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Pronounced /daɪɡlædɪˈeɪʃən/Help with pronunciation

The more recent sense is strife or bickering, though not one you’re likely to have come across, digladiation being as archaic as any word that has ever featured in this section.

Dr Johnson included it in his Dictionary, together with many another strange creation, illustrating it with this quotation from Joseph Glanvill's The Vanity of Dogmatizing, or Confidence in Opinions of 1665, “Aristotle seems purposely to intend the cherishing of controversial digladiations, by his own affectation of an intricate obscurity”.

Thomas McCrie wrote disparagingly about “scholastic wrangling and digladiation” in his work The Life of Andrew Melville of 1819. It appeared a few times after that, as a ponderous and obscurely humorous literary term, in reference especially to courtroom advocatory sparring, but it seems to have died out completely by the end of the nineteenth century.

The link with strife may suggest a connection with gladiator, and indeed physical aggression was the first meaning — in particular hand-to-hand combat with swords. The word is from Latin gladius, the short sword wielded by the gladiators of classical times. To digladiate, you might say, is to cross swords.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 11 Nov. 2006

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-dig2.htm
Last modified: 11 November 2006.