Home CommentaryOpinions Word Nerd

Word Nerd

by Archives September 13, 2006

Verisimilitude: (n) ver-uh-si-mil-i-tood, or -tyood

Verisimilitude is the quality of appearing true or real. As in “The wax museum’s clever use of lighting gave the Michael Jackson statue an air of verisimilitude.”

“The President’s ‘impromptu’ appearance at the disaster site was so wooden that his tears didn’t lend much verisimilitude.” As we see in these two examples, verisimilitude requires the suspension of disbelief, and is most often used in a theatrical context.

More than just a suspension of disbelief, the term false document refers to an enhanced form of verisimilitude. False Document was used as a literary device to present stories as actually true in the days when reading fiction was believed to be a sin. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is a famous example of false document. Chaucer used real place names and dates to pass his stories off as real and avoid censorship. Stephen Frey’s A Million Little Pieces is another example of false document, albeit with a different moral imperative.money. These days, that something is a false document is just a fancy way of saying that it’s a lie.

The French translation of verisimilitude is Vraisemblable. Verisimilitude stems from the Latin word verisimilitudo, Verus meaning true and similes meaning resembling or similar.

In its adjective form, verisimilitude becomes verisimilar, not to be confused with very similar because they are, well, very similar.

Bottom line is unless you regularly write theatre reviews, or a column about useless words, verisimilitude is just another pompous word to whip out at cocktail parties. Enjoy.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment