What’s the Word #22 – Acrostic

March 21, 2016 at 12:02 am | Posted in Today's Reasons To Celebrate | Leave a comment

The word today is acrostic (a-KRAW-stik, a-KRAWS-tik), which is a noun. The definition of acrostic is:

  1. a number of lines of writing, such as a poem, certain letters of which form a word, proverb, etc. A single acrostic is formed by the initial letters of the lines, a double acrostic by the initial and final letters, and a triple acrostic by the initial, middle, and final letters.
  2. the word, proverb, etc, so formed.
  3. (as a modifying): an acrostic sonnet.

Examples:

  1. Ernie plans on making his epitaph an acrostic.
  2. Rarely seen these days, acrostics are a real test of one’s vocabulary.
  3. Notwithstanding their cleverness, acrostics are often missed by some readers.
  4. In history, acrostics have been used to convey secret messages.
  5. Everyone should realize by now that these examples form an acrostic of my first name.

The origins of acrostic are from the late 16th century: from French acrostiche, from Greek akrostikhis, from akron ‘end’ + stikhos‘row – line of verse’. The change in the ending was due to association with -ic.

Other words with the same root are:

  1.  acrobat. The earliest acrobats were tightrope walkers, which explains why the word derives from the Greek akrobatos, meaning ‘walking on tiptoe’. The akro– part of akrobatos meant ‘tip, end, or summit’ and is found in several other English words.
  2. The acropolis (mid 17th century) of a Greek city, most famously Athens, was the fortified part, which was usually built on a hill.
  3. acrophobia (late 19th century) is fear of heights.
  4. acronym (mid 20th century) is a word such as scubalaser or Aids formed from the initial letters of other words.
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