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December 13, 2019

Word of the Day: Nugatory

2 CQ

Word of the Day : March 4, 2017

nugatory \NOO-guh-tor-ee\ adjective


1 : of little or no consequence : trifling, inconsequential

2 : having no force : inoperative


"The novel's greatest talker is Sandro's best friend, Ronnie Fontaine, whose photographs (such as we hear about them) seem nugatory, but whose stories are captivating." — James Wood, The New Yorker, 8 Apr. 2013

"… Christine McVie … was working on 'Keep Me There,' a throwback melodically to her solo album of a few years previously. The opening may have been nugatory, but the chord progression up into the chorus had a driving tension." — David Honigmann, The Financial Times, 9 Jan. 2017

Did You Know?

Nugatory, which first appeared in English in the 17th century, comes from the Latin adjective nugatorius and is ultimately a derivative of the noun nugae, meaning "trifles." Like its synonyms vain, idle, empty, and hollow, nugatory means "without worth or significance." But while nugatory suggests triviality or insignificance ("a monarch with nugatory powers," for example), vain implies either absolute or relative absence of value (as in "vain promises"). Idle suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect (as in "idle speculations"). Empty and hollow suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or genuineness (as in "an empty attempt at reconciliation" or "a hollow victory").

Aired March 4, 2017

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