• litany •
li-tê-nee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Church) A long prayer consisting of a series of petitions by the leader each followed by responses from the congregation. 2. A long, boring, perhaps repetitive list; a monotonous enumeration. 3. Plethora, a large number.
Notes: The sense of "a boring list" implies a long list of things, which had made this word a virtual synonym of plethora. This word is a lexical orphan, no derivational relatives at all.
In Play: The original (figurative) sense of today's word is a long list: "President Trump is known for a litany of tweets written off the top of his colorful head." However, the new meaning, "plethora", is moving out of the shadows: "His face displayed a litany of scars from the hockey games played in his childhood."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Old French letanie, inherited from Late Latin litania, also the source of Modern French litanie, Italian litania, and Spanish letanía. Latin borrowed its word from Late Greek litaneia "entreaty", the noun for the verb litaneuein "to entreat", based on litanos "entreating", in turn a derivation from lite "supplication", a word of unknown origin. The notion of a long monotonous enumeration of anything originated in French.
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