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Salient: Word Wednesday (Improve Your Word Power)

Salient is another one of those words favored by lawyers probably owing to it being such a concise word in a legal context.

I have lost count of the number of times a judge has said to me, “Mister Bentley, pray tell me the salient points of your argument,” and this is usually following his reading of my written argument. The judge is not giving counsel the “brush-off.” He or she is asking counsel to articulate the main points so it can be entered into the court record.

However, experienced counsel will also know that this question may also signify the judge codifying the message to the effect the argument has no merit whatsoever!

Enough reminiscing – this is what Merriam-Webster has to say [the link is to ‘Word of the Day’]:

adjective SAIL-yunt


1 : moving by leaps or springs : jumping
2 : jetting upward
3 : standing out conspicuously : prominent; especially : of notable significance

The speech was filled with so much twisted rhetoric that it was hard to identify any salient points.
“Among the projects: … an $18 million makeover of Freedom Hall, substantial new meeting and storage space, a new ballroom and a new $70 million exhibit hall…. Those were the salient recommendations of a new master plan for the Kentucky Exposition Center….” — Sheldon Shafer, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), 28 Oct. 2016

Did You Know?

[It] first popped up in English in the 16th century as a term of heraldry meaning “rampant but leaning forward as if leaping.” By the mid-17th century, it had leaped into more general use in the senses of “moving by leaps or springs” or “spouting forth.” Those senses aren’t too much of a jump from the word’s parent, the Latin verb salire, which means “to leap.” Salire also occurs in the etymologies of some other English words, including somersault and sally, as well as Salientia, the name for an order of amphibians that includes frogs, toads, and other notable jumpers. Today, the word is usually used to describe things that are physically prominent (such as a nose) or that stand out figuratively (such as the salient features of a painting or the salient points in an argument).

M-W got to my point at the end 🙂

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