• Vatican •
væ-ti-kên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Proper noun
Meaning: The sovereign city-state ruled by the Pope of the Catholic Church.
Notes: Today's Good Word originated as an adjective (the Vatican City, the Vatican Hill) but today is used as a proper noun. At a time when the is being removed from country names (Ukraine, Netherlands), it seems to have survived on the Vatican, as it survives on the sun and the moon. Moreover, it does so in all languages: Città del Vaticano (Italian), Ciudad del Vaticano (Spanish), and Cité du Vatican, all of which mean "City of the Vatican". The adjective for today's word is papal.
In Play: Pope Francis recently replaced the ambassador to the United States who set up the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucy clerk who refused to register gay couples for marriage. Pope Francis has scolded Church leaders for their obsession with social issues like gay marriage and abortion. He thinks the major problem is unchecked capitalism. Pope Francis has tripled the attendance to papal events from about 2.5 million to 6.6 million.
Word History: The origin of the word Vatican is shrouded in as much mystery as the place itself. It was used simply as the name of a hill in Rome, Mons Vaticanus "the Vatican Hill". The Latin word vaticinor means "foretell, prophesy" from vatis "poet, teacher, oracle". This suggests that the original hill was the location of an oracle, a place where high priests communicated with the Roman gods. Thus the name reflects a long history of contact with spiritual powers.