Word Wednesday.

Penumbra / Brio / Multifarious / Inexorable

Penumbra, noun. Plural -brae.

1 a: a space of partial illumination (as in an eclipse) between the perfect shadow on all sides and the full light. b: a shaded region surrounding the dark central portion of a sunspot.

2: a surrounding or adjoining region in which something exists in a lesser degree: fringe.

3: a body of rights held to be guaranteed by implication in a civil constitution.

4: something that covers, surrounds, or obscures: shroud.

-Penumbral, adjective.

[Origin: New Latin, from Latin paene almost + umbra shadow.]


The allure and glamour of radical surgery overshadowed crucial developments in less radical surgical procedures for cancer that were evolving in its penumbra.

Brio, noun.

1: enthusiastic vigor: vivacity, verve.

[Origin: Italian.]


Yet, even lacking such targets, Frei and Freireich had cured leukemia in some children. Even generic cellular poisons, dosed with adequate brio, could thus eventually obliterate cancer.

Multifarious, adjective.

1: having or occurring in great variety: diverse.

-multifariousness, noun.

[Origin: Medieval Latin multifarius, from Latin multifariam in many places.]


The biological characteristics of tumors were described as so multifarious as to defy any credible organization. There seemed to be no organizing rules.

Inexorable, adjective.

1: not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped: relentless.

-inexorability, noun.

-inexorableness, noun.

-inexorably, adverb.

[Origin: Latin inexorabilis, from in– + exorabilis pliant, from exorare to prevail upon, from ex– + orare to speak.]


For an oncologist in training, too, leukemia represents a special incarnation of cancer. Its pace, its acuity, its breathtaking, inexorable arc of growth forces rapid, often drastic decisions; it is terrifying to experience, terrifying to observe, and terrifying to treat.

All quotations from The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    I took this book out of the library last time you mentioned it. I wonder where I put it.

Leave a Reply