byzantine (adj)

You noted, I expect, that the header for this post contains what is generally used as a substantive and in that role is capitalized. Byzantine, of course, means, variously, “of, relating to, or characteristic of the ancient city of Byzantium,”  “of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of architecture developed in the Byzantine Empire especially in the fifth and sixth centuries featuring the dome carried on pendentives over a square and incrustation with marble veneering and with colored mosaics on grounds of gold,” and “of or relating to the churches using a traditional Greek rite and subject to Eastern canon law.”

What we have in the context clues worksheet on the adjective byzantine with a lower-case b, is a run-of-the-mill modifier. Used this way, the word means “of, relating to, or characterized by a devious and usually surreptitious manner of operation <a ~ power struggle>,” “intricately involved,” and “labyrinthine <rules of ~ complexity>.” I tend to use this word as synonym for complex and complicated. It’s a tricky word, polysemous and altering between proper and common status. It shows up enough in academic prose, I would argue, that students probably ought to learn it.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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