The Joy of Language Learning

Learning English is Fun with BeyondWords™

If you wish to achieve professional proficiency in English or score well in examinations and admission tests such as the GRE Exam (or GRE Verbal, GRE English Practice Tests etc.), the GMAT Exam (or GMAT English, GMAT English Practice Test etc.) or the Common Admission Test (CAT), you must have a good English vocabulary.  

Many of us attempt to improve our English vocabulary by mugging up unending ‘Word Lists’ in a short span of time just before the examination. However, in addition to being rather boring and stressful, this process is also quite ineffective for most of us. This is so because while one may remember some of the words from the wordlists during the exams (if the words are still fresh in the person’s memory), mugging-up long lists of hundreds of disconnected words does not allow one to truly understand their nuanced meanings and usage norms, or to connect them with other words in a meaningful way. Such efforts are thus substantially wasted. 

BeyondWords™ is a simple and fun way for you to improve your English vocabulary as well as to achieve professional efficiency in English.   

Did you know, for example, that humble (someone who has a low estimate of one’s importance), humility (the quality of having a low view of one’s importance) and humus (the top layer of soil formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material) are all related and etymologically connected with the word human – which literally means “an earthly being or someone of the earth”, as opposed to the gods residing in the heavens (sky)? The same root also gives us other words such as humiliate (to make someone feel ashamed or ‘lowly’), inhuman (lacking kindness, compassion or mercy) and bonhomie (friendliness or being a ‘good human’)?

Before standardized medium of exchange (“currencies” or “money”) became popularly accepted in human societies, people largely depended on the barter system. If you wanted a horse, for instance, it would set you back by two cows. A cow, on the other hand, could cost you two quintals of wheat. But finding someone who has a bottle of milk and would like to trade it with you for four eggs was not always convenient. So, when an accepted medium of exchange was established, it transformed the way people led their lives. What were initially coins made of silver, gold and other metals, gradually paved the way for paper notes – leading to the reduction of the use of the barter method in the modern age. Yet, its remnants can still be found in the words we use in the English language today.

Take the word pecuniary for example, which means something related to or consisting of money. If we say that people were provided ‘pecuniary aid’ by the government during the lockdown, we mean that they were provided with monetary aid. However, did you know that pecuniary is derived from the Latin root pecu which meant cattle or flock, since cattle were a common medium of exchange as well as an indicator of wealth in the ancient time? In Ireland, cattle were used as currency as late as the 1400s, long after the introduction of coinage.

In a similar vein, we have the word pecunious, which means rich or wealthy, albeit with arrogance or an ungenerous attitude. Impecunious, on the other hand, refers to being broke and penniless. A related word, peculation is the act of illegally using or taking money entrusted to someone, especially relating to public funds, as in “The senior official was charged with peculation.”

Another related Latin root peculium was used to refer to ‘private property or wealth’. Its derivation, peculiar, thus means typical, exclusive or unique to someone or something. For instance, when we say that Madhubani painting is peculiar to the Mithila region of Bihar, we mean that it is exclusive to that region. Since things that are not shared by the majority are considered odd, peculiar can also convey the sense of something being strange or unusual as in, “He is a rather peculiar person.”

When you understand the origins of the words, how they are inter-related and how their meanings have evolved and changed over a period of time, you will be able to remember them much more easily and use them much more effectively and confidently.

We hope you have fun discovering the hidden connections between various English words, as well as the various hidden rules of the English language – while enriching your English vocabulary with hundreds of new words and gaining professional proficiency in English!  

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