• simulacrum •
Pronunciation: sim-yê-læ-kr&m, sim- yê-lay-krêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An image or other representation of something. 2. An imperfect semblance of something, the mere likeness.
Notes: Since this is an actual Latin word, not redressed in English clothes, it has retained the Latin plural form, too, simulacra. However, for the same reason, it has no English derivational family, unless we count the extremely rare adjective simulacral.
In Play: In the first sense of today's word you might hear something like this: "Corrie Publican has a simulacrum of Ronald Reagan on a wall of every room in her house, and her refrigerator door was covered with them." In the second sense of this word, we can say things like this: "Noah Zarque is no more than a simulacrum of his old self."
Word History: Today's Good Word was adopted whole from the Latin word simulacrum "likeness, representation", a noun based on the verb simulare "to copy, imitate". English based its copy of this word, simulate, on its past participle, simulatus. The root of this word goes back to Proto-Indo-European sem- "one", which had an inflectional form meaning "as one", which came to mean "together with". The Latin form used a suffix, sim-ul "at one (and the same) time", on which English simultaneous is based. In Russian this PIE word became sam "self" as in samovar, literally, "self-boiler", and samizdat "self-publishing". In Old English it became sum "a certain one", which today is some, whose meaning has glided a bit off base. (Let's all now thank William Tupy, who used this word in his recommendation of a totally different Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)