wotd: verisimilitude

March 30, 2011

Word of the Day from dictionary.com

verisimilitude \ver-uh-suh-MIL-uh-tood; -tyood\, noun:

1. The appearance of truth; the quality of seeming to be true.
2. Something that has the appearance of being true or real.

In an attempt to create verisimilitude, in addition to the usual vulgarities, the dialogue is full of street slang.
— Wilborn Hampton, “Sugar Down Billie Hoak’: An Unexpected Spot to Find a Father”, New York Times, August 1, 1997

For those plays, Ms. Smith interviewed hundreds of people of different races and ages, somehow managing to internalize their expressions, anger and quirks enough to be able to portray them with astonishing verisimilitude.
— Sarah Boxer, “An Experiment in Artistic Democracy”, New York Times, August 7, 2000

The old man’s massive forehead, penetrating eyes and enormous beard lent verisimilitude to this unappealing portrait.
— “Charm itself”, Economist, October 16, 1999

Verisimilitude comes from Latin verisimilitudo, from verisimilis, from verus, “true” + similis, “like, resembling, similar.” The adjective form is verisimilar.

Compare the history of the common word “very,” which basically means “truly”—think of Jesus saying “verily, I say unto you” in the English NT, meaning “truly, I say unto you.”

Verily, verily, verily, verily, life is but a dream.

From the Online Etymology dictionary–


mid-13c., verray “true, real, genuine,” later “actual, sheer” (late 14c.), from Anglo-Fr. verrai, O.Fr. verai “true,” from V.L. *veracus, from L. verax (gen. veracis) “truthful,” from verus “true,” from PIE *weros- (cf. O.E. wær “a compact,” O.Du., O.H.G. war, Du. waar, Ger. wahr “true;” Welsh gwyr, O.Ir. fir “true;” O.C.S. vera “faith”). Meaning “greatly, extremely” is first recorded mid-15c. Used as a pure intensive since M.E.


c.1300, from M.E. verray “true, real” (see very) + -ly.

So when Chaucer says of his knight, “he was a verray parfit gentil knyght,” he means he was truly a perfectly refined guy who went around on his horse stabbing and killing mostly less gentlemanly guys.


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