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 in the US as ensorcell. 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: "Anna Nimity was almost surreal in appearance; she embodied the very ensorcellment that a woman casts over a man."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from the obvious place, Ols French ensorceler, a dissimilated (R > L) form of ensorcerer, comprising en- "in(to)" + sorcier "sorcerer, wizard". Sorcier is the French version of Medieval Latin sortarius "sorcerer, fortune-teller", based on Classical Latin sor(t)s "fate, lot, destiny; rank, category". Latin got its word from PIE ser-/sor- "to align in a row, bind together", seen also in Greek eirein "string together, join", Latin serere "to line up, bind", Irish sraith "series", Scotts Gaelic sreath "series", and Icelandic syrpa "series, compilation". Where the second sense came from is anyone's guess. (I now thank Sue Gold of Westtown School for again ensorcelling us all with today's remarkable Good Word with dozens of citations since 2000.)

Dr. Goodword,

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