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draconian

Printable Version Pronunciation: drê-kon-ni-yên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Painfully harsh or severe in terms of rules or punishment.

Notes: The adverbial form corresponding to today's adjective most often used is draconically, based on a synonym, draconic. This means we may use draconism or draconianism as a noun. Keep in mind, however, that draconic is also the adjective for dragon, meaning "like or characteristic of a dragon", so a draconic attitude has a bit of ambiguity absent in the corresponding phrase, a draconian attitude—ambiguity you might be able to play with.

In Play: We think that today's word is not used around the house as much as it should be: "Mom, don't you think that grounding me for a month is a bit draconian for wrecking the Chevy?" (It wasn't the Porsche, after all.) This doesn't mean situations calling for it don't arise at work: "The new manager is rather draconian about which sites we can and cannot visit on the company's computers."

Word History: The eponym of today's Good Word is Draco, the chief magistrate of Athens who codified Athenian law in 621 B.C. Even though most of the laws had been issued by his predecessors, because he was the first to write them down, their harshness was attributed to him, hence draconian laws. The N added to his name before the suffix -ian clearly indicates that his name was derived from the same root as the Greek word for "dragon", drakon. We have already discussed the most interesting descendant of that word, rankle, but you might want to take another look at it. (We don't have to be compelled by law, harsh or otherwise, to extend our gratitude to Perry Lassiter for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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