Etymology
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despondence (n.)

"despondent condition, a sinking or dejection of spirit from loss of hope or courage in affliction or difficulty," 1670s, from Latin despondentem (nominative despondens), present participle of despondere "to give up, lose, lose heart, resign," also "to promise in marriage" (especially in phrase animam despondere, literally "give up one's soul"), etymologically "to promise to give something away," from de "away" (see de-) + spondere "to promise" (see sponsor (n.)).

Despondency is a loss of hope sufficient to produce a loss of courage and a disposition to relax or relinquish effort, the despondent person tending to sink into spiritless inaction. Despair means a total loss of hope; despondency does not. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
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accent (n.)
Origin and meaning of accent

late 14c., "particular mode of pronunciation," from Old French acent "accent" (13c.), from Latin accentus "song added to speech," from ad "to" (see ad-) + cantus "a singing," past participle of canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing").

The Latin word was a loan-translation of Greek prosōidia, from pros- "to" + ōidē "song," which apparently described the pitch scheme in Greek verse. Meaning "effort in utterance making one syllable stronger than another in pitch or stress" is from 1580s; as "mark or character used in writing to indicate accent," 1590s. The decorative-arts sense of "something that emphasizes or highlights" is from 1972.

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scuttle (v.2)

"cut a hole in the bottom or sides of a ship," especially to sink it, 1640s, from skottell (n.) "small, square hatchway or opening in a ship's deck" (late 15c.), from French escoutille (Modern French écoutille) or directly from Spanish escotilla "hatchway," diminutive of escota "opening in a garment," from escotar "cut (clothes to fit), cut out." This is perhaps from e- "out" (see ex-) + a word borrowed from a Germanic language (ultimately from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut"). Figurative sense of "deliberately sink or destroy one's own effort or project" is by 1888. Related: Scuttled; scuttling.

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cathedral (n.)

1580s, "church of a bishop," from phrase cathedral church (c. 1300), partially translating Late Latin ecclesia cathedralis "church of a bishop's seat," from Latin cathedra "an easy chair (principally used by ladies)," also metonymically, as in cathedrae molles "luxurious women;" also "a professor's chair;" from Greek kathedra "seat, bench," from kata "down" (see cata-) + hedra "seat, base, chair, face of a geometric solid," from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit."

It was born an adjective, and attempts to force further adjectivization onto it in 17c. yielded cathedraical (1670s), cathedratic (1660s), cathedratical (1660s), after which the effort seems to have been given up.

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abolition (n.)

1520s, "act of abolishing; state of being abolished," from French abolition or directly from Latin abolitionem (nominative abolitio) "an abolition, an annulling," noun of action from past-participle stem of abolere "destroy" (see abolish). Related: Abolitionary ("destructive"); abolitional ("pertaining to abolition").

Specific application to "opposition to the trans-Atlantic African slave trade" as a political question is first attested 1788. By 1823 abolition was being used in regard to proposals or arguments to end American slavery itself, and after 1832 this was the usual sense of the word until the effort was accomplished by the 13th Amendment (1865). The alternative noun abolishment (1540s) seems not to have acquired a special use in reference to slavery issues.

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meritocracy (n.)

coined 1958 by British sociologist Michael Young (1915-2002) and used in title of his book, "The Rise of the Meritocracy"; from merit (n.) + -cracy. Related: Meritocratic.

[Young's book] imagined an elite that got its position not from ancestry, but from test scores and effort. For him, meritocracy was a negative term; his spoof was a warning about the negative consequences of assigning social status based on formal educational qualifications, and showed how excluding from leadership anyone who couldn't jump through the educational hoops would create a new form of discrimination. And that's exactly what has happened. [Lani Guinier, interview, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2015]
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affirmative (adj.)
"answering 'yes,' " mid-15c., from use in logic; from Old French affirmatif, earlier afirmatif (13c.), from Latin affirmativus, from affirmat-, past participle stem of affirmare "to make steady; strengthen; confirm," from ad "to" (see ad-) + firmare "strengthen, make firm," from firmus "strong" (see firm (adj.)).

As a noun from early 15c., "that which affirms or asserts." American English affirmative action "positive or corrective effort by employers to prevent discrimination in hiring or promotion" is attested from 1935 with regard to labor unions (reinstatement of fired members, etc.). The specific racial sense is attested from 1961; by late 1970s the sense had shifted toward pro-active methods such as hiring quotas. Related: Affirmatively.
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operation (n.)

late 14c., "action, performance, work," also "the performance of some science or art," from Old French operacion "operation, working, proceedings," from Latin operationem (nominative operatio) "a working, operation," noun of action from past-participle stem of operari "to work, labor" (in Late Latin "to have effect, be active, cause"), from opera "work, effort," related to opus (genitive operis) "a work" (from PIE root *op- "to work, produce in abundance").

The surgical sense of "act or series of acts performed upon a patient's body," usually with instruments, is first attested 1590s. The military sense of "act of carrying out a preconcerted series of movements" is by 1749.

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nitpicker (n.)

also nit-picker, "pedantic critic," by 1951, perhaps 1946, a figurative use, said to be originally military jargon; see nit (n.) + pick (v.).

Two long-time Pentagon stand-bys are fly-speckers and nit-pickers. The first of these nouns refers to people whose sole occupation seems to be studying papers in the hope of finding flaws in the writing, rather than making any effort to improve the thought or meaning; nit-pickers are those who quarrel with trivialities of expression and meaning, but who usually end up without making concrete or justified suggestions for improvement. [Collier's, Nov. 24, 1951]
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goal (n.)
1530s, "end point of a race," of uncertain origin. It appears once before this (as gol), in a poem from early 14c. and with an apparent sense of "boundary, limit." Perhaps from Old English *gal "obstacle, barrier," a word implied by gælan "to hinder" and also found in compounds (singal, widgal). That would make it a variant or figurative use of Middle English gale "a way, course." Also compare Old Norse geil "a narrow glen, a passage." Or from Old French gaule "long pole, stake," which is from Germanic. Sports sense of "place where the ball, etc. is put to score" is attested from 1540s. Figurative sense of "object of an effort" is from 1540s.
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