I got a new computer today and I can say without a trace of hyperbole that it is the most beautiful machine ever manufactured. Just look at it! It looks like a big iPod! The entire computer fits inside the monitor case! It has a four-button scroll mouse with only one button (and that the size of a freshwater pearl)! It's sleek and elegant and perfectly quiet (no cooling fan) and I'm in love.
Words come to me and usually I find myself wondering where they're from or what other words they're related to--how they came into the language and what other traces they've left. But a couple of days ago at work, a word popped into my head--where, of course, I had no chance to look it up--and the problem wasn't that I didn't know where it came from; the problem was that I had no idea at all what it meant. (Which is to say that, yes, words simply appear in my head at any time for no reason, and yes, I do learn words and then forget their meanings. Sometimes.) So I was stuck at work for hours and hours, playing this word over in my head and trying not to.
The word was "velleity". It hardly even looks like an English word, let alone one that's related to any other English words. What could it be related to? "Vellum"? "Well"? "Valley"? "Villain"? I was completely at a loss. After mulling it over, I wasn't even sure it was a word any more.
It is, and the meaning, as it turns out, is "mere will", which is to say "the desire to do something without any effort towards doing it". (Remember it whenever you read one of those lists of amazingly specific words from other languages.) It's from Latin "velle", "to wish". And it has cousins in English, of course; you can usually play with "v" and "w" and you can always play with vowels, and so "velle"/"velleity" is in fact related to English "will", sensibly enough. I don't suppose it's a word you or I will use much, but it's a word.