Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A word I like

From the OED, "Depravity":
The quality or condition of being depraved or corrupt. {dag}a. Perverted or corrupted quality. Obs.
1643 SIR T. BROWNE Rel. Med. II. §7 An humorous depravity of mind. 1758 J. S. Le Dran's Observ. Surg. (1771) 298 A depravity in the Fluids may have a great Share in producing these Symptoms.

b. Perversion of the moral faculties; corruption, viciousness, abandoned wickedness.
1646 SIR T. BROWNE Pseud. Ep. VII. i, By aberration of conceit they extenuate his depravitie, and ascribe some goodnesse unto him. 1791 MRS. RADCLIFFE Rom. Forest i, Such depravity cannot surely exist in human nature. 1830 MACKINTOSH Eth. Philos. Wks. 1846 I. 232 The winding approaches of temptation, the slippery path to depravity. 1883 FROUDE Short Stud., Origen IV. III. 300 The conscience of the ignorant masses..was rising in indignation against the depravity of the educated.

c. Theol. The innate corruption of human nature due to original sin. Often total depravity.
In common use from the time of Jonathan Edwards: the earlier terms were pravity and depravation.
[1735 J. TAYLOR Doctr. Orig. Sin III. 184 Inquiring into the Corruption and Depravity of Mankind, of the Men and Women that lived in his Times.] 1757 EDWARDS Doctr. Orig. Sin i. §1 By Original Sin, as the phrase has been most commonly used by divines, is meant the innate sinful depravity of the heart. But..it is vulgarly understood in that latitude, which includes not only the depravity of nature, but the imputation of Adam's first sin. 1794 A. FULLER Lett. i. 3 July Wks. 302 On the total depravity of Human Nature. 1874 J. H. BLUNT Dict. Sects s.v. Calvinists, Both the elect and non-elect come into the world in a state of total depravity and alienation from God, and can, of themselves, do nothing but sin.

d. A depraved act or practice.
1641 MILTON Reform. I. (1851) 4 Characterizing the Depravities of the Church. 1665 GLANVILL Sceps. Sci. xiv. 90 As some Regions have their proper Vices..so they have their mental depravities, which are drawn in with the air of their Countrey. 1808 J. MALCOLM Anecd. London 18th C. (Title-p.), Anecdotes of the Depravities, Dresses and Amusements of the Citizens of London.
That last title is a good one! Hmm, seems to me that the history of why I like this word so much must be traced back to a childhood fondness for T. S. Eliot's Macavity...


  1. So nice to see Sir Thom Browne credited TWICE by the OED crew... BTW: can you recommend me any book on the Quincunx in Browne's Garden of Cyrus?

  2. No, but I liked your post on it very much!