What is rapacity?

Word count: 246 words

Reading time: 1 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: rapacity.

I’ve always enjoyed the acting of Gerard Depardieu. I saw him first in the film My American Uncle in 1980. I can no longer recall even the vaguest outline of the plot, but I do remember liking him. Yet today, as I scrolled through his listing in IMDB, I was astonished to see the vast number of films and TV movies in which he’s starred. I started counting (from 1967) and stopped when I hit 100, in 1995.

Of course, in addition to his profligate acting career, he has more recently become famous for his anti-tax drama. Writer Lauren Collins presents a sophisticated and amusing précis of the scandale in her Feb. 25/13  New Yorker article, headlined “L’Etranger.” (Click on the article if only to see the hilarious photo of Depardieu riding his scooter.) She also gave me my word of the week, rapacity.

Depardieu’s desire for more than his portion seemed to represent the rapacity of the times.

Even if you don’t know the meaning of the word, you can probably guess that “greed” would be a good synonym. I knew that, but didn’t know the etymology. Apparently, the word dates back to the 1540s. It’s  from Middle French rapacité, which in turn comes from the from Latin rapacitatem meaning”greediness,” from rapax meaning “grasping”.

Bonus points to Collins for picking the perfect French noun to link with a French jester.