Yesterday Maureen Dowd used the word “casuistry” in her critique of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech. I consider myself fairly well-read and articulate, but I’m certain I’ve never encountered this word. Fast forward a couple of hours and now I’m reading Claire Cain Miller’s piece about new P.R. strategies for start-ups in the Times business section and it mentions Wordnik, the beta site that’s all about words. So, I thought I’d check out what it had to say about casuistry.

Move over dictionary.com–this site not only has definitions from four dictionaries, but it includes etymology, relevant tweets and usage over time,  cleverly visualized in a very NYTimes-esque bubble chart. Since Dowd used the word, two people posted tweets (1 was a comment about Dowd’s usage). The word was most popular between 1830 and 1860, the related antonyms and synonyms are “correct,” “true,” “fallacy,” and “sophism,” respectively. For those who are visual learners, there is a section where you can see what Flickr users think a word looks like (no visual for casuistry, but check out images for the synonym fallacy).

Wordnik wants to be “a place for all the words and everything know about them.” May I make one suggestion to satisfy us word puzzlers out there–stats on crossword references would make it nearly perfect!

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