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Podcast dogma

Printable Version Pronunciation: dawg-mê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A firmly held doctrine, belief or a body of such doctrines established by an authoritative source, as the dogma of the Catholic Church. 2. An adamantly and unreasonably held belief whether right or wrong.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the ancestor of a large derivational family, including the adjective, dogmatic, with its own offspring dogmatically and dogmaticality. This word has also produced a quality noun dogmatism and a personal noun dogmatist, as well as a verb dogmatize, which means "to create a dogma of some belief". Then the whole process begins all over again with two nouns, dogmatization and dogmatizer—but let's not go through the entire family album.

In Play: Dogmas are usually associated with religions: "According to Christian dogma, Christ is the Savior; according to Islamic dogma, he is a prophet." However, any firmly or irrationally held belief qualifies: "The assumption that collards are better for you than spinach was unrebuttable dogma in my family." Do we need a word for "a weakly held belief"? Would catma do? I'll leave it up to you.

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Greek via Latin. In Greek it meant "opinion, belief", a noun derived from the verb dokein "to seem, to think". This verb comes from Proto-Indo-European dok-/dek- "to take, accept", found in Latin borrowings such as doctor, doctrine, and document. Since the [m] is voiced (made by vibrating the vocal cords), the [k] would become voiced when standing against it, a process known as assimilation. When you pronounce [k] vibrating the vocal cords, the result is the [g] we hear in dogma. The dek variant underwent a similar change to produce Latin dignitas "merit, worth", which we borrowed as dignity. By the time dignitas made its way through French, however, it had become Old French deintie, which ended up in English as a separate word, dainty. (Thanking our contributers is dogma here at alphaDictionary; that's why we now thank John Hall, the Palewriter of the Alpha Agora, for suggesting it.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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