arch

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DEFINITION

adjective
1. principal, chief;
2a. mischievous, saucy;
b. marked by a deliberate and often forced playfulness, irony, or impudence.

EXAMPLES
1. The novel is never mocking or arch in its tone—a marked departure from the writer’s usual style.
2. “Bloomberg was harshly criticized for the slow response, especially in Queens and Brooklyn, to a December 2010 blizzard that dumped 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow on the Big Apple, three times more than on Friday. De Blasio had been among his arch critics at the time.” — From an article on TheRawStory.com by Agence France-Presse, January 4, 2014.

DID YOU KNOW?
As a prefix, “arch-” appears in a number of titles referring to positions of superiority, such as “archduke” and “archbishop.” Ultimately deriving (via Latin and French) from the Greek verb “archein” (“to begin, rule”), it can also mean “chief ” (as in “archnemesis”) or “extreme” (as in “archconservative”). In the 17th century, as the “extreme” sense of “arch” came to be used frequently to describe rogues, knaves, and other clever and mischievous sorts, “arch” eventually settled into use as an adjective to describe one with impish or playful qualities. Use of the word has since extended to describe actions or remarks meant to be ironic, cutting, or condescending.

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