The Joy of Language Learning

“General” and its Army.

As we humans evolved and developed better brains, the knack for division and classification prospered as well. We tried to group the things we saw around us under common labels for easier recognition and utilization and language was a tool that came to our rescue in this pursuit. As far as the English language is concerned, one term led to the founding of a whole league of terms that are related to or refer to classification and that word is genus.

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Genus is a Latin word that means type, kind or class. It is one of those Latin words that has managed to find a place in our dictionaries without any modification, being used in the field of botany to refer to a class of organisms. However, it has also managed to append newer words into those bulky books with a good deal of modification.

A common word that owes its existence to Genus is the word gender which is a classification based on the sex of an individual. We also have genealogy – the study of family, family trees and lineages which is done by people called genealogists. Similarly, genre is a French word that refers to a category of music, film, novels etc. The word general too can be considered here which literally means ‘pertaining to the whole class’. Thus General Knowledge means the knowledge of a broad range of facts about various subjects. Its adjective form is generic – a term you might be familiar with if you have heard of generic drugs (drugs not protected by specific patents) or generic names (name not owned by any brand). You might wonder what about seniors defence officers are called generals. The reason is because they command a wide range of classes.

Image Credit: Magda Ehlers
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The Greek word genos conveyed the same meaning as its Latin cousin. Through its extensions we get homogeneous (homos: same) which means of the same kind. On the other hand, we have heterogeneous, that is, of a different kind (Greek heteros: different). You might have heard these words in relations to mixtures in chemistry classes: a homogenous mixture is where the proportions of the constituents of the mixture are equal while there is an inequality of proportion is present in a heterogeneous mixture.

Ingenuous is derived from the Latin ingenus which originally meant ‘born within a group’ but nowadays it signifies a noble character or someone who is simple, frank and straightforward. Disingenuous is its exact opposite, referring to someone who is insincere or who pretends to be naïve. On a different note, Indigenous means native or original. For example, the aboriginals were the indigenous tribe of Australia.

Here’s a summary to help you better assimilate the words that you have learned:

Table Summary:

GenusClass or family
GenderClassification based on the sex of an individual
GenealogyThe studies of families, family trees and lineages
GenealogistSomeone who studies families and family tress
GeneralPertaining to whole class; in military, the commander of a wide range of military classes
GenericAdjective form of general
Homo-GeneousOf the same kind
Hetero-GeneousOf a different kind
In-GenuousSomeone who is noble and sincere
Dis-ingenuousSomeone who is insincere or pretends to be naive
Indi-genousNative or original

Welcome to General Quiz

Classification on the basis of sex is referred to as:

What does "Homogeneous" mean here:


Which movies do you consider gems of the thriller _____________ ? (category)

"General" in the given headline means:


People who study family trees and lineages are called:

"Indigenous" in the given headline:


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