Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Charlene wrote to say that she had encountered the word adamant in a historical novel that she is currently reading. “I thought that it referred to a person secure in her belief,” she wrote, “but in the book it seems to mean a precious stone of some kind. Can you shed some light on this?”

Charlene is correct. In our day, adamant means unwavering and unshakeable in belief. The adamant person cannot be persuaded to change his or her mind. In fact, there is a whiff of inflexibility and downright stubbornness involved.

The Latin word from which it is derived originally meant a very hard substance. Sometimes it referred to steel, and sometimes to a diamond. Its Greek predecessor meant unbreakable. In time, the word was used metaphorically to signify something not easily destroyed or overcome.

Interestingly, a number of animals turn up in informal synonyms for adamant, including bull-headed, dogged, mulish, and pig-headed.

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

Nook edition

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