Turn to the Webster’s

It matters which dictionary you turn to.

3 comments

Being a lover of language, dictionaries have always been a treasure trove to me.  But I must say that the newer they are, the less satisfying their definitions become.  Defining a word does not mean that you have to try and say the same thing as simply and with as few words as you possibly can.  This technique might work when talking to a 5-year-old, but kindergarten children are not the intended audience of dictionaries in the first place…

Enough talk.  Here is an example from the Oxford Dictionary of English, 2006.

theurgy, noun: the operation or effect of a supernatural or divine agency in human affairs

  • a system of white magic practiced by early Neoplatonists

DERIVATIVES: theurgic adjective, theurgical adjective, theurgist noun

ORIGIN: mid 16th cent.; via late Latin from Greek theurgia ‘sorcery’, from theos ‘god’ + ergos ‘working’

And this second definition comes from the dictionary I would recommend for all lovers of the English language, Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language from 1828.  Note the differences and judge for yourself.

THEURGIC, THEURGICAL: [from theurgy.] Pertaining to the power of performing supernatural things.
Theurgic hymns, songs of incantation

THEURGIST, n. One who pretends or is addicted to theurgy.

THEURGY, n. [Gr. theos God, and ergos work]
The art of doing things which it is the peculiar province of God to do; or the power or act of performing supernatural things by invoking the names of God or of subordinate agents; magic.  This has been divided by some writers into three parts; theurgy, or the operation by divine or celestial means; natural magic, performed by the powers of nature; and necromancy, which proceeds by invoking demons.

3 comments on “Turn to the Webster’s”

  1. Ahh that comparison has a terrible beauty about it. I wondered at one point as a student how the math we were studying was once the province of philosophers and that, by my time relegated to twelve year olds. My favorite natural law is the incredibly simple but profound nonetheless, Rule of Superposition. Each layer lies upon the previous layer, in order of deposition. Space must be opened in children’s minds so that new ideas can expand into it. The vacuum of creativity. Where else would the new words go? There will always be archivists, librarians and scholars to explain what came before. My head is full of archaic terms as a blacksmith and gardener but what most concerns me is that I can not recall the word describing a small hole in a garden wall through which a hedgehog or rabbit might pass.

    Liked by 1 person

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