Post Eagle Newspaper


Feb 28, 2024

45°F, few clouds
New Jersey

Time Now


Delirious, Recalcitrant, Inculcate

Today’s words – DELIRIOUS, RECALCITRANT, and INCULCATE  – are derived from Latin words pertaining to farming. It is interesting to see how these words have evolved over the years and have lost their connection to everyday farming in ancient Rome and ancient Greece.

The word DELIRIOUS, DELIRIUM – which means – to be in an extremely excited state marked by hallucination or confused speech – comes from two Latin words: DE – FROM, AWAY FROM, DOWN FROM and LIRA – FURROW, LINE.

When the farmer was plowing his field, making furrows in the dirt, holding the handles on a rudimentary iron plow and spurring on his horse or ox, the plow blade would occasionally strike a rock or boulder and jump out of the straight line. The plow was delirious because it jumped out of the furrow. It was not running in the ordinary straight line that it should. It wiggled and jumped and excitedly made crooked confused lines.

     RECALCITRANT – means – refusing to obey authority, stubbornly defiant, hard to handle. It comes from two Latin words: RE – BACK, AGAIN, BACK AGAIN and, CALCITRARE – TO KICK, TO KICK UP THE HEELS (calx – heel).

When the farmer attempted to urge on, spur or incite his donkey by whipping or kicking the animal, very often the donkey would kick back. The animal was recalcitrant. It refused to move, to obey the commands or demands of the farmer.

Today when a student refuses to follow a teacher’s orders, he/she is recalcitrant.

     INCULCATE – means – to press in firmly by constant repetition or urging. It comes from the Latin verb: INCULCARE – TO PRESS IN FIRMLY WITH THE HEEL.

When the farmer planted certain seeds, he would drop the seed and then, press it deeper into the ground by pushing with his heel. He pressed the seed into the soil with the heel of his foot. Today we no longer inculcate with the heel but the meaning of the procedure is the same.

I hope by the repetition of Latin roots, that I am inculcating this knowledge in my readers.