P

paddle: Small blade – usually wooden – used to propel a kayak or canoe. From Latin “patella”=short oar with blade.

pain: Ache or bodily suffering, or an instance of this; an unpleasant sensation. From Greek “poine”=punishment or penalty.

palanquin: A closed litter carried on the shoulders of four bearers. From Portuguese “palanquim” < Hindi “palaki” < Sanskrit “palyanka”=bed.

palliate: Reduce the effects of illness without curing them. From Latin “palliatus”=cloaked < “pallium”=a cloak worn by philosophers.

palm: Flat of the hand. From Latin “palma”=palm of the hand. The leaf is so called because it looks like a hand and its palm.

panda: Large black and white bear-like animal that lives in the mountains of China. From Nepali “panda”=name of the animal.

pandemonium: Wild uproar with anger and confusion. From “pan”=all + “demon”=demon. Literally the home of all demons.

pander: Cater to the lower tastes, or act as go-between in a sexual liaison. From Latin “Pandarus,” name of a character from Chaucer.

pangram: piece of text with all the letters of the alphabet: From Greek “pan”=all + “gramma”= letters. “NBC glad. Why? Fox TV jerks quiz PM.”

pantomime: Performance using gestures and body movements without words. From Greek “panto”=all + “mimos”=performer/performance.

pants: Trousers. From Italian “Pantaloun,” name of a comedic character who wore tight trousers over skinny legs < city San Pantalone.

parable: Short moral story, often with animal characters. From Latin “parabola”=comparison < Greek “para”=beside + “bole”=throw.

paradise: Place of ideal beauty or loveliness.From Old Iranian “pairidaeza”=walled enclosure. “pairi-”=around” + “diz”=to create/make.

paranormal: Events assumed to be outside of scientific explanation. From Latin “para”=above/against + “norma”=rule.

paraphernalia: Things needed for a specific task. From Greek “paraferna”=married woman’s property < “para”=beside + “ferni”=dowry.

parapraxis: unconscious error or blunder. Freud used it to describe his “Freudian slips.” From Latin “para”=beside + Greek “praxis”=act.

paraskevidekatriophobia: Fear of Friday 13th. From Greek “paraskevi”=Friday + “dekatria”=thirteen + “phobia”=fear.

parasol: Small, lightweight shade form the sun. From Italian “parasole”=sun-umbrella < Latin “para-“=against + “sol”=sun.

pareidolia: Perceiving patterns where none exist. Type I error in statistical terms. From Greek “para”=wrong/faulty + “eidolon”=image.

parent: General name for a father or a mother. From Latin “parens”=father or mother < “parere”=to bring forth or beget.

parliament: Formal conference or council; executive legislature of the UK. From Old French “parler”=to speak + “-ment”=noun-forming suffix.

paschal: Related to Easter or Passover. From Latin “pascha”=Easter < Greek “paska”=Passover < Aramaic < “pasah”=to pass over.

pasta: Italian food made from flour, eggs, and water and cut into various shapes. From Latin “pasta”=paste < Greek “pasta”=barley porridge.

pastiche: Work (musical, novel, art, etc.) made from a mixture of styles. Italian “pasticcio”=a confused affair < Latin “pasticium”=a pie.

pathos: Quality that a person or situation has that makes you feel pity and sadness. From Greek “pathos”+suffering or emotion.

peace: Absence or strife, war, or worry; sense or calm. From Old French “pais”=tranquility between individuals < Latin “pax”=peace.

peak: Top of a mountain or projecting point. Variation of “pike”=sharp spike < Middle Dutch “pike”=pickaxe. Similar forms in other languages.

peccadillo: Petty misdeed; a personal fault or an idiosyncrasy. From Latin “peccatum “=sin + diminutive +-illo”=small.

pedagogue: Teacher of young people. From Greek “paidagogos”=slave who lead children to school < “pais”=boy + “agogos”=lead.

pedant: Person who pays too much attention to rules or to small details. From Greek “paidagogos” < “pais”=child + “agogos”=leader.

pediatrician: Medical specialist who deals with children. From Greek “ped/pais”=child or boy + “iatreia”=treatment.

pedicure: Cosmetic care or treatment of the foot. From Latin “pedis”=foot + “curare”=to care for.

pedicure: Treatment for the feet, toes, and nails. From Latin “pedicure” < “pedis”=foot + “cura”=care. Lit. “care of the foot.”

peek: To look quickly at something, usually without permission. Possibly from Middle Dutch “kiekan” or Low German “kikan”=to peep.

pejorative: Word with an insulting or disparaging sense. From Latin “perjoratus”=made worse.

pellucid: Very clear; transparent. From Latin “pellucidus”<“pellucere”=to shine through < “per”=through + “lucere”=to shine.

peninsula: Piece of land almost completely surrounded by water but still joined. From Latin “pene-“=nearly/almost + “insula”=an island.

penitent: Feeling or expressing remorse for wrong-doings. From Latin “paeniteo”=to feel or cause regret.

penny: English coin original 1/12th of a shilling or 1/240th of a pound; American dialect for “cent.” From Old English “pening”=penny.

peon: Underling, lackey, someone of low rank. French “pion”=foot soldier < Anglo-Norman “paun”=pawn < Latin “ped”=foot.

pepo: a fleshy fruit with a hard rind and many seeds, such as a melon. From Greek “pepon”=melon. Modern Greek word for melon is “peponi.”

perdition: Complete destruction or failure. From Latin “perdition”=total ruin, loss, hell < “per-“=away + “dare”=to give + “-ion”=state of.

peregrinate: To travel from place to place. From Latin “peregrinari”=to travel abroad < “peregrere”=abroad < “per”=through + “ager”=field.

periphrasis: Using many words when few would work; circumlocution. From Greek “periphrasis” < “peri-“=round, around + “phrazein”=to speak.

persnickety: Worrying too much about trivial details. Alteration of “pernickety” (1808) and of uncertain origin, possibly Scottish.

perspicacious: Acutely insightful and wise. Latin “perspicere”=look through < “per”=through + “specere”=to look + “ious”=full of.

perverse: Turning away from what is judged to be right or good. From Latin “pervertere” < “per-“=away + “vertere”=to turn.

pesky: Troublesome; confounding; annoying; disagreeable. Middle French “peste”=troublemaker < Latin “pestis”=plague + “-y”=adjective suffix.

petrichor: Smell of the first rain after a hot, dry period. From Greek “petro”=rock + “ichor”=mythical blood of the gods. Lit. rock’s blood.

petty: Small and unimportant. From Old French “petit”=not yet fully grown (as of people) – later used for small size in general.

phallophobia: Fear of penises, especially erect ones. From Greek “phallus”=penis + Greek “phobos”=fear/flight.

phantom: Ghost/spectre. From Old French “fantosme”=supernatural apparition < Greek “phantasma”=vision/appearance < “phantazein”=make visible.

pharmacist: One who prepares and dispenses medicine. From Latin “pharmacia”=drug preparation < Greek “pharmakeia”=use of poison, witchcraft

Philadelphia: Largest city in Pennsylvania, USA. From Greek “philos”=loving + “adelphos”=brother.

phony (phoney): Fake, not real, sham, counterfeit. Possibly from “fawney”=brass ring used by cheats (1781) < Irish “fainne”-ring.

picaroon: Pirate or pirate ship. From c15th Spanish “picaro”=rogue or bohemian.

pigritude: Laziness, sloth. Latin “pigritudo”=laziness < “piger”=lazy + “-itude”=suffix indicating sickness/infirmity.

pique: Feeling of being annoyed, commonly used in the phrase “a fit of pique.” From Middle French “pique”=quarrel or resentment.

pilgrim: Person who journeys to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. Old French “pilegrin” < Latin “peregrine”=foreigner.

piliferous: Having hair; being covered in hair. From Latin “pilus”=hair + “-iferous” < “ferre”=to bear + “-ous”=abounding in.

pioneer: Person who is the first to enter or settle a region. Middle French “pionnier” < Old French “peon”=walker + “ier”=person suffix.

pirate: Someone who robs while at sea. From Greek “peirates”=brigand/robber, which in turn is from “peira”=plot or attack.

pizza: Flat bread topped with tomato and other foods, originally from Italy. From Latin “piza”=flat bread < ?Greek “pita”=bread, often flat.

placate: Make a person more peaceful; pacify. Latin “placare”=to appease, make more favorably disposed. Related to “placere”=to please.

placebo: Harmless substance given to sick person to test against a real medicine. From Latin “placebo”=I shall be pleasing.

platitude: Worn out statement; banal or trite. From French “platitude”=flatness < “plat”=flat + “-itude”=added to be like “attitude.”

plenitude: A great sufficiency; state of being full. From Latin “plenitudo”=fullness, completeness < “plenus”=full + “-tude”=abstract noun.

ploy: A cunning scheme or maneuver. From Old French “emplier”=to use for a purpose < Latin “implicare” < “in-“=into “plicare”=to fold.

plumage: Light horny waterproof external cover for birds. From Old French “plume”=feather < Latin “pluma”=feather.

pluviculture: The art or science of rainmaking. From Latin “pluvia”=rain + “cultura”=cultivation or land. Hence cultivation of rain.

podiatry: Medical treatment of ailments of the foot. From Greek “pod”=foot + “iatreia”=treament.

poker: Card game where players compete to make best hand to win all the stakes. From French “poquer”=similar game OR German “pochen”=to brag.

poll: Count of votes or opinions. From Middle Dutch “pol”=head, top. Early Modern Dutch “polle”=hair on the head. Lit. counting of heads.

ponder: Spend time thinking carefully and seriously about a problem. From Latin “ponderare”=to consider < “pondus”=weigh.

poor: Lacking material possessions or money; poverty. From Latin “pauper”=poor; perhaps from “paucus”=little + “parere”=to get.

poppycock: nonsense, junk, twaddle. From Dutch pappekak=”soft dung” – “pap”=soft + “kak”=dung.

pore: (noun) Small hole in the skin that sweat comes through; or small hole in a plant’s leaf. From Greek “poros”=passage/way.

pore: (verb) To read over text in great detail and with lots of attention. From Middle English “pouren”=look closely.

port: Place where ships can be loaded and unloaded. From Old English “port”=harbor/haven < Latin “portus”=harbor, originally entrance.

potter: (a) one who makes pottery. From Latin “potarius”=pot. (b) to busy oneself in a trifling way. From Old English “potian”=push.

pour: Make a liquid or other substance flow from or into a container. From Old French “purer”=pour out < Latin “purare”=purify.

predilection: A strong liking for something. From Latin “praediligere” = “pre-“=before + “diligere”=to love.

prescribe: To set out a rule or a course of action. From Latin “praescribere”=to write before < “prae-“before + “scribere”=to write.

prestige: Commanding and authoritative; impressive reputation. From Middle French “prestige”=a magic trick < Latin “praestigia”=an illusion.

pretentious: Trying to impress by pretending to be smarter than you are. From Latin “praetendere”=to put forward a claim; to allege.

pretzel: Bread or cracker toasted in the shape of a knot. Something twisted/tangled. From German “brezel” < Latin “bracchiolum”=little arm.

proclivity: An inclination toward something. From Latin “proclivitas”=downward slope < “pro”=before+ “clivus”=slope + “-ty”=condition of.

procrastinate: to put off or avoid, especially an unpleasant task. From Latin “pro”=forward + “crastinus”=of tomorrow. “cras”=tomorrow.

prodigious: Far beyond usual in terms of magnitude or degree. From Latin “prodigium”=omen, something extraordinary, freak.

progenitor: Person from whom one is descended. From Latin “progenitor” < “pro-“=out + “gignere”=to beget + “-or”=noun creating suffix.

progress: To move ahead toward a goal. From Latin “progressus” < “progredi” < “pro-“=forward + “gradi”=to step or walk.

promethean: Original.creative; or audacious. From Greek “Prometheus,” demi-god who stole fire from the gods < “promethis”=forethinking.

promontory: Point of high land that juts out into the sea. From Latin “prominere” to jut forward < “pro”=before + “mons”=mount.

proscribe: Ban or forbid something. From Latin “proscribere” < “pro-“+before + “scribere”=to write. Literally “put in writing.”

protagonist: Person who takes the lead; central figure of a narrative. Greek “proto”=first + “agonistis”=combatant in games.

protract: To prolong in space and time; to extend forward. From Latin “protrahere”=lengthening < “pro-“=forward + “trahere”=to draw.

provocateur: Person who causes trouble or dissent. From Latin “provocator” < “provocare”=to provoke + “-tor” person suffix.

psittacistic: given to long, repetitive, boring speech. From Latin “psittac(us)=parrot + “-icus”=having characteristics of.

psychic: Someone claiming to have paranormal ability. From Greek “psykhikos”=of the mind or soul.

puerile: Childish, immature, or trivial; pertaining to childhood. From Latin “puerelis” < “puer”=child or boy.

pulicide: The act of killing a flea. From Latin “pulex”=flea + “-cide”=”killer, slayer, or cutter.

pumpkin: Large, round, orange, edible fruit with many seeds, symbolic of Halloween. From Mid. French “pompon” < Greek “pepon”=melon.

purgatory: place or state of temporary suffering or misery. Catholic mythology place of atonement. From Latin “purgare”=purging/cleansing.

purloin: To take something wrongfully and without permission. From Latin “pro-“=for + “longe”=at a distance.

pyromaniac: Someone who starts fires maliciously; a sufferer of pyromania. From Greek “pyro”=fire + “mania”=madness or excessive desire.