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sanguine - vocabulary

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Optimistic (and cheerfully so), hopeful, confident; reddish, ruddy.

Note: Do not confuse sanguine with sanguinary. Sanguinary means “bloodthirsty” or “accompanied by bloodshed.”

How did two seemingly different meanings arise? According to medieval physiology, the body had four humors or bodily fluids (blood, bile, phlegm, and black bile). As these fluids varied in proportion so did a person’s temperament. If blood predominated, a person had a ruddy face, which showed courage, hope, and a predisposition to fall in love. This temperament was called sanguine.’s section on Problem Words discusses sanguine and sanguinary. Click here for that discussion.

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