean one thing when they actually mean another.

Sometimes we use words that have an intersting history to them that we are unaware of.

Below, I’ve assembled a few of the words that I thought you might find interesting to learn where they came from, what they mean and compare them to the meanings we have grown accustom to.


How we use it: we use to to describe the science of criminal investigation, dealing with the detailed examination of evidence.

What it actually means: Talking or speaking publicly; a forensic scientist is someone that is well versed in given testimony in court to the jury in laymen terms.

Where it came from: It comes from the Latin word “forum” which mean “place outdoors”. The roman public square was the place where the senators and leaders would gather to speak to each other and the public. The practice of good public speak was known as “forensics”.


How we use it: Evil or sinful. when people revelling is bad bahavior (drugs, alcohol, sex). it is called, "decadence".

What it actually means: To decay. When something is in disrepair or wasting away it is in a state of decadence.

Where it came from: The word was "created" around the middle 16th century (1540-1550). It is a french words derivaded from the medieval latin word decadentia which means "to fall away" or decay or go to waste.


How we use it: We tend to use the word to describe a horrible, high-causality catastrophe: i.e. naturally disaster or man-made destruction that leave a huge percentage or amount of devastation or death of the population or property.

What it actually means: Destroying one thing out of ten things; to remove a 10th of something.

Where it came from: It is derivaded from the Latin word; Deci meaning ten. The Roman army would line up a village or group of people and go down the line and kill every tenth person. It was used more as a terror tactic then a extermination one.


How we use it: besides the use of “death” as in a terminal disease, it’s used for a train station or airport where people board trains or planes: i.e. Grand Central Terminal or Gate 21 terminal. we use it to describe a computer terminal; or it describes a station or place to interact with or at.

What it actually means: where something ends.

Where it came from: The Greek word terminalis or terminus meaning “boundary”.


How we use it: Evil or vile. If someone or something is evil or is planning a dirty scheme, we tend to refer to it as "Sinister".

What is actually means: left sided or left handed.

Where is comes from: "Sinister" is the Latin word for left. ("Dexter" means right or right handed in Latin). Sinister, along with Dexter, was originally used in heraldry (the art and creation of the coat of arms / family shields during The Middle Ages) to describe which side of the shield certain images were placed on. The right side or “Dexter” side was considered the side of greater honor as compared to the “Sinister” or left side.


How we use it: This is more of descriptive word, but it is used primarily as a design of two straight lines laid against each other. Also it is looked at in a spiritual way as a peacefully sign (being a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ).

What is actually means: To suffer. (Cross is a replacement word for the old English "rod" or "rood" meaning "pole", which was originally used in the New Testament to describe the suffering of Christ.)

Where is comes from: The word "Cross" comes from the root word Crux which mean "to suffer" in Roman Latin. Such other examples of the word are found in “Crucifixion” or “excruciating”.

Are you suprised at the differences of the meaning of these words compared to how they are commonly used?

See results


How we use it: to describe anything mechanical or electronic that has any form of artifical intelligence.

What is actually means: Forced Labor, or enslavement or slave.

Where is comes from: Bohemian writer Karel Capek invented the word for his 1920 play “Rossum’s Univeral Robots” also known a “R.U.R.” (The word “robot” replace to older words like “Automaton” or “Android”.) The word “Robot” is derived from the word robota which in Czech means “serf labor”. It also can mean “drudgery” or “hard work”.


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    • Edgar Arkham profile image

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading!

    • parwatisingari profile image

      parwatisingari 5 years ago from India

      great hub, I am sharing this with my daughters.