What does celerity mean?

Reading time: Less than one minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: celerity

While on holiday last weekend I was reading a novel that I’d describe as chic lit meets the Da Vinci Code. Not my usual style but it was very hot and I didn’t want to have to think too hard.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the author dished up a word I’d never seen before, celerity. The book in which it appeared is called Juliet and it was written by Anne Fortier. In it, American Julie Jacobs travels to Italy in search of her heritage — and possibly an inheritance, and of course, love. There she discovers she is descended from 14th-century Giulietta Tomei, the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Here is the sentence in which the word appeared:

Salimbeni was renowned for his celerity of mind; while other men spent several days mourning the death of a wife of child, he would shrug it off within hours, never missing an important business transaction.

It turns out that the noun celerity means swiftness of movement, (as shown in the photo of racing horses, above.) It comes from the  Old French celeritee which in turn comes from the Latin celeritatem meaning “swiftness.” Apart from the interesting word, which is said to be archaic or literary, I can’t really recommend the novel.