Today's Word of the Week is dedicated to my cousin Nicole Parkinson, who's just begun her senior year of college and already dreading the vocabulary portion of the GRE, or graduate school exam. It comes directly from a list of commonly used words in the exam. I selected it because even I am not entirely familiar with this word—at least not enough to have ever used it in a sentence.
Antediluvian (AN-ti-di-LOO-vee-an) is an adjective that literally means "before the flood." It's used to describe something old, out-dated, archaic, antique (as in, "That antediluvian car you're driving could probably qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program!"). Ante is a prefix meaning before, while diluvium (also the root word for deluge) means flood. Both root parts of this word come from the original Latin, and were adopted into the English language as early as the 1640s, according to language records. Put together, the word references that unrecorded era in human development before the Ice Age, or before the Great Flood of the Bible.
Studying prefixes is a great way to learn more, naturally, about language and to automatically enhance your vocabulary. (*Ahem* Pay attention, Nicole!) Experts recommend learning several prefixes and suffixes, rather than attempting to blythely memorize word lists and meanings prior to major tests like the GRE; then, in the event that a word that wasn't on your predetermined list shows up on the test, you're more likely to be able to intuit its meaning.
Even younger children who are struggling to learn vocab words at school can learn 2 new words per week by studying one suffix and one prefix that week, then putting them together with a word they already know. Understanding word parts can help even pupils with learning disabilities—of all ages—grow their word power.
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