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Words of the Day: Precipitate and Predilection

Categories: GRE Vocabulary, News, Vocabulary Building Words, Vocabulary for Success, Vocabulary Improvement Tips | Tags:

We might be getting ahead of ourselves with two words instead of one, but we hope that by giving you a bigger taste of the wonderful world of English vocabulary today, you’ll find you have a tendency to want even more information about useful and powerful words you can use to improve your English vocabulary. To give you an example of how useful these words are, let’s rewrite that sentence:

We might be precipitate in offering two words instead of one, but we hope that showing you how many interesting words there are to learn will give you a predilection towards increasing the time you spend on your vocabulary study.

In this example sentence, we’ve used the adjectival form of precipitate, meaning “done in haste or without prior thought.” When you use this word as a verb, it means “to cause to happen suddenly or unexpectedly.” The word comes from the Latin verb praecipitare (“to fall”) and was first used in the 16th century in England to describe the chemical reaction in which bits of solid matter suddenly form from a liquid and fall to the bottom of a container. The speed of this chemical process, as well as the action of the solids in solution, led to both senses of the word. We commonly use the word precipitation to refer to rain or sleet falling from the sky.

Predilection refers to a preference for or tendency towards something. If you have a predilection for salty foods rather than sweet, you’ll probably choose to snack from the bowl of pretzels at a party instead of the one filled with candy. This noun comes from another Latin verb, diligere (“to choose”), along with the prefix pre- (“before”). Your predilection is the thing you choose before anything else.

Notice that although both English words begin with the letters pre, only the second word actually contains a true prefix meaning “before.” If you didn’t know the meaning of the word precipitate and came across it while reading, you might be searching for a definition that had the sense of “before (something)” to figure out the meaning of the sentence or passage as a whole, and you’d probably end up being very confused. Taking the time to do a little research into a word’s etymology will help you understand its meaning, and improve your ability to quickly add new words to your vocabulary.