It’s time for…
…Word of the Day! <insert stupendous trumpets here>
Okay, getting the boring stuff out of the way, simulacrum (simm-yoo-LAH-krum), stems from the ancient latin word… simulacrum.
Huh, that’s kinda weird. So it’s actually just an ancient latin word. It doesn’t really ‘stem’ from anything at all. It’s just an ancient word. Learn something new every day — I didn’t even know there were still ancient words in common usage at all (not that simulacrum is really in common usage, but you know what I mean).
Anyway, originally the word meant “likeness”, or “similarity” (the word itself being phonetically indicative of the latter definition), but after a while the english got a hold of it (those bastards) and they changed it a little bit. Now, it also carries an undertone of inferiority — something that is closely similar, but not quite as good. Like the girl who is, somehow, not quite as pretty as her twin sister. It is almost always used visually, however… a cup of coffee that doesn’t taste quite as nice as the main brand isn’t a simulacrum, it’s simply straight-up ersatz. Simulacrums have to do with copies, frequently of paintings and statues, especially those pertaining to mythological figures.
But I’m starting to confuse myself. Once you tack on all of the small, subtle new flavors, it becomes completely different from its latin predecessor. So, to sum it up:
Latin Simulacrum: Anything that is very similar to something else.
English Simulacrum: A (preferably mythological) visual/physical artform that is similar to, but less good than, the genuine article.
Also it’s an extremely useful spell in Dungeons and Dragons where you can create a clone of yourself. Chances are that’s the definition you’ll remember best.