• cenacle •
se-nê-kêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The upper room in which the Last Supper took place. 2. An upstairs dining room. 3. A clique of friends, an inner circle, especially of writers or other artists.
Notes: Today's word is probably used more in the Catholic Church than outside it and in its original sense (1. above). It is a word without support staff: no adjective or verb has been derived from it. So, it stands alone as a regular noun. It does, however, have an alternate spelling with a silent O before the first E: coenacle.
In Play: The third sense of today's word (See Meaning) represents the most common layman's use of this word: The Algonquin Roundtable was one of the most famous of US cenacles of the 20th century. It was a cynical cenacle, for its members referred to themselves as 'The Vicious Circle'. It included Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, and George S. Kaufman, among others. The group gathered for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. It was probably there that Parker responded, when informed of the passing of Calvin Coolidge, "How can they tell?"
Word History: Today's Good Word is French cénacle, plain and simple, polite enough to remove the cap on its E upon entering English. The French word came from Latin cenaculum (or coenaculum) "dining room, garret" from cena "meal". The original reference was to the second floor room in which Jesus Christ ate his last supper, observing his last Seder. Since that supper was attended only by his inner circle, the twelve disciples, its meaning was destined to migrate to its current sense of a "clique" or "inner circle".