Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-sor-sêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: Fascinate, enchant, bewitch, captivate.

Notes: Did you ever wonder (as I did), whatever happened to the verb from sorcery or sorcerer? Well, put your mind at rest (as mine is): this is it! Believe it or not, we may spell this word with either two Ls or one; ensorcel is just as good as ensorcell. (Witchcraft?) The noun that goes with this verb is ensorcellment (or ensorcelment) and the person doing the ensorcelling is either an ensorceller or ensorceler.

In Play: We have to be completely captivated for today's verb to apply: "Halfway into the conversation with Claire Voyant, Harvey was completely ensorcelled by the exorbitant eloquence of her speech." Don't forget the noun accompanying today's word; it is just as rarely used as the verb: "Anna Nimiety was almost surreal in appearance; she embodied the very ensorcellment that a woman casts over a man."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French ensorceler "cast a spell", made up of en-, a prefix for converting nouns and adjectives to verbs, + sorceler "sorcerer". The Old French word for "sorcerer" was sorcier from a presumed street Latin sortarius "caster of lots"; where the L came from is anyone's guess. Sortarius seems to have derived from sortiri "cast lots". This verb we know comes from sors, sortis "lot, fate" based on Proto-Indo-European ser-/sor- "to line up", perhaps from the practice of lining up lots before drawing. This PIE word also provided Latin with serere "to arrange", which underlies the English borrowings series and, of course, sort comes from sors, sortis. (I now thank Sue Gold of Westtown School for again ensorcelling us all with today's rare but useful Good Word.

Dr. Goodword,

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