salient

The last post mentioned an architectural use of the Spanish verb salir: ‘‘En los edificios y otras cosas, sobresalir en parte de otro.’ The related saliente/salient has the similar sense of ‘projecting, springing out, sticking out.’ In old fortresses, each projecting portion was known as a salient. By extension, English has taken to using salient to mean ‘prominent, conspicuous, standing out.’

A lesser-known relative is consilience, which the Collins English Dictionary defines as ‘agreement between inductions drawn from different sets of data or from different academic disciplines.’ For example, listen to Michael Behe in The Edge of Evolution:

As philosopher William Whewell, who coined the term consilience, noted in the nineteenth century, “When an Induction, obtained from one class of facts, coincides with an Induction, obtained from another different class,” we can be very confident it is correct.

The Spanish equivalent of consilience is consiliencia, which you can read about at length in a Spanish-language Wikipedia article.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ceciliag
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 20:58:43

    I don’t know anything about inductions but i love the word salient.. c

    Reply

  2. whilldtkwriter
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 07:05:27

    Salient is a word I’ve read occasionally and never bothered to look up till today. Probably won’t use it anyway, but interesting to see that salient doesn’t have anything to do with saline, salinity, or salary. Note that they all start out with the same syllable sal. The last three words are rooted in salt.

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Sep 26, 2012 @ 06:56:45

      You make a salient point: not all that glitters is gold. Although saline, salinity, and salary are related to one another and have (or originally had) something to do with salt, they bear no connection to salient. Appearances can be deceptive.

      Reply

  3. shoreacres
    Sep 22, 2012 @ 12:32:23

    Ah, ha! And you’ve already used the word in the only way I’ve ever heard it, usually referring to a salient point rather than a salient comment. It’s one of those words I’ve never really thought about. I knew how to use it properly, but couldn’t have told you why it was useful. Now I know.

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Sep 22, 2012 @ 19:29:16

      Even after decades as native speakers, there are so many things in our language that we’ve never thought about. The good thing is that never have to worry about an end to the surprises awaiting us.

      Reply

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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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