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Word Curio

December 10, 2019

Word of the Day: Exponent

2 CQ

Word of the Day : March 1, 2017

exponent \ik-SPOH-nunt\ noun


1 : a symbol written above and to the right of a mathematical expression to indicate the operation of raising to a power

2 a : one that expounds or interprets

b : one that champions, practices, or exemplifies


"As the leading exponent of naturalism in fiction, [Émile] Zola believed in the clinically accurate depiction of all aspects of human life." — Adam Kirsch, The New Statesman, 18 Jan. 2017

"But the quality of the imagination is to flow, and not to freeze. The poet did not stop at the color, or the form, but read their meaning; neither may he rest in this meaning, but he makes the same objects exponents of his new thought." — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series, 1944

Did You Know?

You probably won't be surprised to learn that exponent shares an ancestor with proponent—and indeed, the Latin ponere ("to put") is at the root of both terms. Exponent descends from exponere, which joins ponere with ex- ("out") and means "to put forth" or "to explain." Proponent traces to proponere, a word created from the affix pro- ("before") that can mean "to put before," or "to display" or "to declare." Proponent is related to propose and can describe someone who offers a proposal, but today it usually means "one who argues in favor of something." Exponent can also refer to someone who is an advocate, but it tends to refer especially to someone who stands out as a shining representative of something. In addition, it has retained its earlier meaning of "one who expounds."

Aired March 1, 2017

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