August 24, 2012
ingenious (adjective)
\in-JEEN-yus\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: having or showing skill or cleverness in discovering, inventing, or planning : very clever
How do you use it?
"His last whim had been to bring with him on his weekly visits some new, useful, and ingenious article for the young housekeeper. Now a bag of remarkable clothespins, next, a wonderful nutmeg grater which fell to pieces at the first trial, a knife cleaner that spoiled all the knives, or a sweeper that picked the nap neatly off the carpet and left the dirt . . ." (Louisa May Alcott, _Little Women_)
Are you a word wiz?

Edgar Allan Poe wrote of a "mournful and terrible engine of horror and crime." Emily Dickinson mused on the "genius behind poetry," and Shakespeare told of "a gentle beast." What do you think all those quotes have in common with "some new, useful, and ingenious article"?

American writer Christopher Morley (1890-1957) famously defined "man" as "an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing." That quotation and the others from Alcott, Poe, Dickinson, and Shakespeare each contain a word that shares a common ancestry with the others. "Engine," "genius," "gentle," and "ingenious" all originated with the Latin root "gignere," which means "to beget" or "to father." That root word has in fact produced quite a large family of English words. Other members of the "gignere" family of words include "genuine," "germ," "benign," and "ingenuous."
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