Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Doug asked about the word conjure. It is usually joined with the word up, and it bears the meaning, “to bring to mind” (that song conjures up memories of 1964). When joined with the word with, it means “something considered important” (Bush is a name to be conjured with in the political arena). It was once associated with magicians and their sleight of hand, but that is now considered a bit old-fashioned.

Over the centuries, the word has gone through many meanings. It came from the Latin words con (together) and iurare (to swear), and it meant “to make a pact by oath.” That took on undertones of conspiracy at one point, and that could get you arrested.

If you constrained a person to action by appealing to something considered sacred, you were conjuring. Conversely, if you called upon an evil spirit to do your bidding, you were conjuring. An equal opportunity enterprise.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition
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