Page 14 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition was hard. It wasn’t that there weren’t a lot of words that I didn’t know. But they were so obscure that they were hard to research. That was even true of today’s word: arithmancy.
I really wanted to go with “apposite” (an easy one) today. But that would require breaking the rules, since I am very much aware of the word. But I would never use it. I think it confuses people in conversation. Most think you have mispronounced “opposite.” And that isn’t apposite at all!
One really cool word was “arcifinious.” It is a word that describes a location with geographical boundary that also serves as a defense. So, for example, a country might be acrifinious because of a mountain range or a river. Then there is a similar word that brings war to mind, “armipotent.” It means being powerful in battle. Neither of these words — nor a few others — are in regular online dictionaries.
But here is arithmancy:
1. prophecy by numbers, especially the number of letters in names.
Date: unknown to me.
Origin: Greek, αριθμός (number) and μαντεία (divination).
Example: It’s almost impossible to find a reasonable sentence with the word “arithmancy” in it since it was used in the Harry Potter books. —Frank Moraes