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VELLEITY

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VELLEITY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:37 pm

• velleity •


Pronunciation: vê-lee-ê-tee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The slightest hint of a desire or wish, an inclination.

Notes: Today's Good Word is yet another lexical orphan, a word without any derivational family. We do find copies of it in all the Romance languages: Italian velleità, Spanish veleidad, and Portuguese veleidade.

In Play: Remember, a velleity is only the hint of a wish or desire: "I don't have the faintest velleity to go out with Clara Sill, let alone marry her." Velleities abound in higher places: "Congress doesn't seem to have the slightest velleity to get to work on the nation's problems."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin velleitas, a derivation of velle "to wish, want". It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root, wel-/wol- "wish, will", which had two forms for reasons that remain mysterious. Anyway, both developed in German as wollen "to want", but ich will "I want". Only the one with the E arrived in Old English and resulted in will in all its various senses. The PIE word came to Latin, too, in both forms. The O-form ended up in voluntarius "voluntary, freely desiring", voluptuosus "bringing pleasure, the desirous", and malevolen(t)s "malevolent, ill-wishing"—all of which were borrowed by English, either directly or via French. (We have much more than a velleity to thank Roger A. Meyer for thinking of alphaDictionary when he came across today's very Good Word.)
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Re: VELLEITY

Postby MTC » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:31 am

"Velleity" has an oddly self-prophetic, self-referential quality. Apart from this post no one shows the slightest interest. Perhaps this is because of its whispy, inchoate nature. Yet even the likes of Bill Bryson has taken up its cause in a probably quixotic effort to rescue it from indifference and neglect. "Velleity" is still a useful concept in Criminal Law. But somehow I associate it with the concept of Limits in Calculus, a small stream of digits just beginning to make its way toward a remote terminus. Or Bishop Berkeley's famous criticism of Newton's "fluxions:"

"And what are these Fluxions? The Velocities of evanescent Increments? And what are these same evanescent Increments? They are neither finite Quantities nor Quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing. May we not call them the ghosts of departed quantities?"

Or "velleities" perhaps?
Last edited by MTC on Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:34 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: VELLEITY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:01 pm

MTC, you have a felicitous choice of words. If you do not already compose poetry, you should.
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Re: VELLEITY

Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:03 pm

Seems this word has been up in the not too distant past.
Perhaps it was another forum.
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Re: VELLEITY

Postby Slava » Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:45 pm

LukeJavan8 wrote:Seems this word has been up in the not too distant past.
Perhaps it was another forum.

Here it is. It is actually one of your suggestions.
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Re: VELLEITY

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:26 am

No wonder it is so familiar to me.
I do remember suggesting it at some point in time now that
you did the research.
Thanks slava.
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