June 16, 2012
capricious (adjective)
\kuh-PRISH-us\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : characterized by a sudden change in feeling, opinion, or action2 : characterized by or having a disposition to change one's mind suddenly
How do you use it?
Taylor learned the hard way that voters can be capricious; she lost the election for class president even though the week before she was the clear favorite.
Are you a word wiz?

Word scholars think that the history of "capricious" has a lot to do with two kinds of animals. Which of the following animals do you think gave "capricious" its sudden whims and changes?

Picture a terrified person, hair standing on end. Long ago, people thought such a person resembled a porcupine. That resemblance is the basis for "capriccio," an Italian word meaning "shudder," or literally, "head with hair standing on end." "Capriccio" probably comes from "capo," Italian for "head," and "riccio," which means "porcupine" or "hedgehog." In time, the meaning of "capriccio" changed to "a sudden whim or desire" because of another animal, the goat. The first part of "capriccio" looks like "capra," the Italian word for "goat," and goats are known for sudden actions and frisky behavior. French speakers borrowed the Italian word, and English speakers later adopted the French form.
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