Crucial

Word of the day, 1st March 2015

Today’s word is one that my pastor used in this morning’s sermon:

crucial /ˈkruːʃ(ə)l/ (adjective)

This describes something that is decisive or critical, especially in the success or failure of something.

Usage example:
negotiations were at a crucial stage

You might consider that it is “crucial” for you to pass your exams.

I love this word, especially when it is used by a pastor, because the original meaning of the word is “cross-shaped”.  It comes from French and Latin “crux“, “cruc-“, meaning ‘cross’.

This sense of something being ‘decisive’ is from Francis Bacon’s Latin phrase “instantia crucis” (crucial instance), which he explained as a metaphor from a crux or fingerpost (sign-post) marking a fork at a crossroad; Newton and Boyle took up the metaphor in “experimentum crucis” (crucial experiment).

You might hear someone talking about “the crux /krʌks/ of the matter“, which means they are explaining what is “the decisive or most important point at issue“.
E.g. “the crux of the matter is that attitudes have changed

The prefix “cruc-” comes up most in Christianity in the word “crucified” /ˈkruːsɪfʌɪd/.
To crucify someone (noun: crucifixion /kruːsɪˈfɪkʃ(ə)n/) is “to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross.”  It was a method the Romans used to carry out the death penalty.  But Jesus had done nothing wrong to deserve death – instead, He willingly took the death penalty that you and I deserve, so that we can be set free to know God and be given eternal life, simply by putting our trust in Him.  You could say that to trust in Christ is the most crucial thing we can do in life; or, the cross of Christ is, quite literally, the crux of life.

However, you might occasionally hear the word “crucify” in general conversations, which have nothing to do with execution!
What does this mean?
Well, sadly, the word is sometimes used in a rather “toned down” fashion, meaning “to criticise (someone) severely and unrelentingly.

Some examples:
a football team might comment “our fans would crucify us if we lost“.
Or, let’s say a public figure makes a very bad decision or does something extremely immoral; someone might comment that “the press will crucify him/her.

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