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You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: flagitious

The Baltimore Sun


Each week The Sun’s John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:


Many things are bad, but some are just vile. For the latter category, we have words like flagitious (pronounced fluh-JISH-us).

It can mean “vicious,” “villainous,” or responsible for brutal or cruel crimes. It can mean more generally “infamous” or “scandalous.”

The Latin noun flagitium, “shameful act,” yields the adjective flagitiosus, and from there to English

Example: The Corpus of Contemporary American English lists three occurrences of flagitious, this one from a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2004: “President Bush had the vision and raw courage to invade Iraq, depose a flagitious dictator and set our country on ‘a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.’ ”

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