by Kevin Burton
Last Friday I presented some of the words about thinking compiled by Merriam-Webster. Today I bring you the rest of their list.
Call this overthinking if you like. It wouldn’t be my first visit to that particular boulevard.
Whereas all the words I included Friday are useful, most of the ones we look at today would have to be forced into casual conversation or even formal writing. (The first one even my spell check doesn’t like.) If I’m using most of the words below, chances are I am making fun of somebody being pretentious, or speaking in the pejorative.
Back to the dictionary:
Intellection “Smart is an Old English-derived word; intellectual is a Latin-derived word. Like most synonyms, they overlap rather than duplicate meanings. And like most pairs of words with one each from these particular family groups, the one with roots in Old English is the everyday, household word (“knowledgeable”) while the one with Latin roots is more fancy and hifalutin (“chiefly guided by the intellect rather than emotion”). There is a related and arguably fancier word meaning “thinking”: intellection.”
“Intellection means “the act of the intellect” or “exercise of the intellect,” a synonym of thought and reasoning.
The greater emotional distance of many Latin-derived words in English makes intellection a perfect term for dispassionate analysis, and has been used in theological writing and literary criticism for centuries.”
Noetic “The Greek word meaning “to think” or “to perceive” came to English as noesis, meaning “purely intellectual knowledge” or “a process or act of thinking.” The adjective noetic means “of, relating to, or based on the intellect.” Its use in philosophical and psychological writing shows that it is perhaps the most abstract of our “thought” words.”
“Noetic is also used in connection with the supernatural: the former astronaut Ed Mitchell founded a center for the study of paranormal phenomena and consciousness called the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
A more down-to-earth use of the word is as a synonym for “thoughtful” sometimes used for humor.”
Pensive “Pensive comes from the French verb penser, meaning “to think.” The literal meaning of pensive, therefore, is “thoughtful,” but it came to English with a downcast attitude. Samuel Johnson defined the word this way in 1755:
‘Sorrowfully thoughtful; sorrowful; mournfully serious; melancholy.’
Shakespeare used pensive in this sense:
Now, brother of Clarence, how like you our choice, That you stand pensive, as half malcontent?— Henry VI, Part III, Act IV, Scene I”
“This melancholy mood continues today in our use of the word: though it can have the more neutral meaning of “musingly or dreamily thoughtful,” it also means “suggestive of sad thoughtfulness.”
Cerebration “The Latin word for brain was borrowed into English whole: cerebrum can refer either to the front part of the brain that is believed to be where thoughts occur or more generally as a synonym of brain itself.”
“Scientists study both conscious and unconscious brain activity, and a technical term based on cerebrum for the latter, “unconscious cerebration,” was coined in the mid-19th century to distinguish it from what we might know of as “thinking.” Cerebration (“mental activity,” “thought”) and the verb that derived from it a few years later, cerebrate (“to use the mind,” “to think”) have the technical, medical, and psychological overtones that come from Latin-derived vocabulary in a research field. Consequently, its use is sometimes distinctly technical.”
And also used in a jocular way as a very formal-sounding synonym for “thought”:
Its use can also convey a shade of emotional distance.”
Ratiocination “The Latin root word that gave us ratio and rational also gave us ratiocination, pronounced /rat-ee-oh-suh-NAY-shun/ or /rash-ee-oh-suh-NAY-shun/. It means “the process of exact thinking” or “a reasoned train of thought.” In Latin, ratio meant “reason” or “computation,” and the mathematical connotation of this word made it appealing for those describing a machinelike thinking process.”
“Edgar Allan Poe used it to describe his story The Murders in the Rue Morgue, considered the first detective story as we now know them, as “a tale of ratiocination.” Unsurprisingly, the most famous character of the new genre was also the possessor of perhaps the most machinelike brain in fiction, Sherlock Holmes.”
“Ratiocinate is a pretty fancy way of saying “to think,” and usually draws attention to itself as a very technical and logical word. It received an unusual note at its definition in our Unabridged edition of 1934: To reason discursively or according to a logical process; —now usually humorous.”