Word of The Day for Sunday, January 23, 2011


hel•o•tis•m (HEL-uh-tiz-uhm, HEE-luh-)  n

1. a system under which a nominally free social class or a religious, national, or racial minority is permanently oppressed and degraded
2. a type of symbiosis, as among certain ants, in which one species is dominant and makes the members of another species perform the tasks required for their mutual survival
3. the condition or quality of being a Helot

1815–25; Helot  + -ism; Helot from Gk. Heilotes, pl. of Heilos, popularly assoc. with Helos, Laconian town reduced to serfdom by Sparta, but perhaps related to Gk. halonai "be captured"

Sentence Examples:
• In describing her object, Miss Wright said: "No difference will be made in the schools between the white children and the children of color, whether in education or in any other advantage. This establishment is founded on the principle of community of property and labor: these fellow-creatures, that is, the blacks, admitted here, requiting these services by services equal or greater, by filling occupations which their habits render easy, and which to their guides and assistants might be difficult or unpleasing." This form of helotism flourished but three years on American soil. -Woman and the Republic, Helen Kendrick Johnson

• The tyrannical prohibition of emigration excited his vehement protest, and he proceeded also to denounce to the new king the right of seizing the property of deceased foreigners, and demanded for burghers the freedom of purchasing the estates of nobles. He urged Frederick William to abolish the prerogatives claimed by nobles and the helotism of all who were not noble, and suggested that judges should be appointed for life and justice rendered free of expense. -Memoirs, Comte de Mirabeau

• These spendthrifts mingled the roughest practical jokes with a life not so much reckless as suicidal; they drew back from no impossibility, and gloried in pranks which, nevertheless, were confined within certain limits; and as they showed the most original wit in their escapades, it was impossible not to pardon them. No sign of the times more plainly discovered the helotism to which the Restoration had condemned the young manhood of the epoch. -A Distinguished Provincial at Paris, Honore de Balzac

The Storyline
"You know the importance I've always placed on being free to be one's authentic self. It's how we raised you kids," he droned on for far too long without reaching the point. But it wasn't true. And the lie brought to mind her repressed resentment of the subtle helotism she lived under growing up.

Sources: Free Dictionary, Online Etymology

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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