Word of The Day for Monday, October 11, 2010


cap•tious (kap-shuhs) \kap-shəs\ adj

1. marked by an often ill-natured disposition to find fault or raise objections
2. calculated to entrap or confuse, as in an argument

captiously adverb; captiousness noun

Synonyms: critical, carping, caviling, faultfinding, hypercritical, judgmental, overcritical, rejective
Related Words: taking from captus, pp. of capere "to take, catch": capture, caption, captivate, captive, capacity

• It is an easy matter to perceive by the tenor of one of them you have imbibed an Opinion that the Officers of this Army are captious, and that by attempting to remove one complaint, a Door is opened to others. The Writings of George Washington
• Some men are more captious than others; some are always wrong-headed: but every man living has such a share of Vanity, as to be hurt by marks of slight and contempt. Lord Chesterfield

The Storyline
But she resisted her captious urges and instead ushered the lost lamb to his door.

c.1400, capcyus, from M.Fr. captieux (15c.), from L. captiosus "fallacious, sophistical, insidious" from captio (gen. captionis) "a deceiving, fallacious argument," lit. "a taking (in)," from captus, pp. of capere "to take, catch" from PIE *kap- "to grasp"

Sources: Online Etymology, Merriam-Webster

Why This Word:
It's hard not to be captivated by the web of connections in meaning of the words drawn from capio - to take hold of, grasp. In Latin as in English, grasp means mental grasp (capacity) as well as physical (capture). And taken means taken in, deceived (captious) as well as captivated.

But, in truth, the reason captious originally captured my attention is the twinge of recognition. Any person interested in words and grammar certainly knows at least the impulse to criticize others' errors, albeit with the best of intentions.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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