Apr 5, 2010

WORD OF THE WEEK: Pernicious

Summary: Today's word, pernicious, comes complete with the usual etymology, pronunciation and definition. But it also includes a bonus list of synonyms and a special writing exercise just for you! Read more ...

This week's word may be a bit troubling, but don't let it cause you to lose any sleep. Entering the English language in the 15th century, pernicious (PER - NI - shus) originally meant wicked—but has since evolved to mean merely harmful or injurious, a lesser degree on the evil scale.

It's gained popularity in usage again, especially in fictional literature. (Think Twilight and Harry Potter series.) In fact, the implications of the word pernicious are fatal, as in "causing fatal injury or harm." Other synonyms are deadly, lethal, toxic and noxious. While each of these words is subtly different in meaning, their similarities are close enough to be interchangeable at times. Hence, the synonyms!

Probably my favorite synonym for pernicious is destructive, as it's much closer in meaning than the others—without the extreme connotations for wickedness, of course. Pernicious, to me, always implies a slow and steady kind of annihilation, such as the Biblical reference (by some translations) to "the pernicious snake" in the Garden of Eden.

Here's your writing assignment for the week: Write at least a paragraph about something pernicious in your life, be it a thought process, an illness or an ever-present, competitive co-worker. Then comment here to share how being honest about it makes you feel.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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