What does ‘ensorcelled’ mean?

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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: ensorcelled….

I read the New York Times on my cellphone each day and get a great deal of pleasure out of the 30 or so minutes I usually spend on the task.

Of course, I check election news voraciously, but I also enjoy the occasional feature or profile (after all, I was a features editor at a metropolitan daily newspaper in my previous life).

Recently, I enjoyed a Maureen Dowd profile of the actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (even though I have never seen his famous — or infamous — movie Borat.) Under the headline “Sacha Baron Cohen: This Time He’s Serious,” the post addressed many aspects of Baron Cohen’s life, including his childhood, his filmmaking and his early work as a chef.

And the profile also gave me my word of the week, ensorcelled. (Isn’t the sound of it just fantastic?) Here is how Dowd used it, referring to the first time he met his wife, the actress Isla Fisher,

They met in Sydney Australia, circa 2000. Was he ensorcelled at first sight?

The term means to be enchanted or bewitched. A rare word in English until the explorer, translator and writer Richard Francis Burton (1821 to 1890) took it for “The Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince, a translation of  one of the Arabian Nights tales (1885).

Originally French, the word dates back to the 1540s, from ensorceller, which, in turn came from Old French ensorceler, a version of ensorcerer from en- joined with  sorcier meaning “sorcerer, wizard.”


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