• lapidate •
lŠ-pê-dayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To pelt with stones, to stone (to death)
Notes: This form of capital punishment still occurs today in countries like Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Somalia according to Wikipedia. It is related to a host of words, like lapidary "a gem cutter", lapidation "stone-throwing", and lapidator "stone-thrower". It is also related to the fascinating word lapicide "stone-cutter", not the expected "stone-killer". The combining form -cide comes from the verb cædere "to cut, kill", but is rarely used in the sense of "cut".
In Play: This word is seldom used except in the literal sense: "Muslims who participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca each year perform a ritual in which they symbolically lapidate the Devil." However, we may use it when metaphorically referring to the most horrendous forms of execution: "Phil Anders should be lapidated by her entire family for what he did to June McBride."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us directly from lapidatus, the past participle of lapidare "to stone" which, in turn, comes from lapis "a stone". It is related to Greek lepas "crag", but we don't find evidence of it in any other Indo-European language before Greek and Latin. We do know that Latin lapis went on to become Portuguese lápis, Italian lapis, and Spanish lápiz, all of which mean "pencil". This brings us to dilapidated, a combination of Latin dis- "asunder" + lapidare "to throw stones at". So the original meaning of dilapidated was in a state of disrepair as though stoned (in the old sense of the word).