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A Word a Day


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ichnology (ik-NOL-uh-jee) noun
A branch of paleontology dealing with the study of fossilized footprints, tracks, traces, etc. [From ichno- (track or footstep) + -logy (study).]
supernal (soo-PUR-nuhl) adjective
1. Celestial; heavenly. 2. Of, coming from, or being in the sky or high above. [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin supernus.]
kickshaw (KIK-shaw) noun
1. A fancy dish; delicacy. 2. A trinket. [By folk etymology, from French quelque chose, something.]
eidetic (eye-DET-ik) adjective
Marked by extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall. [From German eidetisch, from Greek eidetikos, from eidos (form), ultimately from the Indo-European root weid- (to see) that is the source of words such as wise, view, supervise, and wit.]
ticky-tacky (TIK-ee-tak-ee) noun
Shoddy material, as for the construction of standardized housing. ticky-tacky adjective 1. Made of shoddy material; cheaply built. 2. Marked by a mediocre uniformity of appearance or style. Tawdry; tacky. [Reduplication of tacky.]
coprolite (KOWP-ruh-lyte) noun
Fossilized excrement. "In most cases, foraging cultures ate the `perfect' human diet. We know this because of the findings reported by anthropologists who have spent a career examining human coprolites." Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr., Eating Right Is an Ancient Rite, The World & I, 1 Jan 1995. This week's theme: words of all kinds. -------- Date: Thu Aug 13 00:08:42 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--grig grig (grig) noun A lively, bright person. [Middle English, dwarf.]
jackanapes (JAK-uh-nayps) noun
An impertinent conceited person. [Probably from Jack Napes, from "jack (man) of an ape". This word was the nickname of William de la Pole (1396-1450), Duke of Suffolk, as his badge was a clog and chain, as might be tied to an ape.]
demur (di-MUR) verb intr.
1. To voice opposition; object: demurred at the suggestion. 2. Law. To enter a demurrer (A method of objecting that admits the facts of the opponent's argument but denies that they sustain the pleading based upon them). 3. To delay. noun 1. The act of demurring. 2. An objection. 3. A delay. [Middle English demuren, to delay, from Anglo-Norman demurer, from Latin demorari : de- + morari, to delay (from mora, delay).]
tautonym (TAU-tuh-nim) noun
A scientific name in which the generic and the specific names are the same, as Chloris chloris (the greenfinch). [Greek tautxnymos of the same name, equiv. to tauto- + -nymos named.]
umpire (UM-pyre) noun
1. Sports. A person appointed to rule on plays. 2. A person appointed to settle a dispute that mediators have been unable to resolve; an arbitrator. verb tr. To act as referee for; rule or judge. verb intr. To be or act as a referee or an arbitrator. [Middle English (an) oumpere, (an) umpire, alteration of (a) noumpere, a mediator, from Old French nonper : non-, + per, equal, even, paired (from Latin par.]
renitent (re-NYT-uhnt, REN-i-tuhnt) adjective
Resistant; recalcitrant. [From Latin renitent-, renitens, present participle of reniti (to resist), from re- + niti (to strive, to struggle).]
dactylogram (dak-TIL-uh-gram) noun
A fingerprint. [From Greek daktylos (finger or toe) + gramma (something written).]
seersucker (SIER-suk-uhr) noun
A light, thin fabric, generally cotton or rayon, with a crinkled surface and a usually striped pattern. [Hindi sirsakar, from Persian shiroshakar : shir, milk (from Middle Persian) + o, and, from Middle Persian u, from Old Persian uta + shakar, sugar, from Sanskrit sarkara, from the resemblance of its smooth and rough stripes to the smooth surface of milk and bumpy texture of sugar.]
flummadiddle or flumadiddle (FLUHM-uh-did-l) noun
1. Nonsense. 2. Something worthless. [Of uncertain origin, apparently from flummery (a dessert; nonsense) .]
wain (wayn) noun
The Fishes are flickering at the horizon large farm wagon. [From Old English wegan (to move or to carry).]
philogyny (phi-LOJ-uh-nee) noun
Fondness of women. [From Greek philogynia, from philo- (loving) + -gyn (woman).]
manitou (MAN-i-too) noun, also manito
1. A supernatural force that pervades the world. 2. A spirit or deity. [From Ojibwa manito.]
os (aws) noun [plural ora (awra, ora)]
A mouth or an opening. [Latin os, mouth.]
adamantine (ad-uh-MAN-teen, -tin) adjective
1. Unyielding or firm. 2. Like a diamond in hardness or luster. [From Middle English, from Old French adamaunt, from Latin adamas, adamant, hard metal, steel, diamond, etc., from Greek adamas, adamant, a- not + daman, to conquer.]
malefactor (MAL-Uh-fak-tuhr) noun
1. One who has committed a crime; a criminal. 2. An evildoer. [Middle English malefactour, from Latin malefactor, from malefacere, to do wrong : male, ill + facere, to do.]
sennight (SEN-yt) noun
A week. [From Middle English, from Old English seofon nihta, from seofon (seven) + nihta, plural of niht (night).]
palimpsest (PAL-imp-sest) noun
1. A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible. 2. An object, a place, or an area that reflects its history. [Latin palimpsestum, from Greek palimpseston, neuter of palimpsestos, scraped again : palin, again. kwel + psen, to scrape.]
noctilucent (nok-tuh-LOO-suhnt) adjective
Shining at night. [From Latin nocti- (night) + lucent (shining).]
vox barbara (VOKS BAHR-buhr-uh) noun
A barbarous word or phrase, especially applied to supposedly neo-Latin terms that are neither Latin nor Greek. [From Latin vox barbara (foreign word or speech).]
cain (kayn) noun
A murderer. To raise Cain: 1. To become angry; to reprimand someone angrily. 2. To behave in a boisterous manner; to create a commotion. [After Cain, a Biblical character, the first son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.]
ogee (oh-JEE, OH-jee) noun
1. A curve resembling the shape of an elongated S. 2. An arch formed with such curves. [From Middle English ogeus, from Old French ogive.]
palinode (PAL-uh-noad) noun
1. A poem in which the author retracts something said in a previous poem. 2. A formal statement of retraction. [From Late Latin palinodia, from Greek palinoidia : palin, again. kwel + oide, song.]
ikebana (ee-ke-BAH-nah, ik-uh-) noun
The Japanese art of formal flower arrangement with special regard shown to balance, harmony, and form. [Japanese : ikeru, to arrange + hana, flower.]
anent (uh-NENT) preposition
Regarding, concerning, about. [From Middle English, from Old English on efen (on even).]
importune (im-pawr-TOON, im-pawr-TYOON, im-PAWR-chuhn) tr.verb
1. To beset with insistent or repeated requests; entreat pressingly. 2. Archaic. To ask for urgently or repeatedly. 3. To annoy; vex. importune intr.verb To plead or urge irksomely, often persistently. importune adjective Importunate. [French importuner, from Old French importun, inopportune, from Latin importunus : in-, not. + portus, port, refuge.]
wight (wyt) noun
1. A living being. 2. A supernatural being. [From Middle English, from Old English wiht.]
ingenue (AN-zhuh-noo, -nyoo) noun
1. The role of an artless, innocent girl. 2. An actress who plays such a role. [From French ingénue (guileless), from Latin ingenuus (free-born).]
bedswerver (bed-SWUR-vuhr) noun
An unfaithful spouse. [From Old English bedd (bed) + sweorfan (to rub, to file away).]
proceleusmatic (pros-uh-loos-MAT-ik) adjective
Inciting, exhorting, or inspiring. noun A metrical foot of four short syllables. [From Late Latin proceleusmaticus, from Greek prokeleusmatikos (calling for incitement), from keleuein (to rouse to action).]
hootenanny (HOOT-nan-ee) noun
1. An informal performance by folk singers, often involving the audience. 2. A thingamajig: an unidentified or unnamed object or gadget. [Of unknown origin. Earlier a hootenanny implied a thingamajig; eventually the term took its new sense of a performance of folk singing. It's said that a hootenanny is to folk singing what a jam session is to jazz.]
brassy (BRAS-ee) adjective
1. Made of or resembling brass. 2. Resembling the sound of brass instruments. 3. Brazen; bold; impudent. 4. Showy; pretentious. [From brass, from Middle English bras, from Old English bræs.]
parlous (PAR-luhs) adjective
1. Perilous; dangerous. 2. Obsolete. Dangerously cunning. [Middle English, variant of perilous, perilous, from peril, peril.]
tussie-mussie (TUS-ee-MUS-ee) or tuzzy-muzzy (TUZ-ee-MUZ-ee) noun
1. A small bouquet of flowers; a nosegay. 2. A cone-shaped holder for such a bouquet. [Middle English tussemose, perhaps reduplication of *tusse.]
cloture (KLO-chuhr) noun
The action of closing a debate by calling for an immediate vote. verb tr. To close a debate by cloture. [From French cloture (closure), eventually from Latin claustrum (barrier).]
au naturel (o nach-uh-REL, o nah-tu-REL) adjective
1. Uncooked or cooked plainly. 2. Nude. 3. In the natural state. [From French au naturel (in the natural state).]
embargo (em-BAHR-goh) noun
1. A government order prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports. 2. A prohibition by a government on certain or all trade with a foreign nation: an embargo on the sale of computers to unfriendly nations. 3. A prohibition; a ban: an embargo on criticism. embargo tr.verb To impose an embargo on. [Spanish, from embargar, to impede, from Vulgar Latin *imbarricare, to barricade : Latin in-, in. + Vulgar Latin *barricare, to barricade (from *barrica, barrel, barrier (from *barra, bar, barrier).]
brigadoon (BRIG-uh-doon) noun
An idyllic place that is out of touch with reality or one that makes its appearance for a brief period in a long time. [From Brigadoon, a village in the musical of the same name, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, based on the story Germelshausen by Friedrich Gerstacker. Brigadoon is under a spell that makes it invisible to outsiders except on one day every 100 years.]
vogue (vohg) noun
1. The prevailing fashion, practice, or style: Hoop skirts were once the vogue. 2. Popular acceptance or favor; popularity: a party game no longer in vogue. [French, from Old French, probably from voguer, to sail, row.]
gumshoe (GUM-shoo) noun
1. A detective. 2. A rubber overshoe. [The word is an allusion to the quiet snooping that a detective is supposed to do. Wearing rubber shoes, one can move around without making much noise.]
pharos (FAR-os) noun
A lighthouse. [After Pharos, a peninsula in Northern Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea, site of an ancient lighthouse built by Ptolemy, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.]
hey rube (hay roob) noun
1. A fight between members of a circus and the general public. 2. A call to rally circus members in a fight. [The term originated in the 19th century when circuses were rowdy affairs and Hey Rube was the rallying cry to call all circus people to help in a fight with townspeople. It's not clear whether Rube in this term was someone specific or simply a use of the informal term rube (shortened form of Reuben) for an unsophisticated person from a rural area.]
dundrearies (dun-DREER-eez) noun
Long flowing sideburns. [After the bushy sideburns worn by actor Edward A. Sothern who played the part of Lord Dundreary in the play Our American Cousin (1858), written by Tom Taylor (1817-1880). This was the play being performed at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC during which Abraham Lincoln was shot.]
exhilaration (ig-zil-uh-RAY-shuhn) noun
The state of being stimulated, refreshed, or elated. [Latin exhilarare, exhilarat- : ex-, intensive prefix + hilarare, to make cheerful (from hilaris, hilarus, cheerful, from Greek hilaros) + -tion.]
fustian (FUS-chuhn) adjective
Bombastic: marked by pretentiousness or pomposity. noun 1. Pretentious speech or writing. 2. A coarse, sturdy cloth, blend of cotton and linen, usually having twill weave. [From Old French fustaigne, from Latin fustanum, from fustis (tree trunk, stick), or from El Fostat (a suburb of Cairo, Egypt, where it was first made).]
pedigree (PED-i-gree) noun
1. A line of ancestors; a lineage. A list of ancestors; a family tree. 2. A chart of an individual's ancestors used in human genetics to analyze Mendelian inheritance of certain traits, especially of familial diseases. 3. A list of the ancestors of a purebred animal. [Middle English pedegru, from Anglo-Norman pe de grue : pe, foot (from Latin pes) + de, of, from Latin de + grue, crane (from the resemblance of a crane's foot to the lines of succession on a genealogical chart), from Vulgar Latin *grua, from Latin grus, gru-.]
zabernism (ZAB-uhr-niz-uhm) noun
The misuse of military power; aggression; bullying. [After Zabern, German name for Saverne, a village in Alsace, France. In 1912, in this village, a German military officer killed a lame cobbler who smiled at him.]
newspeak (noo-speek, nyoo-) noun
Deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and manipulate the public. [From Newspeak, a language invented by George Orwell in the novel "1984".]
fartlek (FART-lek) noun
A method of training, originally developed for runners, that involves intense activity interspersed with low effort. For example, sprinting and walking. [From Swedish fart (speed) + lek (play).]
theomachy (thee-OM-eh-kee) noun.
Strife or battle among gods, as in the Homeric poems. [Greek theomakhia : theo- + makhia, fighting (from makhe, battle).]
exoteric (ek-so-TER-ik) adjective
1. Not limited to an inner circle of select people. 2. Suitable for the general public. 3. Relating to the outside; external. [From Latin exotericus, from Greek exoterikos (external), from exotero, comparative form of exo (outside).]
jobbernowl (JOB-uh-nowl) noun
A blockhead. [From French jobard (stupid, gullible), from Old French jobe (stupid) + noll (top or crown of the head).]
red herring (red HER-ing) noun
A misleading clue; something used to divert attention from the real issue. [From the former practice of drawing a smoked herring across the track to teach hounds not to be distracted from other scents.]
inquorate (in-KWA-rayt) adjective
A meeting attended by too few people to form a quorum (the minimum number of members required to be present for valid transaction of business). [From Latin quorum, literally `of whom,' from the wording of the commission issued to designate members of a body.]
chimera (ki-MEER-uh, ky-) noun
1. A fanciful fabrication; illusion. 2. An organism having genetically different tissues. [After Chimera, a fire-breathing female monster in Greek mythology who had a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. From Greek khimaira (she-goat), ultimately from the Indo-European root ghei- (winter) that is the ancestor of words such as chimera (literally a female animal that is one winter, or one year old), hibernate, and the Himalayas, from Sanskrit him (snow) + alaya (abode).]
swot (swot) verb intr.
To study hard, especially for an examination. noun One who studies hard, especially to the exclusion of other interests. [Dialect variant of sweat.]
inveterate (in-VET-ehr-it) adjective
Firmly established; habitual. [From Middle English, from Latin inveteratus, past participle of inveterare (to grow old), in-, + vetus, stem of veter- (old). Ultimately from Indo-European root wet- (year) that is also the source of such words as veteran, veal (in the sense of yearling), and veterinary (relating to the beasts of burden, perhaps alluding to old cattle).]
rover boy (RO-vuhr boi) noun
A brave but naive person. [From Rover Boys, a series of children's books by Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930).]
aporia (uh-POR-ee-uh) noun
1. An expression of doubt. 2. Contradiction, paradox, or confusion posed by the presence of conflicting propositions. [From Late Latin, from Greek aporos (without passage), from poros (passage).]
mausoleum (mau-suh-LEE-uhm, -zuh-) noun
1. A large, stately tomb or a building housing such a tomb or several tombs. 2. A gloomy, usually large room or building. [Middle English, from Latin Mausoleum, from Greek Mausoleion, from Mausolos, Mausolus (died c. 353 BCE), Persian satrap of Caria.]
remora (REM-uhr-ah) noun
1. Any of several fishes of the family Echeneididae that have a dorsal fin modified in the shape of a suction disk that they use to attach to a larger fish, sea-turtles, or ships. Also called sharksucker or suckerfish. 2. Hindrance, drag. [From Latin, literally delay, from remorari (to linger, delay), from re- + morari (to delay), from mora (delay).]
nyet (nyet) adverb, noun
No. [From Russian nyet (no).]
reveille (REV-uh-lee) noun
1. The sounding of a bugle early in the morning to awaken and summon people in a camp or garrison. This bugle call or its equivalent. The first military formation of the day. 2. A signal to get up out of bed. [Alteration of French reveillez, second person imperative pl. of reveiller, to wake, from Old French resveiller : re-, re- + esveiller, to awake, from Vulgar Latin *exvigilare : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin vigilare, to stay awake, from vigil, awake.]
imprecate (IM-pri-kayt) verb tr.
To invoke evil upon; curse. [Latin imprecari, imprecat- : in-, towards + precari, to pray, ask.]
debark (di-BARK) verb tr., intr.
To disembark. [From French debarquer, de- from + barque ship.]
boll (pronounced the same as bowl) noun
The pod of a plant, as that of flax or cotton. [From Middle English bolle, from Middle Dutch bolle (round). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
lamia (LAY-mee-uh) noun
1. In Greek mythology, a monster represented as a serpent with the head and breasts of a woman and reputed to prey on human beings and suck the blood of children. 2. A female vampire. [Middle English, from Latin, from Greek.]
geyser (GIE-zuhr) noun
1. A natural hot spring that intermittently ejects a column of water and steam into the air. 2. (GEE-zuhr). Chiefly British. A gas-operated hot-water heater. [After Icelandic Geysir, name of a hot spring of southwest Iceland, from geysa, to gush, from Old Norse.]
dolor (DO-luhr), also dolour, noun
Sorrow; grief. [From Middle English dolour, from Old French, from Latin dolor (pain), from dolere (to feel pain). A related word is dol, the unit of pain.]
dipsy doodle (DIP-see DOOD-l) noun
1. The zig-zag motion of a ball in baseball or of a player in football. 2. An act performed to evade or distract. [Perhaps from baseball or football.]
suspire (suh-SPYR) verb tr., intr.
To breathe; to sigh. [From Latin suspirare (to breathe up), from spirare (to breathe).]
erudite (ER-yoo-dyt) adjective
Learned. [From Middle English erudit, from Latin eruditus, from erudire (to instruct), from e- (ex-) + rudis (rude, untrained).]
rapparee (rap-uh-REE) noun
1. An Irish guerrilla fighter in the late seventeenth century. 2. Any freebooter or robber. [From Irish rapaire/ropaire (half-pike), since rapparees were known to carry these.]
gambit (GAM-bit) noun
1. An opening in which a minor piece is sacrificed to obtain a strategic advantage. 2. A maneuver used to secure an advantage. 3. A remark used to open or redirect a conversation. [From Spanish gambito, from Italian gambetto (the act of tripping someone), from gamba (leg).]
hors d'oeuvre (ohr DERV) noun
An extra little dish outside of and smaller than the main course, usually served first. [From French hors (outside of), oeuvre (job or work).]
megalopolis (meg-uh-LOP-uh-lis) also megapolis (mi-GAP-uh-lis, me-) noun
A region made up of several large cities and their surrounding areas in sufficient proximity to be considered a single urban complex. [Megalo- + Greek polis, city.]
impassible (im-PAS-uh-buhl) adjective
1. Not subject to suffering or pain. 2. Unfeeling; impassive. [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin impassibilis : in-, not + passibilis, passible.]
adder (AD-uhr) noun
One that adds, especially a computational device that performs arithmetic adder noun 1. Any of several venomous Old World snakes of the family Viperidae, having a single pair of long, hollow fangs and a thick, heavy body. Also called viper. 2. Any of several nonvenomous snakes, such as the milk snake of North America, popularly believed to be harmful. [Middle English, from an addre, alteration of a naddre : a, a + naddre, snake (from Old English naedre.]
pissoir (pee-SWAR) noun
A public urinal located on the street in some European countries. [French, from Old French, from pissier, to urinate.]
tattersall also Tattersall (TAT-uhr-sawl, -suhl) noun
1. A pattern of dark lines forming squares on a light background. 2. Cloth woven or printed with this pattern. tattersall adjective Having a pattern of dark lines forming squares on a light background. [After Tattersall's horse market, London, England after Richard Tattersall (1724-1795), British auctioneer.]
karuna (KUH-roo-na) noun
Loving compassion. [From Sanskrit karuna (compassion).]
trow (tro) verb tr., intr.
To believe, think, suppose, or trust. [From Middle English, from Old English, ultimately from Indo-European root deru- (to be firm) that's the source of such other words as truth, trust, betroth, tree, endure, and druid.]
ensorcell (en-SOR-sehl) verb tr.
To bewitch; to enchant. [From Middle French ensorceler, from Old French ensorcerer, from en- + -sorcerer, from Old French sorcier, from Vulgar Latin sortiarius, from Latin sort-, stem of sors (lot, fate).]
amalgam (uh-MAL-guhm) noun
1. A mixture of diverse elements 2. An alloy of mercury with another metal. [Via French and Latin from Arabic al-malgham (the ointment), from Greek malagma (softening agent).]
dysphoria (dis-FOR-ee-uh) noun
A state of anxiety and restlessness. [From New Latin, from Greek dysphoria (discomfort), from dys- (bad), + phoros (bearing), from pherein (to bear).]
rankle (RANG-kuhl) intr.verb
1. To cause persistent irritation or resentment. 2. To become sore or inflamed; fester. rankle tr.verb To embitter; irritate. [Middle English ranclen, from Old French rancler, alteration of draoncler, from draoncle, festering sore, from Latin dracunculus, diminutive of draco, dracon-, serpent.]
anthroponym (an-THROP-uh-nim) noun
A personal name. [Anthrop(o)- + -onym]
strident (STRYD-nt) adjective
Loud, harsh, grating, or shrill; discordant. [Latin stridens, strident-, present participle of stridere, to make harsh sounds, ultimately of imitative origin.]
suasive (SWAY-siv) adjective
Having the power to persuade or convince; persuasive. [Latin suasus, past participle of suadere, to advise.]
prelude (PREL-yood, PRAYL-, PRAY-lood, PREE-) noun
1. An introductory event, performance, or action preceding something more important. 2. A musical section, overture, etc. serving as introduction to the main composition, opera, play, etc. verb tr., intr. To serve as an introduction to something. [From Medieval Latin praeludium, from Latin praeludere (to play beforehand), from prae- (pre-) + ludere (to play). Ultimately from Indo-European root leid- (to play) that is also the ancestor of words such as allude, collude, delude, elude, illusion, and ludicrous.]
quidnunc (KWID-nungk) noun
A nosy or gossipy person. [From Latin quid nunc (what now), implying someone constantly asking "What's new?"]
dendriform (DEN-druh-form) adjective
In the shape of a tree. [From Greek dendron (tree), from which stem dendritic (treelike or tree-branch like) and dendrochronology (the study of a tree's age by counting its rings).]
repine (ri-PYN) verb intr.
1. To feel discontent; to fret. 2. To yearn for something. [From re- + pine, from Middle English, from Old English pinian (to suffer). Ultimately from Indo-European root k(w)ei- that's also the source of words such as pain, penal, punish, impunity, and subpoena.]
impregnable (im-PREG-nuh-buhl) adjective
Incapable of being taken by force; strong enough to withstand attack. [From Middle English, from Old French imprenable, from in- (not) + prenable, from pren-, from prendre (to seize) + -able.]
forwhy (for-HWY)
conjunction: Because. adverb: Why. [From for + why.]
patronym (PA-truh-nim) noun
1. A name derived from the name of father or an ancestor, e.g. Johnson (son of John). 2. A surname or family name. [From Greek patronymous (patronymic), from patri- (father) + -onym (name).]
leotard (LEE-uh-tahrd) noun
1. A snugly fitting, stretchable one-piece garment with or without sleeves that covers the torso, worn especially by dancers, gymnasts, acrobats, and those engaging in exercise workouts. 2. leotards. Tights. [After Jules Leotard (1830-1870), French aerialist.]
tartuffe (tahr-TOOF) noun
A hypocrite who feigns virtue, especially in religious matters. [After the main character in Tartuffe, a play by Molière, pen name of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673). As if to prove themselves, the religious authorities in Paris had the play banned soon after it was introduced.]
lucullan (loo-KUHL-uhn) adjective
Lavish, luxurious. [After a Roman general Lucius Licinius Lucullus (c. 110-57 BCE), who was known for his sumptuous banquets.]
dysesthesia (dis-es-THEE-zhuh, -zhee-uh, -zee-uh) noun
1. Any impairment of the senses, especially of the sense of touch. 2. A condition in which light physical contact of the skin causes pain. [New Latin, from Greek dysaisthesia.]
materia medica (muh-TEE-ree-uh MED-i-kuh) noun
1. Substances used in preparation of medicines. 2. A branch of medical science concerned with the study of drugs, their origins, properties, preparation, administration, etc. [From New Latin, literally, medical material.]
corpus (KOR-puhs) noun [plural corpora (-puhr-uh)]
1. A large collection of writings of a specific kind or on a specific subject. 2. The principal or capital, as distinguished from the interest or income, as of a fund or estate. 3. Anatomy. The main part of a bodily structure or organ. A distinct bodily mass or organ having a specific function. 4. Music. The overall length of a violin. [Middle English, from Latin.]
sleuth (slooth) noun
1. A detective. 2. A dog used for tracking or pursuing, such as a bloodhound. sleuth tr.verb To track or follow. sleuth intr.verb To act as a detective. [Short for sleuthhound.]
bimester (by-MES-tuhr) noun
A period of two months. [From Latin bimenstris, from bi- (two) + mensis (month).]
zombie (ZOM-bee) noun, also zombi
1. A person behaving like an automaton: listless, wooden, or lacking energy. 2. A snake god in West Indian, Brazilian, and West African religions. 3. In voodoo, a supernatural force or spirit that can enter a dead body; also, the soulless body that is revived in this manner. 4. A computer process that has died but is still listed in the process table. 5. A drink made of various kinds of rum, liqueur, and fruit juice. [From Kimbundu nzambi (god, ghost). Kimbundu is a Bantu language of northern Angola.]
vim (vim) noun
Energy, enthusiasm, exuberance, vigor. [From Latin vis (strength, energy, force).]
buffalo (BUF-uh-lo) noun, plural buffalo or buffaloes or buffalos
1. Any of several oxlike Old World mammals of the family Bovidae, such as the water buffalo and Cape buffalo. The North American bison, Bison bison. 2. The buffalo fish. verb tr. 1. To intimidate, as by a display of confidence or authority. 2. To deceive; hoodwink. 3. To confuse; bewilder. [Italian bufalo, or Portuguese, or Spanish bufalo, from Late Latin bufalus, from Latin bubalus, from Greek boubalos.]
degringolade (day-grang-guh-LAYD) noun
A rapid decline, deterioration, or collapse (of a situation). [From French, from dégringoler (to tumble down, fall sharply), from Middle French desgringueler, from des- (de-) + gringueler (to tumble), from Middle Dutch crinkelen (to curl).]
cineaste (SIN-ee-ast) noun, also cineast
1. One with deep interest in movies and moviemaking. 2. A filmmaker, especially a director or a producer. [From French cinéaste, from ciné- (cinema) + -aste (as in enthousiaste: enthusiast).]
inhume (in-HYOOM) verb tr.
To bury. [From Latin inhumare (to bury), from in (in) + humus (earth). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhghem- (earth) that also sprouted human, homicide, homage, chameleon, chamomile, and Persian zamindar (landholder).]
sphinx (sfingks) noun
A mysterious, inscrutable person. [After Sphinx, a winged monster in Greek mythology who had a woman's head and a lion's body. It killed anyone who was not able to answer its riddle. From Greek sphinx (literally, strangler), from sphingein (to bind tight), also the source of the word sphincter.]
internationalization (in-tuhr-NASH-uh-nuh-ly-ZAY-shun) noun
1. The act or process of making something international or placing it under international control. 2. Making a product or process suitable for use around the globe. Today's word in Visual Thesaurus: This 20-letter word is often abbreviated as i18n when used by software engineers. Making a program useful in another country requires more than just replacing error messages from a new language. In software development, internationalization means designing a program so that it can be easily customized for various languages, scripts, units, currencies, and date/time formats. The counterpart of i18n is localization (l10n) which is adapting a program for use in a particular locale. In other words, internationalization makes a piece of software easy to localize. -Anu Garg (garg AT "Japan is no exception in seeing a rise in nationalism in reaction to growing pressures from internationalization." Yoshibumi Wakamiya; Seeking New Strategies; The Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo, Japan); Apr 27, 2006. -------- Date: Tue Jun 6 00:01:14 EDT 2006 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--honorificabilitudinity This week's theme: long words. honorificabilitudinity (ON-uh-rif-i-kay-bi-li-too-DIN-i-tee, -tyoo-) noun Honorableness. [From Medieval Latin honorificabilitudinitas, from Latin honor.]
indurate (IN-doo-rayt, -dyoo-) verb tr.
1. To make hardy, inured, accustomed. 2. To make callous or unfeeling. verb intr. 1. To make hard. 2. To become established. adjective (IN-doo-rit, -dyoo-) Hardened; callous; obstinate. [From Latin indurare (to harden), from durare (to last), from durus (hard). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deru-/dreu- (to be firm) that's the source of such other words as truth, trust, betroth, tree, endure, and druid.]
generic (juh-NEHR-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to a genus. 2. Sold without a brand name. 3. Relating to a whole group or class. [From French generique, from Latin gener-, genus kind, class.]
talisman (TAL-is-man, -iz-) noun
1. An object, such as a stone, believed to have occult powers to keep evil away and bring good fortune to its wearer. 2. Anything that has magical powers and brings miraculous effects. [From French or Spanish, from Arabic tilasm, from Greek telesma (consecration) from telein (to consecrate or complete) from telos, result.]
tantivy (tan-TIV-ee) adverb
At full gallop; at full speed. noun A fast gallop; rush. adjective Swift. interjection A hunting cry by a hunter riding a horse at full speed. [Of obscure origin, perhaps from the sound of a galloping horse's feet.]
rakehell (RAYK-hel) noun
A licentious or immoral person. [By folk etymology from Middle English rakel, rash, hasty.]
raisonneur (rez-uh-NUR) noun
A character in a play, novel, or the like who voices the central theme, philosophy, or point of view of the work. [From French: literally, one who reasons or argues, equivalent to raisonn(er) to reason, argue + -eur.]
anonym (AN-uh-nim) noun
1. A false or assumed name. 2. An anonymous person or book. [From French anonyme, from Latin anonymus, from Greek anonymos, from an- (not) + -onyma (name).]
benthos (BEN-thos) noun
1. The collection of organisms living on or in sea or lake bottoms. 2. The bottom of a sea or a lake. [Greek.]
dauphin (DOW-fin) noun
1. The eldest son of the king of France from 1349 to 1830. 2. Used as a title for such a nobleman. [Middle English, from Old French, title of the lords of Dauphine, from Dalphin, Dalfin, a surname, from dalfin, dolphin (from the device on the family's coat of arms).]
exorcise (EK-sawr-size, EK-suhr-size) tr.verb
1. To expel (an evil spirit) by or as if by incantation, command, or prayer. 2. To free from evil spirits or malign influences. [Middle English exorcisen, from Late Latin exorcizare, from Greek exorkizein : ex-, ex- + horkizein, to make one swear (from horkos, oath).]
giglet (GIG-lit) noun, also giglot
A giddy, frolicsome girl. [From Middle English gigelot.]
epithalamion (ep-uh-thuh-LAY-mee-on), also epithalamium, noun
A poem or song in honor of a bride and bridegroom. [From Greek epi- (upon) + thalamus (bridal chamber).]
derecognize (dee-REK-uhg-nyze) verb tr.
To rescind formal, especially diplomatic recognition of. "In early 1996, China invited South Africa's Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo to Beijing in an effort to persuade South Africa to recognize China and derecognize Taiwan." Payne, Richard J., Veney, Cassandra R., China's post-cold war African policy, Asian Survey, Sep 1998. This week's theme: words about diplomacy. -------- Date: Sat May 15 00:07:26 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--referendum referendum (ref-uh-REN-duhm) noun 1. The submission of a proposed public measure or actual statute to a direct popular vote. Such a vote. 2. A note from a diplomat to the diplomat's government requesting instructions. [Latin, neuter gerundive of referre, to refer.]
gratuitous (gra-TOO-i-tuhs, -tyoo-) adjective
1. Given or granted without return or recompense; unearned. 2. Given or received without cost or obligation; free. 3. Unnecessary or unwarranted; unjustified: gratuitous criticism. [From Latin gratuitus.]
propitious (pruh-PISH-uhs) adjective
1. Presenting favorable conditions. 2. Favorably inclined; kindly. [From Middle English propicius, from Latin propitius, ultimately from Indo-European root pet- (to rush, fly). Other words from this root are feather, pin, impetus, and pinnacle.]
fantabulous (fan-TAB-yuh-luhs) adjective
Slang. Marvelously excellent. [Blend of fantastic and fabulous.]
coliseum (KOL-i-SEE-uhm) noun, also colosseum
A large stadium, theater, or similar building for sports, cinema, exhibitions, etc. [After Colosseum, name of the amphitheater in Rome, from Latin colosseus (gigantic).]
plausive (PLO-ziv, -siv) adjective
Applauding. [From Latin plaus-, past participle of plaudere (to applaud). Other words that derive from the same Latin root are: plaudit, plausible, and explode. The word "explode" appears out of place here until we realize that it literally means "to drive out by clapping", from ex- (out) + plaudere (to clap).]
futilitarian (fyoo-til-i-TAR-ee-uhn) adjective
Holding the belief that human striving is useless. noun One who holds such belief. [Blend of futile and utilitarian.]
piacular (pie-AK-yuh-luhr) adjective
1. Making expiation or atonement for a sacrilege. 2. Requiring expiation; wicked or blameworthy. [Latin piacularis, from piaculum, propitiatory sacrifice, from piare, to appease, from pius, dutiful.]
imbroglio (im-BROL-yoh) noun
1. A difficult or intricate situation; an entanglement. A confused or complicated disagreement. 2. A confused heap; a tangle. [Italian, from Old Italian, from imbrogliare, to tangle, confuse : in- + brogliare, to mix, stir, probably from Old French brooiller, brouiller.]
crapehanger (KRAYP-hang-guhr) noun.
A morose, gloomy, or pessimistic person. "Look at those old crape-hangers, Father Cass and Uncle Bradd." S. Lewis, Cass Timberlane (1946) xxxvi. 259, 1945 This week's theme: Words that describe types of persons. -------- Date: Sun Nov 29 00:04:22 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--tetchy tetchy also techy (TECH-ee) adjective Peevish; testy. [Probably from Middle English tache, teche, blemish, from Old French tache, teche, from Vulgar Latin *tacca, from Gothic taikns, sign.]
astrobleme (AS-tro-bleem) noun
A scar on the earth's surface caused by the impact of a meteorite. [Literally star-wound, from astro-, from Greek astron (star) + -bleme, from Greek blema (missile, wound).]
sobeit (so-BEE-it) conjunction
Provided that. [From so + be + it.]
rollick (ROL-ik) verb intr.
To move or act in a playful, carefree manner. [Probably a blend of romp + frolic.]
pertinacious (pur-tn-AY-shuhs) adjective
1. Holding resolutely to a purpose, belief or opinion. 2. Stubbornly unyielding. [From Latin pertinac- pertinax, per-, thoroughly + tenax, tenacious (tenere, to hold).]
triskaidekaphobia (tris-ky-dek-uh-FO-bee-uh) noun
Fear of the number 13. [From Greek treiskaideka (thirteen), from treis (three) + kai (and) + deka (ten) + phobia (fear)]. Today's word in Visual Thesaurus: Why a fear of the number 13? It's one more than the dozen which leaves one unlucky one out if you divide something in groups of two, three, four, or six. It's also said that there were 13 people in the Last Supper. Friday the 13th is considered especially unlucky by many, while in some cultures, in the Spanish-speaking world, for example, it's Tuesday the 13th that is believed to be unlucky. -Anu Garg (garg "Chowrasia probably suffering from triskaidekaphobia bungled on the 13th and allowed Harmeet to get a firm grip on the title." Harmeet Takes Trophy; Hindu (Chennai, India); Dec 23, 2006. -------- Date: Wed Mar 14 00:01:04 EDT 2007 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--baker's dozen This week's theme: words related to the number 13 to mark the thirteenth anniversary of baker's dozen (BAY-kuhrs DUZ-uhn) noun A group of 13. Also known as a long dozen. [From the fact that bakers often gave an extra item when selling a dozen of something to safeguard against being penalized for light weight.]
lex talionis (leks tal-ee-O-nis) noun
The law of retaliation that the punishment should correspond to the crime, as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Also called talion. [From Latin, lex (law) + talionis (retaliation).]
undecimal (UHN-des-uh-muhl) adjective
Based on the number eleven. [From Latin undecim (eleven).]
iatric (eye-A-trik) adjective
Relating to medicine or a physician. [From Greek iatrikos (medical), from iatros (physician), from iasthai (to heal).]
percipient (per-SIP-ee-ant) adjective
Having the power of perceiving, especially perceiving keenly and readily. noun One that perceives. [Latin percipiens, percipient-, present participle of percipere, to perceive.]
clochard (KLOH-shahr) noun
A beggar; vagrant. [From French clocher, to limp, from Latin clopus, lame.]
obsequious (ob-SEE-kwee-uhs, uhb-) adjective
Full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning. [Middle English, from Latin obsequiosus, from obsequium, compliance, from obsequi, to comply : ob-, to + sequi, to follow.]
chaparral (shap-uh-RAL, chap-) noun
A dense, often impenetrable, growth of shrubs and thorny bushes. [From Spanish chaparral, from chaparro (dwarf evergreen oak), from Basque txapar (thicket).]
gladsome (GLAD-suhm) adjective
Causing or showing joy. [From Old English gloed. Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, arsenic, melancholy, and cholera.]
rangy (RAYN-jee) adjective
1. Slim and long-limbed. 2. Inclined to roaming. [From Middle English range (row), from Old French rangier (to arrange). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to turn or bend), the source of ranch, rank, shrink, circle, crisp, search, ring, curb, ridge, and curve.]
assize (uh-SYZ) noun
A session of a court or a verdict made at such a session. [From Middle English assise, from Old French, from asseoir (to seat), from Latin assidere (to sit), from ad- + sedere (to sit}.]
julienne (joo-lee-EN) noun
A consommé (clear soup) garnished with thin strips of vegetables. adjective (Of vegetables and other food) Cut into thin, matchstick-like pieces. verb tr. To cut into thin strips. [From French, generic use of the first name Julienne (or Jules or Julien).]
codswallop (KODZ-wol-uhp) noun
Nonsense. [Of unknown origin. According to a popular story, a fellow named Hiram Codd came up with the design of a soft-drink bottle with a marble in its neck to keep the fizz. Wallop was slang for beer and those who preferred alcoholic drinks dismissively referred to the soft-drink as Codd's Wallop. This story is unproven.]
apostate (uh-POS-tayt, -tit) noun
One who abandons his or her religion, principles, political party, or some other allegiance. [From Middle French, from Late Latin apostata, from Greek aposta (to stand off).]
interregnum (in-tuhr-REG-nuhm) noun
The period between the end of a reign and the beginning of the next; a time when there is no government. [From Latin, from inter- (between) + regnum (reign).]
adobe (uh-DO-bee) noun
1. An unburned, sun-dried brick made of clay and straw. 2. Silt or clay deposited by rivers, from which such bricks are made. 3. A building made of such material. [Via Spanish and Arabic from Coptic tobe (brick). Coptic is the classical language of Egypt, a form of Egyptian with heavy influence from Greek.]
mammonism (MAM-uh-niz-uhm) noun
The greedy pursuit of riches. [Mammon, riches, avarice, and worldly gain personified as a false god in the New Testament + -ism]
endemic (en-DEM-ik) adjective
1. Natural to a particular people or place; always present in a particular area. 2. Confined to a geographic region. [From Greek endemos (native), from en- (in) + demos (people).]
dreary (DRIR-ee) adjective
1. Dismal; bleak. 2. Boring; dull. [Middle English dreri, bloody, frightened, sad, from Old English dreorig, bloody, sad, from dreor, gore.]
sycophant (SIK-uh-fuhnt, SIE-kuh-) noun
A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people. [Latin sycophanta, informer, slanderer, from Greek sukophantes, informer : sukon, fig + -phantes, one who shows (from phainein, to show).]
candent (KAN-duhnt) adjective
1. Glowing. 2. Impassioned. [From Latin candent-, stemp of candens, present participle of candere (to shine or glow). Ultimately from Indo-European root kand- (to shine). Other words from the same root are candle, incandescent, incense, candid, candida, and candidate (in reference to white togas worn by Romans seeking office).]
macedoine (mas-i-DWAN) noun
1. A mixture of diced fruits or vegetables, often served as salad, appetizer, or dessert. 2. A medley or mixture. [From French macédoine, from Macédoine (Macedonia), apparently an allusion to the diversity of people in the region.]
feisty (FY-stee) adjective
1. Spirited; full of courage, spunk, or energy. 2. Touchy, irritable, or ill-tempered. [From feist, variant of obsolete fist, short for fisting cur, a contemptuous term for a dog, from fist, from Middle English fisten (to break wind). The word fizzle is ultimately derived from the same source.]
vegan (VEE-guhn) noun
One who does not consume animal products. adjective Made with no animal ingredients. [Coined in 1944 by Donald Watson (1910-2005) to describe a "non-dairy vegetarian"; formed from the first three and last two letters of the word vegetarian.]
tsuris (TSOOR-is) noun, also, tsouris
Trouble; aggravation; woe. [From Yiddish tsures, plural of tsure (trouble), from Hebrew sara (trouble).]
nugatory (NOO-guh-tor-ee, NYOO-) adjective
1. Of little value; trifling. 2. Having no force; ineffective. [From Latin nugatorius (trifling), from nugari (to trifle).]
epizootic (ep-uh-zo-OT-ik) adjective
Spreading quickly among many animals. noun Such a disease. [French epizootique, from epi- + Greek zoion animal.]
samizdat (SAH-miz-daht) noun
An underground publishing system to print and circulate banned literature clandestinely. Also, such literature. [From Russian samizdat, from samo- (self) + izdatelstvo (publishing house), from izdat (to publish). Coined facetiously on the model of Gosizdat (State Publishing House).]
cesarean also caesarean or caesarian or cesarian (si-ZARE-ee-uhn) adjective
Of or relating to a cesarean section. noun A cesarean section, a surgical incision through the abdominal wall and uterus, performed to deliver a fetus. [From the traditional belief that Julius Caesar (or his eponymous ancestor) was born by this operation.]
cabal (kuh-BAL) noun
1. A conspiratorial group of plotters or intriguers: "Espionage is quite precisely it-a cabal of powerful men, working secretly" (Frank Conroy). 2. A secret scheme or plot. cabal intr.verb To form a cabal; conspire. [French cabale, from Medieval Latin cabala.]
escheat (es-CHEET) noun
1. The reversion of property to the state or crown in case of no legal heirs. 2. Property that has reverted to the state or crown. verb tr. and intr. To revert or cause to revert property. [From Middle English eschete, from Old French eschete, from Vulgar Latin excadere, from Latin ex- + cadere (to fall).]
protege (PRO-tuh-zhay, pro-tuh-ZHAY) noun
One who is protected, guided, and supported by somebody older and more experienced. [From French protégé, past participle of protéger (to protect), from Latin protegere, from pro- + tegere (cover). Ultimately from Indo-European root (s)teg- (to cover) that's the ancestor of other words such as tile, thatch, protect, detect, and toga.]
debridement (di-BREED-ment, day-) noun
Surgical removal of dead, infected tissue or foreign matter from a wound. [From French debridement, from debrider (to unbridle), from Middle French desbrider (de- + brider).]
shillelagh also shillalah (shi-LAY-lee, shi-LAY-luh) noun
A cudgel of oak, blackthorn, or other hardwood. [After Shillelagh, a village of east-central Ireland.]
venireman (vi-NY-ree-muhn) noun
A person summoned as a prospective juror. [From Latin venire (to come), truncation of the term venire facias ("you should cause to come", directing a sheriff to summon people to serve as jurors) + man.]
strafe (strayf) verb tr.
To attack (ground troops, for example) with a machine gun or cannon from a low-flying aircraft. noun An attack of machine-gun or cannon fire from a low-flying aircraft. [From German (Gott) strafe (England), (God) punish (England), a common World War I slogan, from strafen, to punish, from Middle High German strafen, to contest, admonish.]
haver (HAY-vuhr) verb intr.
To vacillate. [Of uncertain origin.]
thalweg (TAHL-veg, -vek) noun
1. A line, as drawn on a map, connecting the lowest points of a valley. 2. The middle of the main navigable channel of a waterway that serves as a boundary line between states. [From German, equivalent to Thal, now obsolete spelling of tal, valley + weg, way.]
ennead (EN-ee-ad) noun
A group or set of nine. [Greek enneas, ennead-, from ennea, nine.]
nabob (NAY-bob) noun
1. A governor in India under the Mogul Empire. Also called nawab. 2. A person of wealth and prominence. [Hindi nawab, nabab, from Arabic nuwwab, pl. of na'ib, deputy.]
gorgonize or gorgonise (GOR-guh-nyz) verb tr.
To paralyze, petrify, or hypnotize. [After Gorgon, any of the three monstrous sisters Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa in Greek mythology, who had snakes for hair. They turned into stone anyone who looked into their eyes.]
antipyretic (an-tee-py-RET-ik) adjective
Reducing or relieving fever. noun A medicine that reduces or relieves fever. [From Middle English anti- (against) + pyretic (relating to fever), from New Latin pyreticus, from Greek pureto (fever), from pur (fire). Other words derived from the same root are fire, pyrotechnics (fireworks), and pyrites (mineral that produces sparks when struck).]
dewlap (DOO-lap, DYOO-lap) noun
A loose fold of skin hanging under the neck of an animal such as cow, rooster, lizard, etc. In birds this appendage is also known as a wattle. [From Middle English dewlappe; dew, of unknown origin and meaning, + lap, fold.]
lection (LEK-shuhn) noun
1. A version of a text in a particular copy or edition. 2. A portion of sacred literature to be read in a divine service. Also known as pericope. [From Latin lection- (reading), stem of lectio, from lectus, past participle of legere (to read, choose, collect), ultimately from Indo-European root leg-. Other words derived from the same root are lexicon, lesson, lecture, legible, legal, select.]
strait (strayt) noun, usually used in plural
1. A narrow channel connecting two larger bodies of water. 2. A position of distress. adjective 1. Narrow. 2. Strict. [From Middle English streit (narrow), from Old French estreit, from Latin strictus, past particle of stringere (to bind, draw tight). Ultimately from Indo-European root streig- (to stroke or press) that's also the source of strike, streak, strict, stress, and strain.]
axenic (ay-ZEN-ik, ay-ZEE-nik) adjective
Free from contamination. [From Greek a- (not) + xenikos (foreign). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghos-ti- (stranger, guest, or host, literally one who has a reciprocal duty of hospitality) that also gave us host, hostel, hostile, hostage, hospice, hospital, xenophobia, and xenon (a gas).]
confabulate (kuhn-FAB-yuh-layt) intr.verb
1. To talk casually; chat. 2. Psychology. To replace fact with fantasy unconsciously in memory. [Latin confabulari, confabulat- : com-, com- + fabulari, to talk (from fabula, conversation.]
running dog (RUN-ing dog) noun
A servile follower; lackey. [From Chinese zougou, from zou (running) + gou (dog), apparently as an allusion to a dog running to follow his or her master's commands. This term was employed in Chinese Communist terminology to refer to someone who was considered subservient to counter-revolutionary interest.]
stripling (STRIP-ling) noun
An adolescent youth. [Middle English, possibly from strip.]
sounder (SOUN-duhr) noun
1. One that makes a sound. 2. One that sounds, especially a device for making soundings of the sea. 3. A herd of wild boar. [Middle English, from Old French sondre, of Germanic origin.]
paterfamilias (pay-tuhr-fuh-MIL-ee-uhs) noun
The male head of a family or a household; father figure. [From Latin paterfamilias (father of the household), from pater (father) + familias, from familia (household), from famulus (servant, slave).]
iracund (IE-ruh-kund) adjective
Inclined to anger; irascible. [From Latin iracundus, from ira (anger) + -cundus (inclined toward)]. Can you think of an antonym of today's word that shares the same suffix? "One word: iracund. Or perhaps a better choice might be grumpy." Campaign Grapevine, The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), Oct 21, 1996. This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Mon Mar 11 00:15:03 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ukase ukase (yoo-KAYS, yoo-KAYZ, YOO-kays, YOO-kayz) noun An arbitrary proclamation or order; edict. [After ukaz, a decree issued by a Russian czar having the force of law. From French, from Russian ukaz (decree), from Old Church Slavonic ukazu (proof), from ukazati, from u- (at, away) + kazati (to show).]
actuate (AK-choo-ayt) verb tr.
1. To put into motion or action. 2. To move to action. [Medieval Latin actuare, actuat-, from Latin actus, act, from agere, act-, to drive, do.]
equitant (EK-wi-tuhnt) adjective
Straddling; overlapping, as the leaves of some plants, such as irises. [From Latin equitant-, stem of equitans, present participle of equitare (to ride), from equit-, stem of eques (horseman), from equus (horse).]
penetralia (pen-i-TRAY-lee-uh) noun
1. The innermost parts of a building, especially the sanctuary of a temple. 2. The most private or secret parts; recesses. [Latin penetralia, from neuter pl. of penetralis, inner, from penetrare, to penetrate.]
schnook (shnook) noun
A stupid, easily deceived person. [From Yiddish shnuk (snout) or from German schnucke (a small sheep).]
ween (ween) verb tr., intr.
To think, suppose, believe. [From Old English wenan (to expect), from the Indo-European root wen- (to desire or to strive for) that's also the source of wish, win, venerate, venison, Venus, and banya. It's the same word that shows up in "overweening".]
pianoforte (pee-AN-uh-fort, pee-an-o-FOR-tay) noun
A piano. [From Italian, literally soft-loud. The term pianoforte is a contraction of Italian gravecembalo col piano e forte (harpsichord with soft and loud).]
protract (proh-TRAKT, pruh-) tr.verb
1. To draw out or lengthen in time; prolong: disputants who needlessly protracted the negotiations. 2. Mathematics. To draw to scale by means of a scale and protractor; plot. 3. Anatomy. To extend or protrude (a body part). [Latin protrahere, protract- : pro-, forth. + trahere, to drag.]
brown study (broun STUD-ee) noun
A state of deep absorption in thought. [Apparently from brown in the sense of gloomy.]
metathesis (mi-TATH-i-sis) noun
1. Transposition within a word of letters, sounds, or syllables, as in the change from Old English brid to modern English bird or in the confusion of modren for modern. 2. Chemistry. Double decomposition. [Late Latin, from Greek, from metatithenai, to transpose : meta- + tithenai, to place.]
educe (i-DOOS, i-DYOOS) verb tr.
1. To draw out; to elicit, as something latent. 2. To deduce. [From Latin educere (to draw out), from ex- (out of) + ducere (to lead). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
acephalous (ay-SEF-uh-luhs) adjective
1. Headless or lacking a clearly defined head. 2. Having no leader. [From Medieval Latin acephalus, from Greek akephalos : a-, without + kephale, head.]
priapism (PRI-uh-piz-em) noun
Persistent, usually painful erection of the penis, especially as a consequence of disease and not related to sexual arousal. [French priapisme, from Late Latin priapismus, from Greek priapismos, from priapizein, to have an erection, from Priapos, Priapus, the Roman god of procreation, guardian of gardens and vineyards, and personification of the erect phallus.]
imprest (IM-prest) noun
An advance of money, especially one made to carry out some business for a government. Also, archaic past tense and past participle of impress. [From obsolete imprest (to lend), from Italian imprestare.]
etesian (i-TEE-zhuhn) adjective
Occurring annually. [The word refers to the annual summer winds of the Mediterranean. It's derived from Latin etesius, from Greek etesios, from etos (year). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wet- (year) that is also the source of such words as veteran, veal (in the sense of yearling), and veterinary (relating to the beasts of burden, perhaps alluding to old cattle), inveterate, wether, and bellwether.]
materteral (muh-TUHR-tuhr-uhl) adjective, also materterine
Characteristic of, or in the manner of, an aunt. [From classical Latin matertera (maternal aunt), from mater (mother).]
prick-song (prik song) noun
Written music. [From picked-song, music sung from pricked (written) notes, as compared to that sung from memory.]
azimuth (AZ-uh-muhth) noun
The horizontal angle to an object, measured clockwise from a fixed reference point, usually north or south. [From French azimut, from Latin azimut, from Arabic al-sumut, from al (the) + samt (way).]
nosism (NO-siz-em) noun
The use of 'we' in referring to oneself. [From Latin nos (we).]
nonce (nons) noun
1. The present or immediate occasion. 2. The time being. [From the phrase "for the nonce", a misdivision of "for then anes", from for + then (the) + anes (one).]
wowser (WOU-zuhr) noun
A person regarded as excessively puritanical; a killjoy. adjective Being or relating to a wowser. [Of obscure origin. One theory attributes the term to dialectal wow (to howl). Also, according to a popular unsubstantiated story, the term is an acronym of We Only Want Social Evils Remedied, a slogan invented by John Norton, eccentric owner of Truth newspaper.]
svengali (sven-GAH-lee) noun
A person who manipulates and exercises excessive control over another for sinister purposes. [After Svengali, a musician and hypnotist, in the novel Trilby written by George du Maurier (1834-1896). In the story, Trilby is an artist's model. She's tone-deaf, but Svengali transforms her into a singing sensation under his hypnotic spell. Another eponym to come out of the novel is the word for a man's hat: trilby. A trilby was a soft felt hat with a narrow brim and an indented crown. The word arose because such a hat was worn in the stage production of the novel.]
deleterious (del-i-TEER-ee-uhs) adjective
Harmful; injurious. [From Greek deleterios (destructive), from deleisthai (to harm).]
metaphor (MET-uh-for) noun
1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase which is not literally applicable is used in place of another to suggest an analogy. 2. Something used to represent another; a symbol. [From Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora, from metapherein (to transfer), from pherein (to carry).]
obsidian (ob-SID-ee-uhn) noun
A dark volcanic glass formed by rapid cooling of lava. [From Latin obsidianus, from obsidianus lapis, from mis-reading of obsianus lapis (Obsius's stone), after Obsius, a Roman, who (according to Pliny the elder) was the discoverer of this kind of stone in Ethiopia.]
antiquarian (an-ti-KWAR-ee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or relating to antiquaries or to the study or collecting of antiquities. 2. Dealing in or having to do with old or rare books. antiquarian noun One who studies, collects, or deals in antiquities. "For the few black buyers chasing black antiquarian books, the problem is that most are either available only in the US or on a short print run in the UK, making them almost impossible to find." The Bookshop for black folks, Weekly Journal, The, 4 Mar 1997. This week's theme: words about books. -------- Date: Fri Jan 29 00:04:24 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--pseudepigrapha pseudepigrapha (soo-di-PIG-ruh-fuh) plural noun 1. Spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times. 2. A body of texts written between 200 BCE and A.D. 200 and spuriously ascribed to various prophets and kings of Hebrew Scriptures. [Greek, from neuter pl. of pseudepigraphos, falsely ascribed : pseudes, false. pseudo- + epigraphein, to inscribe : epi-, epi- + graphein, to write.]
palatine (PAL-uh-tyn) adjective
Of or relating to a palace. [After Palatine, from Latin Palatium, the name of the centermost of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. Roman emperors built their palaces on this hill. The word palace also derives from the same source.]
beta (BAY-tuh, BEE-) noun
1. Mostly working, but still under test; usually used with `in': `in beta'. In the Real World, systems (hardware or software) software often go through two stages of release testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?). Beta releases are generally made to a group of lucky (or unlucky) trusted customers. 2. Anything that is new and experimental. "His girlfriend is in beta" means that he is still testing for compatibility and reserving judgment. 3. Flaky; dubious; suspect (since beta software is notoriously buggy). [From the second letter of the Greek alphabet.]
diatribe (DI-a-tribe) noun
A bitter, abusive denunciation. [Latin diatriba, learned discourse, from Greek diatribe, pastime, lecture, from diatribein, to consume, wear away : dia-, intensive pref. + tribein, to rub.]
frontispiece (FRUN-ti-spees) noun
1. An illustration that faces or immediately precedes the title page of a book, book section, or magazine. 2. Architecture. A facade, especially an ornamental facade. A small ornamental pediment, as on top of a door or window. 3. Archaic. A title page. [Alteration (influenced by piece), of French frontispice, from Late Latin frontispicium, facade of a building : Latin frontis, genitive of frons, forehead, front + Latin specere, to look at.]
ombudsman (OM-budz-man, -buhdz-, -boodz-) noun
1. A man who investigates complaints, reports findings, and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties such as consumers or students and an institution, an organization, or a company. 2. A government official, especially in Scandinavian countries, who investigates citizens' complaints against the government or its functionaries. [Swedish, from Old Norse umbodhsmadhr, deputy, plenipotentiary : umbodh, commission : um, about; + bodh, command. + madhr, man.]
lucent (LOO-suhnt) adjective
1. Luminous; shining. 2. Translucent; clear. [From Latin lucent, from lucere (to shine). Other words derived from the same root are elucidate, lucid, and translucent.]
wild card (wyld kard) noun
1. In a game of cards, a card having no fixed value. 2. In a game, such as tennis, a player allowed to enter the tournament without having to fulfill qualifying requirements. 3. In computing, a character (usually *) used to represent any character. 4. An unknown or unpredictable factor. [From card games, where such a card has no pre-determined value and is assigned a value by the player holding it.]
rapprochement (ra-prawsh-MAWN) noun
Establishing or reestablishing of cordial relation, especially between nations. [From French rapprochement, from rapprocher (to bring together), from re- + approcher (to approach), from Late Latin appropiare, from Latin ad- + propius (nearer), from prope (near).]
impuissance (im-PYOO-i-suhns) noun
Lack of strength or power. [From Middle English, from Old French, from in- (not) + puissance (power), ultimately from Indo-European root poti- (powerful). Some other words that are derived from the same root: possess, power, possible, and potent.]
flibbertigibbet (FLIB-uhr-tee-jib-it) noun
Someone who is regarded as flighty, scatterbrained, and talkative. [Apparently from the imitation of the sound of idle chatter.]
chez (shay) preposition
At the place of. (for example, at the home of, business of, etc.) [From French chez, from Latin casa (cottage). The word is often used in the names of restaurants, for example, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.]
firmament (FUR-muh-ment) noun
The sky; the heavens. [From Latin firmamentum (sky) from firmare (to support). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dher- (to hold firmly or support) that is also the source of firm, affirm, confirm, farm, and fermata.]
oology (oh-OL-uh-jee) noun
The study of birds' eggs. [Oo- egg, from Greek oio- + logy.]
hangdog (HANG-dog) adjective
1. Defeated; dejected 2. Shamefaced. [From the notion that the said person deserved to be hanged like a dog. Yes, not too long ago, dogs were hanged for crimes, such as biting.]
abecedarian (ay-bee-see-DAYR-ee-uhn) noun
1. One who is learning the alphabet. 2. One who teaches the alphabet. 3. One who is a beginner in some field. adjective 1. Alphabetically arranged. 2. Relating to the alphabet. 3. Rudimentary [From Medieval Latin abecedarium (alphabet or a book of the alphabet), from the letters a, b, c, and d.]
dilli or dilly (DIL-ee) noun
Someone or something that is remarkable or unusual. [Shortening of delightful or delicious.]
troika (TROI-kuh) noun
1. A group of three persons, nations, etc. united in power or acting in unison. 2. A Russian vehicle drawn by three horses harnessed side-by-side. [From Russian troika, from troe (three).]
primogenitor (pry-moe-JEN-i-tuhr) noun
1. The earliest ancestor. 2. An ancestor or a forefather. [Late Latin primogenitor : Latin primo, at first (from primus, first.) + Latin genitor, begetter, from gignere, genit-, to beget.]
spigot (SPIG-uht) noun
1. A faucet. 2. A wooden faucet placed in the bunghole of a cask. 3. The vent plug of a cask. [Middle English, perhaps from Old French *espigot, diminutive of Old Provencal espiga, ear of grain, from Latin spica.]
penelope (puh-NEL-uh-pee) noun
A faithful wife. [From Penelope, the wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus in Greek mythology. She waited 20 years for her husband's return from the Trojan War (ten years of war, and ten years on his way home). She kept her many suitors at bay by telling them she would marry them when she had finished weaving her web, a shroud for her father-in-law. She wove the web during the day only to unravel it during the night. Here's a painting of Penelope unraveling her web: ]
eustasy (YOO-stuh-see) noun
A uniform global change in sea level. [From eustatic, from German eustatisch, coined by Austrian geologist Edward Suess.]
threnody (THREN-uh-dee) noun
A song of lamentation for the dead. [From Greek threnoidia, from threnos (lament) + oide (song). Ultimately from Indo-European root wed- (to speak) that is also the forefather of such words as ode, tragedy, comedy, parody, melody, and rhapsody.]
spa (spa) noun
1. A resort providing therapeutic baths. 2. A resort area having mineral springs. 3. A fashionable hotel or resort. 4. A health spa. 5. A tub for relaxation or invigoration, usually including a device for raising whirlpools in the water. 6. Eastern New England. soda fountain. [After Spa, a resort town of eastern Belgium.]
vexatious (vek-SAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Causing vexation or irritation. 2. A legal action instituted on insufficient grounds and brought solely to annoy the defendant. [From Middle English vexacioun, from Latin vexation, from vexatus, past participle of vexare, to vex.]
dinkum (DING-kuhm), also dinky-di, fair dinkum, adjective
True; honest; genuine. [Probably derived, like many other Australian words, from English dialect. The counties of Lincolnshire and Derbyshire had a word dinkum or dincum meaning "work; a fair share of work." The word was first recorded in Australia in Rolf Boldrewood's Robbery Under Arms (1888): "It took us an hour's hard dinkum to get near the peak."]
haboob (huh-****) noun
A violent dust storm or sandstorm, especially in Sudan [From Arabic habub (strong wind).]
piliform (PIL-i-form) adjective
Having the form of a hair. [From Neo-Latin piliformis, from pili- (hair) + -form.]
hodiernal (ho-di-ER-nuhl) adjective
Of or pertaining to the present day. [From Latin hodiernus, from hodie (today).]
catacomb (KAT-uh-kom) noun
1. Often catacombs. An underground cemetery consisting of chambers or tunnels with recesses for graves. 2. An underground burial place. [Probably French catacombe, from Old French, from Late Latin catacumba.]
glasnost (GLAZ-nost) noun
A policy of open discussion of political opinion and social issues and freer disclosure of information. [From Russian glasnost (publicity), from glas (voice).]
epenthesis (uh-PEN-thu-sis) noun
Insertion of an extra sound into a word, e.g. fillum for film. [From Late Latin, from Greek epentithenai, to insert : ep-, epi-, (in addition) + en- (in) thesis (to place), stem of tithenia (to put).]
cavalier (kav-uh-LEER) noun
1. A mounted soldier; a horseman. 2. A gallant man, one escorting a woman. 3. A supporter of Charles I of England in his conflict with Parliament. adjective 1. Arrogant; disdainful. 2. Nonchalant, carefree, or offhand about some important matter. 3. Or or pertaining to a group of English poets associated with the court of Charles I. verb intr. 1. To play the cavalier. 2. To act in a haughty manner. [From Middle French cavalier (horseman), from Old Italian cavaliere, ultimately from Latin caballus (horse).]
turdiform (TUR-di-form) adjective
Like a thrush (any of the songbirds of the family Turdidae). [From Latin turdus (thrush).]
boffo (BOF-o) adjective
1. (Of a movie, play, or some other show) Extremely successful. 2. (Of a laugh) uproarious, hearty. noun 1. A great success. 2. A hearty laugh. 3. A gag or punch-line that elicits uproarious laughter. [Of uncertain origin. Probably a blend of box office or an alteration of buffo, bouffe, or boffola. The term was popularized by Variety, a magazine for the U.S. entertainment industry.]
horripilation (ho-rip-uh-LAY-shuhn) noun
The bristling of the body hair, as from fear or cold; goose bumps. [Late Latin horripilatio, horripilation-, from Latin horripilatus, past participle of horripilare, to bristle with hairs : horrere, to tremble + pilare, to grow hair (from pilus, hair).]
dyscalculia (dis-kal-KYOO-lee-uh) noun
Inability to solve math problems, usually as a result of brain dysfunction. [Dys + calcul(ate) + -ia.]
flotsam (FLOT-suhm) noun
1. Wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk. Floating refuse or debris. 2. Discarded odds and ends. 3. Vagrant, usually destitute people. [Anglo-Norman floteson, from Old French floter, to float, of Germanic origin.]
chiromancy (KI-ruh-man-see) noun
The practice of predicting character and future of a person from the lines on the palms; palmistry. [From Greek chiro- (hand) + -mancy (divination).]
dendrochronology (den-dro-kruh-NOL-uh-jee) noun
Tree-ring dating. [From Greek dendro- (tree) + chronology (the science of determining dates of past events).]
diablerie (dee-AH-ble-ree, -ab-luh-) noun
1. Sorcery; witchcraft. 2. Representation of devils or demons, as in paintings or fiction. 3. Devilish conduct; deviltry. [French, from Old French, from diable, devil, from Latin diabolus.]
pamphlet (PAM-flit) noun
1. An unbound printed work, usually with a paper cover. 2. A short essay or treatise, usually on a current topic, published without a binding. [Middle English pamflet, from Medieval Latin pamfletus, from Pamphiletus, diminutive of Pamphilus, a short amatory Latin poem of the 12th century, from Greek pamphilos, beloved by all : pan-, + philos, beloved.]
extravasate (ik-STRAV-uh-sayt) verb tr.
1. Pathology. To force the flow of (blood or lymph) from a vessel out into surrounding tissue. 2. Geology. To cause (molten lava) to pour forth from a volcanic vent. verb intr. 1. Pathology. To exude from a vessel into surrounding tissue. 2. Geology. To erupt. [Extra- + vas (o)- + -ate.]
pennant (PEN-uhnt) noun
1. Nautical. A long, tapering, usually triangular flag, used on ships for signaling or identification. 2. A flag or an emblem similar in shape to a ship's pennant. 3. Sports. A flag that symbolizes the championship of a league, especially a professional baseball league. The championship symbolized by such a flag. [Blend of pendant and pennon.]
decerebrate (dee-SER-uh-brayt) verb tr.
To eliminate cerebral brain function in (an animal) by removing the cerebrum, cutting across the brain stem, or severing certain arteries in the brain stem, as for purposes of experimentation. adjective 1. Deprived of cerebral function, as by having the cerebrum removed. 2. Resulting from or as if from decerebration. 3. Lacking intelligence or reason. noun A decerebrate animal or person. "At this moment, presumably, Lincoln became decerebrate - that is, brain dead." Richard A.R. Fraser, M.D., Assassination of the President. // He Was Shot at the Theatre. // Doctors Swiftly Attended Him And Probed the Wound. // This Was a Mistake // The Gunshot Was Not Necessarily Fatal, But the Probe Irritated .... , Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10 Feb 1995. This week's theme: yours to discover! -------- Date: Thu May 20 00:07:24 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--homonym homonym (HOM-uh-nim) noun 1. One of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning. 2. A word that is used to designate several different things. A namesake. 3. Biology. A taxonomic name that is identical to one previously applied to a different species or genus and that therefore is unacceptable in its new use. [Latin homonymum, from Greek homonumon, from neuter of homonumos, homonymous.]
tenderfoot (TEN-duhr-foot) noun
A newcomer or a beginner at something, one not used to hardships. [Originally the term was applied to newcomers to ranching and mining districts in the western US. A tenderfoot is quite different from a tenderloin .]
lemma (LEM-uh) noun [plural lemmas or lemmata (LEM-uh-tuh)]
1. A subsidiary proposition assumed to be valid and used to demonstrate a principal proposition. 2. A theme, an argument, or a subject indicated in a title. 3. A word or phrase treated in a glossary or similar listing. [Latin lemma, from Greek, from lambanein, to take.]
simon-pure (SY-muhn PYOOR) adjective
1. Genuinely pure; also used to describe an amateur as opposed to a professional. 2. Pretentiously or hypocritically virtuous. [From the phrase the real Simon Pure, after a character named Simon Pure who was impersonated by another in the play A Bold Stroke for a Wife, by Susannah Centlivre (1669-1723).]
verecund (VER-i-kund) adjective
Bashful; modest. [From Latin verecundus, from vereri (to respect). Ultimately from Indo-European root wer- (to watch out for) that's also the source of such words as revere, aware, award, wary, warden, lord, steward, wardrobe, panorama, and guard.]
rampallion (ram-PAL-yuhn) noun, also rampallian
A ruffian or scoundrel. [Of unknown origin.]
resile (ri-ZYL) verb intr.
1. To rebound or recoil. 2. To shrink, withdraw, or retreat. [From obsolete French resilir, from Latin resilire (to spring back).]
approbation (ap-roh-BAY-shun) noun
Approval, praise, commendation, official sanction. [From Latin approbation, from ap- + probatus, from probare (to test the goodness of). What do the words approve, prove, probe, probate, probity, and probation have in common? They are all derived from the same root and involve the idea of testing the goodness of something or someone. -Anu "I wrote for their Amendment, and not their Approbation." Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726. This week's theme: Words from Gulliver's Travels. To read the full text of the book and the research behind it, visit -------- Date: Mon Oct 14 00:01:06 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hapax legomenon hapax legomenon (HAY-paks li-GOM-uh-non) noun, plural hapax legomena A word or form that has only one recorded use. [From Greek hapax (once) + legomenon, from legein (to say).]
tinctumutation (tingk-tu-myoo-TAY-shuhn) noun
Change of colors. [From Latin tinctus (a dyeing) + mutation (changing).]
halyard also halliard (HAL-yuhrd) noun
A rope used to raise or lower a sail, flag, or yard. [Alteration (influenced by yard), of Middle English halier, from halen, to pull.]
pixilated or pixillated (PIK-suh-layt-id) adjective
1. Mentally unbalanced; eccentric. 2. Whimsical. [From pixie, a mischievous fairylike creature.]
toothsome (TOOTH-suhm) adjective
1. Delicious. 2. Agreeable; pleasant. 3. Sexually attractive. [From tooth + -some. A related word is handsome, from hand + -some, literally easy to handle or manipulate.]
sartorial (sar-TOR-ee-uhl) adjective
Related to a tailor or tailored clothes. [From Late Latin sartor, tailor.]
katzenjammer (KAT-sen-jam-uhr) noun
1. Hangover 2. Distress; depression. 3. Confusion; clamor; uproar. [From German, from Katzen (plural of Katze, cat) + Jammer (distress, wailing).]
bruxism (BRUK-si-zehm) noun
The habitual, involuntary grinding or clenching of the teeth, usually during sleep, as from anger, tension, fear, or frustration. [From New Latin bruxis, a gnashing, from Greek brukein, to gnash.]
renumerate (re-NOO-muh-rayt) verb tr.
To recount. [From Latin renumerare (to count over) from re- + numerare (to count), ultimately from Indo-European root nem- (to assign or take) that's also the source for words such as number, numb, astronomy, and nemesis.]
unciary (un-SEE-uh-ree) adjective
Equal to a twelfth part. [From Latin unciarius, from uncia (a twelfth part) which is also the source of the words ounce and inch. An inch is one twelfth of a foot but what about the ounce? The original pound was the troy pound having 12 ounces.]
tony (TO-nee) adjective
Having a high-toned manner; stylish. [From tone.]
tessera (TES-uhr-uh) noun; plural tesserae (TES-uhr-ee)
One of the small squares of stone or glass used in making mosaic patterns. [Latin, from Greek, neuter of tesseres, variant of tessares, four.]
razzmatazz (RAZ-muh-TAZ) noun
1. Noisy, showy display. 2. Ambiguous, evasive language. [Apparently an alteration of razzle-dazzle, which is a reduplicative of dazzle.]
gormandizer (GOR-man-dyz-er) noun
A greedy person. [From French gourmandise (gluttony). Both a gourmand and a gourmet enjoy good food, but a gourmand is one who eats to excess while a gourmet is considered a connoisseur of good food.]
cataract (KAT-uh-rakt) noun
1. A large or high waterfall. 2. A great downpour; a deluge. 3. Opacity of the lens or capsule of the eye, causing impairment of vision or blindness. [Middle English cataracte, from Old French, from Latin cataracta, from Greek katarraktes, kataraktes, probably from katarassein, to dash down : kat-, kata-, cata- + arassein, to strike.]
thalassic (thuh-LAS-ik) adjective
Of or relating to seas or oceans, especially smaller or inland seas. [French thalassique, from Greek thalassa, sea.]
bobbsey twins (BOB-zee twins)
Two people who appear, think, or do alike. [From the characters in a children's book series created in 1904 and published under the pen name of Laura Lee Hope. Here's an excellent website about the Bobbsey twins: ]
aerious also aereous (AY-ree-uhs) adjective
Of the nature of air, airy. [From Latin aereus or aerius, adjectival form of aer, air, + -ous.]
tenderloin (TEN-duhr-loin) noun
1. The tenderest part of a loin of beef, pork, or similar cut of meat. 2. A city district notorious for vice and graft. [Sense 2, after the Tenderloin, an area of New York City (from the easy income it once afforded corrupt policemen).]
prehensile (pri-HEN-sil, -syl) adjective
1. Capable of seizing or grasping, especially by wrapping around. 2. Skilled at keen perception or mental grasp of an idea or concept. 3. Greedy. [From French prehensile, coined by French Naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc De Buffon, from Latin prehensus.]
kayo (kay-O) noun
1. A knockout in boxing. 2. Someone or something that is extraordinarily attractive or appealing. verb tr. 1. To knock someone out, especially in boxing. 2. To get rid of or to make non-functional. [Pronunciation of KO, abbreviation of Knock Out.]
petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun
The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell. [From petro- (rock), from Greek petros (stone) + ichor (the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology). Coined by researchers I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas.]
prithee (PRITH-ee) interjection
Please (used to express a request). [Contraction of (I) pray thee.]
sardoodledom (SAR-doo-duhl-duhm) noun
Plays having contrived melodramatic plot, concentrating excessively on the technique to the exclusion of characterization. [After Victorien Sardou (1831-1908), French playwright; coined by playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950).]
mare's nest (mairz nest) noun
1. A confused mess. 2. A hoax or an illusory discovery. [The original sense of the term was a false discovery since clearly a mare doesn't have a nest. Nowadays the term implies a confused situation. A term with a similar origin is the Greek calends meaning a time that doesn't exist: ]
cerulean (seh-ROO-lee-ahn) adjective
Azure; sky-blue. [From Latin caeruleus, dark blue akin to caelum, sky.]
garth (garth) noun
A small yard surrounded by a cloister. Also known as cloister garth. [From Middle English, from Old Norse (garthr) yard. Ultimately from Indo-European root gher- (to enclose or grasp) that is also the ancestor of such words as court, orchard, kindergarten, French jardin (garden), choir, courteous, Hindi gherna (to surround), yard, and horticulture.]
ampersand (AM-puhr-sand) noun
The character or sign (&) representing the word and. [Alteration of and per se and, & (the sign) by itself (is the word) and.]
objurgate (OB-juhr-gayt) verb tr.
To scold or rebuke sharply; berate. [Latin obiurgare, obiurgat- : ob-, against + iurgare, to scold, sue at law :, probably ius, iur-, law; + agere, to do, proceed.]
charley horse (CHAR-lee hors) noun
Cramp or stiffness in a muscle, especially in the leg, typically caused by overstrain or injury. [Originally baseball slang, of unknown origin.]
emote (i-MOHT) intr.verb
To express emotion, especially in an excessive or theatrical manner. [Back-formation from emotion.]
wampum (WOM-puhm) noun
1. Beads made from shells, strung in strands, belts, etc. used for ceremonial purposes, jewelry, and money. 2. Money. [Short for Massachusett wampompeag, from wampan (white) + api (string) + -ag, plural suffix.]
prelapsarian (pree-lap-SAYR-ee-uhn) adjective
Relating to any innocent or carefree period in the past. [From Latin pre- (before) + lapsus (fall). The term refers to the period in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve lost their innocence.]
bidentate (by-DEN-tayt) adjective
Having two teeth or toothlike parts. [From Latin bi- (two) + dens (tooth).]
obambulate (o-BAM-byuh-layt) verb intr.
To walk about. [From Latin ob- (towards, against) + ambulare (to walk). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ambhi- (around) that is also the source of ambulance, alley, preamble, and bivouac. The first print citation of the word is from 1614.]
catachresis (kat-uh-KREE-sis) noun
The misuse of words. [Here's a catchall word for all those mixed metaphors, malapropisms, and bushisms. It derives via Latin from Greek katakhresthai (to misuse).]
tercel (TUR-sel) noun, also tiercel or tercelet
The male of a hawk, especially of the peregrine falcon or a goshawk. [From Middle English, from Middle French terçuel, from Vulgar Latin tertiolus, diminutive of Latin tertius (third). Ultimately from Indo-European root trei- (three) that's also the source of such words as three, testify (to be the third person), triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).]
hebetudinous (heb-i-TOOD-n-uhs -TYOOD-) adjective
Dull or lethargic, especially relating to the mind. [From Late Latin hebetudo (dullness), from Latin hebes (dull).]
nisus (NI-suhs) noun, plural nisus
An effort or endeavor to realize an aim. [Latin nisus, from past participle of niti, to strive.]
ode (rhymes with code) noun
A lyric poem celebrating a person, event, thing, etc., written in an exalted style. [From Greek oide (song), ultimately from Indo-European root wed- (to speak) that's also the source of parody, comedy, tragedy, melody, and rhapsody.]
funicular (fyoo-NIK-yuh-luhr) adjective
Of, relating to, or operated by a rope or cord. noun A cable railway on a hill, especially one where simultaneously ascending and descending cars counterbalance each other. [From Latin funiculus (thin rope), diminutive of funis (rope). The word funambulist (tight-rope walker) derives from the same root.]
anhedonia (an-hee-DO-nee-uh) noun
Lack of pleasure or of the capacity to experience it. [Greek an- + hedon(e) pleasure + -ia.]
debut (day-BYOO, DAY-byoo) noun
1. A first public appearance on a stage, on television, etc. 2. The first appearance of something, as a new product. 3. The formal introduction and entrance of a young woman into society, as at an annual ball. 4. The beginning of a profession, career, etc. verb intr. 1. To make a debut, as in society or in a performing art. 2. To appear for the first time, as on the market. verb tr. 1. To perform for the first time before an audience. 2. To place on the market for the first time; introduce. adjective Of, pertaining to, or constituting a first appearance: [French debut, from debuter, to give the first stroke in a game, begin : de-, from, away (from Old French de-) + but, goal, target, from Old French butte.]
laconic (luh-KON-ik) adjective
Using or marked by the use of few words; terse or concise. [Latin Laconicus, Spartan, from Greek Lakonikos, from Lakon, a Spartan (from the reputation of the Spartans for brevity of speech).]
ambrosia (am-BROE-zhuh, -ZHEE-uh) noun
1. Greek Mythology. Roman Mythology. The food of the gods, thought to confer immortality. 2. Something with an especially delicious flavor or fragrance. 3. A dessert containing primarily oranges and flaked coconut. [Latin, from Greek, from ambrotos, immortal, immortalizing : a-, not + -mbrotos, mortal.]
pettifogger (PET-ee-foguhr, -fo-guhr) noun
1. A petty, quibbling, unscrupulous lawyer. 2. One who quibbles over trivia. [Probably petty + obsolete fogger, pettifogger.]
fruitarian (froo-TAR-ee-uhn) noun
One whose diet includes fruits, seeds, and nuts but no vegetables, grains, or animal products. [Blend of fruit and (veget)arian.]
mimesis (mi-MEE-sis, my-) noun
Imitation or mimicry. This word has specialized senses in many fields: 1. Biology: The external resemblance of an organism to another to help protect it from predators. 2. Medicine: The appearance of symptoms of a disease in someone who doesn't have the disease, often caused by hysteria. 3. Arts: Imitation of life, nature, etc to produce realistic representation in literature and arts. [From Greek mimesis, from mimeisthai (to imitate). A few cousins of this word are mimic, mime, and mimosa.]
pasha (PA-shuh, PASH-uh, puh-SHAH) noun
A person of high rank or importance. [From Turkish pasa, from Persian padshah, from pati (master) + shah (king). Pasha was used as a title of high-ranking officials in the Ottoman Empire.]
logograph (LO-guh-graf, LOG-uh-) noun
A written symbol representing an entire spoken word without expressing its pronunciation; for example, for 4 read "four" in English, "quattro" in Italian. Also called ideogram, logogram. "We also chose such simple characters in order to reduce the difference in visual complexity between the logographs and lower-case letters." Green, David W., et al, Are visual search procedures adapted to the nature of the script?, British Journal of Psychology, 1 May 1996. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Mon Feb 22 00:04:44 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--picayune picayune (pik-uh-YOON) adjective 1. Of little value or importance; paltry. 2. Petty; mean. picayune noun 1. A Spanish-American half-real piece formerly used in parts of the southern United States. 2. A five-cent piece. 3. Something of very little value; a trifle. [Louisiana French picaillon, small coin, from French, from Provencal picaioun, from picaio, money, perhaps from Old Provencal piquar, to jingle, clink, from Vulgar Latin *piccare, to pierce.]
epigram (EP-i-gram) noun
A short witty saying, often in verse. [From Middle English, from Latin epigramma, from Greek epigramma, from epigraphein (to write, inscribe), from epi- (upon, after) + graphein (to write). Other words originating from the same root are graphite, paragraph, program, and topography.]
rainmaker (RAYN-may-kuhr) noun
1. A person with a strong ability to bring in new business or produce results, especially through the use of influence, connections, etc. 2. One believed to be able to cause rain either by magic (for example, some native American groups) or by science (for example, by seeding the clouds with chemicals such as silver iodide from an airplane). [From rain, from Middle English rein, from Old English regn, ren + maker, from make, from Middle English maken, from Old English macian.]
misogamy (mi-SOG-uh-mee) noun
Hatred of marriage. "Unfortunately, Coward couldn't resist a bit of `socially acceptable' misogamy. The domestic violence at the end of the second act was a bit unsettling, the more so because so many in the audience found it amusing. Goff, Nadine, `Private Lives' Needs Something of Jump Start, Wisconsin State Journal, 7 Jan 1995. This week's theme: words derived by adding suffixes. -------- Date: Sat Mar 6 00:46:27 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--agrostology agrostology (ag-ruh-STOL-uh-jee) noun The study of grasses. [Greek agrostis, a kind of wild grass (from agros, field.) + -logy.]
chasm (KAZ-um) noun
1. A deep hole; gorge. 2. A sudden interruption, discontinuity. 3. A difference of ideas, beliefs, or opinions. [Latin chasma from Greek khasma.]
honcho (HAWN-choh) noun
One who is in charge of a situation; leader; boss. verb tr. To organize, manage, or lead a project, event, etc. [From Japanese honcho, from han (squad) + cho (chief).]
inebriety (in-i-BRY-i-tee) noun
Drunkenness. [Intensive prefix in- + Latin ebriare (to make drunk), from ebrius (drunk).]
discommode (dis-kuh-MOD) verb tr.
To put to inconvenience. [From French discommoder, dis- + commode, convenient.]
fossick (FOS-sik) verb intr.
To search for mineral deposits, usually over ground previously worked by others; to search for small items. verb tr. To search; ferret out. [British (Cornish) dialect: fossick, troublesome person; fussick bustle about, from fuss + -ick.]
abjure (ab-JOOR) verb tr.
1. To renounce under oath; forswear. 2. To recant solemnly; repudiate. 3. To give up (an action or practice, for example); abstain from. [Middle English abjuren, from Old French abjurer, from Latin abiurare : ab-, away + iurare, to swear.]
abderian (AB-dir-ee-uhn) adjective
Given to excessive or incessant laughter. [After Abdera, in ancient Thrace (present day Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece), the birth place of Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher. Location on the map: ]
perpend (pur-PEND) verb tr. and intr.
To reflect upon; to consider; to ponder. [From Latin perpendere (to weigh thoroughly), from per- (thoroughly) + pendere (to weigh), ultimately from Indo-European root (s)pen- (to draw, to spin) that is also the source of pendulum, spider, pound, pansy, pendant, ponder, appendix, penthouse, depend, and spontaneous.]
redd (red) verb tr.
1. To set in order. 2. To clear. [From Middle English redden, to clear, to put in order.]
ormolu (OWR-muh-loo) noun
1. Any of several copper and zinc or tin alloys resembling gold in appearance and used to ornament furniture, moldings, architectural details, and jewelry. 2. An imitation of gold. [French or moulu : or, gold (from Old French) + obsolete French molu, past participle of moudre, to grind up, from Old French, from Latin molere.]
chutzpah (KHOOT-spuh, HOOT-) noun, also chutzpa
Shameless impudence, brazen nerve, gall, effrontery. [From Yiddish khutspe, from Late Hebrew huspa.]
quisquilian (kwis-KWIL-ee-uhn) adjective
Worthless, trifling. [From Latin quisquiliae (waste, rubbish).]
attic salt (AT-ik salt) noun
Refined, delicate wit. Also known as attic wit. [From Attic (of Greece or of Athens, after Attica, a region in southeast Greece surrounding Athens) + salt (wit).]
fain (fayn) adverb
1. Willingly; gladly. 2. Rather. adjective 1. Pleased. 2. Obliged. 3. Eager. [From Middle English, from Old English faegen (glad).]
spin doctor (spin DOK-tuhr) noun
A representative who is adept in presenting a favorable interpretation of events, utterances, and actions for a politician or some other public figure; one who manipulates news. [Spin, from ballgames (e.g. baseball) where spinning a ball helps a player project it in the desired direction; doctor (expert) or from the verb to doctor (to tamper or falsify).]
estivate (ES-tuh-vayt) verb, also aestivate
To pass the summer in a dormant state. [From Latin aestivatus, past participle of aestivare, to reside during the summer.]
suborner (sub-ORN-uhr) noun
One who suborns i.e. induces another to perform an unlawful act secretly or give false testimony. [From Latin subornare, from sub- (secretly) + ornare (to equip). Other words that derive from the same root (ornare): adorn, ornate.]
circumbendibus (sur-kuhm-BEN-duh-buhs) noun
Circumlocution. [From Latin circum- (around) + English bend + Latin -ibus.]
espalier (i-SPAL-yuhr, -yay)
noun: A tree trained to grow flat against a wall. verb tr.: To train a tree in such a way. [From French espalier, from Italian spalliera (shoulder support), from spalla (shoulder), from Latin spatula (shoulder blade).]
plenipotentiary (plen-uh-puh-TEN-shee-er-ee, -shuh-ree) noun
A person, such as a diplomatic agent, fully authorized to represent a government. adjective Invested with full power. [From Latin plenipotentiarius, from plenum (full) + potent (powerful).]
palsy-walsy (pal-zee-WAL-zee) adjective
Slang. Having or appearing to have the close relationship of chums. [Reduplication of palsy alteration of pally.]
excerebrose (eks-SER-ee-bros) adjective
Brainless. [From Latin ex- (out of) + cerebrum (brain).]
scrabble (SKRAB-uhl) verb tr., intr.
1. To scratch or scrape, as with claws or hands. 2. To struggle to obtain something not easily available. 3. To climb over something hastily or clumsily. 4. To scribble. noun The act of scratching, scraping, struggling, scribbling, climbing, etc. frantically, desperately, or with difficulty. [From Dutch schrabbelen, from schrabben (to scrape or scratch).]
verboten (vuhr-BOHT-n) adjective
Not allowed; forbidden. [From German, past participle of verbieten, to forbid.]
paper tiger (PAY-puhr TY-guhr) noun
One who is outwardly strong and powerful but is in fact powerless and ineffectual. [Translation of Chinese zhi lao hu, from zhi (paper) + lao hu (tiger).]
maugre or mauger (MAW-guhr) preposition
In spite of. [From Old French malgre (ill will), from mal- (bad) + gre (pleasure, grace), from Latin gratum (pleasing).]
kerfuffle (kuhr-FUHF-uhl) noun
A commotion. [Of uncertain origin, perhaps from Scots curfuffle, from fuffle (to disorder).]
fescennine (FES-uh-nyn, -nin) adjective
Obscene or scurrilous. [After Fescennia, a town of ancient Etruria known for its ribald and scurrilous songs sung at festivals and weddings.]
decoct (di-KOKT) verb tr.
1. To extract the flavor of by boiling. 2. To make concentrated; boil down. [Middle English decocten, to boil, from Latin decoquere, decoct-, to boil down or away : de- + coquere, to boil, to cook.]
bibliophile (BIB-lee-uh-fyl) also bibliophil (-fil) or
bibliophilist (bib-lee-OF-uh-list) noun 1. A lover of books. 2. A collector of books. [Biblio-, book + -phile, lover of.]
lickerish (LIK-uhr-ish) adjective
1. Lascivious; lecherous. 2. Greedy; desirous. 3. Archaic. Relishing good food. Obsolete. Arousing hunger; appetizing. [Middle English likerous, perhaps from Old French lecheor, lekier.]
janissary (JAN-i-ser-ee) also janizary (-ZER-ee) noun
1. A member of a group of elite, highly loyal supporters. 2. A soldier in an elite Turkish guard organized in the 14th century and abolished in 1826. [French janissaire, from Old French jehanicere, from Old Italian giannizero, from Ottoman Turkish yani cheri, new army : yani, new + cheri, special troops (from Middle Persian cherih, bravery, victory, from cher, brave, victorious, from Avestan chairya-, vigorous, brave).]
sudoriferous (soo-duh-RIF-uhr-rus) adjective
Sweaty or sweat producing. [From Late Latin sudorifer, from Latin sudor sweat, from sudare (to sweat), ultimately from Indo-European root sweid- (to sweat) that also resulted in words sweat and exude.]
shivaree (shiv-uh-REE) noun, also chivaree, chivari, charivari
A noisy, mock serenade to a newly married couple, involving the banging of kettles, pots and pans. [From French charivari (din, hullabaloo).]
passel (PAS-uhl) noun
A large group or a large number. [Alteration of parcel.]
duodecennial (doo-uh-di-SEN-ee-uhl, dyoo-) noun
A twelfth anniversary. adjective Of or pertaining to a period of twelve years. [From Latin duodecennium (a period of twelve years), from duodecim (twelve) + annus (year).]
canter (KANT-uhr) noun.
A smooth gait, especially of a horse, that is slower than a gallop but faster than a trot. canter intr.verb 1. To ride a horse at a canter. 2. To go or move at a canter. canter tr.verb To cause (a horse) to go at a canter. [Ultimately from phrases such as Canterbury gallop after Canterbury, England, toward which pilgrims rode at an easy pace.]
meiosis (my-O-sis) noun
1. Genetics. The process of cell division in sexually reproducing organisms that reduces the number of chromosomes in reproductive cells, leading to the production of gametes in animals and spores in plants. 2. Rhetorical understatement. [Greek meiosis, diminution, from meioun, to diminish, from meion, less.]
yammer (YAM-uhr) verb tr., intr.
To whine, complain, or to talk loudly and incessantly. noun The act of yammering. [From Middle Dutch jammeren (to lament).]
mondegreen (MON-di-green) noun
A word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard. [Coined by British author S. Wright]
epopee (EP-uh-pee) noun
1. Epic poetry, especially as a literary genre. 2. An epic poem. [French epopee, from Greek epopoiia : epos, song, word + poiein, to make.]
gordian (GOR-dee-uhn) adjective
Highly intricate; extremely difficult to solve. [In Greek mythology, King Gordius of Phrygia tied a knot that defied all who tried to untie it. An oracle prophesied that one who would undo this Gordian knot would rule Asia. Alexander the Great simply cut the knot with one stroke of his sword. Hence the saying, "to cut the Gordian knot" meaning to solve a difficult problem by a simple, bold, and effective action.]
nugacity (noo-GAS-i-tee, nyoo-) noun
Triviality; futility. [From Latin nugax (trifling), from nugari (to trifle).]
papuliferous (pa-pu-LIF-uhr-uhs) adjective, also papilliferous
Having pimples. [From Latin papula (pimple) + -ferous (bearing).]
mogigraphia (moj-i-GRAF-ee-uh) noun
Writer's cramp. [From Greek mogis (with difficulty) + graph (writing).]
epilogue (EP-uh-log) noun, also epilog
1. A short concluding section at the end of a literary work, detailing the future of the story, its characters, etc. Also known as afterword. 2. A short speech, often in verse form, spoken by an actor directly to the spectators at the end of a play. Also, the actor giving such a speech. [From Middle English epilogue, from French epilogue, from Latin epilogus, from Greek epilogos, from epi- (after, over) + logos (word, speech).]
compellation (kom-puh-LAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of addressing or designating someone by name. 2. A name; an appellation. [Latin compellatio, compellation-, from compellatus, past participle of compellare, to address.]
ambiguity (am-bi-GYOO-i-tee) noun
1. Doubtfulness or uncertainty as regards interpretation. 2. Something of doubtful meaning. [From Latin ambiguus, uncertain, from ambigere, to go about : ambi-, around + agere, to drive.]
leitmotif also leitmotiv (LYT-mo-teef) noun
1. A melodic passage or phrase, especially in Wagnerian opera, associated with a specific character, situation, or element. 2. A dominant and recurring theme, as in a novel. [German Leitmotiv : leiten, to lead (from Middle High German, from Old High German leitan.) + Motiv, motif, from French motif.]
dun (dun) tr.verb
1. To importune (a debtor) for payment. dun noun 1. One that duns. 2. An importunate demand for payment. [Origin unknown.]
cygnet (SIG-nit) noun
A young swan. [Middle English cignet, from Anglo-Norman, diminutive of Old French cygne, swan, from Latin cygnus, from Greek kuknos.]
eminence grise (ay-mee-nahns GREEZ) noun, also, gray eminence
plural eminences grises (ay-mee-nahns GREEZ) One who wields unofficial power, often secretly, through someone else. [From French éminence grise, literally gray eminence.]
yenta (YEN-tuh) noun
A busybody or a gossip. [From Yiddish yente, originally a female name.]
schnorrer (SHNOR-uhr) noun
Slang. One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others; a parasite. [Yiddish shnorer, beggar, sponger, from shnorn, to beg, from Middle High German snurren, to hum, whir (from the sound of the musical instrument played by beggars).]
prudential (proo-DEN-shuhl) adjective
1. Of or relating to prudence. 2. Exercising good judgment, common sense, forethought, caution, etc. [From Middle English prudence, from Middle French, from Latin prudentia, contraction of providentia, from provident-, present participle stem of providere (to provide). The words improvise, provide, provident, proviso, purvey, all derive from the same root.]
succor also succour (SUK-uhr) noun
1. Help or relief in time of distress. 2. One who gives help. verb tr. To help someone in a difficult situation. [Via Middle English and French from Latin succurrere (to run to help). Ultimately from Indo-European root kers- (to run) that's also the source of car, career, carpenter, occur, discharge, and caricature.]
sommelier (sum-uhl-YAY) noun
A wine steward in a restaurant. [From French sommelier, from somm(er)ier (one charged with transporting supplies), from sommier (beast of burden), from somme (burden). From driving a pack animal to drafting wine lists, a sommelier has come a long way. A sommelier is to wine as a cicerone is to beer, though the latter has been introduced recently and is not widespread.]
doldrums (DOLE-druhmz) noun (used with a singular or plural verb).
1. A period of stagnation or slump. A period of depression or unhappy listlessness. 2. A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls. The weather conditions characteristic of these regions of the ocean. [Alteration (influenced by tantrum), of obsolete doldrum, dullard, from Middle English dold, past participle of dullen, to dull, from dul, dull.]
clairvoyance (klar-VOI-uhns) noun
1. The power of seeing things removed in time or space. 2. Intuitive insight into things. [From French clairvoyance, from clair (clear) + voyant (seeing), present participle of voir (to see).]
nemesis (NEM-i-sis) noun
1. A source of harm or ruin. 2. Retributive justice in its execution or outcome. 3. An opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome. 4. One that inflicts retribution or vengeance. 5. Nemesis. Greek Mythology. The goddess of retributive justice or vengeance. [Greek, retribution, the goddess Nemesis, from nemein, to allot.]
literally (LIT-uhr-uh-lee) adverb
1. In a literal manner; word for word. 2. In a literal or strict sense. 3. (Usage Problem) Really; actually. "Perfide Angleterre. 1786, French aristocrat Count Honore de Mirabeau: English generosity! They calculate everything, even talent and friendship; most of their writers have almost literally died of starvation." The English, The Economist, 31 Dec 1999. "Sadada Jackson: It took me literally two months just to get around the corner from my house." Jay Schadler, et al., Don't Panic, ABC 20/20, 24 Feb 1999. This week's theme: words often used in a sense different from their established definitions. -------- Date: Mon Jan 24 00:04:32 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--egregious egregious (i-gree-juhs, -jee-uhs) adjective Conspicuously bad or offensive. [From Latin egregius, outstanding : e-, ex- + grex, greg-, herd.]
gnomon (NO-mon) noun
1. The raised arm of a sundial that indicates the time of day by its shadow. 2. The remaining part of a parallelogram after a similar smaller parallelogram has been taken away from one of the corners. [From Latin gnomon, pointer, from Greek, from gignoskein, to know.]
jodhpurs (JOd-puhrz) noun
Wide-hipped riding pants of heavy cloth, fitting tightly from knee to ankle. [After Jodhpur, a city of western India southwest of Delhi, center of a former principality founded in the 13th century,]
obtund (ob-TUND) verb tr.
To blunt, deaden, or dull. [From Middle English, from Latin obtundere (to beat against), from ob- (against) + tundere (to beat). Other words derived from the same Latin root are pierce and contuse.]
nisi (NY-sy, NEE-see) adjective
Not yet final, taking effect at a later date unless invalidated by a certain cause. The word usually appears in forms such as "decree nisi", "order nisi". [From Latin nisi (unless, if not), from ne- (not) + si (if).]
bootleg (BOOT-leg) tr. verb
1. To make, sell, or transport (alcoholic liquor) for sale illegally. 2. To produce, distribute, or sell without permission or illegally: a clandestine outfit that bootlegs record albums and tapes. bootleg intr. verb 1. To engage in the bootlegging of alcoholic liquor or another product. 2. To attach a transmitter to a dish antenna, creating an uplink via which a signal is sent to a satellite without the knowledge of the satellite's owner. 3. Football. To fake a hand-off, conceal the ball on the hip, and roll out in order to pass or especially to rush around the end. Used of a quarterback. bootleg noun 1. A product, especially alcoholic liquor, that is illicitly produced, distributed, or sold. 2. The part of a boot above the instep. 3. Football. A play in which the quarterback bootlegs. bootleg adjective Produced, sold, or transported illegally: bootleg gin; bootleg tapes. [From a smuggler's practice of carrying liquor in the legs of boots.]
monosyllabic (mon-uh-si-LAB-ik) adjective
1. Having only one syllable. 2. Characterized by or consisting of monosyllables. [From Late Latin monosyllabon, from Greek monosullabon : mono-, mono- + sullabe, syllable.]
willy-nilly (WIL-ee NIL-ee) adverb, adjective
1. Whether willing or not. 2. Haphazardly. [From contraction of "will ye/he/I nill ye/he/I", from will (to be willing) and nill (to be unwilling).]
rostrum (ROS-truhm, RO-struhm) noun
1. A dais, pulpit, or other elevated platform for public speaking. 2. The curved, beaklike prow of an ancient Roman ship, especially a war galley. The speaker's platform in an ancient Roman forum, which was decorated with the prows of captured enemy ships. 3. Biology. A beaklike or snoutlike projection. [Latin rostrum, beak.]
gadzookery (gad-ZOO-kuh-ree) noun
Use of archaic words or expressions, e.g. wight (a human being), prithee (I pray thee), ye (you). [Apparently from gadzooks, once used as a mild oath, which may have been an alteration of God's hooks, a reference to the nails of Christ's crucifixion.]
endogamy (en-DOG-uh-mee) noun
1. Anthropology. Marriage within a particular group in accordance with custom or law. 2. Botany. Fertilization resulting from pollination among flowers of the same plant. 3. Biology. Reproduction by the fusion of gametes of similar ancestry. "Of course, when today's typical Asian or Latino youngsters now in school want to marry, they won't be bound by some tribal pressure toward endogamy. The prevalent practice will be exogamy - that is, people marrying out of their religious or ethnic group." Javed Amir, The Dilemma of Becoming an American, India Currents, 30 Apr 1994, pp. PG. This week's theme: a verbal zoo. -------- Date: Thu Nov 19 00:04:20 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--vamoose vamoose (va-MOOS, vuh-) intr.verb Slang. To leave hurriedly. [From Spanish vamos, let's go, from Latin vadamus, first person pl. subjunctive of vadere, to go.]
carbon-neutral (KAHR-buhn NOO-truhl, NYOO-) adjective
Adding no net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. [A greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide is a contributor to global warming. Carbon-neutral means contributing zero total emission of the gas into the atmosphere. The earliest citation of the term is found in a 1992 article in The Independent (London, UK).]
deracinate (di-RAS-uh-nayt) verb tr.
1. To uproot. 2. To displace someone or something from a native culture or environment. [From French deraciner, from de- + racine (root), from Late Latin radicina, from Latin radix (root), ultimately from Indo-European root wrad (root) which is also the source of words, such as root, wort, licorice, radical, radish, rutabaga, eradicate, and ramify.]
acclivity (a-KLIV-i-tee) noun
An upward slope. [From Latin acclivitas, from acclivis (uphill), from ad- + clivus (slope).]
virtu (vuhr-TOO) noun
1. A love of or taste for fine objects of art. 2. Objects of art, curios, etc. [From Italian virtù (virtue), from Latin virtus (worth, excellence). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wi-ro (man) that is also the source of virile, virtue, virago, virtuoso, werewolf, and world.]
osculate (OS-kyuh-layt) tr.verb
1. To kiss. 2. Mathematics. To have three or more points coincident with. osculate intr.verb To come together; contact. [Latin osculari, osculat-, from osculum, kiss, diminutive of os, mouth.]
commentariat (kom-uhn-TAR-ee-uht) noun
The group of people who provide opinion and analysis of events in the news. [Blend of commentator and commissariat/proletariat. The term was first noticed in a 1993 article in the Washington Post.]
polyglot (POL-ee-glot) adjective
1. Conversant in many languages. 2. Composed of or having several languages. (as in a book, a population, etc.) 3. Encompassing diversity (as in culture or origin). noun 1. One who is competent in many languages. 2. A book having the same text in several languages. 3. A mixture or confusion of languages. [From Greek polyglottos, from poly- (many) + glotta (tongue, language), The words gloss, glossary, and glottis are derived from the same root.]
praetorian or pretorian (pree-TOR-ee-uhn) adjective
Corruptible; fraudulent. [From Latin praetor, an elected magistrate in ancient Rome.]
pianissimo (pee-uh-NIS-uh-moe) Music. adverb .adjective
In a very soft or quiet tone. Used chiefly as a direction. noun A part of a composition played very softly or quietly. [Italian, superlative of piano, soft.]
clerisy (KLER-i-see) noun
Educated people considered as a group; the literati. [German Klerisei, clergy, from Medieval Latin clericia, from Late Latin clericus, priest.]
acalculia (ay-kal-KYOO-lee-uh) noun
Inability or loss of the ability to perform arithmetic operations. [New Latin, equivalent to a- + calcul- + -ia.]
semasiology (si-may-see-OL-uh-jee) noun
The study of meanings in a language, especially the study of semantic change. [From Greek semasia (meaning).]
gerent (JIR-ent) noun
One that rules or manages. [From Latin gerens, gerent-, present participle of gerere, to manage.]
cede (seed) verb tr.
To yield or to surrender something, such as a territory. [From Latin cedere (to go or to yield). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ked- (to go or yield) that's also the ancestor of exceed, secede, proceed, cease, and necessary.]
gudgeon (GUJ-uhn) noun
1. A small European fresh-water fish (Gobio gobio) or any of the related fishes, often used as bait. 2. A gullible person. 3. A bait. [From Latin gobion, variant of gobius, via Old French and Middle English.]
misocainea (mis-oh-KY-nee-uh, mi-soh-) noun
Hatred of anything new. [Greek miso- (hate) + caino- (new).]
grisaille (gri-ZAI, ZAYL) noun
A painting in tones of a single color, especially gray, to represent objects in relief. [From French grisaille (grayness), from gris (gray).]
metaplasm (MET-uh-plaz-uhm) noun
A change in a word, for example by adding, omitting, inverting, or transposing its letters, syllables, or sounds. [From Middle English metaplasmus, from Latin, from Greek metaplasmos (remodeling), from metaplassein (to remold) from meta- + plassein (to mold).]
purple prose (PUR-puhl proz) noun
An overly ornate piece of writing. [Two synonyms of the term are 'purple passage' and 'purple patch'. The idea comes from Latin pannus purpureus (purple patch), a phrase used by the poet Horace in his Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry) to suggest a patch of royal fabric on an ordinary cloth, a brilliant piece of writing in an overall dull work. Purple was the color of choice by the royalty as the purple dye was the most rare and hence most expensive.]
hinterland (HIN-tuhr-land) noun
1. An area behind the coastal region. 2. The remote part of a region, away from the cultural influence of a city; back country. [From German hinterland, from hinter (hinder) + land (land).]
picante (pi-KAN-tay) adjective
Prepared in such a way as to be spicy; having a sauce typically containing tomatoes, onions, peppers, vinegar, and other condiments. [Spanish, present participle of picar, to bite, prick.]
oligarchy (OL-i-gar-kee) noun
A government in which a few people control all power. [From Greek oligos (few) + archos (ruler).]
boycott (BOI-kot) tr.verb
1. To act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion. 2. To abstain from or unite with others in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with. boycott noun The act or an instance of boycotting. [After Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), English land agent in Ireland.]
cultus (KUL-tuhs) noun
A cult, especially a religious one. [Latin cultus, worship, from past participle of colere, to cultivate.]
prevenient (pri-VEEN-yuhnt) adjective
Coming before; anticipatory; preventive. [From Latin praevenient-, present participle of praevenire (to precede), from pre- (before) + venire (to come).]
buttress (BUHT-ris) noun
1. An external structure built to support a wall or a building. 2. Something or someone that supports. verb tr. To support or reinforce. [From Middle English butres, from Old French boterez, from bouter (to push against).]
austral (O-struhl) adjective
Southern. [From Latin auster (south). That's why Australia is so named, but that does not apply to Austria, in central Europe. Austria's name is a Latinized form of its German name Oesterreich (eastern empire, referring to the eastern boundary of the Frankish Empire at one time).]
trilemma (tri-LEM-uh) noun
A situation offering three undesirable options. [Blend of tri- + dilemma.]
casus belli (KAY-suhs BEL-y, BEL-ee) noun, plural casus belli
An action or event that causes or is used to justify starting a war. [From New Latin casus belli, from Latin casus, occasion, belli, genitive of bellum, war.]
derby (DUR-bee) (British DAHR-bee) noun
1. Any of various annual horseraces, especially for three-year-olds. 2. A formal race usually having an open field of contestants. 3. A stiff felt hat with a round crown and a narrow, curved brim. [After Edward Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby (1752-1834), founder of the English Derby.]
teetotum (tee-TO-tuhm) noun
A spinning top. [From T-totum. Originally a teetotum was a kind of die used in a game of chance. It had a stick put through a six-sided die so that only four sides could be used. One of the sides had the letter T representing Latin totum (all), implying take the whole stake from the pot. Other sides had letters A aufer (take one stake from the pot), D depone (put one stake), and N nihil (do nothing). A dreidel is a form of teetotum.]
rasorial (ruh-SOR-ee-uhl) adjective
Given to scratching the ground to look for food. [From Latin radere (to scrape), ultimately from the Indo-European root red- (to scrape or scratch) that's also the source of raze, razor, erase, corrode, rascal, rat, and rodent.]
vagitus (vuh-JI-tuhs) noun
The cry of a newborn. [From Latin vagire (to wail).]
furl (furl) verb tr.
To roll up something, such as a flag. verb intr. To become rolled up. noun The act of rolling up or something rolled up. [Perhaps from French ferler, from Old French ferlier (to fasten), from fer, ferm (firm) + lier (to tie), from Latin ligare. Ultimately from Indo-European root leig (to bind) that's also the source of oblige, alloy, ally, rely, lien, league, and liable.]
fussbudget (FUS-buj-it) noun
One who is fussy about unimportant things. [From fuss + budget, from Middle English, from Old French bougette, diminutive of bouge (bag), from Latin bulga (bag). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhelgh- (to swell) that is also the source of bulge, bellows, billow, belly, and bolster.]
gynophobia or gynephobia (gyn-uh-FO-bee-uh, jyn-) noun
The fear of women. [From Greek gyne (female, woman) + -phobia (fear).]
litotes (LI-tuh-teez, LIT-, li-TOH-teez) noun, plural litotes
A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in This is no small problem. [Greek litotes, from litos, plain.]
gestapo (guh-STAH-po) noun
Nazi secret state police notorious for brutality. adjective Employing method similar to Gestapo; marked by brutal suppression. [From German Gestapo, an acronym from GEheime STAats-POlizei (Secret State Police).]
accrete (uh-KREET) tr.verb
To make larger or greater, as by increased growth. accrete intr.verb 1. To grow together; fuse. 2. To grow or increase gradually, as by addition. [Back-formation from accretion.]
woebegone (WO-bi-gon) adjective
Affected with, or exhibiting, woe. [From Middle English woe + begon (beset).]
tween (tween) noun
A youngster between middle childhood and adolescence, usually between 8 and 12 years. [A blend of teen and between.]
circumambulate (sur-kuhm-AM-byuh-layt) verb tr., intr.
To walk around, especially ritually. [From Latin circum- (around) + ambulate (to walk about), from ambulare (to walk).]
spondulicks also spondulix (spon-DOO-liks) noun
Money; cash. [Of unknown origin.]
facetious (fuh-SEE-shus) adjective
Jocular or humorous, often inappropriately. [From Latin facetus (witty).]
amusia (ay-MYOO-zee-uh) noun
The inability to produce or comprehend music or musical sounds. [New Latin, from Greek amousia state of being without the Muses, especially song.]
sentinel (SEN-tuh-nuhl) noun
One that keeps guard; a sentry. verb tr. 1. To watch over as a guard. 2. To provide with a guard. 3. To post as a guard. [French sentinelle, from Italian sentinella, probably from Old Italian sentina, vigilance, from sentire, to watch, from Latin sentire, to feel.]
chop suey (CHOP SOO-ee) noun
1. A dish consisting of mixed vegetables, meat pieces, etc. 2. A miscellany. verb tr. To defeat, crush, chop to pieces. [From Cantonese tsap seui (mixed bits).]
deep-six (deep siks) verb tr.
1. To throw overboard. 2. To discard or reject. [From nautical slang deep-six (burial at sea), or from the allusion to the typical depth of a grave.]
adduce (uh-DOOS, uh-DYOOS) verb tr.
To offer as evidence; to offer something as proof. [From Latin adducere (to bring forward), from ad- (towards) + ducere (to lead), Ultimately from Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
fastuous (FAS-choo-uhs) adjective
1. Haughty; arrogant. 2. Pretentious. [From Latin fastuosus, from fastus (arrogance).]
denigrate (DEN-i-grayt) verb tr.
To defame or belittle. [From Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare (to blacken), from de- (completely) + nigrare (to make black), ultimately from Indo-European root nek(w)t (night). Other words derived from the same root are night, nocturnal, and equinox.]
atrabilious (at-ruh-bil-yuhs) also atrabiliar (-bil-ee-uhr) adjective
1. Inclined to melancholy. 2. Having a peevish disposition; surly. [From Latin atra bilis, black bile (translation of Greek melankholia.) : atra, black + bilis, bile.]
cento (SEN-to) noun
A literary work, especially a poem, composed of parts taken from works of other authors. [From Latin cento (patchwork).]
word-hoard (WURD-hoard) noun
The sum of words one uses or understands; a vocabulary. To him the stateliest spake in answer; the warriors' leader his word-hoard unlocked: - "We are by kin of the clan of Geats, and Hygelac's own hearth-fellows we." Traditional, Beowulf: Part IV, Great Works of Literature, 1 Jan 1992. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Fri Oct 16 00:04:20 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--etymon etymon (ET-uh-mon) noun 1. An earlier form of a word in the same language or in an ancestor language. For example, Indo-European -duwo and Old English twa are etymons of Modern English two. 2. A word or morpheme from which compounds and derivatives are formed. 3. A foreign word from which a particular loanword is derived. For example, Latin duo, "two," is an etymon of English duodecimal. [Latin, from Greek etumon, true sense of a word, from etumos, true.]
distrait (di-STRAY) adjective
Inattentive or preoccupied, especially because of anxiety. [Middle English, from Old French, past participle of distraire, to distract, from Latin distrahere.]
pariah (puh-RI-uh) noun
An outcast. [From Tamil paraiyar, plural of paraiyan, drummer, people considered lower in rank in the former caste-system of India.]
gauche (GOsh) adjective
Lacking grace; tactless; awkward. [From French gauche (literally left-handed, awkward), from Old French, from gauchir (to turn).]
aleatory (AY-lee-uh-tor-ee, -tohr-ee) adjective
1. Dependent on chance, luck, or an uncertain outcome. 2. Of or characterized by gambling. 3. Also aleatoric. Music. Using or consisting of sounds to be chosen by the performer or left to chance; indeterminate. [Latin aleatorius, from aleator, gambler, from alea, dice.]
heterodox (HET-uhr-uh-doks) adjective
1. Not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma. 2. Holding unorthodox opinions. [Greek heterodoxos : hetero-, + doxa, opinion (from dokein, to think).]
analphabet (an-AL-fuh-bet) noun
An illiterate; one who doesn't know the alphabet or the basics of something. [From Greek analphabetos (not knowing the alphabet), from an- (not) + alphabetos (alphabet), from alpha + beta.]
louche (loosh) adjective
Of questionable character; dubious; disreputable. [From French louche, cross-eyed, from Old French lousche, feminine of lois, from Latin lusca, feminine of luscus, one-eyed.]
lollygag (LOL-ee-gag) verb intr., also lallygag
1. To fool around, waste time, or spend time lazily. 2. To neck. [Origin uncertain.]
variorum (var-ee-OR-um) noun
1. An edition of the works of an author with notes by various scholars or editors. 2. An edition containing various versions of a text. adjective Of or relating to a variorum edition or text. [From Latin (editio cum notis) variorum, (edition with the notes) of various persons, genitive plural of varius, various.]
spendthrift (SPEND-thrift) noun
One who spends money recklessly or wastefully. adjective Wasteful or extravagant [spend + thrift, accumulated wealth (obsolete).]
politicaster (PUH-LIT-i-kas-tuhr) noun
A petty politician. [From Italian politicastro, from Latin politicus (political), from Greek politikos, from polites (citizen), from polis (city) + Latin -aster (pejorative suffix).]
perdition (per-DISH-ehn) noun
1. Loss of the soul; eternal damnation. Hell. 2. Utter ruin. [Middle English perdicion, from Old French perdicion, from Late Latin perditio, perdition-, from Latin perditus, past participle of perdere, to lose : per- + dare, to give.]
pander (PAN-duhr) verb intr.
1. To act as a go-between or liaison in sexual intrigues; function as a procurer. 2. To cater to the lower tastes and desires of others or exploit their weaknesses. [Middle English Pandare, Pandarus, from Old Italian Pandaro, from Latin Pandarus, from Greek Pandaros. After Pandarus, the procurer of Cressida for Troilus in medieval romance.]
feng shui (fung SHWAY) noun
Describing the network of intangible influences, positive and negative, that some believe to operate in a place, knowledge of which is necessary in discovering the most propitious site for putting up a building, staging an event, etc. [From Chinese feng (wind) and shui (water).]
enate (i-NAYT, EE-nayt) adjective
1. Growing outward. 2. Also enatic. Related on the mother's side. noun A relative on one's mother's side. [Latin enatus, past participle of enasci, to issue forth : e-, ex-, + nasci, to be born.]
meshuga also meshugga (muh-SHOOG-uh) adjective
Slang. Crazy; senseless. [Yiddish meshuge, from Hebrew mesugga'.]
wisenheimer (WY-zen-hy-muhr) also weisenheimer, noun
A smart aleck. [From wise + -enheimer (on the pattern of names such as Guggenheimer or Oppenheimer).]
labyrinth (LAB-eh-rinth) noun
1. An intricate structure of interconnecting passages through which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze. Labyrinth: The maze in which the Minotaur was confined in Greek mythology. 2. Something highly intricate or convoluted in character, composition, or construction 3. A group of complex interconnecting anatomical cavities. [Middle English laberinthe, from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek laburinthos possibly akin to labrus, double-headed axe, of Lydian origin.]
antiphrasis (an-TIF-ruh-sis) noun
The use of a word or phrase in a sense contrary to its normal meaning for ironic or humorous effect, as in a mere babe of 40 years. [Late Latin, from Greek, from antiphrazein, to express by the opposite : anti-, anti- + phrazein, to speak.]
acescent (uh-SES-uhnt) adjective
Turning sour; slightly sour. [From acescere to turn sour. Ultimately from the Indo-European root ak- (sharp) that's also the source of acrid, vinegar, acid, acute, edge, hammer, heaven, eager, oxygen, and mediocre.]
dysphemism (DIS-fuh-miz-em) noun
The substitution of a harsher, deprecating or offensive term in place of a relatively neutral term. [From Greek dys- (bad) + -phemism (as in euphemism).]
saltant (SAL-tuhnt) adjective
Leaping, jumping, or dancing. [From Latin saltant-, stem of saltans, present participle of saltare (to dance), frequentative of salire (to jump). Other words derived from the same Latin root (salire) are sally, somersault, insult, result, and saute.]
royal we (ROI-uhl wee) noun
The first-person plural pronoun used by a king or queen to refer to himself or herself, for example, "We are not amused," a line attributed to Queen Victoria. [From Old French roial, from Latin regalis (kingly) + Old English we. The practice of using "we" to refer to oneself is called nosism.]
bull's-eye (bulz eye) noun
1. The center of a target. 2. A direct hit. 3. A convex lens or a lantern with such a lens in it. [Why bull's eye? Why not a cat's eye or a dog's eye? Nobody knows. Perhaps it's an indication of the earlier agro-economy and the importance of bovine animals in it. It was probably suggested by the similarity of a bull's round eye with that of a target.]
atticism (AT-i-siz-em) noun
1. A characteristic feature of Attic Greek. 2. An expression characterized by conciseness and elegance [After Attica, an ancient region of east-central Greece around Athens.]
repartee (rep-uhr-TEE) noun
1. A quick, witty reply or conversation. 2. Cleverness in making witty conversation. [From repartie (retort), from repartir (to retort), from re- + partir (to part or divide), from Latin partire (to divide), from pars (part).]
anathema (uh-NATH-uh-muh) noun
1. Something or someone intensely disliked. 2. A ban, curse, or vigorous denunciation. [From Late Latin, from Greek anathema (something devoted to evil).]
blaxploitation (blak-sploi-TAY-shuhn) noun
Exploitation of Black people, especially in the American film industry, by casting them in negative, stereotypical roles and by failing to depict in the films the realities of Black life. Attributive. Often used to modify another noun: blaxploitation movies; the blaxploitation genre. [Blend of black and exploitation.]
houri (HOOR-ee) noun
1. One of the beautiful virgins provided for faithful Muslims in the Koranic paradise. 2. A voluptuously attractive young woman. [From French, from Persian huri, from Arabic huri, plural of haura (dark-eyed woman).]
totem (TOE-tuhm) noun
1. An animal, a plant, or a natural object serving among certain tribal or traditional peoples as the emblem of a clan or family and sometimes revered as its founder, ancestor, or guardian. A representation of such an object. A social group having a common affiliation to such an object. 2. A venerated emblem or symbol: "grew up with the totems and taboos typical of an Irish Catholic kid in Boston" (Connie Paige). [Ojibwa nindoodem, my totem.]
telic (TEL-ik, TEE-lik) adjective
Tending toward a goal; expressing purpose. [From Greek telikos, from telos (end). The word telephone comes from the same root.]
lief (leef) adverb
Willingly; gladly; readily. adjective 1. Dear, beloved. 2. Willing. [From Old English leof.]
champerty (CHAM-puhr-tee) noun
Aiding in a lawsuit in return for a share in the proceeds. [From Middle English champartie, from Middle French champart (part of the field: a feudal lord's share of his tenant's crop), from champ (field), from Latin campus (field) + part.]
rodomontade (rod-uh-mon-TAYD) noun
Pretentious boasting. adjective Bragging verb intr. To boast; brag. [From Middle French, from Italian Rodomonte, the boastful king in Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Boiardo and Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.]
amuse-bouche (uh-MYUZ-boosh) noun
Similar to but not to be confused with hors d'oeuvre. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef's approach to cooking and the restaurant's attention to your appetite. [From French, literally, "mouth amuser", from amuser (to amuse) + bouche (mouth). Its more informal twin, amuse-gueule, is the same thing, but may be considered vulgar in some circles. Gueule is the French term for an animal's mouth, bouche for a human's.]
speculum (SPEK-yoo-luhm) noun
1. A mirror used as a reflector in an optical instrument, such as a telescope. 2. Speculum metal: any of various alloys of copper and tin used in making mirrors. 3. An instrument for holding open a body cavity for medical examination. 4. A bright patch of color on the wings of certain birds, for example ducks. [From Latin speculum (mirror), from specere (to look at), ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the root of such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), espionage, despise, telescope, and spectacles.]
catechumen (kat-i-KYOO-men) noun
1. One who is receiving religious instruction in preparation for baptism; a neophyte. 2. A person who is being given basic education of a subject. [From Late Latin catechumenus, from Greek katechoumenos (one being taught orally). "I gave him the manuscript of my first novel to read and awaited his verdict with the expectancy of a catechumen. And when I received his letter - generous, with approval and advice - I felt happy." Mario Vargas Llosa, The Trumpet of Deya, Review of Contemporary Fiction (McLean, Illinois), Spring 1997. This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Wed Mar 6 00:01:04 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ithyphallic ithyphallic (ith-uh-FAL-ik) adjective 1. Of or relating to the phallus carried in procession in ancient Bacchic festivals. 2. Indecent or salacious. 3. Having an erect phallus. [From Late Latin ithyphallicus, from Greek ithyphallikos, from ithyphallos, from ithys (straight) + phallos (phallus).]
muse (myooz) verb intr.
To be absorbed in one's thoughts; engage in meditation. verb tr. To consider or say thoughtfully. noun A state of meditation. [Middle English musen, from Old French muser (possibly from mus, snout, from Medieval Latin musum), or of Germanic origin.]
valetudinarian (val-i-tood-NAR-ee-unn, -tyood-) noun
A sickly or weak person, especially one who is constantly and morbidly concerned with his or her health. adjective 1. Chronically ailing; sickly. 2. Constantly and morbidly concerned with one's health. [From Latin valetudinarius, from valetudo, valetudin-, state of health, from valere, to be strong or well.]
frangible (FRAN-juh-buhl) adjective
Capable of being broken; breakable; fragile. [Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin frangibilis, from Latin frangere, to break.]
wether (WETH-uhr) noun
A castrated ram. [Middle English, from Old English, wether, from Germanic wethruz, perhaps "yearling".]
hendecasyllabic (hen-dek-uh-si-LAB-ik) adjective
Having eleven syllables. noun A word or line of eleven syllables. [From Latin hendecasyllabus, from Greek hendekasyllabos, from hendeca- (eleven), from hen, neuter of heis (one) + deka (ten), + syllabic.]
angary (ANG-guh-ree) also angaria (ang-GAR-ee-uh) noun
The legal right of a belligerent to seize, use, or destroy the property of a neutral, provided that full compensation is made. [Late Latin angaria, service to a lord, from Greek angareia, impressment for public service, from angaros, conscript courier.]
via media (VY-uh MEE-dee-uh, VEE-uh MAY-dee-uh) noun
A middle way. [From Latin, from via (way) + media, feminine of medius (middle).]
platitudinarian (plat-i-tood-n-AR-ee-uhn, -tyood-) noun
One who utters platitudes or trite remarks. [From French plat (flat). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plat- (to spread) that is also the root of flat, to flatter, plan, plant, plantain, plateau, plaza, platinum, supplant, and transplant.]
derrick (DER-ik) noun
1. A machine for hoisting and moving heavy objects, consisting of a movable boom equipped with cables and pulleys and connected to the base of an upright stationary beam. 2. A tall framework over a drilled hole, especially an oil well, used to support boring equipment or hoist and lower lengths of pipe. [Obsolete derick, hangman, gallows after Derick, 16th-century English hangman.]
inconnu (in-kuh-NOO) noun
1. A whitefish (Stenodus leucichthys) found in arctic and subarctic. Also known as sheefish. 2. A stranger. [From French, literally unknown. In 1789, explorer Alexander Mackenzie and his crew traveled the waterways of the Northwest Territories in search of a Northwest passage. They came across an unknown fish and the French-Canadian voyageurs who were part of his crew called it inconnu.]
tog (tog) noun
1. A coat. 2. Togs: Clothes. verb tr. To dress up for a particular occasion or activity. [From shortening of earlier cant togeman, from Latin toga (toga), ultimately from Indo-European root (s)teg- (to cover) that's also the ancestor of other words such as thatch, deck, tile, and detect.]
maharajah or maharaja (ma-ha-ra-juh, -zhuh) noun
1. A king or prince in India ranking above a rajah, especially the sovereign of one of the former native states. 2. Used as a title for such a king or prince. [Hindi maharaja, from Sanskrit : maha-, great, + raja, king]
selenography (sel-uh-NOG-ruh-fee) noun
The branch of astronomy dealing with the physical features of the moon. [From Greek seleno-, from Selene (goddess of the moon in Greek mythology) + -graphy (writing).]
senectitude (si-NEK-ti-tood, -tyood) noun
Old age. [From Latin senectus (old age), from senex (old). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sen- (old) that's also the ancestor of senior, sir, sire, senate, senile, Spanish señor, and surly (which is an alteration of sirly, as in sir-ly).]
ramada (ruh-MAH-duh) noun
An open shelter roofed with branches. [From Spanish, from rama (branch), from Vulgar Latin rama, from Latin ramus (branch).]
octothorpe (OK-tuh-thorp) noun
The symbol #. [The symbol # is derived from a shorthand way of writing lb, the abbreviation for the Latin libra (balance), just as $ is a shorthand way of writing US. Octothorpe is an alteration, influenced by octo-, of earlier octalthorpe, probably a humorous blend of octal (an eight-point pin used in electronic connections) and someone whose last name was or ended in "thorpe", and whose identity is subject to speculation. It may be James Edward Oglethorpe, an eighteenth century English philanthropist, but more likely it is an Olympic athlete, Jim Thorpe. In the early 1960s, Bell Labs introduced two special keys in its innovative touch-tone telephone keypads, "#" and "*", for which it needed fresh names. Having eight points, "octo-" was an obvious first element. Since the engineer involved in introducing this innovation was active in a group seeking the return of Jim Thorpe's medals from Sweden, he whimsically added "-thorpe", creating octothorpe. (Jim Thorpe was disqualified because of his professional status, but his medals were restored posthumously.) The "#" is also known as a pound sign, crosshatch, number sign, sharp, hash, crunch, mesh, hex, flash, grid, pig-pen, gate, hak, oof, rake, fence, gate, grid, gridlet, square, and widget mark.]
atretic (uh-TRET-ik) adjective
Of or relating to an abnormal closure or congenital absence of a bodily opening. [From Neo-Latin, from Greek a- (not) + tresis (perforation).]
zaibatsu (ZAI-ba-tsoo) noun, plural zaibatsu
A large family-owned Japanese commercial combine that holds controlling interests in a variety of areas. After WWII, zaibatsu dissolved into keiretsu, a loose coalition of business groups that own stakes in one another. For example, Mitsubishi, which supplies automobiles, electricity, glass, ships, aircraft, satellites, oil products, beer, etc. [From Japanese, zai wealth + batsu clique]. "Mandai, our chairman, was one of Japan's great bankers. He had been the head of Mitsui Bank before the war and was still regarded almost as a deity by the staff. Like many others connected with the old giant financial combines, the zaibatsu, he had been purged by the Occupation authorities." "The challenge is great; success depends only on the strength of our will," is how Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony Corporation, concludes his biographical book, "Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony." Sony truly is a translation of Akio Morita's willpower and vision. Born on Jan 26, 1921 in Nagoya, Japan, in a family of sake brewers, Morita was more interested in brewing of technology. In 1946, he co-founded a radio repair business in a bombed-out department store that was eventually to become Sony, a name synonymous with innovation and quality. He came up with the name Sony after consulting several dictionaries and creating a derivative from sonus, Latin for sound. He first considered the name Sonny but dropped it when he realized that in Japan, "the word `sonny' would be pronounced as `sohn-nee' which means to lose money." This week we remember him by picking words from his aforesaid book. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Jan 23 00:03:10 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--blase blase (blah-ZAY) adjective Indifferent, bored, uninterested, unimpressed, or apathetic, from an excess of pleasure and enjoyment. [From French, past participle of blaser, to cloy, perhaps from Dutch blasen to blow.]
gallup poll (GAL-uhp pol) noun
A survey of public opinion. [After George Horace Gallup (1901-1984), US statistician, who popularized the use of such surveys.]
amicus curiae (uh-MY-kuhs KYOOR-ee-ee, uh-MI-kuhs KYOOR-ee-i) noun
plural amici curiae A person or group, not party to a particular litigation, but permitted by the court to advise it on the matter related to the case. [From Latin, literally friend of the court, from amicus (friend) + curiae, from curia (court).]
poltergeist (POLE-tuhr-gyst) noun
A ghost that manifests itself by noises, rappings, and the creation of disorder. [German : poltern, to make noises (from Middle High German boldern) + Geist, ghost, from Middle High German, from Old High German.]
specie (SPEE-shee, -see) noun
Coined money; coin. idiom. in specie. 1. In coin. 2. In a similar manner; in kind. 3. Law. In the same kind or shape; as specified. [From (in) specie, (in) the actual form, from Latin (in) specie, (in) kind, ablative of species.]
serotine (SER-uh-tin, -tyn) adjective
Late in occurring, forming, or flowering. noun A small brown bat (Eptesicus serotinus) native of Europe and Asia (named after its habit of appearing late in the evening). [From Latin serotinus (belated), from serus (late).]
fencible (FEN-si-buhl) adjective
Capable of being defended. noun A soldier enlisted in the military for home service only. [Short for defensable, ultimately from Latin defendere (to defend).]
peradventure (pur-ad-VEN-chur) adverb
Maybe; possibly. noun Uncertainty; doubt. [From Middle English per aventure, via French, from Latin per- (through) + adventurus, future participle of advenire (to arrive).]
sylph (silf) noun
1. A slender, graceful young woman. 2. Any of a race of mythological invisible beings who inhabit air, originally described in theories of Paracelsus. [From New Latin sylpha, apparently a blend of sylva, variant of Latin silva (forest) + nymph.]
plashy (PLASH-ee) adjective
1. Marshy; watery; full of puddles. 2. Splashy. [From Middle English plasch (pool), probably of imitative origin.]
chaplet (CHAP-lit) noun
1. A wreath or garland worn on the head. 2. A string of beads. [Middle English chapelet, wreath; from Old French, diminutive of chapel hat, from Medieval Latin cappellus, from Late Latin cappa, cap.]
white elephant (hwyt EL-uh-fent) noun
1. A possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of. 2. A possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner. 3. An abnormally whitish or pale elephant, usually found in Thailand; an albino elephant. [From the perhaps apocryphal tale that the King of Siam would award a disagreeable courtier a white elephant, the upkeep of which would ruin the courtier.]
commiserate (kuh-MIZ-uh-rayt) verb tr.
To feel or express sympathy or compassion for. verb intr. To sympathize with. [From Latin commiseratus, past participle of commiserari, from com- + miserari (to pity), from miser (pitiable, wretched).]
nutraceutical (noo-truh-SOO-ti-kuhl) noun, adjective
1. A food with (or believed to have) medicinal properties. 2. Pertaining to nutraceuticals. [Blend of nutrient and pharmaceutical.]
agelast (AJ-uh-last) noun
Someone who never laughs. [From Greek agelastos (not laughing), ultimately from gelaein (to laugh).]
matriarch (MAY-tree-ark) noun
1. A woman who is the head of a family. 2. A woman who is the founder or leader of a group or community. 3. A venerable old woman. [From Latin matri- (mother) + Greek -arch (leader, ruler).]
argal (AHR-guhl) conjunction, adverb
Therefore. [By alteration of the Latin ergo (therefore). The word argal is usually used to indicate that the reasoning presented is ludicrous.]
battology (buh-TOL-uh-jee) noun
Wearisome repetition of words in speaking or writing. [From Greek battologia (batt(os) stammerer + -o- + -logia -logy).]
stagflation (stag-FLAY-shuhn) noun
Economic condition marked by lack of growth (stagnation) and persistent, substantial increase in prices (inflation). [Blend of stagnation and inflation.]
gregarious (gri-GAIR-ee-uhs) adjective
1. Enjoying the company of others; sociable. 2. (Of plants) growing together in clusters, but not matted. 3. (Of animals) living in groups. [From Latin gregarius (belonging to a flock), from greg- (stem of grex-). Ultimately from Indo-European root ger- (to gather) which is also the source of such words as aggregate, congregation, egregious, and segregate.]
solecism (SOL-i-siz-ehm, SOA-li-) noun
1. A nonstandard usage or grammatical construction. 2. A violation of etiquette. 3. An impropriety, a mistake, or an incongruity. [Latin soloecismus, from Greek soloikismos, from soloikizein, to speak incorrectly, from soloikos, speaking incorrectly after Soloi (Soli), an Athenian colony in Cilicia where a dialect regarded as substandard was spoken.]
chichi (SHEE-shee) adjective
Affectedly elegant. noun 1. Showy stylishness 2. A person with such quality. [From French.]
vomitorium (vom-i-TOR-ee-uhm) noun, plural vomitoria
A passageway to the rows of seats in a theater. [From Latin vomitorium, from vomere (to discharge).]
paramnesia (par-am-NEE-zhuh) noun
1. A distortion of memory in which fact and fantasy are confused. 2. The inability to recall the correct meaning of a word. [New Latin, par-, amnesia.]
sine qua non (SY-nee kway NON) noun
An indispensable condition; prerequisite. [Latin sine qua non (without which not).]
whelp (hwelp, welp) noun
1. A young offspring of a mammal, such as a dog or wolf. 2. A child; a youth. An impudent young fellow. 3. A tooth of a sprocket wheel. Nautical. Any of the ridges on the barrel of a windlass or capstan. verb intr. To give birth to whelps or a whelp. verb tr. To give birth to (whelps or a whelp). [Middle English, from Old English hwelp.]
woof (woof) noun
1. The threads that run crosswise (at right angles with the warp) in a woven cloth. Also known as weft. 2. Texture. [From Old English wefan (to weave).]
philodox (FIL-uh-doks) noun
Someone who loves his or her own opinion; a dogmatic person. [From Greek philodoxos, from philo- (love) + doxa (glory, opinion). Ultimately from Indo-European root dek- (to take or accept) that's also the root of words such as paradox, orthodox, doctor, disciple, discipline, doctrine, dogma, decorate, dignity, and disdain.]
supramundane (soo-pruh-MUN-dayn) adjective
Above or beyond this world. [From Latin supra- (above) + mundus (world).]
akimbo (uh-KIM-bo) adjective
With hands on hips and elbows turned outwards. [Of uncertain origin, probably from Old Norse.]
cyclopean (sy-kluh-PEE-uhn, si-KLOP-ee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or suggestive of Cyclops; one-eyed. 2. Huge. 3. Formed with large, irregular stones closely fitted without the use of mortar. [From Latin Cyclopeus, from Greek Kyklops (Cyclops), from kyklos (circle) + ops (eye). Cyclops were a race of savage one-eyed giants in Greek mythology. They forged thunderbolts for Zeus in return for their freedom. Cyclopean walls were attributed to them for their strength in building such massive walls.]
lowering (LOU-uhr-ing) adjective
Sullen, frowning, gloomy. [From Middle English louring, from louren (to frown, lurk).]
peneplain (PEE-nuh-playn, pee-nuh-PLAYN) noun
An area of nearly flat, featureless land formed by a long period of erosion. [From pene- (almost), from Latin paene + plain, from Latin planus.]
mesa (MAY-suh) noun
A flat-top land formation with steep sides. A mesa is an area bigger than a butte but smaller than a plateau. [From Spanish mesa (table), from Latin mensa (table). "Wetherill and Mason spent several hours on that December day exploring the site and collecting artifacts. They climbed to the top of the mesa and separated, searching for more cliff dwellings." Robin Chalmers, A Historic Rediscovery, Cobblestone (Peterborough, New Hampshire), Sep 1999. This week's theme: loanwords from Spanish. -------- Date: Fri Apr 5 00:01:09 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cay cay (kay, kee) noun A small low island of coral, sand, etc.; key. [From Spanish cayo (shoal).]
heteronym (HET-uhr-uh-nim) noun
A word that has the same spelling as another word but with a different pronunciation and meaning. In the following poem, each end-word is heteronymic: Listen, readers, toward me bow. Be friendly; do not draw the bow. Please don't try to start a row. Sit peacefully, all in a row. Don't act like a big, fat sow. Do not the seeds of discord sow. In a pure heteronymic pair, the two words must be etymologically unrelated, as in bass, buffet, deserts, dove, entrance, lead, moped, unionized, wind, and wound. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Wed Dec 12 00:02:04 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--aptronym aptronym (AP-troh-NIM) noun A name that is especially suited to the profession of its owner. Examples: Dan Druff for a barber, Felicity Foote for a dance teacher, and James Bugg for an exterminator -- all real monikers. More famously, we have William Wordsworth, the poet; Margaret Court, the tennis champion; Sally Ride, the astronaut; Larry Speakes, the White House spokesperson, Jim Kiick, the football star; and Lorena Bobbitt ("bob it") the you-know-what-er. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Thu Dec 13 00:01:44 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--capitonym capitonym (KAP-i-toh-NIM) noun A word that changes pronunciation and meaning when it is capitalized. As in the following poems: Job's Job In August, an august patriarch Was reading an ad in Reading, Mass. Long-suffering Job secured a job To polish piles of Polish brass. Herb's Herbs An herb store owner, name of Herb, Moved to a rainier Mount Rainier. It would have been so nice in Nice, And even tangier in Tangier. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Fri Dec 14 00:01:38 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--contronym contronym (KAHN-troh-NIM) noun A word that generates two opposite meanings. More popularly, they are known as Janus-faced words because the Greek god Janus had two faces that looked in opposite directions. "The moon is VISIBLE tonight." "The lights in the old house are always INVISIBLE." Although the two capitalized words are opposite in meaning, both can be replaced by the same word -- out. When the moon or sun or stars are out, they are visible. When the lights are out, they are invisible. Thus, out is a contronym. Other examples: cleave: separate; adhere firmly. a. A strong blow will cleave a plank in two. b. Bits of metal cleave to a magnet. oversight: careful supervision; neglect. a. The foreman was responsible for the oversight of the project. b. The foreman's oversight ruined the success of the project. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Mon Dec 17 03:01:41 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--occiput occiput (OK-suh-put) noun, plural occipita (ok-SIP-i-tah) or occiputs The back part of the head or skull. [From Middle English, from Latin occipit, from oc-, from ob- (against) + ciput, from caput (head).]
nous (noos, nous) noun
1. Mind, intellect. 2. Common sense. [From Greek noos, nous, mind.]
cadastral (kuh-DAS-truhl) adjective
Of or relating to a map or survey showing property lines, boundaries, etc. [From French cadastre (an official register of the details of real estate in an area, used in determining taxes), from Italian catasto, from Greek katastikhon (list, register), from kata stikhon (line by line).]
thenar (THEE-nahr) noun
The fleshy mass on the palm of the hand at the base of the thumb. adjective Of or relating to the thenar. [Greek, palm of the hand.]
curate's egg (KYOOR-itz eg) noun
Something having both good and bad parts. [From a cartoon in Punch magazine (London, UK) in which a timid curate (a junior clergy member), when served a stale egg at a bishop's table, tries to assure his host that parts of the egg were edible: Right Reverend Host: I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones! The Curate: Oh no, My Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent! The cartoon was drawn by George du Maurier and published in the Nov 9, 1895 issue of the magazine. That makes it one of the very few terms whose origin we can pin down to a specific date.]
hotsy-totsy (HOT-see TOT-see) adjective, also hotsie-totsie
Just right; perfect. [Coined by Billy DeBeck, cartoonist (1892-1942), famed for his comic strip "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith". Another of his coinage that has found a place in the English language dictionaries is heebie-jeebies meaning jitters or creeps (See AWAD archives, August 1997).]
tchotchke (CHACH-kuh) noun, also chotchke, chachka, tsatske
A trinket; knickknack. [From Yiddish tshatshke (trinket), from obsolete Polish czaczko.]
caitiff (KAY-tif) noun
A despicable coward; a wretch. caitiff adjective Despicable and cowardly. [Middle English caitif, from Norman French, from Latin captivus, prisoner.]
heretic (HER-i-tik) noun
One who holds unorthodox or unconventional beliefs. adjective Not conforming to established beliefs. [From Middle English heretik, from Middle French heretique, from Late Latin haereticus, from Greek hairetikos (able to choose), from haireisthai (to choose).]
redoubt (ri-DOUT) noun
1. A small, usually temporary fortification to defend a position. 2. Stronghold; refuge. [From French redoute, from Italian ridotto, from Medieval Latin reductus (refuge), past participle of Latin reducere (to lead back), from re- + ducere (to lead). The words conduct, produce, introduce, reduce, seduce, ductile - all are from the same Latin root.]
white-knuckle (HWYT NUK-uhl) adjective
Characterized by extreme nervousness or fear. [From the appearance of blood-drained fists, clenched tightly around something, such as a fairground ride.]
dernier cri (DERN-yay KREE) noun
The latest fashion. [From French, literally, last cry.]
visceral (VIS-er-uhl) adjective
1. Related to viscera. 2. Instinctive, not reasoning or intellectual. 3. Dealing with base emotions; earthy, crude. [From Medieval Latin visceralis, from Latin viscera (internal organs), plural of viscus (flesh). From the belief that viscera were the seat of emotions.]
omnibus (OM-ni-bus) noun
1. A long motor vehicle for passengers; a bus. 2. A printed anthology of the works of one author or of writings on related subjects. adjective Including or covering many things or classes. [French, from Latin, for all, dative pl. of omnis, all.]
scion (SY-ehn) noun
1. An heir or descendant. 2. A shoot or twig of a plant, cut for grafting. Also cion. [From Old French cion, of unknown origin.]
hors de combat (awr duh kawn-BA) adverb or adjective
Out of action; disabled. [From French, literally, out of fight.]
gourmand (goor-MAHND, GOOR-muhnd) noun
1. A lover of good food. 2. A gluttonous eater. [Middle English gourmant, glutton, from Old French gormant.]
tub-thumper (TUB-thum-puhr) noun
A noisy, vigorous promoter or speaker. [In earlier times, the word tub was jocularly applied to a pulpit. Imagine an impassioned preacher pounding away on his pulpit and you'll have a good idea of how this word came to be applied to any fervent promoter of a cause.]
postdiluvian (post-di-LOO-vee-uhn) adjective
Pertaining to the period after the Biblical flood or any great flood. noun Someone or something in the period after the Biblical flood or any large flood. [From Latin post- (after) + diluvium (flood), from diluere (to wash away), from di- + -luere (to wash), combining form of lavere (to wash). Other words derived from the same root are: deluge, dilute, and lotion.]
vanguard (VAN-gard) noun
1. The forefront of an army. 2. The leading position in a movement; people at the head of a movement. [From shortening of French avant-garde, from avant (before) + garde (guard).]
empyreal (em-PIR-ee-uhl, -pye-REE-) adjective
1. Relating to the highest heaven, believed to contain pure light or fire. 2. Relating to the sky; celestial. 3. Sublime; elevated. [From Medieval Latin empyreus, from Greek empyrios (fiery), from pur (fire). Other words derived from the same root are fire, pyre, pyrosis (heartburn), and pyromania (an irresistible impulse to set things on fire).]
kenning (KEN-ing) noun
A figurative, usually compound expression used in place of a name or noun, especially in Old English and Old Norse poetry; for example, storm of swords is a kenning for battle. [Old Norse, from kenna, to know, to name with a kenning.]
brumal (BROO-muhl) adjective
Occurring in or related to winter. [From Latin brumalis (pertaining to winter), from brevima dies (shortest day or winter solstice), from brevis (short). Other words that are derived from the same Latin root are abbreviate, abridge, brevity, breve, and brevet.]
tarantism (TAR-uhn-tiz-uhm) noun
An uncontrollable urge to dance. [After Taranto, a town in southern Italy where this phenomenon was experienced during the 15-17th centuries. It's not clear whether tarantism was the symptom of a spider's bite or its cure, or it may have been just a pretext to dodge a prohibition against dancing. The names of the dance tarantella and the spider tarantula are both derived from the same place.]
locust years (LO-kuhst yeers) noun
A period of economic hardship. [Coined by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to refer to mid 1930s in Britain, after "the years that the locust hath eaten" from Bible, Joel 2:25.]
premorse (pri-MORS) adjective
Having the end abruptly truncated, as if bitten or broken off. [From Latin praemorsus, from praemordere (to bite in front), from prae- (before), mordere (to bite). Ultimately from the Indo-European root mer- (to rub away or to harm) that is also the source of morse, mordant, amaranth, morbid, mortal, mortgage, and nightmare.]
bushwa (BUSH-wa) noun, also bushwah
Nonsense; bull. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps a mispronunciation of bourgeois.]
filiation (fil-ee-AY-shuhn) noun
1. The condition or fact of being the child of a certain parent. Law. Judicial determination of paternity. 2. A line of descent; derivation. 3. The act or fact of forming a new branch, as of a society or language group. The branch thus formed. "Although the filiation may seem distant, my book is at heart an exposition of an old Chicago concept." Abbott, Andrew, Of time and space: the contemporary relevance of the Chicago School. (Chicago school of sociology), Social Forces, 1 Jun 1997. This week's theme: words with synonyms that appear like their antonyms. -------- Date: Sun Sep 13 00:06:39 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--candescence candescence (kan-DES-uhns) noun The state of being white hot; incandescence. [From Latin candescens, candescent-, present participle of candescere, inchoative of candere, to shine.]
hidalgo (hi-DAL-go) noun
A member of the lower nobility in Spain. [From Spanish, contraction of hijo de algo (son of something). A similar term of nobility in Portugal is fidalgo, from Portuguese filho de algo.]
singularity (sing-gyuh-LAR-i-tee) noun
1. The quality or condition of being singular. 2. A trait marking one as distinct from others; a peculiarity. 3. Something uncommon or unusual. 4. Astrophysics. A point in space-time at which gravitational forces cause matter to have infinite density and infinitesimal volume, and space and time to become infinitely distorted. 5. Mathematics. A point at which the derivative does not exist for a given function of a random variable but every neighborhood of which contains points for which the derivative exists. In this sense, also called singular point. [Middle English singuler, from Old French, from Latin singularis, from singulus, single.]
ananda (AH-nan-duh) noun
Pure bliss. [From Sanskrit ananda (joy).]
dysphagia (dis-FAYJ-uh, -jee-uh) noun
Difficulty in swallowing. [From Greek dys- (bad, difficult) + phagein (to eat).]
dandle (DAN-dl) verb tr.
1. To bounce a child on the knees or in the arms. 2. To pamper or pet. [Of uncertain origin.]
hagiarchy (HAG-ee-ar-kee, HAY-jee-) noun
A government by holy persons. Also a place thus governed. [From Greek hagi- (holy) + -archy (rule).]
spaghetti western (spuh-GET-ee WES-tuhrn) noun
A cheap western movie produced in Italy or Spain, typically having Italian actors, an American star, and a generous dose of violence. [From spaghetti (a pasta from Italy), western (a story/movie with 19th century US West setting).]
festschrift (FEST-shrift) noun, plural festschriften or festschrifts
A volume of writing by many authors as a tribute to a scholar, for example, on the occasion of retirement of a colleague. [From German Festschrift, from Fest (celebration) + Schrift (writing). Ultimately from Indo-European root skribh- (to cut, separate, or sift) that has resulted in other terms, such as manuscript, subscribe, scripture, scribble, and describe.]
zaftig (ZAF-tik, -tig) adjective
Full-figured, pleasingly plump, buxom. [From Yiddish zaftik (juicy), from Middle High German (saftec), from saft (juice), from Old High German saf (sap).]
trochal (TRO-kuhl) adjective
Resembling or revolving like a wheel. [From Greek trokhos (wheel), from trekhein (to run).]
nival (NY-vuhl) adjective
Of, growing in, or relating to, snow. [From Latin nivalis (snowy), niv- (snow).]
auricle (OR-i-kuhl) noun
1. The outer projecting part of the ear; also known as pinna. 2. An ear-shaped part of each atrium of the heart. [From Latin auricula (little ear), from auris (ear). Ultimately from Indo-European root aus- (ear) that's also the ancestor of such words as ear, aural, scout (literally, act of listening or spying).]
sipid (SIP-id) adjective
Having a pleasing taste or flavor. [Back formation from insipid, from Late Latin insipidus, from in- (not) + sapidus (savory), from sapere (to taste, to know). Ultimately from Indo-European root sep- (to taste or perceive) that is also the source of sage, savant, savvy, savor, sapid, sapient, and insipid.]
acclamation (ak-luh-MAY-shuhn) noun
1. An oral vote where a vote of approval is expressed by cheers, shouts or applause rather than by ballot. 2. A loud and enthusiastic expression of approval, welcome, etc. [From Latin acclamation, stem of acclamatio, from acclamatus, past participle of acclamare (to shout at), from ad- + clamare (to shout). Other words derived from the same root are clamor, acclaim, reclaim.]
credenza (kri-DEN-zah) noun
A buffet, sideboard, or bookcase, especially one without legs. [Italian, from Medieval Latin credentia, trust (possibly from the practice of placing food and drink on a sideboard to be tasted by a servant before being served to ensure that it contained no poison).]
subfusc (sub-FUSK) adjective
Of a dark, dull, or somber color. noun Dark, dull clothing. [Latin subfuscus, brownish : sub-, + fuscus, dark.]
mugwump (MUG-wump) noun
1. A person who acts independently or remains neutral, especially in politics. 2. Often Mugwump. A Republican who bolted the party in 1884, refusing to support presidential candidate James G. Blaine. [Massachusett mugquomp, mummugquomp, war leader.]
grok (grok) verb tr.
Slang. To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy. [Coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his "Stranger in a Strange Land".]
gyp also gip (jip) Slang
tr.verb To deprive (another) of something by fraud; cheat or swindle. noun 1. A fraud or swindle. 2. One who defrauds; a swindler. [Probably short for gypsy.]
doolally (DU-lah-lee) adjective
Irrational, deranged, or insane. [After Deolali, an Indian town.]
escutcheon (i-SKUCH-uhn) noun.
1. Heraldry. A shield or shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms. 2. An ornamental or protective plate, as for a keyhole. 3. Nautical. The plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's name. Idiom: a blot on (one's) escutcheon. Dishonor to one's reputation. [Middle English escochon, from Anglo-Norman escuchon, from Vulgar Latin *scutio, scution-, from Latin scutum, shield.]
oxymoron (ok-see-MOR-on, -mor-) noun, plural oxymora or oxymorons
A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist. [Greek oxumoron, from neuter of oxumoros, pointedly foolish : oxus, sharp + moros, foolish, dull.]
heft (heft) noun
1. Weight; heaviness. 2. Importance. verb tr. 1. To test the weight of something by lifting. 2. To heave or hoist. [After heave, on the pattern of cleave/cleft, leave/left, thieve/theft, weave/weft, etc. From Middle English heven (to lift, take).]
sub rosa (sub RO-zuh) adverb
Secretly, privately, or confidentially. [From Latin sub (under) rosa (rose). From the ancient practice of using a rose as a symbol of secrecy.]
compossible (kom-POS-uh-buhl) adjective
Compatible; possible along with something else. [From Latin com- (with) + possibilis (that may be done), from posse (to be able). Ultimately from the Indo-European root poti- (powerful, lord) that is also the source of power, potent, possess, and pasha.]
tawny (TAW-nee) noun
A light brown to brownish orange. [Middle English, from Anglo-Norman taune, variant of Old French tane, from past participle of taner, to tan.]
thanatopsis (than-uh-TOP-sis) noun
A reflection upon death. [From Greek thanatos (death) + -opsis (appearance, view).]
gravamen (gra-VAY-muhn) noun [plural gravamens or gravamina (-VAM-uh-nuh)]
Law. The part of a charge or an accusation that weighs most substantially against the accused. [Medieval Latin gravamen, injury, accusation, from Late Latin, encumbrance, obligation, from Latin gravare, to burden, from gravis, heavy. See GRAVE2.]
cat's paw (cats paw) noun
1. Someone used as a tool by another. 2. A kind of knot used to connect a rope to an object. 3. A breeze that ruffles the surface of the water over a small area; also, the area ruffled by such a breeze. [The first sense of the term comes from the fable in which a monkey uses a cat to pull roasting chestnuts from a fire. The monkey gobbles up all the nuts while the cat is left with a burnt paw. See Edwin Landseer's 1824 painting Cat's Paw: The second sense refers to the supposed resemblance of such a knot to a cat's paw:'s+paw+knot The origin of the third sense is unknown.]
aphotic (ay-FO-tik) adjective
Lightless, especially without sunlight. [From Greek a- (not) + phot- (light). Ultimately from Indo-European root bha- (to shine) that's also the source of beacon, beckon, phantom, phenomenon, and phosphorous.]
duopoly (doo-OP-uh-lee, dyoo-) noun
A market, political, or other situation where the control is in the hands of two persons or groups. [From duo- (two) + -poly, patterned after monopoly.]
euphemism (YOO-fuh-miz-em) noun
Use of a mild, neutral, evasive, or vague term in place of one considered taboo, offensive, blunt, or unpleasant. [From Greek euphemismos, from euphemos (auspicious), from eu- (good) + pheme (speaking).]
amicable (AM-i-kuh-buhl) adjective
Characterized by goodwill; friendly. [From Middle English, from Late Latin amicabilis, from Latin amicus (friend). A few other words that share the same root as today's word are: amigo, amity, and enemy (in + amicus).]
kakistocracy (kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-) noun
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. [Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad + -cracy, government, rule.]
dirge (durj) noun
1. Music. A funeral hymn or lament. A slow, mournful musical composition. 2. A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work. 3. Roman Catholic Church. The Office for the Dead. [Middle English, an antiphon at Matins in the Office for the Dead, from Medieval Latin dirige Domine, direct, O Lord (the opening words of the antiphon), imperative of dirigere, to direct.]
gadfly (GAD-fly) noun
1. One who persistently annoys. 2. Any of the various types of flies that bite livestock. [From gad (a goad for cattle), from Middle English, from Old Norse gaddr.]
pocket veto (POK-it VEE-toh) noun
An indirect veto of a bill as a result of the president's failure to sign it within ten days of the adjournment of Congress; a similar holding of a bill by a state governor or other executive. [From the notion that the bill is held in the pocket unsigned. From Latin veto (I forbid).]
artesian (ahr-TEE-zhuhn) adjective
Pertaining to a well that has water rising to the surface under natural pressure, without the need of a pump. [After Artois, a former province in France, where many such wells were drilled.]
sockdolager (sok-DOL-uh-juhr) noun
1. A decisive blow or remark. 2. Something exceptional or outstanding. [Of unknown origin, apparently from sock.]
badinage (bad-NAHZH) noun
Light, playful banter. [French, from badin, joker, from Provencal badar, to gape, from Latin *batare.]
trump (trump) noun
1. Games. Often trumps. A suit in card games that outranks all other suits for the duration of a hand. A card of such a suit. A trump card. 2. A key resource to be used at an opportune moment. 3. Informal. A reliable or admirable person. trump tr.verb 1. Games. To take (a card or trick) with a trump. 2. To get the better of (an adversary or a competitor, for example) by using a key, often hidden resource. trump intr.verb Games. To play a trump. [Alteration of triumph.]
obsequy (OB-se-kwee) noun
A funeral rite or ceremony. [Middle English obsequie, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin obsequiae, alteration (influenced by Latin exsequiae, funeral rites) of Latin obsequia, plural of obsequium, compliance.]
satyr (SAY-tuhr) noun
1. Often Satyr. In Greek mythology, a woodland creature depicted as having the pointed ears, legs, and short horns of a goat and a fondness for unrestrained revelry. 2. A licentious man; a lecher. 3. A man who is affected by satyriasis. 4. Any of various butterflies of the family Satyridae, having brown wings marked with eyelike spots. [Middle English satire, from Old French, from Latin satyrus, from Greek saturos.]
cosher (KOSH-uhr) verb tr.
To pamper. [From Irish cosair (feast).]
satori (suh-TOR-ee) noun
Sudden enlightenment. [Japanese, noun derivative of verb to awaken (sato- aware + -r formative affix)]
gride (gryd) verb intr.
To scrape or graze against an object to make a grating sound. verb tr. To pierce or cut with a weapon. noun A grating sound. [Metathetic variation of gird.]
pervious (PUR-vee-uhs) adjective
1. Permeable; open to passage or penetration. 2. Open to suggestions, arguments, reason, change, etc. [From Latin pervius, from per- (through) + via (way). Ultimately from Indo-European root wegh (to go, to transport) that is also the source of way, away, wagon, vogue, wiggle, vehicle, voyage, convey, weight, previous, trivial, and vex.]
gnathonic (na-THON-ik) adjective
Sycophantic; fawning. [From Latin gnathonicus, derivative of Gnathon- (stem of Gnatho) name of a sycophantic character in the Roman comedy Eunuchus by Terence.]
dentigerous (den-TIJ-uhr-uhs) adjective
Having or furnished with teeth. [Denti- + Latin gerere, to bear.]
vitriolic (vi-tree-OL-ik) adjective
Extremely caustic; bitterly scathing. [From Latin vitrum (glass).]
piliferous (py-LIF-uhr-uhs) adjective
Having or producing hair. [From Latin pilus (hair).]
double entendre (DUB-uhl ahn-TAHN-druh) noun
A word or phrase used in a manner that it can be interpreted in two ways, especially when one of the meanings is risque. [From obsolete French, literally double meaning.]
epistrophe (i-PIS-truh-fee) noun
The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences. [From Greek epistrophe, from epi- (upon) + strophe (turning).]
ward heeler (ward HEE-luhr) noun
A low-level political operative who solicits votes and performs chores for his political bosses or political machine. Also called heeler. [From ward, a subdivision of a city for voting or administrative purposes. Heeler, from the idea of a hanger-on following at the heels of his boss, and also as a reference to his door-to-door canvassing for votes. The term has negative connotations and a ward heeler is generally considered to be an unscrupulous character.]
energy (EN-uhr-jee) noun
1. The capacity for work or vigorous activity; vigor; power. 2. Exertion of vigor or power. Vitality and intensity of expression. 3. Usable heat or power. A source of usable power, such as petroleum or coal. 4. The capacity of a physical system to do work. [French energie, from Late Latin energia, from Greek energeia, from energos, active : en-, in, at + ergon, work.]
phlegmatic (fleg-MAT-ik) adjective
1. Having a sluggish temperament; apathetic. 2. Calm or composed. [From Middle English fleumatike, from Old French fleumatique, from Late Latin phlegmaticus, from Greek phlegmatikos, from the humor phlegm, from phlegein, to burn. From phlegm, one of the four body humors, ascribed to these qualities.]
quartan (KWORT-n) adjective
Occurring every fourth day, counting inclusively, or every 72 hours. Used of a fever. noun A malarial fever recurring every 72 hours. [Middle English quartaine, from Old French, from Latin quartana, from quartanus, of the fourth, from quartus, fourth.]
bigot (BIG-uht) noun
One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ. [French, from Old French.]
purl (purl) intr.verb
1. To flow or ripple with a murmuring sound. purl noun The sound made by rippling water. [Probably of Scandinavian origin.]
bling-bling (bling-bling) noun
Expensive, flashy jewelry or other items. [From hip-hop slang, apparently imitative of the sounds of the clanging jewelry, or of the light reflecting from them.]
integument (in-TEG-yoo-ment) noun
1. A natural outer covering or coat, such as the skin of an animal or the membrane enclosing an organ. 2. Botany. The envelope of an ovule. [Latin integumentum, from integere, to cover : in-, on + tegere, to cover.]
helpmeet (HELP-meet) noun
A helpmate, usually applied to a wife. [From the phrase "an help meet for him" (a help suitable for him, Adam) from Genesis. It was incorrectly written as "an help-meet for him" and erroneously interpreted as "a helper for him".]
diacritical (dy-uh-KRIT-i-kuhl) adjective
1. Distinctive; capable of distinguishing. 2. Serving as a diacritic (a mark, such as ^ or ~ or other accent marks, added to a letter to distinguish it from a similar letter, for example, to distinguish resume from résumé). [From Greek diakritikos (distinctive), from diakrinein (to distinguish), from dia- (apart) + krinein (to separate). Ultimately from the Indo-European root krei- (to sift or to discriminate) that also gave us crime, crisis, certain, excrement, secret, critic, garble, and hypocrisy.]
assonance (AS-oh-nans) noun
1. Resemblance of sound, especially of the vowel sounds in words, as in: "that dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea" (William Butler Yeats). 2. The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables, with changes in the intervening consonants, as in the phrase tilting at windmills. 3. Rough similarity; approximate agreement. [French, from Latin assonare, to respond to : ad-, ad- + sonare, to sound.]
gargantua (gar-GAN-choo-uh) noun
A person of great size or stature and of voracious physical or intellectual appetites. [After the giant hero of "Gargantua and Pantagruel" by Francois Rabelais.]
spoor (spoor) noun
The track or trail of an animal, especially a wild animal being hunted. verb tr., intr. To track an animal by its trail; to follow a spoor. [From Afrikaans, from Dutch.]
anachronism (uh-NAK-ruh-niz-uhm) noun
1. The error of placing a person, object, custom, or event in the wrong historical period. 2. A person, thing, or practice that does not belong in a time period. [From French anachronisme, from Latin anachronismus, from Greek anakhronismos, from ana-, (backwards) + khronos (time).]
flagrante delicto (fluh-GRAN-tee di-LIK-to) adverb
In the very act of committing the offense; red-handed. [From Medieval Latin, literally, while the crime is blazing.]
eye dialect (eye-DY-uh-lekt) noun
Unusual or nonstandard spelling to represent an uneducated or youthful speaker or to convey dialectal or colloquial speech. Examples: wuz for was, wimmin (women), enuff (enough), warez (wares), peepul (people), Strine (Australian). [First used in print by George Phillip Krapp (1872-1934) in The English Language in America to denote spellings in which "the convention violated is one of the eyes, not of the ear."]
macaronic (mak-ah-RON-ik) adjective
1. Of or containing a mixture of vernacular words with Latin words or with vernacular words given Latinate endings: macaronic verse. 2. Of or involving a mixture of two or more languages. [New Latin macaronicus, from Italian dialectal maccarone, dumpling, macaroni (perhaps from the way macaroni is heaped on a plate and mixed with sauce).]
loquacious (lo-KWAY-shuhs) adjective
Talkative; wordy. [From Latin loqui (to speak). The word loquacious has a negative sense, but a positive word to come out of the same Latin root is eloquent.]
steganography (ste-guh-NOG-ruh-fee) noun
Secret communication by hiding the existence of message. A couple of examples of steganography: shrinking the secret text (by repeated use of a photocopy machine) until it's the size of a dot and then putting it in an unsuspected place, such as on top of a letter i in some innocuous letter. Second, shaving the head of a man, writing the secret message on his pate with unwashable ink, and then letting the hair grow back before dispatching him to the destination. To take an example from modern digital techniques, one could put the text of a message in the blank spaces in an image file. [From Greek stego- (cover) + -graphy (writing).]
identic (eye-DEN-tik) adjective
1. Being, or constituting, a diplomatic action or diplomatic language in which two or more governments agree to use the same forms in their relations with other governments. 2. Identical. [Medieval Latin identicus, identical.]
mirabile dictu (mee-RAH-bi-lay DIK-too) interjection
Strange to say; wonderful to relate. [Latin.]
bibliophobe (BIB-lee-uh-foab) noun
A person who hates, fears, or distrusts books. [Biblio- book + -phobe one that fears.]
victualer also victualler (VIT-l-uhr) noun
1. A supplier of victuals; a sutler. 2. Chiefly British. An innkeeper. 3. Nautical. A supply ship. "Philip Morris, whose Kraft General Foods is top Yankee victualer on the global scene, recorded $9.4 billion in food salesabroad last year." Edmund Faltermayer, et al, The Economy: Competitiveness How U.S. Companies Stack Up Now, Fortune, 18 Apr 1994. This week's theme: words about people and food. -------- Date: Mon Jan 25 00:04:38 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bibliolatry bibliolatry (bib-lee-OL-uh-tree) noun 1. Excessive adherence to a literal interpretation of the Bible. 2. Extreme devotion to or concern with books. "A bibliophile is a lover of books; a bibliomane, a wildly enthusiastic collector. An abandoned fanatic, once he succumbs to bibliolatry, graduates into a bibliomaniac. While a bibliomaniac's spouse might easily become a bibliophobe, his arch nemesis would be a biblioclast: a destroyer of books." Bill Strubbe, A Bibliophile in Britain, The World & I, 1 Aug 1994. A saying goes, "Show me the books you read and I'll tell you who you are." In the same vein it wouldn't be untrue to say, "Show me the words you use and I'll tell you who you are." Add a few more pages to your verbal catalog with this week's words about books. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Jan 26 00:04:31 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--libretto libretto (li-BRET-oe) noun 1. The text of a dramatic musical work, such as an opera. 2. A book containing such a text. [Italian, diminutive of libro, book, from Latin liber, libr-.]
admix (ad-MIKS) tr.verb
To mix; blend. [Back-formation from obsolete admixt, mixed into, from Middle English, from Latin admixtus, past participle of admiscere, to mix into : ad-, ad- + miscere, to mix.]
setiform (SEE-tuh-form) adjective
Bristle-shaped or having bristles. [From Latin seti- (bristle) + -form.]
canary (kuh-NAR-ee) noun
1. A small finch (Serinus canaria) native to the Canary Islands that is greenish to yellow and has long been bred as a cage bird. 2. A woman singer. An informer; a stool pigeon. 3. A sweet white wine from the Canary Islands, similar to Madeira. 4. A lively 16th-century court dance. 5. A light to moderate or vivid yellow color. [French canari, from Spanish canario, of the Canary Islands, from (Islas) Canarias, Canary (Islands), from Late Latin Canariae (Insulae), (islands) of dogs, from Latin canarius, pertaining to dogs, canine, from canis, dog.]
anopsia (an-OP-see-uh) noun, also anopsy or anopia
Absence of sight, due to a missing eye or other structural problem. [From Greek an- (not) + -opia (pertaining to sight).]
biblioclast (BIB-lee-uh-klast) noun
A person who mutilates or destroys books. [Biblio- book + (icono)clast, from -klastes breaker.]
annelidous (uh-NEL-uh-duhs) adjective
Of or relating to worms. [From French anneler (to ring), from Latin anellus, diminutive of anus (ring).]
maieutic (may-YOO-tik, mi-) adjective
Of or relating to the aspect of the Socratic method that induces a respondent to formulate latent concepts through a dialectic or logical sequence of questions. [Greek maieutikos, from maieuesthai, to act as midwife, from maia, midwife, nurse.]
extrinsic (ik-STRIN-sik, -zik) adjective
1. Not forming an essential or inherent part of a thing; extraneous. 2. Originating from the outside; external. [Latin extrinsecus, from outside : exter, outside + -im, adv. suff. + secus, alongside.]
enuresis (en-yuh-ree-sis) noun
The uncontrolled or involuntary discharge of urine. [New Latin, from Greek enourein, to urinate in : en-, in + ourein, to urinate.]
arcanum (aar-KAY-nuhm) noun [plural arcana (-nah). or arcanums]
1. A deep secret; a mystery. 2. Often arcana. Specialized knowledge or detail that is mysterious to the average person. 3. A secret essence or remedy; an elixir. [Latin, from neuter of arcanus, secret.]
privation (pry-VAY-shuhn) noun
1. Lack of the basic necessities or comforts of life. The condition resulting from such lack. 2. An act, condition, or result of deprivation or loss. [Middle English privacion, from Old French, from Latin privatio, privation-, from privatus, past participle of privare, to deprive.]
arsy-varsy (AR-see VAR-see) adjective, adverb
Upside-down, backward, preposterous. [A facetious rhyming compound of arse; perhaps coined after vice versa, from Latin versus, from vertere (to turn).]
matrocliny (MA-truh-kli-nee) noun, also matricliny
Inheritance of traits primarily from the mother. [From Latin matro- (mother) + -clino, from Greek klinein (to lean).]
instauration (in-sto-RAY-shuhn) noun
1. Renewal; renovation; restoration. 2. An act of founding or establishing something. [From Latin instauration-, from instauratio, from instaurare (to renew). Other words derived from the same root are: store, restore, and stow.]
dilly-dally (DIL-ee-dal-ee) intr.verb
To waste time, especially in indecision; dawdle or vacillate. [Reduplication of dally.]
trunnel (TRUN-l) noun
Treenail, a wooden peg that swells when wet, used for fastening timbers, especially in shipbuilding. [Variant of treenail.]
saute or sauté (so-TAY) verb tr.
To cook in a hot pan with little oil, frequently turning or tossing. [From French sauter (to jump) as the cook vigorously jerks the pan to keep the ingredients from burning.]
slaver (SLAV-vuhr, SLAY-vuhr) verb tr., intr.
1. To slobber or drool; to smear with saliva. 2. To fawn. noun Saliva dripping from the mouth. [Probably from Old Norse slafra (to slobber).]
thesaurus (thi-SOR-uhs) noun
1. A book of synonyms, often including related and contrasting words and antonyms. 2. A book of selected words or concepts, such as a specialized vocabulary of a particular field, as of medicine or music. [Latin thesaurus, treasury, from Greek thesauros.]
murdrum (MUR-drum) noun
1. The killing of a human being in a secret manner. 2. The fine payable to the king by the hundred where such a killing occurred, unless the killer was produced or the victim proved to be a Saxon. [From Medieval Latin, from Old French, murdre, murder.]
brasserie (bras-uh-REE, bras-REE) noun
A restaurant serving alcoholic beverages, especially beer, as well as food. [French, from brasser, to malt, brew, from Old French bracier, from Vulgar Latin *braciare, from Latin brace, malt, of Celtic origin.]
megillah (meh-GIL-uh) noun
A long, tedious account. [From Yiddish megile (scroll), from Hebrew megillah, from galal (to roll). The term alludes to the length of the text in the Book of Esther which is read in its entirety, twice, during Purim, a Jewish festival.]
invious (IN-vi-uhs) adjective
Pathless; untrodden; inaccessible. [From Latin invius, from in- (not) + via (road).]
piker (PY-kur) noun
A stingy person, a cautious gambler, or one who does things in a small way. [Of uncertain origin, possibly from Middle English pike (to leave).]
entelechy (en-TEL-uh-kee) noun
1. Perfect realization as opposed to a potentiality. 2. In some philosophies, a vital force that propels one to self-fulfillment. [From Late Latin entelechia, from Greek entelecheia, from enteles (complete), from telos (end, completion) + echein (to have).]
aphelion (uh-FEE-lee-uhn, uh-FEEL-yuhn)
The point on the orbit of a celestial body that is farthest from the sun. [From New Latin aphelium : Greek apo-, apo- + Greek helios, sun.]
chuffed (chuft) adjective
Pleased; satisfied. [From English dialect chuff (pleased, puffed, swollen with pride).]
desideratum (di-sid-uh-RAY-tuhm, -RAA-) noun
Something considered necessary or highly desirable [Latin desideratum, from neuter past participle of desiderare, to desire.]
sublunary (sub-LOO-ner-ee), also sublunar adjective
1. Existing below the moon or between moon and earth. 2. Earthly, mundane, ordinary. [From Late Latin sublunaris, from Latin sub- (below) + lunaris (of the moon), from luna (moon). Two other words which come from the same Latin root luna are lunatic (moonstruck) and lunula (crescent-shaped white area at the base of the fingernail).]
ipse dixit (IP-see DIK-sit) noun
An assertion without supporting proof. [From Latin, literally, he himself said it.]
valorize (VAL-uh-ryz) verb tr.
To maintain the price of a commodity at a high level through government action. [From Portuguese valorizar, from valor (value, price), from Medieval Latin, from Latin valere (to be strong).]
topos (TOH-pohs) noun [plural topoi (-poi)]
A traditional theme or motif; a literary convention. [Greek, short for (koinos) topos, (common)place.]
mahatma (muh-HAT-muh) noun
1. In India and Tibet, one of a class of persons venerated for great knowledge and love of humanity. 2. Mahatma. Used as a title of respect for a person renowned for spirituality and high-mindedness. [Sanskrit mahatma : maha-, great. See meg-. + atma, life, spirit.]
furphy (FUR-fee) noun
A rumor. [After the Furphy family of Victoria, Australia, manufacturer of Furphy carts, for water or trash. These carts were used during World War I, around which troops gathered and exchanged gossip. This word was formed in much the same way as scuttlebutt, the word we got from nautical terminology. A scuttlebutt was an open cask of drinking water, a favorite meeting place of the crew to swap stories.]
naif (NAA-eef) noun
A naive person: lacking sophistication, artless, credulous. adjective Naive. [From French, masculine form of naive.]
heteroclite (HET-uhr-uh-klyt) adjective
1. Deviating from the ordinary rule; eccentric. 2. (In grammar) Irregularly inflected. noun 1. A person who is unconventional; a maverick. 2. A word that is irregularly formed. [From Middle French, from Late Latin heteroclitus, from Greek heteroklitos, from hetero- + klinein (to lean, inflect). Ultimately from the Indo-European root klei (to lean). Other words derived from the same root are decline, incline, recline, lean, client, climax, and ladder.]
chaise longue (shayz LONG) noun,
plural chaise longues or chaises longues (shays LONG) A reclining chair with an elongated seat for supporting legs. [From French, literally long chair. The prevalent variant form of this term, chaise lounge, is formed by folk etymology.]
garrulous (GAR-uh-luhs, GAR-yuh-) adjective
1. Given to excessive and often trivial or rambling talk; tiresomely talkative. 2. Wordy and rambling. [From Latin garrulus, from garrire, to chatter.]
grizzle (GRIZ-uhl) verb tr.
To make or become gray. noun 1. The color of a grizzled animal. A grizzled animal. 2. Archaic. Gray hair. adjective 1. Gray. 2. Grizzled. [From Middle English grisel, gray, from Old French, diminutive of gris, gray.]
impost (IM-post) noun
1. A tax or a similar mandatory payment. 2. The weight a horse must carry in a handicap race. 3. The top part of a pillar of a wall, usually projecting in the form of an ornamental molding, on which an arch rests. [From Latin imponere (to impose), from ponere (to place).]
caesious (SEE-zee-uhs) adjective
Bluish or grayish green. [From Latin caesius, probably from caelum (sky).]
mensch (mench, mensh) noun, plural menschen (MEN-chuhn, MEN-shuhn) or mensches
A decent, upright, honorable person. [From Yiddish mentsh (man, human being), from Middle High German mensch, from Old High German mennisco.]
iconoclast (eye-KON-uh-klast) noun
1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions. 2. One who destroys sacred religious images. [French iconoclaste, from Medieval Greek eikonoklastes, smasher of religious images : Greek eikono-, icono- + -klastes, breaker (from Greek klan, klas-, to break).]
caustic (KAW-stik) adjective
1. Capable of burning or corroding. 2. Highly critical; sarcastic. [From Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaustos (combustible), from kaiein, (to burn).]
forsooth (for-SOOTH) adverb
In truth; Indeed. [From Middle English forsoth, from Old English forsoth, from for + soth (truth).]
multeity (MUL-tee-i-tee) noun
Multiplicity. [From Latin multus (much, many).]
mattock (MAT-uhk) noun
A digging tool with a flat blade set at right angles to the handle. [Middle English, from Old English mattuc, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *matteuca, club akin to -mattea.]
tu quoque (too KWO-kwee) noun
A retort accusing one's accuser of the same offense. [From Latin, literally thou also.]
facinorous (fa-SIN-uhr-uhs) adjective
Extremely wicked. [From Latin facinorous, from facinus (bad deed), from facere (to do or make).]
mitty (MIT-ee) noun
An ordinary, timid person who indulges in daydreams involving great adventures and triumphs. [After the title character in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a short story (1939) by James Thurber, later made into a movie (1947) of the same name. More details on the movie are at ]
fanfaronade (fan-far-uh-NAYD, -NAHD) noun
1. Bragging or blustering manner or behavior. 2. A fanfare. [French fanfaronnade, from Spanish fanfarronada, bluster, from fanfarron, a braggart, perhaps from Arabic farfar.]
ullage (UL-ij) noun
The amount of liquid by which a container falls short of being full. [Middle English ulage, from Old French eullage, from eullier, to fill a cask, (from ouil eye, hole, from Latin oculus eye).]
birl (burl) tr.verb
To cause (a floating log) to spin rapidly by rotating with the feet. birl intr.verb 1. To participate in birling. 2. To spin. birl noun A whirring noise; a hum. [Blend of birr and whirl.]
impeach (im-PEECH) tr.verb
1. To make an accusation against. To charge (a public official) with improper conduct in office before a proper tribunal. 2. To challenge the validity of; try to discredit: impeach a witness's credibility. [Middle English empechen, to impede, accuse, from Anglo-Norman empecher, from Late Latin impedicare, to entangle : Latin in-, + Latin pedica, fetter.]
longueur (long-GUR) noun
A tedious passage in a work of literature or performing art. [French, from Old French longor, a protracted discussion, from, long, from Latin longus.]
deus ex machina (DAY-uhs eks ma-kuh-nuh, -nah, MAK-uh-nuh) noun
1. In Greek and Roman drama, a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation. 2. An unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot. 3. A person or event that provides a sudden and unexpected solution to a difficulty. [New Latin deus ex machina : deus, god + ex, from + machina, machine (translation of Greek theos apo mekhanes).]
estival (ES-ti-vuhl) adjective, also aestival
Relating to or occurring in summer. [From Latin aestivus (of or relating to summer) via Old French.]
lodestar also loadstar (LOAD-stahr) noun
1. A star, especially Polaris, that is used as a point of reference. 2. A guiding principle, interest, or ambition. [Middle English lodesterre : lode, way + sterre, star.]
misanthrope (MIS-uhn-throp, MIZ-) also misanthropist noun
One who hates or mistrusts humankind. [French, from Greek misanthropos, hating mankind : miso-, + anthropos, man.]
graduand (GRAJ-oo-and) noun
A student who is about to graduate or receive a degree. [From Middle Latin graduandus, gerundive of graduare to graduate.]
pace (PAH-chay, PAY-see, PAH-kay) preposition
With due respect to. (used to express polite disagreement) [From Latin pace (in peace), from pax (peace). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pag-/pak- (to fasten) that is also the source of peace, pacify, pact, travel, compact, pagan, and peasant.]
cruciverbalist (kroo-si-VUHR-buh-list) noun
A crossword designer or enthusiast. [From Latin cruci-, stem of crux (cross), + verbalist (one skilled in use of words), from verbum (word).]
pompadour (POM-puh-dor) noun
A hairstyle where the hair at the front is brushed up into a mound or a roll, above the forehead. Also known as quiff. [After the Marquise de Pompadour, the title of Jeanne Antoinette Poisson (1721-1764), mistress of Louis XV of France, who popularized the style.]
chad (chad) noun
Small pieces of paper or cardboard generated by punching holes in paper tape or data cards. [Origin unknown.]
guttle (GUT-l) verb tr., intr.
To eat voraciously; to devour greedily. [From gut, on the pattern of guzzle, from Middle English gut, from plural guttes (entrails), from Old English guttas.]
fetor (FEE-tuhr) noun, also foetor
A strong offensive odor; stench. [From Latin fetor, from fetere (to stink).]
balneal (BAL-nee-uhl) adjective
Relating to baths or bathing. [From Latin balneum (bath), from Greek balaneion (bathing room or bath).]
argy-bargy (ahr-gee-BAHR-gee) noun
Chiefly British. A lively or disputatious discussion. [Scots, reduplication of argie, argument from argue.]
diplomatics (dip-luh-MAT-iks) noun (used with a sing. verb)
The science of deciphering old official documents, as charters, and of determining their authenticity, age, or the like. "Vienna is one of the centers of the scholarly world for the study of diplomatics, and we have come to expect a steady flow of fine editions and monographs treating the problems of medieval letters." Kenneth Pennington, Book reviews: Medieval, Catholic Historical Review, Oct 1991. This week's theme: red-herring words. -------- Date: Thu Jun 29 00:05:16 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--axenic axenic (ay-ZEN-ik) adjective Not contaminated by or associated with any other living organisms. Usually used in reference to pure cultures of microorganisms that are completely free of the presence of other organisms. [A- not + Greek xenikos foreign + -ic]
ameliorate (a-MEL-yuh-rayt, uh-MEE-lee-) verb tr., intr., also meliorate
To make or grow better; to improve. [Alteration of meliorate, from Late Latin melioratus, past participle of meliorare, from Latin melior (better).]
polyhistor (pol-ee-HIS-tuhr) noun
A person with broad knowledge. [Latin Polyhistor, from Greek poluistor, very learned : polu-, poly- + histor, learned.]
lorimer (LOR-i-muhr), also loriner, noun
A maker of bits, spurs and other small metal accessories for horses. [From Old French loremier, from Latin lorum (strap).]
haplography (hap-LOG-ruh-fee) noun
The accidental omission of a letter or letter group that should be repeated in writing, for example, "mispell" for "misspell". [From Greek haplo- single + -graphy writing.]
diplopia (di-PLO-pee-uh) noun
Double vision. [From New Latin, from Greek diplo- (double) + -opia (vision).]
dramaturg (DRAM-uh-turj) noun, also dramaturge or dramaturgist
1. A playwright, especially one affiliated with a specific theater company. 2. A member of a theater company staff who selects, edits, and adapts plays for performance, and writes program notes. [From French, from Greek dramatourgos.]
fata morgana (fata mor-GAH-nuh) noun
An optical phenomenon that creates the illusion of water, often with inverted reflections of distant objects, and results from distortion of light by alternate layers of hot and cool air. Also called mirage. [Italian, mirage, Morgan le Fay (from the belief that the mirage was caused by her witchcraft) : fata, fairy (from Vulgar Latin fata, goddess of fate) + Morgana, Morgan, probably from Old Irish Morrigain.]
fumarole (FYOO-muh-rol) noun
A hole or vent in a volcanic region from which hot gases and steam are emitted. [Via Italian or French from Latin fumariolum (smoke hole), diminutive of Latin fumarium (smoke chamber), from fumus (smoke).]
panmixia (pan-MIK-see-uh) noun
Random breeding (without regard to selecting a partner with particular traits) within a population. Also known as panmixis. [From Greek pan- (all) + mixis (mixing). Ultimately from the Indo-European root meik- (to mix) that's also the source of mix, miscellaneous, meddle, medley, promiscuous, melee, and mustang.]
camorra (kuh-MOR-uh) noun
A secret group united for unscrupulous purposes. [After Camorra, a secret organization in Naples, Italy, engaged in criminal activities, mostly during the 19th century. From Italian, possibly from Spanish (dispute).]
xerophagy (zi-ROF-uh-jee) noun
The eating of dry food, especially food that's cooked without oil. [From Latin xero- (dry), from Greek xeros + Latin -phagy (eating), from Greek phagia. In the early Christian Church, xerophagy meant eating food cooked in water and salt during Lent. Xerophagy has also been practiced in prison and in the military as a form of punishment.]
asyndeton (uh-SIN-di-ton, -tuhn) noun
The omission of conjunctions, as in "I came, I saw, I conquered." [From Late Latin, from Greek, from neuter of asyndetos, not linked, from a- + syndetos, bound together, from syndein, to bind together, from syn- + dein to bind.]
cultivar (KUHL-tuh-var) noun
A variety of plant that has been produced by selective breeding. A cultivar is developed for specific attributes and retains those attributes in further propagation. [A blend of cultivation + variety.]
floccinaucinihilipilification (FLOK-si-NO-si-NY-HIL-i-PIL-i-fi-KAY-shuhn) noun
Estimating something as worthless. [From Latin flocci, from floccus (tuft of wool) + nauci, from naucum (a trifling thing) + nihili, from Latin nihil (nothing) + pili, from pilus (a hair, trifle) + -fication (making).]
malversation (mal-vuhr-SAY-shuhn) noun
Corrupt behavior in public office. [From Middle French malversation, from malverser (to embezzle), from Latin maleversari (to behave badly), from male (ill) + versari (to behave), from vertere (to turn). Ultimately from Indo-European root wer- (to turn or bend) that is also the source of words such as wring, weird, writhe, worth, revert, and universe.]
jarvey (JAR-vee) noun
1. A hackney-coach driver. 2. A hackney coach. [After Jarvey, a variant of the name Jarvis. Who Jarvey/Jarvis was is unknown.]
plebiscite (PLEB-i-syte) noun
1. A direct vote in which the entire electorate is invited to accept or refuse a proposal. 2. A vote in which a population exercises the right of national self-determination. [French plebiscite, from Latin plebiscitum : plebis, genitive of plebs, the people + scitum, decree, from neuter past participle of sciscere, to vote for, inchoative of scire, to know.]
coxcomb (KOKS-kom) noun
1. A conceited dandy; a fop. 2. A jester's cap; a cockscomb. [Middle English cokkes comb, crest of a cock : cokkes, genitive of cok, cock + comb, crest.]
jeremiad (jer-uh-MIE-uhd) noun
A literary work or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom. [French jeremiade, after Jeremie, Jeremiah, author of The Lamentations, from Late Latin Ieremias, from Hebrew Yirmeyahu.]
nymphomania (nim-fuh-MAY-nee-uh, -MAYN-yuh) noun
Excessive sexual desire in a female. [New Latin : Greek numphe, nymph + -mania.]
anagoge also anagogy (AN-uh-go-jee) noun
A mystical interpretation of a word, passage, or text, especially scriptural exegesis that detects allusions to heaven or the afterlife. [Late Latin anagoge, from Late Greek, spiritual uplift, from anagein, to lift up : ana- + agein, to lead.]
maverick (MAV-uhr-ik) noun
1. A person independent in thought and action. 2. An unbranded animal. [After Samuel A. Maverick (1803-1870), a cattle owner who left his calves unbranded.]
weald (weeld) noun
A woodland. [From Old English weald (forest).]
buccaneer (buk-uh-NEER) noun
1. An unscrupulous adventurer in politics, business, etc. 2. A pirate. [From French boucanier (buccaneer, barbecuer, hunter of wild ox), from boucan (a frame for smoking meat), from Tupi mukem.]
ouch or ouche (ouch) noun
A brooch or buckle set with precious stones. [From the misdivision of the phrase "a nouche" as "an ouche", from Anglo-Norman ouche (brooch). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ned- (to bind) that is also the source of node, noose, annex, and connect.]
herky-jerky (HUR-kee-JUR-kee) adjective
Spasmodic, irregular, and unpredictable, as in movement or manner. [Reduplication of jerky.]
stratocracy (struh-TOK-ruh-see) noun
Government by the military. [From Greek stratos (army) + -cracy (rule, government). Ultimately from Indo-European root ster- (to spread), source of such words as structure, industry, destroy, street, Russian perestroika, and stratagem.]
chaffer (CHAF-uhr) verb tr., intr.
1. To haggle; to bargain. 2. To bandy words; to chatter. noun Bargaining or haggling. [From Middle English chaffare, eventually from Old English ceap (trade, purchase), precursor of English cheap + faru (journey).]
cerumen (suh-ROO-muhn) noun
The yellowish, waxlike secretion of certain glands lining the canal of the external ear. Earwax. [New Latin, from Latin cera, wax akin to Greek keros.]
demarche (day-MARSH) noun
1. A course of action; a maneuver. 2. A diplomatic representation or protest. 3. A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities. [French, from Old French demarche, gait, from demarchier, to march : de- + marchier, to march (probably of Germanic origin.]
prequel (PREE-kwuhl) noun
A book, movie, drama, etc. set in a time preceding that of an existing work. [From Latin pre- (before) + sequel, from Latin sequi (to follow).]
frisson (free-SON) noun
A sudden, brief moment of excitement or fear; thrill, shudder. [From French frisson (shiver), from Old French friçon, from Late Latin friction-, from Latin frictio (friction), from Latin frigere (to be cold).]
rusticate (RUS-ti-kayt) verb intr.
To go to or live in the country. verb tr. 1. To send to the country. 2. Chiefly British. To suspend (a student) from a university. 3. To construct (masonry) with conspicuous, often beveled points. [Latin rusticari, rusticat-, from rusticus, rustic.]
recision or rescission (ri-SIZH-uhn) noun
An act of canceling. [From Latin recision (cutting back), from recidere (to cut back), from caedere (to cut).]
powwow (POU-wou) noun
1. A Native American ceremony featuring dances, feasting, fair, etc. 2. A Native American shaman. 3. A meeting, conference, or get-together. verb intr. 1. To hold a powwow. 2. To confer. [From Narragansett powwaw (shaman).]
forbearance (for-BAR-uhns) noun
1. The act of forbearing. 2. Tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation; patience. 3. The quality of being forbearing. 4. The act of a creditor who refrains from enforcing a debt when it falls due. [Middle English forberen, from Old English forberan, to endure.]
nychthemeron (nik-THEM-er-on) noun
A full period of a day and night: 24 hours. [From Greek, a combination of nykt- (night) and hemera (day).]
glutton (GLUT-n) noun
1. A person who eats or consumes immoderate amounts of food and drink. 2. A person with an inordinate capacity to receive or withstand something. 3. A solitary, burrowing carnivorous mammal (Gulo gulo) of northern forest regions, related to the weasel and having a heavyset body, short legs, and dark fur with a bushy tail. Also called carcajou, glutton, skunk bear. [Middle English glotoun, from Old French gloton, from Latin glutto, glutton-.]
mythologem (mi-THOL-uh-jem) noun
A basic theme of a myth, for example, revenge, honor, betrayal, etc. [From Greek mythologema (mythical narrative), from mythologein (to tell mythical tales), from mythos (myth) + -logos (word or speech).]
cordon bleu (kawr don BLOO) adjective
Of the highest class. noun A person of great distinction in a field, especially applied to a chef. [From French, literally, blue ribbon. Under the Bourbon kings in France, a blue ribbon was worn by knights of the highest order.]
ubiety (yoo-BYE-i-tee) noun
The condition of existing in a particular location. [From Latin ubi (where) + -ety, a variant of ity.]
vet (vet) verb tr.
1. To examine: to check for validity, accuracy or authenticity. 2. To subject to veterinary care. noun Veterinarian; veterinary. [Shortening of veterinarian.]
unguinous (UNG-gwi-nuhs) adjective
Greasy, oily. [From Latin unguinosus, from unguin-, stem of unguen (ointment). Other words from the same root are ointment, anoint, unction, and unctuous.]
vespiary (VES-pee-er-ee) noun
A nest or colony of wasps. [Blend of Latin vespa (wasp) and apiary (a place where bees are kept).]
avigation (av-i-GAY-shuhn) noun
Aerial navigation. [Blend of avi- (bird) + navigation.]
lychnobite (LIK-nuh-byt) noun
One who works at night and sleeps during the day. [From Greek lychnos (lamp) + bios (life).]
catamaran (kat-uh-muh-RAN) noun
1. A boat with two parallel hulls, joined by a frame. 2. A quarrelsome person, especially a woman. [From Tamil kattumaram, from kattu (to tie) + maram (tree, wood). Tamil is spoken in Tamilnadu, a state in southern India and in Sri Lanka. It has about 70 million speakers.]
limnology (lim-NOL-uh-jee) noun
The scientific study of the life and phenomena of fresh water, especially lakes and ponds. [Greek limne, lake + -logy.]
punchinello (pun-chuh-NEL-o) noun
1. A short, fat buffoon, principal character in an Italian puppet show. 2. A grotesque person. [From Italian (Naples dialect) polecenella (a character in Italian puppet shows), diminutive of pollecena (turkey pullet), ultimately from Latin pullus (young chicken). From the resemblance of punchinello's nose to a turkey's beak.]
argus (AHR-guhs) noun
An alert and observant person; a watchful guardian. [From Greek mythology. After Argus, a giant with 100 eyes who was sent to watch over Io. He was later killed by Hermes and after his death his eyes transformed into spots on the peacock's tail.]
antitussive (an-tee-TUS-iv, an-ti-) adjective
Capable of relieving or suppressing coughing. [Greek anti- opposite + Latin tuss(is) cough + -ive]
sabulous (SAB-yuh-luhs) adjective
Sandy; gritty. [From Latin sabulum (sand).]
biblioklept (BIB-lee-uh-klept) noun
A person who steals books. [Biblio- book + Greek klept thief.]
fletcher (FLECH-uhr) noun
A maker of arrows. [From Middle English fleccher, from Old French flechier, from fleche (arrow). Ultimately from Indo-European root pleu (to flow), which also gave us flow, fly, float, fleet, pulmonary, and pluvial.]
paraphernalia (par-uh-fihr-NAYL-ya, -fa-NAYL-ya) noun
1. Personal belongings. 2. The articles used in a particular activity; equipment. 3. A married woman's personal property exclusive of her dowry, according to common law. [Medieval Latin paraphernalia, neuter pl. of paraphernalis, pertaining to a married woman's property exclusive of her dowry, from Late Latin parapherna, a married woman's property exclusive of her dowry, from Greek : para-, beyond + pherne, dowry.]
osmic (OZ-mik) adjective
Of or relating to odors or the sense of smell. [Greek osme, smell + -ic.]
meme (meem) noun
A cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. [Greek mimeisthaito imitate, copy; coined by U.S. biologist Richard Dawkins in his book "The Selfish Gene" in 1976.]
sniglet (SNIG-lit) noun
Any word coined for something that has no specific name. [Said to be derivative of obsolete sniggle to snicker, with -let]
stat (stat) adverb
Immediately (mostly used in a medical context). [From Latin statim, literally immediately.]
malingerer (muh-LING-gehr-uhr) noun
One who feigns illness or other incapacity in order to avoid duty or work. [From French malingre, sickly.]
nonesuch also nonsuch (NUN-such) noun
A person or thing without an equal. [From none, from Middle English non, from Old English nan + such, Middle English such, from Old English swelce.]
veld (velt, felt) noun, also veldt
Open grassland in southern Africa. [From Afrikaans veld, from Dutch veld (field).]
sardonic (sahr-DON-ik) adjective
Marked by scorn, mockery, and cynicism. [After Sardinia, a large island in the Mediterranean. Eating a Sardinian plant was believed to produce facial convulsions as if in a maniacal laughter.]
zany (ZAY-nee) adjective
Amusingly strange, comical, or clownish. [From French zani, from Italian zanni, a nickname for Giovanni.]
first water (furst WA-tuhr) noun
1. The highest degree of quality in a precious stone, especially a diamond. 2. The best grade or quality. [Transparency is highly desirable in diamonds, and when they are nearly as transparent as water, they are known as diamonds of the first water. As the transparency decreases, we get second or third water. Hence figuratively, something or someone of the first water is first grade, first class, or of the best in its class.]
sannyasi (sun-YA-see) or sannyasin (-sin) noun
A wandering mendicant and ascetic. [Hindi sannyasi, from Sanskrit samnyasi, from samnyasyati, he renounces : sam, together, + ni, down + asyati, he throws.]
duende (doo-EN-day) noun
1. Demon; goblin. 2. Inspiration; fire; spirit; magic; charm; magnetism. [From Spanish dialectal duende (charm), from Spanish (ghost).]
ret (ret) verb tr.
To soak or expose to moisture (flax, hemp, etc.) to remove fiber from softened wood. [From Middle English reten, perhaps from Middle Dutch.]
misopedia also misopaedia (mis-oh-PEE-dee-uh, mi-soh-) noun
Hatred of children, especially one's own. [Greek miso-, hate + ped-, child + -ia.]
holus-bolus (HO-luhs BO-luhs) adverb
All at once. [Apparently a reduplication of bolus (lump), or a rhyming compound based on the phrase whole bolus.]
ennui (on-WEE, ON-wee) noun
Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom. [French, from Old French enui, from ennuier, to annoy, bore, from Vulgar Latin *inodiare, from Latin in odio (esse), (to be) odious : in, in. + odio, ablative of odium, hate.]
renascence (ri-NAS-uhns, -NAYS-uhns) noun
1. A new birth or life; a rebirth. 2. A cultural revival; a renaissance. 3. Renascence. Renaissance. McSween, H., Russell the regionalist, Vol. 68, Virginia Quarterly Review, 04-01-1992, pp 395. "Of the many Southerners engaged in literature or politics during the epoch of the Southern literary renascence two embody and dominate the canons: William Faulkner the novelist and Richard Russell the statesman." This week's theme: words with variant spellings. -------- Date: Sun Jul 18 00:01:50 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--extensile extensile (ik-STEN-sil) adjective 1. Capable of being extended or protruded; extensible. 2. Computer Science. Of or relating to a programming language or a system that can be modified by changing or adding features. "The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long extensile tongue like that of the giraffe, which, by one of those beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of its long neck its leafy food." Darwin, Charles, Voyage Of The Beagle: Part I This week's theme: words with variant spellings. -------- Date: Mon Jul 19 00:01:46 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--orwellian orwellian (or-WEL-ee-uhn) adjective Of, relating to, or evocative of the works of George Orwell, especially the satirical novel 1984, which depicts a futuristic totalitarian state. "Military satellites designed to guide nuclear missiles are being used to monitor prison parolees and probationers in a technological advance designed to reduce the nation's skyrocketing prison population. But critics say it also raises the specter of an Orwellian future." Gary Fields, Satellite 'Big Brother' eyes parolees Technology is same as that used to guide nuclear missiles, USA Today, 8 Apr 1999. Today's AWAD word would perhaps have been Blairian had English author George Orwell (1903-1950) chosen to write as Eric Arthur Blair, his given name, instead of using a pen name. No matter, it would still be an eponym, a word derived from a person's name. Although Orwell is best known for his satires "Animal Farm" and "1984", he wrote many compelling essays and articles. In one of his essays, 'Politics and the English Language', he translates this verse from Ecclesiastes to show how language can be, and often is, used not only to illuminate but also to obscure: "I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." And here is how it might appear in bureaucratic English: "Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account." Now how would you want that memo, report, proposal, thesis, letter or email of yours to read? -Anu -------- Date: Tue Jul 20 00:01:39 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--berserk berserk (ber-SURK, -ZURK) adjective 1. Destructively or frenetically violent. 2. Mentally or emotionally upset; deranged. 3. Unrestrained, as with enthusiasm or appetite; wild. noun 1. One that is violent, upset, or unrestrained. 2. A berserker. [From berserker, one of a band of ancient Norse warriors legendary for their savagery and reckless frenzy in battle. Old Norse berserkr : *bera, feminine of bjorn, bear + serkr, shirt.]
ramble (RAM-buhl) verb intr.
1. To move about aimlessly. 2. To walk about casually or for pleasure. 3. To follow an irregularly winding course of motion or growth. 4. To speak or write at length and with many digressions. noun A leisurely, sometimes lengthy walk. [Probably from Middle Dutch *rammelen, to wander about in a state of sexual desire, from rammen, to copulate with.]
symbiosis (sim-bee-O-sis, -bi-) noun, plural symbioses (-seez)
1. A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member. 2. A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence. [Greek sumbiosis, companionship, from sumbioun, to live together, from sumbios, living together : sun-, syn- + bios, life.]
volitant (VOL-i-tuhnt) adjective
1. Flying or capable of flight. 2. Active; moving about rapidly. [From Latin volitare (to flutter), from volare (to fly). Volatile and volley descended from the same source.]
septentrion (sep-TEN-tree-on) noun
The north. [From Latin septentrionalis, from septentrio, singular of septentriones, originally septem triones, the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear, from septem (seven) and triones (a team of three plow oxen). These are the principal stars of the Great Bear, which is located in the region of the north celestial pole. These stars are more commonly perceived as the Big Dipper.]
provender (PROV-uhn-duhr) noun
1. Dry food used as livestock feed. 2. Food or provisions. [From Middle English provendre, from Old French, alteration of provende, from Medieval Latin provenda, alteration of praebenda. Ultimately from Indo-European root ghebh- (to give or receive) that gave us give, debt, duty, habit, endeavor, able, inhibit, and malady.]
vox populi (VOKS POP-yuh-ly) noun
Popular opinion; general sentiment. [From Latin, literally voice of the people.]
limerick (LIM-uhr-ik) noun
A humorous, often risque, verse of five lines with the rhyme scheme aabba. [After Limerick, a borough in Ireland. The origin of the name of the verse is said to be from the refrain "Will you come up to Limerick?" sung after each set of extemporized verses popular at gatherings.]
theriac (THEER-ee-ak) noun
1. Treacle or molasses. 2. An antidote to poison. [From Latin theriaca (antidote), from Greek therion (wild beast).]
second fiddle (SEK-uhnd FID-uhl) noun
Secondary role. A person in such a role. [In an orchestra, the first violins carry the main melody while second violins are considered to be in a subordinate position.]
rhadamanthine (rad-a-MAN-thin) adjective
Strictly and uncompromisingly just. [From Rhadamanthus, in Greek Mythology a son of Zeus and Europa who, in reward for his exemplary sense of justice, was made a judge of the underworld after his death.]
decimate (DES-i-mayt) verb tr.
1. To destroy a large number of (a group). 2. To kill every tenth person. [From Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus (tenth), from decem (ten). Decimation -- killing one out of every ten soldiers -- was the favorite method of punishing mutinous legions in the ancient Roman army. Today the word has evolved to mean large-scale damage where a major proportion is annihilated.]
en banc (ahn-BAHNK) adjective, adverb
Having all the judges of a court present in a hearing. [From French, literally, in the bench.]
alpine (AL-pien) adjective
1. Alpine. Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Alps or their inhabitants. 2. Of or relating to high mountains. 3. Biology. Living or growing on mountains above the timberline. 4. Sports. Intended for or concerned with mountaineering. Of or relating to competitive downhill racing and slalom skiing events. [Middle English, from Latin Alpinus, from Alpes, the Alps.]
stemwinder (STEM-wyn-duhr) noun
1. A stem-winding watch. 2. A rousing oration, especially a political one. 3. A stirring orator. Sullivan, known for his stentorian stemwinders on the Senate floor, said there was no need to reopen the budget ...." Christopher Keating, Sullivan Sees Racism in Treasurer Debate, The Hartford Courant, Feb 5, 2000. This week's theme: words about government, politics, and elections. -------- Date: Sun Jun 11 00:12:08 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--autarchy autarchy (O-tahr-kee) noun 1. Absolute rule or power; autocracy. 2. A country under such rule. 3. Variant of autarky. [From Greek autarkhos, self-governing, autarch : aut-, auto-, auto- + arkhos, ruler (from arkhein, to rule).]
jugular (JUG-uh-luhr) adjective
Of or pertaining to the neck or throat. noun 1. A jugular vein 2. The most important or vulnerable part of something. [From Late Latin jugularis, from Latin jugulum (collarbone, throat), from Latin jugum, yoke).]
behoove (bi-HOOV) tr.verb
To be necessary or proper for. behoove intr.verb To be necessary or proper. [Middle English behoven, from Old English behofian.]
abdicate (AB-di-kayt) verb tr.
To relinquish (power or responsibility) formally. verb intr. To relinquish formally a high office or responsibility. [Latin abdicare, abdicat-, to disclaim : ab-, away + dicare, to proclaim]
esprit d'escalier (e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) noun, also esprit de l'escalier
Thinking of a witty remark too late; hindsight wit or afterwit. Also such a remark. [From French esprit de l'escalier, from esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs).]
embracery (em-BRAY-suh-ree) noun, also imbracery.
An attempt to influence a jury illegally as by bribery, threats, or promises. One guilty of embracery is known as an embraceor. [From Middle English embracerie, ultimately from em- + brace (the two arms).]
pangram (PAN-gram, -gruhm, PANG-) noun
A sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet. "A pangram is a sentence that contains every letter of the alphabet -- pan means all -- and your assignment is to write the shortest sentence you can manufacture that uses each letter." Michael Gartner, Gram Crackers, Austin American-Statesman, 1 Aug 1998. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Wed Oct 14 00:04:21 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--toponym toponym (TOP-uh-nim) noun 1. A place name. 2. A name derived from a place or region. [Back-formation from toponymy.]
vivid (VIV-id) adjective
Bright; clear and fresh; lively. [From Latin vividus, from vivere (to live).]
welkin (WEL-kin) noun
1. The vault of heaven; the sky. 2. The upper air. [Middle English welken, from Old English wolcen, weolcen, cloud.]
tocsin (TOK-sin) noun
1. An alarm sounded on a bell. A bell used to sound an alarm. 2. A warning; an omen. [French, alteration of toquassen, from Old French touque-sain, from Old Provencal tocasenh : tocar, to strike (from Vulgar Latin *toccare) + senh, bell, from Late Latin signum, from Latin, signal.]
snuggery (SNUG-uh-ree) noun
A snug, cozy place. [From snug, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.]
portcullis which is a falling gate or covering.]
Today's word in Visual Thesaurus: The whitish appearance of onrushing water, cascading down a waterfall, is exactly what a dense cataract looks like through the pupil -- it can be a whitish, sometimes vertically streaked density. The cataract itself, in medical terms, is a clouding of the normally clear crystalline lens. In the 1500s, the term cataract began to be applied to the whitish clouding of dense clouding of the crystalline lens. The lens, along with the cornea, focuses light rays onto the retina, which is how we see. As a cataract develops, our vision progressively blurs and objects become duskier and browner (brunescent) because blue and violet rays are preferentially absorbed by the cataractous lens, leaving largely the murkier reds and browns to pass through. The last works of the French impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926), especially his Japanese footbridge paintings and the "House from the Rose Garden" series painted at his home at Giverny, show this brunescent change over time. Monet's right cataract was removed in January, 1923, and works painted after this time show a return of the blues and violets to his artistic palette. In fact, his magisterial "Waterlilies" series of 22 murals (Les Nympheas), finally completed right before his death in 1926 and now spectacularly viewable in the refurbished Orangerie in Paris, show the subtle blues and greens of the lily pads on the ponds. The other definition of cataract is waterfall. The six large waterfalls of the Nile river are usually called the cataracts of the Nile, near one of which was built the Aswan Dam. -Guest wordsmith Vincent de Luise, MD ( "The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep No more shall grief of mine the season wrong; I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng, The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep." William Wordsworth; Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood; 1802. -------- Date: Fri Jul 14 00:01:19 EDT 2006 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--spectral This week's theme: words related to the eyes. spectral (SPEK-truhl) adjective 1. Pertaining to a light energy spectrum, usually the visible spectrum. 2. Pertaining to a ghost, wraith, or apparition. [From Latin spectrum (appearance), from Latin specere (to look at).]
areology (ar-ee-OL-uh-jee) noun
The study of the planet Mars. [From areo- (Mars), from Greek Areaos, from Ares (The Greek equivalent of Mars in classical mythology) + logy (study).]
prise (pryz) verb tr.
1. To force open or part something with a lever. 2. To extract information from someone with difficulty. noun A lever. [From Old French prise, from Latin prehendere (to seize). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghend-/ghed- (to seize or to take) that is also the source of pry, prey, spree, reprise, surprise, pregnant, osprey, prison, and get.]
eighty-six (AY-tee SIKS) verb tr., also 86
1. To throw out; discard; reject. 2. To refuse to serve (a customer). adjective Sold-out (of an item). noun An undesirable customer, one who is denied service. [Perhaps rhyming slang for nix.]
antaean (an-TEE-uhn) adjective
1. Very large. 2. Having extraordinary strength. [After Antaeus, a giant in Greek mythology. The son of Gaia and Poseidon, he challenged all who came across him to wrestle. He invariably won, because he received strength from his mother, the earth, as long as he was in touch with her. Hercules discovered his secret, lifted him off the ground, and crushed him.]
jeune premier (zhoen pruh-MYAY) noun
The role of a young hero; also an actor who plays such a part. [From French, literally first young man. Jeune premiere is the feminine equivalent of the term.]
hie (hy) verb tr., intr.
To hasten; to go in a hurry. [From Middle English hien, from Old English higian (to strive).]
parrhesia (puh-REEZ-i-uh) noun
1. Boldness of speech. 2. The practice of asking forgiveness before speaking in this manner. [From New Latin, from Greek, from pan (all) + rhesis (speech).]
clay pigeon (klay PIJ-uhn) noun
Someone in a situation vulnerable to be taken advantage of. [After a piece of baked clay, called a clay pigeon, thrown into the air as a flying target in shooting practice.]
scurf (skurf) noun
1. Scaly or shredded dry skin, such as dandruff. 2. A loose, scaly crust coating a surface, especially of a plant. [Middle English, probably of Scandinavian origin.]
morganatic (mor-guh-NAT-ik) adjective
Of or relating to a marriage between two people of different social ranks such that the spouse of lower rank and the children do not share the titles or possessions of the higher-ranking spouse. [From Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam (marriage with a morning gift), implying that the gift given on the morning after the wedding was the only gift received by the wife. It was also known as a left-handed marriage because the groom held his bride's hand with his left (instead of right) hand. The word is of Germanic origin (morgen: morning, e.g. guten morgen: good morning). From a word for 'morning' to a word for a kind of marriage, that's an example of the idiosyncratic ways languages evolve.]
cormorant (KOR-muhr-uhnt) noun
1. Any of the seabirds of the family Phalacrocoracidae, having a hooked bill with a pouch under it, a long neck and webbed feet. 2. A greedy person. [Middle English cormeraunt, from Middle French cormorant, from Old French cormareng, from corp, raven + marenc, of the sea, from Latin marinus.]
vinaigrette (vin-uh-GRET) noun
A sour, savory sauce of which there are a hundred variations. Its base ingredients are almost always oil and vinegar. The primary use is for salad dressings, but vinaigrettes can also be served on numerous fish, seafood, and even meat dishes. [A nice double fillip here. The French word vinaigre (vinegar) literally means "sour wine": vin (wine) + aigre (sour). Take this double word and add the diminutive -ette and you get "little vinegar".]
piedmont (PEED-mont) noun
An area of land formed or lying at the foot of a mountain or mountain range. piedmont adjective Of, relating to, or constituting such an area of land. [After Piedmont.]
indolent (IN-duh-lehnt) adjective
1. Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy. Conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic. 2. Causing little or no pain. Slow to heal, grow, or develop; inactive. [Late Latin indolens, indolent-, painless : Latin in-, not + Latin dolens, present participle of dolere, to feel pain.]
pooh-pooh (poo-poo) verb tr., intr.
To express contempt for; to make light of; to dismiss. [Reduplicative of pooh (sound made by blowing something away with lips), an exclamation of disdain or disbelief.]
baker's dozen (BAY-kuhrs DUZ-uhn) noun
A group of 13. [From the fact that formerly bakers typically gave an extra item when selling a dozen of something to safeguard against penalty for light weight.]
klieg light (kleeg lyt) noun
1. A carbon-arc lamp for producing light, used in moviemaking. 2. The center of public attention. [After brothers and inventors, lighting experts John H. Kliegl (1869-1959) and Anton T. Kliegl (1872-1927). The last letter "L" of their name apparently became fused with the word "light" in the term "klieg light".]
tatterdemalion (tat-uhr-di-MAYL-yuhn, -MALEE-uhn) adjective
Ragged, tattered. noun A person in ragged clothes. [From Middle English tater, from Old Norse toturr (rag). The origin of demalion is uncertain.]
sortilege (SOR-tl-ij) noun
1. Divination by drawing lots. 2. Sorcery; magic. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin sortilegium, from Latin sortilegus, from sort-, from sors (lot) + legere (to read or gather).]
pernicious (pur-NISH-uhs) adjective
Causing great harm; deadly; wicked. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin perniciosus, from pernicies (complete destruction), from per- (thoroughly) + nici-, from nex (destruction).]
cockalorum (KOK-uh-lor-uhm, -LOAR-) noun
1. A little man with an unduly high opinion of himself. 2. Boastful talk; braggadocio. [Perhaps alteration (influenced by Latin -orum, nominal ending), of obsolete Flemish kockeloeren, to crow, of imitative origin.]
placebo (pluh-SEE-bo) noun
1. A substance having no medication (sugar pills, for example), prescribed merely to satisfy a patient or given in a clinical trial to compare and test the effectiveness of a drug. 2. Something (such as a remark or action) that is used to soothe someone but one that has no remedial value for what is causing the problem. [From Latin placebo (I shall please), from Latin placere (to please).]
dentate (DEN-tayt) adjective
Edged with toothlike projections; toothed. [Latin dentatus, from dens, dent-, tooth.]
chevron (SHEV-ruhn) noun
1. A badge or insignia consisting of stripes meeting at an angle, worn on the sleeve of a military or police uniform to indicate rank, merit, or length of service. 2. Heraldry. A device shaped like an inverted V. 3. A V-shaped pattern, especially a kind of fret used in architecture. [Middle English cheveron, from Old French chevron, rafter (from the meeting of rafters at an angle), probably from Vulgar Latin *caprio, caprion-, from Latin caper, capr-, goat.]
facetiae (fuh-SEE-shee-ee) noun
Witty or humorous remarks or writings. [From Latin facetia (jest). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhe- (to set or put) which is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion, face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, Sanskrit sandhi (literally, joining), Urdu purdah (literally, veil or curtain), and Russian duma (council).]
spruik (sprook) verb intr.
To make an elaborate speech, especially to attract customers. [Of unknown origin.]
catchpole or catchpoll (KACH-pol) noun
A sheriff's officer who made arrests for failure to pay a debt. [From Middle English cacchepol, from Anglo-French cachepole (chicken chaser). From Latin captare (to chase) + pol (chicken), from pullus (chick). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pau- (few, little) that is also the source of few, foal, filly, pony, poor, pauper, and poco.]
hoi polloi (hoi puh-LOI) noun
The common people; the masses. [Greek, the many : hoi, nominative plural of ho, the + polloi, nominative plural of polus, many.]
pistolero (pist-LAY-ro) noun
A gunman; hired killer. [From Spanish, from pistola (pistol), via German from Czech pístala (pipe, fife).]
alexiteric (uh-LEK-si-TER-ik) adjective
Counteracting the effects of poison; warding off contagion. noun An antidote against poison; preventive against contagion. [From Medieval Latin alexiterium (remedy), from Greek alexein (to ward off).]
malapropism (MAL-uh-prop-iz-ehm) noun
1. The humorous misuse of a word by confusing it with a similar-sounding word. 2. An instance of such misuse. [After Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's play, The Rivals, who confused words this way.]
ylem (I-lum) noun
A form of matter hypothesized by proponents of the big bang theory to have existed before the formation of the chemical elements. [Middle English, universal matter, from Old French ilem, from Medieval Latin hylem, accusative of hyle, matter, from Greek hule.]
clepe (kleep) verb tr., past participle cleped/clept or ycleped/yclept (i-KLEPT)
To call or name. [From Middle English clepen, from Old English cleopican, from clipian (to speak or call). "Now, you could work that into conversation if you wanted to force the issue. `Sir, do not dare you clepe me in such a fashion or I shall be compelled to thrash you with a puncheon or clevis, whichever being the most geographically convenient!'" Mike Kelley, Writer: If You Don't Know What Clevis Means, The Austin American Statesman, Apr 22, 1991. "The movie is `The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.' The time: the 15th century. Jovovich is Joan, the self-yclept `Maiden of Lorraine,' a peasant girl who has heard God's call to save France from the English." Desson Howe, Shoot `The Messenger', The Washington Post, Nov 12, 1999. Archaisms are grizzled old words that have continued to do their job despite their age even though they don't go around as much as they used to. They are old-fashioned but serviceable and that's the reason they are still making the rounds, as you can see in this week's examples. They serve a purpose, to give an aura of an earlier period, and evoke a sense of historical setting, in novels, religious writing, poetry, ads, and so on. What's old for one is young for another, so there's no consensus on what words are archaic, but this week we'll feature some of them. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Dec 25 00:01:27 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--sennight sennight (SEN-yt) noun A week. [From Middle English, from Old English seofon nihta, from seofon (seven) + nihta, plural of niht (night).]
recreant (REK-ree-uhnt) adjective
1. Unfaithful or disloyal to a belief, duty, or cause. 2. Craven or cowardly. noun 1. A faithless or disloyal person. 2. A coward. [Middle English, from Old French, present participle of recroire, to remember, from Medieval Latin recredere, to yield, pledge : Latin re-, re- + Latin credere, to believe.]
gamut (GAM-uht) noun
The complete range of something. [From Medieval Latin, contraction of gamma ut, from gamma (third letter of the Greek alphabet), used to represent the lowest tone + ut, from the names of the notes ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si (ut and si later changed to do and ti). Gamma + ut contracted to gamut and the meaning expanded to denote all notes. The names of the notes are derived from the initial syllables of a Latin hymn.]
procellous (pro-SEL-uhs) adjective
Stormy, as the sea. [From Latin procellosus (stormy), from procella (storm).]
travail (truh-VAYL) noun
Painfully difficult work; agony, anguish; the pain of childbirth. verb intr. To work strenuously, toil; be in labor. [From Old French travailler (to work hard), from Vulgar Latin tripaliare, (to torture with a tripalium). A tripalium was a three-staked instrument of torture.]
backwardation (BAK-wuhr-DAY-shuhn) noun
A premium paid by the seller to the buyer for deferring delivery of stock or some other product. Opposite of contango. [From backward, from Middle English bakwarde.]
schlump (shlump) noun
A dull or slovenly person. [From Yiddish shlumperdik (unkempt, sloppy).]
sutra (SOO-truh) noun
A rule or formula; aphorism. [From Sanskrit sutra (thread). Ultimately from Indo-European root syu- or su- (to bind or sew) that is also the source of sew, suture, couture, Kamasutra, and hymen.]
dark horse (dark hors) noun
Someone little-known who ends up winning a contest unexpectedly. [From the idea of a relatively unknown horse winning a race. The term is also used for a person who unexpectedly wins a party's nomination for a political contest, often as a compromise candidate. The OED shows the first citation of the term from the novel The Young Duke by the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.]
dramatis personae (DRAM-uh-tis puhr-SO-nee) noun
1. The characters in a play or story. 2. The people involved in an event. [From Latin dramatis personae (persons of the drama), from drama (play) + persona (mask, character in a play, person).]
amphigory (AM-fi-gor-ee) noun, also amphigouri
A nonsensical piece of writing, usually in verse form, typically composed as a parody. [From French amphigouri.]
rotund (roe-TUND) adjective
1. Rounded in figure; plump. 2. Having a full, rich sound; sonorous. [Latin rotundus.]
auger (AW-guhr) noun
Any of various boring tools resembling a corkscrew, used in carpentry, digging, etc. [From the misdivision of "a nauger" as "an auger". Ultimately from the Indo-European root nobh- (navel) that is also the source of nave, navel, umbilical, omphaloskepsis (navel gazing), and Hindi nabhi (navel).]
legerity (luh-JER-i-tee) noun
Nimbleness; agility. [From French légèreté, from léger (light), from Vulgar Latin leviarius, from Latin levis (light).]
crapulent (KRAP-yuh-luhnt) adjective
Sick from excessive drinking or eating. [From Late Latin crapulentus (very drunk), from Latin crapula (drunkenness), from Greek kraipal (hangover, drunkenness).]
eructate also eruct (i-RUK-tayt) verb tr. intr.
To belch. [Latin eructare : e-, ex-, + ructare, to belch.]
jentacular (jen-TAK-yuh-luhr) adjective
Relating to breakfast. [From Latin jentare (to breakfast).]
queen regnant (kween REG-nuhnt) noun
A queen reigning in her own right, as opposed to one having a royal title by marriage. [From Latin regnare (reign). Ultimately from the Indo-European root reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge. The wife of a ruling king is known as a queen consort. The husband of a queen regnant would be a king consort, though usually he is called a prince. A queen ruling during the youth, disability, or absence of a monarch is known as a queen regent.]
fardel (FAHR-dl) noun
1. A pack; a bundle. 2. A burden. [Middle English, from Old French, diminutive of farde, package, from Arabic fardah.]
mythopoeic or mythopeic (mith-uh-PEE-ik) also mythopoetic (-po-ET-ik) adjective
1. Of or relating to the making of myths. 2. Serving to create or engender myths; productive in mythmaking. [From Greek muthopoios, composer of fiction, from muthopoiein, to relate a story : muthos, story + poiein, to make.]
full monty (ful MON-tee) noun, adjective; Also Full Monty, full Monty
1. Everything that's needed or possible or appropriate: the whole nine yards. [Origin unknown.]
fizgig (FIZ-gig) noun
1. A squib: a type of firework made with damp powder that makes a hissing sound when exploding. [From fizz, a clipping of fizzle, from fysel (to break wind).]
deign (dayn) verb tr. and intr.
To do something reluctantly as if it's beneath one's dignity; to condescend. [From Middle English deinen, from Old French deignier (to deem worthy), from Latin dignare, a form of dignari, from dignus (worthy). Ultimately from Indo-European root dek- (to take or accept). Other words from the same root are decent, doctor, paradox, decorate, dignity, disdain, indignant, and disciple.]
vulcanian (vul-KAY-nee-uhn) adjective
1. Geology. Of, relating to, or originating from an explosive volcanic eruption. 2. Of or relating to Vulcan. 3. Of or relating to metalworking or craft. [From Vulcan, the god of fire and metalworking in Roman Mythology.]
circumspect (SUR-kuhm-spekt) adjective
Heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent. [Middle English, from Latin circumspectus, past participle of circumspicere, to take heed : circum-, + specere, to look.]
costive (KOS-tiv) adjective
1. Suffering from constipation. Causing constipation. 2. Slow; sluggish. 3. Stingy. [Middle English costif, from Old French costeve, past participle of costever, to constipate, from Latin constipare.]
pinnate (PIN-ayt) adjective
Resembling a feather, having similar parts arranged on opposite sides of a common axis. [From Latin pinnatus (feathered), from pinna (feather), ultimately from Indo-European root pet- (to rush, fly). Other words from this root are pin, impetus, and pinnacle.]
dingle (DING-guhl) noun
A deep narrow wooded valley; dell. [Of uncertain origin.]
leveret (LEV-uhr-it) noun
A young hare, especially one less than a year old. [Middle English, from Anglo-Norman, diminutive of levere, hare, from Latin lepus, lepor-.]
bort (bort) noun
Poor-quality diamond, or diamond fragment, used as an industrial abrasive, as in grinding wheel. [Possibly metathetic variation of brot, from Old English gebrot, fragment.]
goldbrick (GOLD-brik) noun
1. Something that appears valuable but is worthless. 2. A person who shirks assigned work or does it without proper effort. verb intr. To shirk duty. verb tr. To cheat or swindle. [Sense 1 from the con artists' old trick of selling a gold-polished piece of less valuable metal as solid gold. Sense 2 was originally military slang for an officer appointed from civilian life.]
odeum (oh-DEE-uhm) noun, plural odea
1. A theater or concert hall. 2. A roofed building in ancient Greece and Rome used for theatrical performances. [From Latin odeum, from Greek oideion, from oide (song).]
interrobang also interabang (in-TER-uh-bang) noun
A punctuation mark used especially to end a simultaneous question and exclamation. [Interro (gation point) + bang, exclamation point (printers' slang).]
elevenses (i-LEV-uhn-ziz) noun
A midmorning break for refreshments taken between breakfast and lunch, usually around 11am. [Double plural of eleven, perhaps as ellipsis of eleven hours (eleven o'clock).]
charnel (CHAR-nel) noun
A repository for the bones or bodies of the dead; a charnel house. adjective Resembling, suggesting, or suitable for receiving the dead. [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin carnale, from neuter of Latin carnalis, of the flesh, from caro, carn-, flesh.]
haruspicy (hur-RUS-puh-see) noun
Divination by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals. [From Latin haruspicium, from haruspex, from hira (entrails) + specere (to look at).]
paronomasia (par-uh-no-MAY-zhuh) noun
A play on words, especially a pun. [From Latin, from Greek, from paronomazein, to call by a slight name-change; para-, beside + onomazein, to name.]
simonize (SY-muh-nyz) verb tr.
To shine or polish to a high sheen, especially with wax. [After Simoniz, a trademark.]
bight (byt) noun
1. A bend in a coastline; also the body of water along such a curve. Example: The Bight of Benin in W. Africa. 2. The curved part or the middle of a rope (as contrasted with the ends). [From Old English byht (bend). Ultimately from Indo-European root bheug- (to bend) that is also the source of bow, bagel, bee, bog, akimbo, and buxom (originally one who is obedient or pliant).]
ploce (PLO-see) noun
The repetition of a word or phrase to gain special emphasis or to indicate an extension of meaning, as in Ex. 3:14: "I am that I am.' [Earlier ploche, from Late Latin ploce, from Greek ploke, plaiting, akin to plekein, to plait.]
muliebrity (myoo-lee-EB-ri-tee) noun
1. The state of being a woman. 2. Femininity. [Latin muliebritas, state of womanhood (as against maidenhood), from muliebris, womanly, from mulier, woman.]
pelf (pelf) noun
Wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired. [Middle English, from Medieval Latin pelfra, pelfa, probably from Old French pelfre.]
sextant (SEK-stuhnt) noun
A navigational instrument having a 60-degree arc, for measuring altitude of stars and planets. [From New Latin sextans, sextant-, from Latin sextus (sixth part, the instrument's arc is a sixth of a circle), from Latin sex (six).]
pericope (puh-RIK-uh-pee) noun
A selection from a book. [From Late Latin pericope, from Greek perikope (section), from peri (around) + koptein (to cut).]
dragoon (druh-GOON) noun
A heavily armed trooper in some European armies of the 17th and 18th centuries. verb tr. 1. To subjugate or persecute by the imposition of troops. 2. To compel by violent measures or threats; coerce. [French dragon, carbine, dragoon, from Old French dragon, dragon.]
bogart (BO-gart) verb tr.
1. To hog or to take more than the fair share of something. 2. To bully, act tough or to be belligerent. [After actor Humphrey Bogart (1900-1957) who played tough-guy movie roles.]
irrefragable (i-REF-ruh-guh-buhl) adjective
Impossible to refute or dispute; incontrovertible. [From Late Latin irrefragabilis, from Latin in- (not) + refragari (to oppose). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhreg- (to break) that's also the progenitor of words such as break, breach, fraction, fragile, fractal, infringe, and suffrage. Suffrage? Remember, a broken piece of tile was used as a ballot in earlier times.]
maquillage (ma-kee-AAZH) noun
Makeup or cosmetics. [From French maquillage (makeup), from maquiller (to apply makeup). Ultimately from the Indo-European root mag-/mak- (to knead, to fit) that is also the source of words make, mason, mass, match, and mingle.]
pavonine (PAV-uh-nyn) adjective
1. Of or resembling a peacock. 2. Resembling a peacock's tail in color, design, or iridescence. [Latin pavoninus, from pavo, peacock.]
mora (MOR-uh) noun
The unit of time equivalent to the ordinary or normal short sound or syllable. [Latin, delay, hence, space of time.]
aufklarung (OUF-klay-roong) noun
The Enlightenment. [German : auf, up (from Middle High German uf, from Old High German.) + Klarung, a making clear, from klaren, to make clear, from Middle High German klaeren, from klar, clear, from Latin clarus.]
lavaliere (lav-uh-LIR) also lavalliere (la-va-LYAR) noun
A pendant worn on a chain around the neck. [French lavalliere, type of necktie after Duchesse de La Valliere, title of Francoise Louise de la Baume Le Blanc.]
schmendrik (SHMEN-drik) noun, also shmendrik, schmendrick, shmendrick
A foolish, clueless, and naive person. [After the name of the title character in an operetta by Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908).]
idiot savant (ID-ee-uht sa-VAHNT) noun
A person with autism or some other mental disability who is exceptionally gifted in a highly specialized field, such as math (rapid mental calculation) or music (ability to play a complex piece of music after hearing it only once). This term is now outdated. Autistic savant is the current term. [From French, literally learned idiot.]
hyperbolic (hy-puhr-BOL-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to hyperbole; exaggerating. 2. Of or pertaining to hyperbola. [From Greek hyperbole (excess), from hyperballein (to exceed), from hyper- + ballein (to throw).]
ogre (O-guhr) noun
1. A giant or monster in legends and fairy tales that eats human beings. 2. A person who is felt to be particularly cruel, brutish, or hideous. [French, probably ultimately from Latin Orcus, god of the underworld.]
bain-marie (BAN-muh-ree) noun, plural bains-marie
A large pan containing hot water in which smaller pans may be set to cook food slowly or to keep food warm. [French, from Medieval Latin balneum Mariae, bath of Maria, probably after Maria, an early alchemist.]
pavid (PAV-id) adjective
Timid; fearful. [From Latin pavere (to be frightened). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pau- (to cut, stroke, or stamp) that is also the source of amputate, compute, dispute, and count.]
standpatism or standpattism (STAND-PAT-iz-uhm) noun
The practice of refusing to consider change in one's beliefs and opinions, especially in politics. [The term has its origin in the game of poker. It stems from stand pat, to play one's hand as it's dealt, without drawing other cards.]
priapean (prie-uh-PEE-uhn) also priapic (prie-AY-pik, -ap-ik) adjective
1. Of, relating to, or resembling a phallus; phallic. 2. Relating to or overly concerned with masculinity. [From Priapus, the god of procreation, guardian of gardens and vineyards, and personification of the erect phallus in Greek and Roman mythologies.]
handsel (HAND-sehl) also hansel (HAN-) noun (Chiefly British)
1. A gift to express good wishes at the beginning of a new year or enterprise. 2. The first money or barter taken in, as by a new business or on the opening day of business, especially when considered a token of good luck. 3. A first payment. A specimen or foretaste of what is to come. verb tr. 1. To give a handsel to. 2. To launch with a ceremonial gesture or gift. 3. To do or use for the first time. [Middle English hanselle, from Old English handselen, a handing over : hand, hand + selen, gift, and from Old Norse handsal, legal transfer : hand, hand + sal, a giving.]
phonetic (fuh-NET-ik) adjective
1. Of or relating to phonetics. 2. Representing the sounds of speech with a set of distinct symbols, each designating a single sound. 3. Of, relating to, or being features of pronunciation that are not phonemically distinctive in a language, as aspiration of consonants or vowel length in English. [New Latin phoneticus, representing speech sounds, from Greek phonetikos, vocal, from phonetos, to be spoken, from phonein, to produce a sound, from phone, sound, voice.]
sand-blind (SAND-blind) adjective
Partially blind. [From Middle English, from Old English samblind (half-blind), from sam- (semi-) + blind.]
alacrity (uh-LAK-ri-tee) noun
1. Cheerful willingness; eagerness. 2. Speed or quickness; celerity. [Latin alacritas, from alacer, lively.]
matronym (MA-truh-nim) noun
A name derived from the name of a mother or maternal ancestor. Also metronym. [From Latin metr- (mother) + Greek -onym (name, word).]
haggard (HAG-uhrd) adjective
Looking gaunt or exhausted, as from fatigue, suffering, hunger, age, etc. [Of uncertain origin, apparently from Old French hagard (wild falcon), perhaps influenced by the word hag. The word is still used for a hawk captured as an adult.]
darbies (DAR-bees) noun
Handcuffs; manacles. [Shortening of Father Darby's/Derby's bands (or bonds). Apparently after the rigid terms of a 16th century English usurer of that name.]
dol (dol) noun
A unit for measuring the intensity of pain. [From Latin dol(or) pain.]
solander (suh-LAN-duhr) noun
A case for maps, plates, etc., made to resemble a book and having the front cover and fore edge hinged. [Named after Daniel Charles Solander (1736-1782), Swedish naturalist who invented it.]
regent (REE-juhnt) adjective
Ruling for a limited period, on behalf of a king or queen who is a minor, absent, or ill. [From Latin regent-, present participle of regere (to rule). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.]
trousseau (TROO-soh, troo-SOH) noun [plural trousseaux (-sohz, -SOHZ)
or trousseaus]
ostracize (OS-truh-syz) verb tr.
To exclude or shun from a group. [From Greek ostrakizein, from ostrakon (shell or potsherd), from the fact that in ancient Greece these were used as ballots in voting to banish someone. Ultimately from Indo-European root ost- (bone) that gave birth to such words as oyster, osteopathy, ossify, and Sanskrit asthi (bone).]
shirty (SHUHR-tee) adjective
Bad-tempered, irritable. [From the expression "to get someone's shirt out" to annoy or to lose temper.]
hypergelast (hy-PUHR-ji-last) noun
One who laughs excessively. [From Greek hyper- (over) + gelastes (laugher), from gelan (to laugh). A related word is agelast: someone who never laughs.]
neophyte (NEE-uh-fyt) noun
1. A beginner; novice. 2. A new convert to a belief. [From Middle English, from Late Latin neophytus, from Greek neophytos (newly planted), from phyein (to plant).]
nutriment (NOO-truh-ment, NYOO-) noun
A substance that provides nourishment; food. [From Middle English, eventually from Latin nutrimentum, from nutrire (to nourish).]
gegenschein (GAY-guhn-shyn) noun
A faint oval patch of light directly opposite the sun in the night sky, caused by reflection of sunlight by dust particles. Also known as counterglow. [From German Gegenschein, from gegen (against) + Schein (glow).]
nirvana (nir-VAH-nuh) noun
1. Freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death and related suffering, in Hindu and Buddhist religions. 2. An idealized state or place free of pain, worries, etc. [From Sanskrit nirvana (blowing out, extinguishing, extinction), from nis- (out) + vati (it blows). The word wind derives from the same root.]
quid pro quo (KWID pro kwo) noun, plural quid pro quos or quids pro quo
Something given or taken in exchange for something else. [From Latin quid (what) pro (for) quo (what), something for something.]
erg (urg) noun
The unit of work or energy in the centimeter-gram-second system. [From Greek ergon (work). Other words that derive from the same Indo-European root (werg-) are: ergonomic, work, energy, metallurgy, surgery, wright, and orgy.]
hypolimnion (hy-puh-LIM-nee-on, -uhn) noun
The layer of water in a thermally stratified lake that lies below the thermocline, is noncirculating, and remains perpetually cold. [Hypo- + Greek limnion, diminutive of limne, lake, pool.]
avast (uh-VAST) interjection
Stop (used as a command to stop or desist). [From Dutch hou vast (hold fast), from houd vast.]
copse (kops) noun
A thicket of small trees, bushes, shrubs, etc. especially one grown for periodic cutting. [Alteration of coppice. Via Middle English and French from Latin colpare (to cut).]
allogeneic (al-uh-je-NEE-ik) also allogenic (-JEN-ik) adjective
Being genetically different although belonging to or obtained from the same species: allogeneic tissue grafts. [Allo- + Greek genea, race + -ic.]
hyponym (HIE-puh-nim) noun
A term that denotes a subcategory of a more general class: "Chair' and "table' are hyponyms of "furniture. [Hyp- + -onym, or as back formation from hyponymy]
hearken (HAHR-ken) verb intr., also harken or hark
1. To pay attention; listen. 2. To return to a previous subject (usually in the form of hearken back). [From Middle English herknen, from Old English he(o)rcnian.]
congruent (KONG-groo-uhnt, kuhn-GROO-) adjective
1. Corresponding; congruous. 2. Mathematics. Coinciding exactly when superimposed: congruent triangles. Having a difference divisible by a modulus: congruent numbers. [Middle English, from Latin congruens, congruent-, present participle of congruere, to agree.]
linctus (LINGK-tuhs) noun
A syrupy liquid medicine, especially for treating coughs. [From Latin lingere (to lick). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leigh- (lick) that is also the source of lichen (apparently from the way it licks its way around a surface), and lecher, but not lingerie (which is from the root lino: flax).]
fascicle (FAS-i-kuhl) noun
1. Part of a book published in installments. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary was published in fascicles. 2. A bundle. For example, a bundle of nerve or muscle fibers, or a bundle of leaves. [From Latin fasciculus, diminutive of fascis (bundle).]
misandry (MIS-an-dree) noun
Hatred of men. [From mis-, from miso- (hate) + -andry (male).]
egregious (i-GREE-juhs, -jee-uhs) adjective
Remarkable in a bad way; flagrant. [From Latin egregius (outstanding), from e-, ex- (out of) + greg-, stem of grex (flock). Earlier something egregious was one that stood out because it was remarkably good. Over the centuries the word took 180 degree turn and today it refers to something grossly offensive.]
pedology (pi-DOL-uh-jee) noun
The study of soil: its formation, usage, classification, etc. Also called soil science. [From Greek pedon (soil).]
miscegenation (mi-sej-uh-NAY-shuhn, mis-i-juh-) noun
1. A mixture of different races. 2. Cohabitation, sexual relations, or marriage involving persons of different races. [Latin miscere, to mix + genus, race + -ation.]
madeleine (MAD-uh-lin) noun
1. A small, rich cake baked in a fluted, shell-shaped pan. 2. Something that evokes memory or nostalgia. [Contraction of French gâteau à la Madeleine, literally Cake Madeleine. Who this Madeleine was isn't clear. The recipe for this cake has been attributed to the French cook Madeleine Paulnier/Paumier but that's unsubstantiated.]
apparatchik (uh-pah-RAH-chik) noun
Member of the (Soviet) bureaucracy; now extended to apply to any inflexible organisation man, particularly in a political party. [From Russian apparat (apparatus, the government machine or structure) + chik (agent).]
hullabaloo (HUL-uh-buh-loo) noun
Tumultuous noise, excitement, confusion; uproar. [Of uncertain origin. Apparently a reduplication of hallo (former variant of hello), an alteration of French hola (whoa, stop there), from ho + la (there).]
chivalry (SHIV-ahl-ree) noun
1. The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood. 2. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. A manifestation of any of these qualities. 3. A group of knights or gallant gentlemen. [Middle English chivalrie, from Old French chevalerie, from chevalier, knight.]
iatrogenic (eye-at-ruh-JEN-ik) adjective
Caused inadvertently by medical treatment, such as an infection or a complication. [From iatro- (healer, medicine), from Greek iatros (healer) + -genic (producing).]
raffish (RAF-ish) adjective
1. Cheaply or showily vulgar in appearance or nature; tawdry. 2. Characterized by a carefree or fun-loving unconventionality; rakish. [Probably from dialectal raff, rubbish, from Middle English raf, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.]
logology (lo-GOL-uh-jee) noun
The science or study of words. [From Greek logos (word) + -logy, from Middle English -logie, from Latin -logia, from Greek logos (word).]
qui vive (kee VEEV) noun
Alert, lookout. (Used in the phrase "on the qui vive"). [From French qui vive, literally "(Long) live who?" It was used by a sentry to challenge someone approaching the gate. A proper response might be "Vive le roi!" or "La France!"]
bum's rush (bumz rush) noun
A forcible ejection from a place. [From the allusion to a bum being swiftly kicked out of a place.]
galvanize (GAL-vuh-nyze) verb tr.
1. To stimulate or shock with an electric current. 2. To arouse to awareness or action; spur. 3. To coat (iron or steel) with rust-resistant zinc. [After Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), Italian physiologist and physician who asserted that animal tissues generate electricity. Although he was proved wrong, his experiments stimulated research on electricity.]
alembic (uh-LEM-bik) noun
1. An apparatus formerly used in distilling substances. 2. Something that refines, purifies, or transforms. [From Middle English alambic, from Old French, from Medieval Latin alembicus, from Arabic al-anbiq, from al (the) + anbiq (still), from Greek ambix (cup).]
insouciant (in-SOO-see-uhnt) adjective
Happily unconcerned; carefree; nonchalant. [From French insouciant, from in- (not) + souciant, present participle of soucier (to care), from Vulgar Latin sollicitare (to vex), from Latin sollicitus (anxious), from sollus (entire) + citus, past participle of ciere (to move).]
swami (SWAM-ee) noun
1. A religious teacher. 2. A mystic; a yogi. 3. Used as a form of address for such a person. [Hindi svami, master, swami, from Sanskrit svami, nominative sing. of svamin-, being one's own master, possessing proprietary rights.]
dryasdust (DRY-az-dust) adjective
Extremely dull, dry, or boring. [After Jonas Dryasdust, a fictitious person to whom Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) dedicated some of his novels.]
garble (gar-buhl) verb tr.
1. To mix up or distort to such an extent as to make misleading or incomprehensible. 2. To scramble (a signal or message), as by erroneous encoding or faulty transmission. 3. Archaic. To sort out; cull. noun The act or an instance of garbling. [Middle English garbelen, to inspect and remove refuse from spices, from Anglo-Norman garbeler, to sift, and from Medieval Latin garbellare, both from Arabic garbala, to select, from girbal, sieve, from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum.]
gemutlich (guh-MOOT-lik, -MUT-likh) adjective
Warm and congenial; pleasant or friendly. [German, from Middle High German gemuetlich, from gemuete, spirit, feelings, from Old High German gimuoti, from muot, mind, spirit, joy.]
oscitant (OS-i-tant) adjective
1. Yawning, gaping from drowsiness. 2. Inattentive, dull, negligent. [From Latin oscitant, present participle of oscitare, to yawn : os, mouth + citare, to move.]
maw (maw) noun
1. The mouth, stomach, jaws, or gullet of a voracious animal, especially a carnivore. 2. The opening into something felt to be insatiable. [Middle English mawe, from Old English maga.]
resolute (REZ-uh-loot) adjective
Determined; firm; unwavering. [From Middle English, from Latin resoltus, past participle of resolvere (to resolve), from re- + solvere (to untie or loosen). Ultimately from Indo-European root leu- (to loosen, divide) that is also the source for forlorn, lag, loss, solve, and analysis.]
cryptonym (KRIP-tuh-nim) noun
A code name or a secret name. [From Greek crypto- (secret, hidden) + -onym (word, name).]
ressentiment (ruh-san-tee-MAH [the final syllable has a nasal sound]) noun
A feeling of resentment and hostility accompanied by the lack of means to express or act upon it. [From French ressentiment, from ressentir (to feel strongly), from sentir, from Latin sentire (to feel). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sent- (to head for or to go), that is also the source for send, scent, sense, sentence, assent, and consent.]
effrontery (i-FRUN-tuh-ree) noun
Shameless boldness; presumptuousness. [From French effronterie, from effronté (shameless), from Latin effrons (barefaced, shameless), from ex- (out of, from) + frons (forehead, brow).]
flavor of the month (FLAY-vuhr ov the munth) noun
Something of transient interest. "It's like you're the flavor of the month, and then it suddenly changes." Gordon Edes, He Was in it For the Long Haul, The Boston Globe, Mar 17, 2002. This week's theme: terms with origins in food. -------- Date: Thu Apr 11 00:01:07 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--banana republic banana republic (buh-NAN-uh ri-PUB-lik) noun A small country, typically in central America, often run by a dictator, where the economy is dependent upon fruit exports, tourism, etc . "Argentina has spent the past 50 years manically see-sawing from bust to boom and bust again, from properly elected governments to military coups and banana republic dictatorships." John Carlin, How Viveza Brought Down a Nation, New Statesman (London), Jan 14, 2002. This week's theme: terms with origins in food. -------- Date: Fri Apr 12 00:01:05 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--chew the fat chew the fat (choo the fat) verb To chat at length in a friendly, relaxed manner. Also, chew the rag. "I would go down to Egton House on days I wasn't even working, just to chew the fat with him." Andy Kershaw, Obituaries: Life with the Hinge and Bracket of Radio 1, The Guardian (London), Aug 1, 2001. This week's theme: terms with origins in food. -------- Date: Mon Apr 15 00:01:07 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ecdemic ecdemic (ek-DEM-ik) adjective Of foreign origin; introduced from outside; pertaining to a disease that's observed far from the area it originates in. [From Greek ec-, variant of ex- (out of) + -demic (on the pattern of epidemic), from demos (people).]
weal (weel) noun
Well-being. [From Middle English wele, from Old English wela.]
omphaloskepsis (om-fuh-lo-SKEP-sis) noun
Contemplation of one's navel. [From Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination). Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), despise, espionage, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]
scud (skud) verb intr.
1. To run or move swiftly. 2. In nautical parlance, to run before a gale with little or no sail set. noun 1. The act of scudding. 2. Clouds, rain, mist, etc. driven by the wind. 3. Low clouds beneath another cloud layer. [Uncertain origin, possibly from Middle Low German schudden, to shake.]
potatory (POH-tuh-tor-ee) adjective
Pertaining to or given to drinking. [From Latin potatorius, from Latin potatus, past participle of potare, to drink.]
shilly-shally (SHIL-ee-shal-ee) intr.verb
1. To procrastinate. 2. To be unable to come to a decision; vacillate. 3. To spend time on insignificant things; dawdle. shilly-shally adjective Hesitant; vacillating. shilly-shally noun Procrastination; hesitation. shilly-shally adverb In a hesitant manner; irresolutely. [Reduplication of the question shall I?.]
comedogenic (kom-i-do-JEN-ik) adjective
Causing or aggravating acne. [From New Latin comedo, from Latin comed (glutton, from the worm-shaped pasty mass that can be squeezed from the hair follicles; from the name formerly given to worms which feed on the body), from comedere (to eat up), from com- + edere (to eat) + -genic (producing), from Greek -gens (born).]
pudibund (PYOO-di-buhnd) adjective
Prudish. [From Latin pudere (to make or be ashamed).]
euhemerism (yoo-HEE-muh-riz-uhm, -HEM-) noun
A theory attributing the origin of the gods to the deification of historical heroes. [After Euhemerus, fourth-century BCE Greek philosopher.]
friar's lantern (FRY-uhrz LAN-tuhrn) noun
A phosphorescent light seen over marshy ground at night, caused by spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by decomposing organic matter. A synonym is foxfire (not Firefox), especially for luminescence produced by fungi. [The first use of the term is in John Milton's 1632 poem L'Allegro: "She was pinched and pulled, she said; / And he, by Friar's lantern led."]
quietus (kwy-EE-tuhs) noun
1. A final stroke that settles something. 2. Discharge from life; death. 3. A release from a duty or debt. [Short for Middle English quietus est (he is quit), a formula of discharge from a debt or other obligation, from Medieval Latin quietus est, from Latin, quietus, past participle of quiescere (to rest), from quies (rest, quiet).]
trecento (tray-CHEN-to) noun
The 14th century, especially with reference to Italian art, literature, etc. [From Italian, shortening of milletrecento (1300), from mille (thousand) and trecento (three hundred).]
aa (ah-ah) noun
Lava having a rough surface. [From Hawaiian, apparently from the sound one emits on walking barefoot over the jagged lava surface.]
pythoness (PIE-thuh-nis) noun
1. A woman with the power of divination. 2. The priestess of Apollo at Delphi in Greek mythology. [Ultimately from Greek puthon (python).]
de novo (day NO-vo) adverb
Anew; from the beginning. [From Latin de novo (from new).]
nidus (nest), ultimately from the Indo-European root sed- (to sit) that
is also the source of sit, chair, saddle, soot, sediment, cathedral, and tetrahedron.]
diminutive (di-MIN-yuh-tiv) adjective
1. Extremely small in size; tiny. 2. Of or being a suffix that indicates smallness, youth, familiarity, affection, or contempt, as -let in booklet, -kin in lambkin, or -et in nymphet. noun 1. A diminutive suffix, word, or name. 2. A very small person or thing. [Middle English diminutif, from Old French, from Latin diminutivus, from diminutus, present participle of diminuere.]
peri (PEER-ee) noun
1. A fairy in Persian mythology. 2. A beautiful, graceful girl or woman. [From Persian peri, variant of pari (fairy), from Avestan pairika (witch or female demon.]
hardscrabble (HARD-skrab-uhl) adjective
Earning a bare subsistence, as on the land; marginal. noun Barren or marginal farmland. [Americanism hard + scrabble, scrape.]
ere (air) preposition, conjunction
Before (earlier in time). [From Old English aer (earlier). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ayer- (day, morning) that is also the source of early and erst (as in erstwhile).]
mandarin (MAN-duh-rin) noun
1. A member of one of nine ranks of public officials in the Chinese Empire. 2. A powerful government official or bureaucrat. 3. A member of an elite group, especially one having influence in intellectual or literary circles. 4. Capitalized: the official national language of China. 5. A citrus tree, Citrus reticulata, that is native to China. adjective 1. Of or relating to a mandarin. 2. Marked by refined or ornate language. [From Portuguese mandarim, from Malay menteri, from Sanskrit mantri (counselor), from mantra (word or formula), from manyate (he thinks).]
bosh (bosh) noun, interjection
Nonsense. [From Turkish bos (empty). The term was popularized in English by its use in the novels of James J. Morier (1780-1849).]
roman a clef (ro-mahn ah KLAY) noun, plural romans a clef
A novel that depicts historical figures and events under the guise of fiction. [From French, literally, a novel with a key.]
jounce (jouns) verb tr., intr.
To bounce along. noun A jolting movement. [Of uncertain origin, apparently a blend of joll (to knock or bump) and bounce.]
ostiary (OS-tee-er-ee) noun
A doorkeeper, especially in a church. [From Latin ostiarius (doorkeeper), from ostium (door, entrance). Ultimately from the Indo-European root os- (mouth) that is also the source of usher, oral, orifice, oscillate, and osculate (to kiss).]
archimage (AHR-kuh-mayj) noun
A great magician. [From Greek archi- (principal, chief) + Latin magus (magician).]
kangaroo court (kang-guh-ROO kort) noun
A mock court set up with disregard to proper procedure to deliver a judgment arrived at in advance. [Origin unknown.]
kleptocracy (klep-TOK-ruh-see) noun
A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption. [Greek kleptein, to steal + -cracy.]
prude (prood) noun
One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous. [French, short for prude femme, virtuous woman : Old French prude, feminine of prud, virtuous; + French femme, woman (from Latin femina).]
magna carta (MAG-nuh KAHR-tuh) noun
A document or a law recognizing basic rights and privileges. [From Latin magna carta (great charter). After Magna Carta, a charter of political and civil liberties that King John of England was forced to sign on June 15, 1215. It was revised several times over the years, and it became an important symbol, establishing for future generations that there were limits to royal power.]
grinch (grinch) noun
Someone who ruins others' enjoyment. [From the Grinch, a character in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) by Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991).]
gloaming (GLO-ming) noun
Twilight; dusk. [From Middle English gloming, from Old English glomung, from glom (dusk). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, arsenic, melancholy and cholera.]
chauvinism (SHOW-vuh-niz-uhm) noun
1. Militant devotion to and glorification of one's country; fanatical patriotism. 2. Prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own gender, group, or kind. [French chauvinism eafter Nicolas Chauvin, a legendary French soldier famous for his devotion to Napoleon.]
hobbit (HOB-it) noun
An imaginary creature resembling a diminutive human being, having some rabbitlike characteristics, and being naturally peace-loving, domestic, and sociable. [From pseudo-Old English holbytla, hole-builder (coined by J.R.R. Tolkien) : Old English hol, hole + Old English bytla, builder, hammerer (from bytl, bietel, mallet.]
lanate (LAY-nayt) adjective
Having a woolly surface. [From Latin lanatus, from lana (wool).]
widow's peak (WID-oz peek) noun
A V-shaped hairline at the center top of the forehead. [From the former belief that this feature in a woman was an omen that she'd outlive her husband, as in those days a widow wore a mourning hood with a pointed crest.]
jabberwocky (JAB-uhr-wok-ee) noun
Meaningless speech or writing. [After Jabberwocky, a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll which was part of his novel Through the Looking Glass (1871).]
crown of thorns (kroun ov thornz) noun
1. An onerous burden or an affliction that causes intense suffering. 2. A thorny bush (Euphorbia milii) native to Madagascar, grown as a houseplant. (picture: ) 3. A starfish (Acanthaster planci) found in the Pacific that feeds on live corals. (picture: ) [After the biblical account of a mock crown made of thorny branches that Roman soldiers placed on Jesus's head before his crucifixion.]
kibitz (KIB-its) verb intr.
1. To look on at some activity and offer unwanted advice or criticism. 2. To chat or banter. [From Yiddish kibitsen, from German kiebitzen (to look on at cards), from Kiebitz (busybody, literally pewit or lapwing, a shorebird with a bad reputation as a meddler).]
animus (AN-uh-muhs) noun
1. Hostility; ill will. 2. Purpose; disposition; governing spirit. 3. In Jungian psychology, the masculine part of a woman's personal unconscious. [From Latin animus (spirit, mind).]
apograph (AP-uh-graf) noun
A copy or a transcript. [From Greek apo- (away, off, apart) + -graph (writing).]
labret (LAY-brit) noun
An ornament inserted into a perforation in the lip. [Latin labrum, lip. + -ET.]
endsville (ENDZ-vil) adjective, noun
1. Most excellent or the best. 2. Most undesirable; the end. [From end + -ville (place, city).]
schmaltz (shmahlts) noun, also schmalz
1. Exaggerated sentimentality, especially in art, music, movies, etc. 2. Fat or grease, especially chicken fat. [From Yiddish shmalts (rendered fat, sentimentality), from Middle High German smalz. Ultimately from the same Indo-European root (mel- : soft) as words such as malt, melt, mollify, smelt, and enamel.]
katabasis (kuh-TAB-uh-sis) noun
A retreat, especially a military one. [After the march of 10,000 Greeks subsequent to the death of Cyrus the Younger, related by Xenophon in his historical work Anabasis. From Greek katabasis (a going down), from katabainein (to go down). Compare with anabasis: ]
chocolate-box (CHO-kuh-lit boks, CHOK-lit -) adjective
Having a romanticized beautiful image; stereotypically pretty. [From the kind of pictures often seen on boxes of chocolate.]
mononym (MON-uh-nim) noun
A term or name consisting of one word only. For example, Madonna (pop star). [From Greek mono- (one) + -onym (word, name).]
zeitgeber (TSYT-ge-buhr) noun
An environmental cue, as the length of daylight or the degree of temperature, that helps to regulate the cycles of an organism's biological clock. [From German, literally, time-giver, on the model of Taktgeber an electronic synchronization device]
hyperbole (hy-PUHR-buh-lee) noun
A figure of speech in which obvious exaggeration is used for effect. [From Latin, from Greek hyperbole (excess), from hyperballein, from hyper- (beyond) + ballein (to throw).]
litterateur (lit-uhr-uh-TUR, lit-ruh-) noun
One who is devoted to the study or writing of literature. [French, from Latin litterator, critic, lettered person, from littera, letter.]
logy (LO-gee) adjective
Lethargic, groggy. [Perhaps from Dutch log (heavy).]
mayhap (may-HAP, MAY-hap) adverb
Perhaps. [From the phrase 'it may hap', from Middle English hap, from Old Norse happ (luck, chance).]
miscible (MIS-uh-buhl) adjective
Capable of being mixed together. [From Latin miscere (to mix), ultimately from the Indo-European root meik- (to mix) that's also the source of mix, miscellaneous, meddle, medley, promiscuous, melee, and mustang.]
chatoyant (shuh-TOI-uhnt) adjective
Having a changeable luster like that of a cat's eye at night. noun A chatoyant gemstone, such as a cat's eye. [From French, present participle of chatoyer (to shine like a cat's eye), from chat (cat).]
finial (FIN-ee-ehl, FI-nee-) noun
1. An ornamental object on top of an architectural structure or a piece of furniture. 2. A curve at the end of the main stroke of a character in some italic fonts. [From Middle English, finial, final, from Latin finis, end.]
crescendo (kri-SHEN-do) noun, plural crescendos, crescendi
1. A gradual increase in loudness, intensity, or force. 2. The peak or climax. adjective, adverb With a gradual increase in loudness. verb intr. To grow in force, loudness, intensity, etc. [From Italian crescendo (growing), present participle of crescere (to increase), from Latin crescere (to grow). Ultimately from Indo-European root ker- (to grow) that's also the source of other words such as increase, recruit, crew, crescent, cereal, concrete, and Spanish crecer (to grow).]
cabana (kuh-BAHN-uh) noun
1. A shelter on a beach or swimming pool. 2. A cabin or cottage. [From Spanish cabaña, from Late Latin capanna (hut).]
spokesmodel (SPOKS-modl) noun
A model who acts as a spokesperson for a product or organization. [A blend of spokesman + model.]
snowbird (SNO-bird) noun
1. A person who moves to a warmer climate for the winter. 2. Any of various birds (e.g. junco, snow bunting, fieldfare) seen chiefly in winter. [From snow + bird.]
locus classicus (LO-kus KLAS-i-kus) noun
plural loci classici (lo-KI KLAS-i-si, -ki) A passage from a classic or standard work that is cited as an illustration or instance. [New Latin : Latin locus, place + Latin classicus, belonging to the highest class.]
googolplex (GOO-gol-pleks) noun
The number 10 raised to the power googol, written out as the numeral 1 followed by 10 raised to 100 zeros. [Googol + -plex as in duplex.]
triolet (TREE-uh-lit, -lay) noun
A poem or stanza of eight lines, having a rhyme scheme ABaAabAB, in which the first, fourth, and seventh lines are the same, and second is the same as the eighth line. [From French, literally small trio.]
wiseacre (WIZ-ay-kuhr) noun
One who obnoxiously pretends to be wise; smart-aleck; wise-guy. [From Middle Dutch wijsseggher, soothsayer, translation of Middle High German wissage, from Old High German wissago, wise person, altered by folk etymology.]
anecdotage (an-ik-DO-tij) noun
1. The telling of anecdotes. 2. Anecdotes collectively. [From Greek anekdota (things unpublished), from an- (not) + ekdidonai (to publish). Originally applied by the Greek historian Procopius to his unpublished memoirs of the Emperor Justinian and his consort Theodora.]
impetuous (im-PECH-oo-uhs) adjective
1. Characterized by sudden and forceful energy or emotion; impulsive and passionate. 2. Having or marked by violent force. [Middle English, violent, from Old French impetueux, from Late Latin impetuosus, from Latin impetus, impetus.]
geoponic (jee-uh-PON-ik) adjective
Of or relating to agriculture. [From Greek geoponikos, from geo- (earth) + ponein (to toil).]
cookie-cutter (KOOK-ee kuht-uhr) adjective
Mass-produced; identical; unimaginative; lacking individuality. [After a tool used to cut out cookie dough in various shapes.]
tantalize (TAN-tuh-lyz) verb tr., also tantalise
To tease or torment by showing something desirable but keeping it out of reach. [After Tantalus in Greek mythology. Tantalus, a king of Lydia, was condemned to stand in Hades chin deep in water and under fruits that receded whenever he tried to drink water or eat the fruit.]
red-letter (RED-LET-uhr) adjective
Memorably happy: a red-letter day. [From the practice of marking in red the holy days in church calendars.]
charactonym (KAR-ik-tuh-nim) noun
A name given to a literary character that is descriptive of a quality or trait of the character. [Charact(er) + -onym]
irredentist (ir-i-DEN-tist) noun
One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government. [Italian irredentista, from (Italia) irredenta, unredeemed (Italy), Italian- speaking areas subject to other countries, feminine of irredento : in-, not (from Latin in-) + redento, redeemed, from Latin redemptus, past participle of redimere, to redeem.]
suffrage (SUF-rij) noun
1. The right or privilege of voting; the franchise. The exercise of such a right. 2. A vote cast in deciding a disputed question or in electing a person to office. 3. A short intercessory prayer. [Middle English, intercessory prayer, from Old French, from Medieval Latin suffragium, from Latin, the right to vote, from suffragari, to express support.]
fantod (FAN-tod) noun
1. A state of nervous anxiety, irritability, the willies, the fidgets. 2. A fit or emotional outburst. [Of unconfirmed origin. Perhaps an alteration of fantique (a state of anxiety) or a blend of fantasy and fatigue.]
ipso facto (IP-so FAK-to) adverb
By the very fact or action. [Latin ipso facto (by the fact itself).]
a fortiori (a fort-tee-OR-ee) adverb
For an even stronger reason; even more so. [From Latin, literally from the stronger.]
fugacious (fyoo-GAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Passing away quickly; evanescent. 2. Botany. Withering or dropping off early. [From Latin fugax, fugac-, from fugere, to flee.]
hubbub (HUB-ub) noun
Excited fuss or tumult of a crowd. [Perhaps from Irish ubub (an interjection of contempt).]
redbrick (RED-brik) adjective
Lacking prestige. [The term usually describes universities. A redbrick university is one built in the UK in the late 19th or early 20th century, as opposed to the older prestigious institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge. The term is mostly used in the UK. A contrasting term in the US is Ivy League. An Ivy League university is one of several in the northeastern US that have high prestige and a reputation for scholastic achievement. The term alludes to the age of the universities reflected in the ivy that festoons the outside walls of the buildings on campus.]
strop (strop) noun
1. A strap, especially a short rope whose ends are spliced together to make a ring. 2. A flexible strip of leather or canvas used for sharpening a razor. verb tr. To sharpen (a razor) on a strop. [Middle English strope, band of leather, probably from Old English, thong for an oar, from Latin stroppus, twisted cord, from Greek strophos, from strephein, to turn..]
mondo (MON-do) adjective
Huge; enormous; ultimate. adverb Extremely, very. [After 1966 movie Mondo Bizarro (literally "Bizarre World" but interpreted as "very bizarre"), where mondo is from the 1961 Italian movie Mondo Cane (A Dog's World) and reinterpreted as an intensifier. More on this movie at: ]
minim (MIN-uhm) noun
1. A unit of fluid measure, as: In the United States, 1/60 of a fluid dram (0.0616 milliliters). In Great Britain, 1/20 of a scruple (0.0592 milliliters). 2. Music. A half note. 3. An insignificantly small portion or thing. 4. A downward vertical stroke in handwriting. [Middle English, half note, from Medieval Latin minimus, least, from Latin.]
catch-22 (kach twen-tee TOO) noun
A situation marked by contradiction, absurdity, or paradox, where a solution is impossible to achieve. [From Catch-22, a novel by Joseph Heller.]
whencesoever (hwens-so-EV-uhr) conjunction, adverb
From whatever place. [From whence (from what place) + soever (at all, of any kind).]
eponym (EP-uh-nim) noun
1. A person, real or imaginary, from whom something, as a tribe, nation, or place, takes or is said to take its name. 2. A word based on or derived from a person's name. 3. Any ancient official whose name was used to designate his year of office. [Back formation from eponymous, from Greek epxnymos giving name.]
cladogenesis (klad-uh-JEN-i-sis) noun
The evolutionary change and diversification resulting from the branching off of new species from common ancestral lineages. [Greek klados, branch + -genesis.]
philosophaster (fi-los-uh-FAS-tuhr, fi-LOS-uh-fas-tuhr) noun
A pseudo-philosopher. [From Late Latin, philosopher + -aster, a pejorative suffix indicating something that is inferior or mimics another.]
kvetch (kvech) verb intr.
To complain habitually, whine; gripe. noun 1. A chronic complainer. 2. A complaint. [From Yiddish kvetshn (squeeze, pinch, complain), from Middle High German quetschen (to squeeze).]
vincible (VIN-suh-buhl) adjective
Defeatable; capable of being overcome. [From Latin vincibilis, from vincere (to overcome). Ultimately from Indo-European root weik- (to fight or conquer) which is also the source of victor, vanquish, convince, and evict.]
puissant (PWIS-uhnt, PYOO-uh-suhnt) adjective
Potent. [Via French from Latin posse (to be able), ultimately from the Indo-European root poti- (powerful, lord) that is also the source of power, potent, possess, possible, posse, Italian podesta, and Turkish pasha (via Persian).]
ugsome (UG-suhm) adjective
Dreadful, loathsome. [From Middle English, from uggen, from Old Norse ugga (to fear). As in many typical stories where one child in a family becomes well-known while the other remains obscure, "ugly" and "ugsome" are two words derived from the same root -- one is an everyday word while the other remains unusual.]
chow (chow) noun
Food. verb intr. To eat (usually in the form "to chow down"). [Perhaps from Cantonese zab (food, miscellany).]
snood (snood) noun
1. A fleshy appendage over the beak of a turkey. 2. A net for holding a woman's hair at the back of her head. [From Old English snod.]
auctorial (ok-TOR-ee-uhl) adjective
Pertaining to an author [From Latin auctor (author, creator), from augere (to create). Ultimately from the Indo-European root aug- (increase) which is also the source of auction, authorize, inaugurate, augment, august, auxiliary, and nickname ("a nickname" is a splitting of the earlier "an ekename", literally, an additional name).]
bluster (BLUS-tuhr) intr.verb
1. To blow in loud, violent gusts, as the wind during a storm. 2. To speak in a loudly arrogant or bullying manner. To brag or make loud, empty threats. bluster tr.verb To force or bully with swaggering threats. bluster noun 1. A violent, gusty wind. 2. Turbulence or noisy confusion. 3. Loud, arrogant speech, often full of empty threats. [Middle English blusteren, from Middle Low German blusteren.]
superfluous (soo-PUR-floo-uhs) adjective
Being beyond what is required or sufficient. [Middle English, from Old French superflueux, from Latin superfluus, from superfluere, to overflow : super-, super- + fluere, to flow.]
curlicue or curlycue (KUR-li-kyoo) noun
A decorative curl or twist, in a signature, calligraphy, etc. [From curly, from curl, from crul (yes, that's how it was spelled earlier) + cue, from Old French cue (tail).]
acedia (uh-SEE-dee-uh) noun
Spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui. [Late Latin, from Greek akedeia, indifference : a- + kedos, care.]
mopery (MO-puh-ree) noun
1. Violation of a trivial or imaginary law, for example, loitering, used to arrest someone when no other crime can be charged. 2. Mopish behavior: to have pouted face, be gloomy or disappointed. [From mope, from mop, of uncertain origin.]
lahar (LAH-har) noun
An avalanche-like mudflow composed of volcanic debris and water, originating on the slopes of a volcano. [From Javanese lahar (lava). Javanese is a language spoken on the island of Java, Indonesia. It has about 80 million speakers.]
latchet (LATCH-it) noun
A shoe strap to fasten a shoe on the foot; a shoelace. [From Middle English lachet, from Old French lachet, from lacet.]
virga (VUHR-guh) noun
Rain or snow that evaporates before hitting the ground. [From Latin virga (rod, streak).]
speciesism (SPEE-shee-ziz-uhm, -see-ziz-uhm) noun
The assumption of superiority of humans over other animal species, especially to justify their exploitation. [Coined by psychologist Richard D. Ryder (born 1940) in 1973. From Latin species (appearance, kind, form), from specere (to look). Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), espionage, despise, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]
voir dire (vwar-DEER) noun
The preliminary examination of prospective witnesses or jurors to determine their competence. Also, the oath administered for this purpose. [From Anglo-French, from Old French voir (true) + dire (to speak).]
phoenix (FEE-niks) noun
1. A person or thing of unparalleled beauty or excellence. 2. A person or thing that has regenerated or rejuvenated after a great misfortune. [After a fabulous bird of great beauty in Egyptian mythology. It lived to 500 years and burned itself on a funeral pyre to be born again from the ashes.]
caprice (kuh-PREES) noun
1. A sudden, unpredictable change of mind or behavior. 2. Capriccio: a musical composition in free, irregular style. [From French, from Italian capriccio, from caporiccio (head with bristling hair), from capo (head) + riccio (hedgehog, curly) from Latin ericius (hedgehog).]
shebeen (shuh-BEEN) noun
An unlicensed drinking establishment. [From Irish síbín, diminutive of séibe (mug/mugful). The word is popular in the south of Africa and in Scotland and Ireland.]
copemate (KOP-mayt) also copesmate, noun
1. An associate or friend. 2. An opponent or adversary. [From French couper (to cut), from Latin colpus (blow), from Greek kolaphos (blow with the fist) + mate (fellow).]
nickname (NIK-naym) noun
1. A descriptive name added to or replacing the actual name of a person, place, or thing. 2. A familiar or shortened form of a proper name. verb tr. 1. To give a nickname to. 2. Archaic. To call by an incorrect name; misname. [Middle English neke name, from the phrase an eke name : eke, addition (from Old English eaca + name, name.]
adit (AD-it) noun
1. Access; entrance; admission. 2. A nearly horizontal passage leading into a mine. [From Latin aditus (approach, entrance), from adire (to approach), from ire (to go). Ultimately from Indo-European root ei- (to go) that is also the ancestor of words such as exit, transit, circuit, itinerary, and obituary.]
strepitant (STREP-i-tant) adjective, also strepitous
Noisy; boisterous. [From Latin strepitantem, present participle of strepitare, from strepere (to make a noise).]
georgic (JOR-jik) adjective also georgical (JOR-ji-kuhl)
Of or relating to agriculture or rural life. noun A poem concerning farming or rural life. [Latin georgicus, from Greek georgikos, from georgos, farmer : geo- + ergon, work.]
retromingent (re-tro-MIN-jent) adjective
Urinating backwards. noun An animal that passes urine backwards, e.g. raccoon. [From Latin retro- (back) + mingent, stem of mingens, present participle of mingere (to urinate).]
extraterritoriality (ek-struh-ter-i-tor-ee-AL-i-tee) noun
Exemption from local legal jurisdiction, such as that granted to foreign diplomats. "Disputes broke out over Brazilian salvage of a wrecked British ship in 1861 and over British pretensions to extraterritoriality for their sailors arrested on Brazilian soil." Jan Knippers Black, Brazil: Chapter 1B. The Transition to Independence, Countries of the World, 1 Jan 1991. This week's theme: words about diplomacy. -------- Date: Wed May 12 00:15:29 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--legation legation (li-GAY-shuhn) noun 1. The act of sending a legate. 2. A diplomatic mission in a foreign country ranking below an embassy. The diplomatic minister and staff of such a mission. The premises occupied by such a mission. "He told me that the Yemeni had no knowledge of the external world--at the time the only two external legations they had were the UN Mission and the subbranch of the Yemeni Foreign Office in Cairo ..." An Editor's Odyssey, The World & I, 1 Apr 1994. This week's theme: words about diplomacy. -------- Date: Thu May 13 00:07:26 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--detente detente (day-TANT) noun 1. A relaxing or easing, as of tension between rivals. 2. A policy toward a rival nation or bloc characterized by increased diplomatic, commercial, and cultural contact and a desire to reduce tensions, as through negotiation or talks. [French detente, a loosening, from Old French destente, from feminine past participle of destendre, to release : des-, de- + tendre, to stretch (from Latin tendere).]
corinthian (kuh-RIN-thee-uhn) adjective
1. Of, or pertaining to the Greek city of Corinth. 2. Of, or relating to the Corinthian order, one of the five classical orders of building design. 3. Highly ornate. 4. Licentious or luxurious. noun 1. A native or inhabitant of Corinth. 2. A profligate or licentious person. 3. A wealthy amateur, especially an amateur yachtsman. [From Latin Corinthius, from Greek Korinthios. After Corinth, a city in Greece, one of the richest and most powerful in ancient Greece.]
avenaceous (av-uh-NAY-shuhs) adjective
Relating to or like oats. [From Latin avena (oats).]
incommode (in-kuh-MOD) verb tr.
To cause to be inconvenienced; disturb. [French incommoder, from Old French, from Latin incommodare, from incommodus, inconvenient : in-, not + commodus, convenient.]
bagatelle (bag-uh-TEL) noun
1. Something unimportant. 2. A kind of pinball game in which balls are struck with a cue to send them to holes at the other end. 3. A short, light piece of verse or music. [From French bagatelle (trifle), from Italian bagattella (trifle), possibly from Latin baca (berry).]
dolce vita (DOL-chay VEE-tuh, -tah) noun
A luxurious, self-indulgent way of life. [Italian : dolce, sweet + vita, life.]
magenta (muh-JEN-tuh) noun
A moderate to vivid purplish red. [After Magenta, a town of northwest Italy.]
mantra (MAN-truh) noun
1. A sound, word, or phrase that is repeated in prayer and is believed to have mystical powers. 2. An often repeated word or phrase that is closely associated with something; a slogan, byword, or a watchword. [From Sanskrit mantra (thought, formula). Ultimately from Indo-European root men- (to think) which is the source of mind, mnemonic, mosaic, music, mentor, money, and mandarin.]
mackle (MAK-uhl) noun
A blur, as from a double impression in printing. verb tr., intr. To blur. [From Latin macula (spot or stain).]
diurnal (DY-uhr-nuhl) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to the daytime. 2. Occurring every day. noun Diary; journal; newspaper. [From Middle English, from Late Latin diurnalis, from Latin diurnus (daily), from dies (day).]
potamic (po-TAM-ik) adjective
Relating to rivers. [From Greek potamos (river). Hippopotamus comes from the same root -- it's literally a river horse: hippos + potamos.]
heterography (het-uh-ROG-ruh-fee) noun
1. A spelling different from the one in current use. 2. Use of the same letter(s) to convey different sounds, for example, gh in rough and ghost. [From Greek hetero (different) + -graphy (writing).]
omerta (o-mer-TAH, oh-MER-tuh) noun
Secrecy sworn to by oath; code of silence. [Italian.]
septum (SEP-tuhm) noun, plural septa (SEP-tuh)
A dividing wall, in an animal or a plant. For example, the partition between the nostrils. [Latin saeptum, partition, from neuter of saeptus, past participle of saepire, to enclose, from saepes, fence.]
jihad (ji-HAHD) noun
1. A holy war by Muslims against those believed hostile to Islam. 2. Any campaign for an idea or belief. [From Arabic jihad (struggle).]
chrestomathy (kres-TOM-uh-thee) noun
1. A volume of selected literary passages, usually by one author. 2. A selection of literary passages from a foreign language, especially one assembled for studying a language. [From Greek chrestomatheia, from chrestos (useful) + manthanein (to learn) These two parts of the word ultimately derive from Indo-European gher- (to like or want) which gave us yearn, charisma, greedy, exhort; and mendh- (to learn) that resulted in the terms mathematics and polymath.]
publican (PUB-li-kuhn) noun
1. A tax collector. 2. An owner or manager of a pub or hotel. [From Latin publicanus, from publicum (public revenue), from publicus (public), from populus (people).]
alchemy (AL-kuh-mee) noun
1. A medieval predecessor of chemistry devoted to things such as converting common metals into precious metals, finding a universal solvent (alkahest), and finding a universal remedy for diseases. 2. A mysterious or magical process of transformation. [Via Old French and Medieval Latin from Arabic al-kimiya (the chemistry), from Greek khemeia (transmutation).]
riprap (RIP-rap) noun
1. A protective foundation, embankment, etc. made of loose chunks of stones placed together. 2. Material used for such a construction. verb tr. To construct, or strengthen with, a riprap. [Reduplication of rap.]
decuple (DEK-yuh-puhl) adjective
1. Ten times as great; tenfold. 2. In groups of ten. [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin decuplus : Latin decem, ten + Latin -plus, -fold.]
flummery (FLUHM-uh-ree) noun
1. Any of various desserts made of flour, milk, eggs, etc. 2. Empty compliment; complete nonsense. [From Welsh llymru, from llym (sour or sharp). Originally, it was a kind of porridge or pap, made by soaking oatmeal in water for a long time, until it has turned sour. How did we get from Welsh llymru to English flummery? That's to do with how the Welsh "ll" sounds to others: variously as thl, chl, shl, fl, etc. In this case, it's fl. For the same reason the surname Lloyd is sometimes spelled as Floyd.]
apron (AY-pruhn) noun
1. A garment, usually fastened in the back, worn over all or part of the front of the body to protect clothing. Something, such as a protective shield for a machine, that resembles this garment in appearance or function. 2. The paved strip in front of and around airport hangars and terminal buildings. 3. The part of a stage in a theater extending in front of the curtain. 4. A platform, as of planking, at the entrance to a dock. 5. A covering or structure along a shoreline for protection against erosion. A platform serving a similar purpose below a dam or in a sluiceway. 6. A continuous conveyor belt. 7. An area covered by sand and gravel deposited at the front of a glacial moraine. verb tr. To cover, protect, or provide with an apron. [Middle English, from an apron, alteration of a napron, from Old French naperon, diminutive of nape, tablecloth, from Latin mappa, napkin.]
parabolic (par-uh-BOL-ik) adjective
1. Of or relating to a parable. 2. Having the form of a parabola. [Ultimately from Greek parabole, from para- (beside) + bole (throwing), from ballein (to throw).]
testudinate (te-STOOD-in-ayt) adjective, also testudinal or testudinarian
1. Slow-moving, like a turtle. 2. Curved like the carapace (shell) of a turtle; vaulted. noun A turtle. [From Late Latin testudinatus, from Latin testudo (tortoise).]
contango (kuhn-TANG-goh) noun
A premium paid by the buyer to the seller for deferring payment. [From alteration of continue or contingent.]
ecumenical (ek-yoo-MEN-i-kuhl, ee-kyoo-) adjective
1. Having a mix of diverse elements. 2. Universal; general. 3. Pertaining to the whole Christian church; concerned with promoting unity among churches or religions. [From Latin oecumenicus (general, universal), from Greek oikoumenikos, from oikein (to inhabit), from oikos (house). Ultimately from the Indo-European root weik- (clan) that is also the forebear of vicinity, village, villa, and villain (originally, a villain was a farm servant, one who lived in a villa or a country house).]
pignus (PIG-nuhs) noun, plural pignora
1. A pledge. 2. Something held as security for a debt. [From Latin pignus (pledge).]
transpontine (trans-PON-tyn) adjective
1. Across the bridge. 2. Situated on the south side of the Thames River in London. 3. Melodramatic (alluding to the type of dramas once performed in theaters south of the Thames). [From Latin trans- (across) + pons (bridge). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pent- (to tread) that also gave us words such as English find, Dutch pad (path), French pont (bridge), and Russian sputnik (traveling companion).]
vitreous (VI-tree-uhs) noun
The clear, glassy, sticky inner substance of the eye. adjective Glassy. [From Latin vitreus (made of glass), from vitrum (glass).]
conflate (kuhn-FLAYT) verb tr.
1. To bring together; meld or fuse. 2. To combine (two variant texts, for example) into one whole. [Latin conflare, conflat- : com-, + flare, to blow.]
irade (i-RAH-day) noun
A decree. [From Turkish, From Arabic iradah (will, desire, wish).]
haplology (hap-LOL-uh-jee) noun
The loss of one of two identical or similar adjacent syllables in a word, as in Latin nutrix, `nurse,' from earlier nutritrix. [Greek haplos, haplous, single, simple.]
ethology (ee-THOL-uh-jee) noun
The study of animals' behavior in their natural environments. [From French éthologie, coined by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, zoologist (1805-1861).]
wonk (wongk) noun
An expert who studies a subject or issue thoroughly and excessively. [Of unknown origin.]
fatidic (fay-TID-ik) adjective
Of or relating to predicting fates; prophetic. [From Latin fatidicus, from fatum (fate) + dicere (to say). Ultimately from Indo-European root deik- (to show or to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]
albatross (AL-buh-tros) noun, plural albatross or albatrosses
1. Any of several large, web-footed birds constituting the family Diomedeidae, chiefly of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and having a hooked beak and long, narrow wings. 2. A constant, worrisome burden. An obstacle to success. [Probably alteration (influenced by Latin albus, white), of alcatras, pelican, from Portuguese, or Spanish alcatraz, from Arabic al-gattas : al, the + gattas, white-tailed sea eagle. Sense 2, after the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which the mariner killed and had to wear around his neck as a penance.]
checkmate (CHEK-mayt) noun
1. A move that places the king in a position from which there is no escape, as every move results in defeat. 2. Complete defeat. verb tr. 1. To maneuver an opponent's king in checkmate. 2. To place in an inextricable situation. 3. To defeat completely. interjection A call by a chess player that his or her move has placed opponent's king in such a manner that escape is impossible. [From Middle English chekmat, from Middle French escec mat, from Arabic shah (king), mat (dead, nonplussed).]
regnant (REG-nuhnt) adjective
1. Ruling (reigning, as opposed to simply having the title by marriage). 2. Predominant; widespread. [From Latin regnare (to reign). Ultimately from Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that's also the source of regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.]
blue streak (bloo streek) noun
1. Something moving very fast. 2. A rapid and seemingly endless stream of words. [Or unknown origin, perhaps an allusion to a bolt of lightning.]
trope (rhymes with scope) noun
1. The figurative use of a word or an expression, as metaphor or hyperbole. An instance of this use; a figure of speech. 2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies. [Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech.]
cohere (ko-HEER) verb intr.
To be united; to work or hold together. [From Latin cohaerere, from co- (together) + haerere (to stick).]
ecesis (i-SEE-sis) noun
The entry or establishment of a plant in a new habitat. [From Greek oikesis (inhabitation), from oikein (to inhabit). Ultimately from Indo-European root weik- (clan) that is also the forebear of vicinity, village, villa, and villain (originally, a villain was a farm servant, one who lived in a villa or a country house).]
undulate (UN-juh-layt, UN-dyuh-) verb tr., intr.
To move or to cause to move in a wavy motion. undulate (UN-juh-lit, UN-dyuh-) adjective Having a wavy appearance. [From Latin undulatus (waved), diminutive of unda (wave).]
brad (brad) noun
A thin wire nail with a small, deep head, or a projection on one side of the head. [From Middle English, from Old Norse broddr (spike).]
succedaneum (suk-si-DAY-nee-uhm) noun
A substitute. [From Latin succedere (to succeed), from suc- (a variant of sub-, used before c) and cedere (to go). Ultimately from Indo-European root ked- (to go or yield) that's also the ancestor of exceed, secede, proceed, cease, and necessary.]
obiter dictum (OB-i-tuhr DIK-tuhm) noun, plural obiter dicta
1. A passing comment. 2. An observation or opinion by a judge that is incidental to the case in question, and not binding as precedent. [From Latin, literally, saying by the way.]
arriviste (a-ree-VEEST) noun
1. A person who has recently attained high position or great power without due effort or merit; an upstart. 2. An unscrupulous, vulgar social climber; a bounder. [French, from arriver, to arrive, from Old French ariver.]
souk (sook, shook) noun
An open-air market, or a part of such a market, in an Arab city. [Arabic suq.]
capitation (kap-i-TAY-shuhn) noun
1. A counting of heads. 2. A uniform tax assessed by the head; a poll tax. 3. A fee extracted from each student. [From Late Latin capitation- (poll tax), from caput (head). Ultimately from Indo-European root kaput- (head), also the origin of head, captain, chef, chapter, cadet, cattle, chattel, achieve, biceps, and mischief, (but not of kaput).]
ha-ha (ha-ha) noun
Sunk fence. [From French haha, reduplicative of ha!, exclamation of surprise, that might come out when tripped by such an obstacle.]
chinwag (CHIN-wag) noun
Chat, gossip. verb intr. To chat or gossip. [Chin + wag.]
concomitant (kuhn-KOM-i-tuhnt) adjective
Occurring or existing concurrently; attendant. noun One that occurs or exists concurrently with another. [Late Latin concomitans, concomitant-, present participle of concomitari, to accompany : Latin com- + Latin comitari, to accompany (from comes, comit-, companion).]
dissert (di-SUHRT) verb intr.
To speak or write at length on a subject. [From Latin disserere (to arrange in order), from dis- (apart, away) + serere (to join). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ser- (to line up), that is also the source of words such as series, assert, desert (to abandon), desert (a dry sandy region), sort, consort, and sorcerer.]
munchkin (MUNCH-kin) noun
1. A very small person, especially one with an elflike appearance. 2. Informal. A child. 3. Informal. A minor official. [After the Munchkins, characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.]
holophrastic (hol-uh-FRAS-tik) adjective
1. Expressing a sentence in one word, for example, "Go." 2. Expressing complex ideas in a single word, as in some Inuit languages. Also polysynthetic. [From Greek Holo- (whole) + Greek phrastikos, from phrazein (to speak).]
mesmeric (mez-MER-ik, mes-) adjective
Fascinating; hypnotic. [After physician F.A. Mesmer (1734-1815) who discovered a way of inducing hypnosis through what he called animal magnetism.]
debunk (di-BUNGK) tr.verb
To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of: WORD HISTORY: One can readily see that debunk is constructed from the prefix de-, meaning "to remove," and the word bunk. But what is the origin of the word bunk, denoting the nonsense that is to be removed? Bunk came from a place where much bunk has originated, the United States Congress. During the 16th Congress (1819-1821) Felix Walker, a representative from western North Carolina whose district included Buncombe County, continued on with a dull speech in the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker replied he had felt obligated "to make a speech for Buncombe." Such a masterful symbol for empty talk could not be ignored by the speakers of the language, and Buncombe, actually spelled Bunkum in its first recorded appearance in 1828 and later shortened to bunk, became synonymous with claptrap. The response to all this bunk seems to have been delayed, for debunk is not recorded until 1923. "But his aim is to portray Dahl as 'a capricious tycoon' rather than a great writer, to debunk the 'myths' that he claims Dahl put about concerning himself in Boy and Going Solo." Christina Hardyment, Book Review / The pink plastic dummy award: 'Roald Dahl', Independent, 12 Mar 1994. This week's theme: words with interesting histories. -------- Date: Wed Apr 15 00:05:38 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--apartheid apartheid (uh-PART-hite, uh-PART-hayt) noun 1. An official policy of racial segregation practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites. 2. Any policy or practice of separating or segregating groups. 3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation. [Afrikaans : Dutch apart, separate (from French a part, apart) + -heid, -hood.]
qua (kway, kwa) preposition, adverb
As; in the capacity of. [From Latin qua, from qui (who).]
aperient (uh-PIR-ee-uhnt) adjective
Gently stimulating evacuation of the bowels; laxative. noun A mild laxative. [Latin aperiens, aperient-, present participle of aperire, to open.]
hackney (HAK-nee) adjective
1. Trite. 2. Let out for hire. verb tr. 1. To make banal or common by frequent use. 2. To hire out. noun 1. A breed of horses developed in England, having a high-stepping gait. 2. A horse suitable for routine riding or driving. 3. A carriage or coach for hire. [Probably after Hackney in East London, where such horses were raised. The word hack, in related senses, is a short form of hackney.]
carillon (KAR-i-lon) noun
A set of stationary bells in a tower, usually played from a keyboard. [From Late Latin quaternion, via Old French quarregnon (by fours) with reference to the fact that the original carillon consisted of four bells hung in the tower of a church.]
papabile (pa-PA-bi-lay), also papable adjective
Eligible or suitable to become a pope; fitted for high office. [From Italian papabile (worthy to be pope), from papa (pope) + -bile, equivalent to -ble (able).]
tangential (tan-JEN-shuhl) adjective
1. Only slightly relevant to the matter in hand; digressive; divergent. 2. Merely touching. 3. Mathematics: Of or pertaining to the nature of a tangent. [From Latin tangent-, tangens, present participle of tangere (to touch).]
thank-you-ma'am (THANGK yoo mam) noun
A bump or depression in a road. [From the nod of the head that results when one passes over it in a vehicle, as if in an acknowledgment of a favor.]
anabiosis (an-uh-bi-O-sis) noun
A return to life after death or apparent death. [From Greek anabiosis (coming back to life), from anabioun (to return to life), from ana- (back) + bio- (life).]
tropism (TRO-piz-uhm) noun
The turning or bending (typically by growth instead of movement) of an organism in response to an external stimulus. [From Greek tropos (turning). Ultimately from Indo-European root trep- (to turn) that also gave us troubadour, tropic, entropy, and contrive.]
wroth (roth) adjective
Extremely angry. [From Middle Middle English, from Old English wrath. Ultimately from Indo-European root wer- (to turn or bend) that is also the progenitor of words such as wring, weird, writhe, worth, revert, and universe.]
estoppel (e-STOP-el) noun
A bar preventing one from asserting a claim inconsistent with what was previously stated, especially when it has been relied upon by others. [From Old French estoupail (bung, cork) from estouper (stopper).]
prad (prad) noun
Horse. [By metathesis from Dutch paard, horse.]
high-muck-a-muck (HI-muk-uh-muk) noun, also high-mucky-muck,
high-muckety-muck, high muckamuck, muck-a-muck, muckety-muck, etc. An important, high-ranking person, especially one who behaves in a pompous or arrogant manner. [From Chinook Jargon hayo makamak (plenty to eat), from hayo (ten or plenty) + Nootka makamak (eat, food, the part of whale meat between blubber and flesh.]
empennage (ahm-puh-NAZH) noun
The tail assembly of an aircraft. [From French empennage (feathers of an arrow), from empenner (to feather an arrow), from em- + penner, from penne (feather), from Latin penna (feather).]
hacker (HACK-uhr) noun
1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating hack value. 4. A person who is good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a Unix hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence `password hacker', `network hacker'. The correct term for this sense is cracker. [Originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe.]
empty nest syndrome (EMP-tee nest SIN-drom) noun
A depressed state felt by some parents after their children have left home. "Meanwhile, _Home Improvement_ is going to be suffering empty nest syndrome. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who plays middle son Randy on the sitcom, will leave to focus on his education, the 16-year-old actor's publicist said yesterday." People Watch, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug 5, 1998. This week's theme: syndromes, paradoxes, laws, and principles. -------- Date: Sat Sep 9 00:03:11 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--Russell's paradox Russell's paradox (RUS-uhls PAR-uh-doks) noun A paradox of set theory in which an object is defined in terms of a class of objects that contains the object being defined, resulting in a logical contradiction. [Named after Bertrand Russell (1872-1970).]
matutinal (muh-TOOT-n-uhl) adjective
Relating to or occurring in the morning. [From Late Latin matutinalis, from Latin matutinus (of the morning). Ultimately from Indo-European root ma- (good) that is also the source of words such as mature, matinee, matins, Spanish mañana (tomorrow, morning, future).]
puce (pyoos) noun
A deep red to dark grayish purple. [French (couleur) puce, flea (color), puce, from Old French, variant of pulce, flea, from Latin pulex, pulic-.]
apodictic (ap-uh-DIK-tik) adjective, also apodeictic
Demonstrably true. [From Latin apodicticus, from Greek apodeiktikos, from apodeiknynai (to demonstrate), from apo- + deiknynai (to show).]
repository (ri-POZ-i-tor-ee, -tore-ee) noun
1. A place where things may be put for safekeeping. 2. A warehouse. 3. A museum. 4. A burial vault; a tomb. 5. One that contains or is a store of something specified. 6. One who is entrusted with secrets or confidential information. [Latin reponere, reposit- : re- + ponere, to place.]
apparat (ap-uh-RAT, ah-puh-RAT) noun
Structure, mechanism, etc. of an organization, especially a political one. [From Russian apparat, from German, from Latin apparatus (equipment).]
goody two-shoes (GOOD-ee TOO-shooz) noun
A goody-goody; affectedly sweet, good, or virtuous. [After the title character in The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, a nursery tale perhaps by Oliver Goldsmith.]
contemn (kuhn-TEM) verb tr.
To treat with contempt; to despise. [From Middle English contempnen, from Latin contemnere, from com- + temnere (to despise).]
officious (o-fish-uhs) adjective
1. Marked by excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services or advice to others. 2. Informal; unofficial. 3. Archaic. Eager to render services or help others. [Latin officiosus, obliging, dutiful, from officium, duty.]
sutler (SUT-luhr) noun
A merchant who follows an army to sell provisions to the soldiers. [From obsolete Dutch soeteler, from soetelen (to do menial work).]
superman (SOO-par-man) noun
1. A man with more than human powers. 2. An ideal superior man who, according to Nietzsche, forgoes transient pleasure, exercises creative power, lives at a level of experience beyond standards of good and evil, and is the goal of human evolution. In this sense, also called overman. [Translation of German Ubermensch : uber-, super- + Mensch, man.]
interleaf (IN-ter-leef) noun
A blank leaf inserted between the regular pages of a book. [Inter- + leaf.]
malarkey (muh-LAR-kee) noun, also malarky
1. Misleading speech or writing. 2. Nonsense; foolishness. [Of unknown origin.]
mittimus (MIT-uh-muhs) noun
An official order to commit someone to prison. [From Latin, literally "we send" from mittere (to send).]
tin ear (tin eer) noun
1. Insensitivity to differences in music or speech sounds. 2. Inability to appreciate subtle differences in a particular discipline. [From the idea of metal being incapable of sensation.]
inculpate (in-KUHL-payt) verb tr.
To accuse; to incriminate. [From Late Latin inculpatus, from Latin in- + culpatus, past participle of culpare to blame, from culpa fault.]
garniture (GAR-ni-chur) noun
Something that garnishes; decoration. [From French, from Old French, from garnir (to garnish).]
rident (RYD-uhnt) adjective
Laughing; cheerful. [From Latin ridere (to laugh) which is also the source of ridiculous, deride, and risible.]
salver (SAL-vuhr) noun
A serving tray. [From French salve, from Spanish salva (tasting of food to detect presence of poison), from salva (save), from Latin salvare (to save). Another term for this former practice of sampling food is credence.]
kriegspiel (KREEG-speel) noun
1. A game in which miniature characters and blocks represent armies, ships, etc. as they move around on a drawing of a battlefield, used to simulate war and teach military tactics. 2. A form of chess where players see only their own pieces and an umpire keeps track of all the pieces on a third board. [From German Kriegsspiel, from Krieg (war) + Spiel (game).]
sufferance (SUF-uhr-uhns, SUF-ruhns) noun
1. Passive tolerance: by the absence of objection rather than by express permission. 2. Capacity to endure pain, misery, etc. [Via French from Latin sufferentia, from sufferre (to suffer), from sub- + ferre (to bear). Ultimately from Indo-European root bher- (to carry; to bear children) that gave birth to words such as basket, suffer, fertile, burden, bring, bear, offer, prefer, and birth.]
hypogeusia (hi-puh-GYOO-zee-uh, zhee-uh, -zhuh) noun
Diminished sensation of taste. [Hypo- + Greek geus(is) taste + -ia.]
batik (buh-TEEK, BAT-ik) noun
1. A technique of dyeing fabrics that involves covering parts of it with wax, dyeing the exposed part and then removing the wax with boiling water. 2. A fabric dyed with this method. [From Javanese batik (painted).]
internecine (in-tuhr-NES-een) adjective
1. Of or relating to conflict within a group or nation. 2. Mutually destructive. 3. Characterized by bloodshed or slaughter. [From Latin internecinus (deadly), from internecare (to slaughter), from inter- + necare (to kill), from nex-, nec- (death). A few other words derived from the same root are pernicious, noxious, obnoxious, and necrosis. Some positive words originating from the same root are nectar, nectarine, innocent, and innocuous.]
dotty (DOT-ee) adjective
Eccentric, mentally unbalanced, unconventional. [From Scots dottle (fool), from Middle English doten (to dote).]
inkhorn term (INGK-horn turm) noun
An obscure, ostentatious, or bookish word, especially one derived from Latin or Greek. [From the fact that such a term is used more in writing than in speech.]
lingua franca (LING-gwuh FRANGK-uh) noun
A language that is widely used by speakers of different languages to communicate with one another. [From Italian lingua franca (language of the Franks). The original lingua franca was Italian mixed with Spanish, French, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish, spoken on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle Ages. The name refers to the Arabic custom of calling all Western Europeans "Franks". Today English serves as the lingua franca of the world.]
nosology (no-SOL-uh-jee) noun
1. The branch of medical science that deals with the classification of diseases. 2. A systematic classification or list of diseases. [From New Latin nosologia, from Greek nosos (disease) + New Latin -logia, -logy. Another term derived from the same root is nosocomial, used to refer to an infection acquired in a hospital.]
anadiplosis (an-uh-duh-PLO-sis) noun
Rhetorical repetition at the beginning of a phrase of the word or words with which the previous phrase ended; for example, He is a man of loyalty--loyalty always firm. [Late Latin anadiplosis, from Greek anadiplosis, from anadiploun, to redouble : ana- + diploun, to double (from diplous, double).]
moratorium (mor-uh-TOHR-ee-uhm, -TOAR-) noun
1. Law. An authorization to a debtor, such as a bank or nation, permitting temporary suspension of payments. An authorized period of delay in the performance of an obligation. 2. A suspension of an ongoing or planned activity. [From Late Latin, neuter of moratorius, delaying.]
senescent (si-NES-uhnt) adjective
Growing old; aging. [Latin senescens, senescent-, present participle of senescere, to grow old, inchoative of senere, to be old, from senex, sen-, old.]
cibarious (si-BAR-ee-uhs) adjective
1. Relating to food. 2. Edible. [From Latin cibus (food).]
buckram (BUK-ruhm) noun
1. A stiff cotton fabric used in interlining garments, in bookbinding, etc. 2. Stiffness; formality. verb tr. 1. To strengthen with buckram. 2. To give a false appearance of strength, importance, etc. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps after Bukhara, Uzbekistan, a city noted for textiles.]
arborescent (ahr-buh-RES-uhnt) adjective
Having the size, form, or characteristics of a tree; treelike. [Latin arborescens, arborescent-, present participle of arborescere, to grow to be a tree, from arbor, tree.]
bunbury (BUN-buh-ree) noun
An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place. verb intr. To use the name of a fictitious person as an excuse. [From Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest where the character Algernon invents an imaginary person named Bunbury as an alibi to escape from relatives. He explains to his friend, "I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to-night."]
occiput (OK-suh-put, -puht) noun [plural occipita (ok-SIP-i-tah) or occiputs].
The back part of the head or skull. [Middle English, from Latin occiput, occipit- : ob-, against. + caput, head.]
mnemonic (ni-MON-ik) adjective
Relating to, assisting, or intended to assist the memory. noun A device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering. [Greek mnemonikos, from mnemon, mnemon-, mindful.]
gammon (GAM-uhn) noun
1. Backgammon. 2. A victory in a backgammon game before the loser has removed any piece. [Probably from Middle English gamen (game).]
spavined (SPAV-ind) adjective
1. Suffering from spavin, a disease involving swelling of hock joints in a horse. 2. Old; decrepit; broken-down. [From Middle English, from Old French espavain (swelling).]
ritzy (RIT-see) adjective
Elegant; fancy. [After the Ritz hotels established by Cesar Ritz (1850-1918), Swiss hotelier.]
luculent (LOO-kyoo-luhnt) adjective
Easily understood; clear or lucid. [Middle English, shiny, from Latin luculentus, from lux, luc-, light.]
deflagrate (DEF-luh-grayt) verb tr. and intr.
To burn or cause to burn something rapidly and violently. [From Latin deflagratus, past participle of deflagrare (to burn down), from de- (intensive prefix) + flagrare (to blaze).]
slipshod (SLIP-shod) adjective
1. Careless; sloppy; shabby. 2. Wearing loose shoes or slippers, especially those worn down at the heel. [From slip (slide) + shod (wearing shoes), past and past participle of shoe.]
exonym (EK-so-nim) noun
A name used by foreigners to refer to a place or people, instead of the name used by those who live there. For example: Cologne (native term: Köln), Florence (Firenze), Japan (Nihon/Nippon), Italy (Italia). [From Greek ex- (out) + -onym (word, name).]
harridan (HAR-i-dn) noun
An ill-tempered, scolding woman. [Perhaps from French haridelle (worn-out horse, gaunt woman).]
parol (puh-ROL) noun
A spoken statement. adjective Expressed orally. [From Middle English parole, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin paraula, from paravola, from Latin parabola, from Greek parabole, from para- (beside) + bole (throwing), from ballein (to throw).]
carmine (KAHR-min, -MYN) noun
1. Color. A strong to vivid red. 2. A crimson pigment derived from cochineal. carmine adjective Color. Strong to vivid red. [French carmin, from Medieval Latin carminium, probably blend of Arabic qirmiz, kermes, and Latin minium, cinnabar.]
collage (kuh-LAZH, koh-) noun
A form of art where various disparate objects are assembled together. [From French collage (gluing), from coller (to glue), from colle (glue), from Vulgar Latin colla, from Greek kolla (glue). The words protocol and collagen have the same parentage.]
hieroglyphic (hy-uhr-o-GLIF-ik, hy-ruh-) also hieroglyphical adjective
1. Of, relating to, or being a system of writing, such as that of ancient Egypt, in which pictorial symbols are used to represent meaning or sounds or a combination of meaning and sound. Written with such symbols. 2. Difficult to read or decipher. hieroglyphic noun 1. A hieroglyph. Often hieroglyphics (used with a sing. or pl. verb. Hieroglyphic writing, especially that of the ancient Egyptians). 2. Something, such as illegible or undecipherable writing, that is felt to resemble a hieroglyph. [French hieroglyphique, from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Greek hierogluphikos : hieros, holy. See eis-. + gluphe, carving (from gluphein, to carve.]
onomatopoeia (on-uh-mat-uh-PEE-uh) noun
The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to. [Late Latin, from Greek onomatopoiia, from onomatopoios, coiner of names : onoma, onomat-, name + poiein, to make.]
epigamic (ep-i-GAM-ik) adjective
Of or relating to a trait or behavior that attracts a mate. Examples: In an animal, bright feathers or big antlers. In a human, a sports car or a big bust. [From Greek epigamos (marriageable), from epi- (upon) + gamos (marriage).]
pontificate (pon-TIF-i-kayt) verb intr.
To speak in a pompous and dogmatic manner. [From Medieval Latin pontificatus, past participle of pontificare (to be an ecclesiastic), from ponti-, from pons (bridge) + facere (to make). So a pontifex (priest) was literally a bridge-maker between here and the hereafter. The verb pontificate comes from the reputation of a priest to speak bombastically. This term ultimately originated from the Indo-European root pent- (to tread) that gave us other words such as English find, Dutch pad (path), French pont (bridge), and Russian sputnik (traveling companion).]
dyslexic (dis-LEK-sik) noun
A person who is affected by dyslexia. adjective Of or relating to dyslexia, a learning disorder marked by impairment of the ability to recognize and comprehend written words. [New Latin : dys- + Greek lexis, speech (from legein, to speak).]
urtext (UHR-tekst, OOR-) noun
The original or earliest version of a text, such as a musical composition or literary work. [From German ur- (earliest, original) + text, ultimately from Latin texere (to weave). Yes, the words textile and text are derived from the same root. Tissue, context, and texture are other words that share the same origin.]
buskin (BUS-kin) noun
1. A thick-soled, laced boot, reaching to knee or calf, worn by actors of ancient Greek and Roman tragedies. Also known as cothurnus. 2. A tragic drama. [Perhaps from Middle French brousequin.]
yeoman's service (YO-muhnz SUHR-vis) noun
Efficient, useful, or loyal service. [From yeoman (servant or assistant), probably a blend of young + man, or from ga (region) + man.]
requite (ri-KWYT) verb tr.
To repay, return for, avenge, or retaliate. [From Middle English requiten, from re- + quiten (to pay), a variant of quit.]
cornucopia (kor-nuh-KO-pee-uh) noun
1. A goat's horn overflowing with fruit, flowers, and grain, signifying prosperity. Also called horn of plenty. 2. Greek Mythology. The horn of the goat that suckled Zeus, which broke off and became filled with fruit. In folklore, it became full of whatever its owner desired. 3. A cone-shaped ornament or receptacle. 4. An overflowing store; an abundance. [Late Latin cornucopia, from Latin cornu copiae : cornu, horn + copiae, genitive of copia, plenty.]
waterloo (WOT-uhr-loo) noun
A crushing or final defeat. [After Waterloo, a village in central Belgium where the Battle of Waterloo took place in 1815. That was Napoleon Bonaparte's last battle. He was decisively defeated by the British and Prussian forces and exiled to the island of Saint Helena.]
usance (YOO-zuhns) noun
1. The customary length of time allowed for the settlement of a foreign bill. 2. Usage; custom. [From Middle English, from Old French, probably from Vulgar Latin usare, from Latin uti (to use).]
philtrum (FIL-truhm) noun
The vertical groove above the upper lip. [From Greek philtron, philter, charm, dimple in the upper lip]
paranymph (PAR-uh-nimf) noun
1. A groomsman or a bridesmaid. 2. In ancient Greece, a friend who accompanied the bridegroom when he went to bring home the bride, or the bridesmaid who escorted the bride to the bridegroom. [From Late Latin paranymphus, from Greek paranymphos (masculine and femnine) groomsman, bridesmaid, literally, person beside the bride.]
ex libris (eks LEE-bris, LI-)
1. From the library of (a phrase inscribed in a book followed by the name of the book owner). 2. A bookplate. [From Latin ex libris (from the books), from ex- (from) + liber (book).]
notorious (no-TOR-ee-uhs) adjective
Known widely and usually unfavorably; infamous. [From Medieval Latin notorius, well-known, from Latin notus, known, past participle of noscere, to get to know.]
landlubber (LAND-lub-uhr) noun
A person unfamiliar with the sea or seamanship. "In February 1946, when Bombay, that super-epic motion picture of a city, was transformed overnight into a motionless tableau by the great naval and landlubber strikes, when ships did not sail, steel was not milled, textile looms neither warped nor woofed, and in the movie studios there was neither turnover nor cut ... " Salman Rushdie, The Moor's Last Sigh, The World & I, 1 May 1996. This week's theme: nautical words. -------- Date: Mon Feb 15 00:04:36 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cognate cognate (KOG-nayt) adjective 1. Related by blood; having a common ancestor. 2. Related in origin, as certain words in genetically related languages descended from the same ancestral root; for example, English name and Latin nomen from Indo-European no-men-. 3. Related or analogous in nature, character, or function. cognate noun 1. One related by blood or origin with another, especially a person sharing an ancestor with another. 2. A word related to one in another language. [Latin cognatus : co- + gnatus, born, past participle of nasci, to be born.]
famulus (FAM-yuh-luhs) noun
An assistant, especially to a magician or a scholar. [From Latin famulus (servant).]
minx (mingks) noun
A pert or flirtatious young woman. [Of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch or Low German.]
vizier (vi-ZEER, VIZ-yuhr) noun
A high official. [From Turkish vezir, from Arabic wazir (minister).]
illeist (IL-ee-ist) noun
One who refers to oneself in the third person. [From Latin ille (that) + -ism.]
kine (kien) noun
Archaic. A plural of cow. [Middle English kyn, from Old English cyna, genitive pl. of cu, cow.]
blatherskite (BLATH-uhr-skyt) noun
1. A person who babbles about inane matters. 2. Nonsense; foolish talk. [From Old Norse blathra (to chatter) + Scots dialect skate (a contemptible person).]
pilose (PIE-loas) also pilous (-luhs) adjective
Covered with fine, soft hair. [Latin pilosus, from pilus, hair.]
compeer (KOM-pier, kuhm-PIER) noun
1. A person of equal status or rank; a peer. 2. A comrade, companion, or associate. [Middle English comper, from Old French, from Latin compar, equal.]
hypochondriac (hie-puh-KON-dree-ak) noun
A person affected with hypochondria, the persistent neurotic conviction that one is or is likely to become ill, often involving experiences of real pain when illness is neither present nor likely. adjective 1. Relating to or affected with hypochondria. 2. Relating to or located in the hypochondrium. [Late Latin, abdomen, from Greek hupokhondria, pl. of hupokhondrion, abdomen (held to be the seat of melancholy), neuter of hupokhondrios, under the cartilage of the breastbone : hupo-, hypo- + khondros, cartilage.]
gestalt (gesh-TALT) noun
Shape or pattern; most often used in psychology to describe a theory or approach which aims to see something as a whole rather than breaking it into separate parts [From German gestalt (form, shape).]
selcouth (SEL-kooth) adjective
Strange; unusual; marvelous. [From Middle English, from Old English seldcuth, from seldan (seldom) + cuth (known), from cunnan (to know).]
yellow journalism (YEL-o JUR-nuh-liz-em) noun
Journalism that employs exaggeration, scandals, and lurid stories to attract readers. [From the Yellow Kid, a character in a wildly popular comic Hogan's Alley that appeared in the New York World, a newspaper owned by Joseph Pulitzer. The Yellow Kid was the object of a circulation war between the New York World and its competitor, the New York Journal that eventually resulted in both newspapers engaging in journalistic practices characterized by hyperbole, melodrama, and even manufactured events.]
bellicose (BEL-i-kos) adjective
Inclined to fight. [From Latin bellicosus, from bellicus (of war), from bellum (war).]
guru (GOOR-oo, goo-ROO) noun
1. A personal spiritual teacher. 2. A teacher and guide in spiritual and philosophical matters. A trusted counselor and adviser; a mentor. 3. A recognized leader in a field. An acknowledged and influential advocate, as of a movement or idea. [Hindi guru, from Sanskrit guruh, from guru-, heavy, venerable.]
quaggy (KWAG-ee) adjective
Marshy; flabby; spongy. [From quag (marsh), of unknown origin.]
lumpen (LUM-pen) adjective
1. Of or relating to dispossessed people who have been cut off from the social and economic class to which they would normally belong; belonging to the underclass. 2. Unrefined or unenlightened. noun A lumpen person. [From German Lumpenproletariat (the lowest section of the proletariat) from Lumpen (rag), from lump (ragamuffin) + French Proletariat (lowest class).]
gynarchy (JIN-ar-kee, JYE-nar-, gye-) noun
Government by women. [Gyn- woman + -archy, rule, government.]
gormless (GORM-lis) adjective, also gaumless
Dull or stupid. [From English dialectal gaum (attention or understanding), from Middle English gome, from Old Norse gaumr.]
cingular (SING-gyuh-luhr) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to a cingulum, an anatomical band or girdle on an animal or plant. 2. Encircling, girdling, surrounding. [From Latin cingulum (girdle), from cingere (to gird). Other words that are derived from the same root are cincture, precinct, shingles, and succinct.]
lugubrious (lu-GOO-bree-uhs) adjective
Mournful, dismal, especially in an exaggerated or affected manner. [From Latin lugere (to mourn).]
phillumenist (fuh-LOO-muh-nist) noun
One who collects matchbooks or matchboxes. [Phil (o)- + Latin lumen, light.]
popinjay (POP-in-jay) noun
Somone who indulges in vain and empty chatter. [Via French and Spanish from Arabic babbaga (parrot). The last syllable changed to jay because some thought the word referred to that bird instead of a parrot.]
spam (spam) verb tr. intr.
1. To mass-mail unrequested identical or nearly-identical email messages, particularly those containing advertising. Especially used when the mail addresses have been culled from network traffic or databases without the consent of the recipients. Synonyms include UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email), UBE (Unsolicited Bulk Email). 2. To bombard a newsgroup with multiple copies of a message. This is more specifically called `EMP', Excessive Multi-Posting. 3. To send many identical or nearly-identical messages separately to a large number of Usenet newsgroups. This is more specifically called `ECP', Excessive Cross-Posting. This is one sure way to infuriate nearly everyone on the Net. 4. To cause a newsgroup to be flooded with irrelevant or inappropriate messages. 5. To crash a program by overrunning a fixed-size buffer with excessively large input data. noun 6. Any large, annoying, quantity of output. For instance, someone on IRC who walks away from their screen and comes back to find 200 lines of text might say "Oh no, spam". [From a comedy routine on Monty Python's Flying Circus, British TV series.]
lares and penates (LAR-eez and puh-NAY-teez) noun
1. Household gods: the benevolent gods in an ancient Roman household. 2. Household goods: a family's treasured possessions. [From Latin Lares et Penates, from Lares, plural of Lar (in Roman mythology, the deity or spirit who protected a household) + et (and) + Penates (deities of the household that were believed to bring wealth), from penus (provisions, interior of a house).]
walleyed (WAWL-eyed) adjective
1. Having walleye (a form of vision disorder in which one or both eyes deviate outward.) 2. Having large staring eyes, like certain fish. 3. Having one or both eyes appearing nearly white due to white or light-colored iris, or white or opaque cornea. [From Middle English wawil-eyed, from Old Norse vagl-eygr, from vagl (film over the eye) + eygr (eyed).]
scart (skart) verb tr., intr.
To scratch, scrape or scar. [Metathetic variation of scrat, to scratch.]
ambidextrous (am-bi-DEK-strahs) adjective
1. Able to use both hands with equal facility. 2. Unusually skillful; adroit. 3. Deceptive or hypocritical. [From ambidexter, ambidextrous (archaic), from Middle English, double dealer, from Medieval Latin : Latin ambi-, on both sides + Latin dexter, right-handed.]
parataxis (par-uh-TAK-sis) noun
The juxtaposition of clauses or phrases without the use of coordinating or subordinating conjunctions, as It was cold; the snows came. [Greek, a placing side by side, from paratassein, to arrange side by side : para-, beside + tassein, to arrange.]
grammatolatry (gram-uh-TOL-uh-tree) noun
The worship of words: regard for the letter while ignoring the spirit of something. [From Greek gramma (letter) + -latry (worship).]
teknonym (TEK-nuh-nim) noun
A name derived from a child's name that is used to address a parent. For example, Johnsdad (as opposed to Johnson). [From Greek teknon (child) + -onym (name).]
papilionaceous (puh-pil-ee-uh-NAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to a butterfly. 2. Belonging to the Papilionaceae family whose plants have petals in the form of a butterfly, mostly legumes, such as peas and beans. [From Latin papilion-, stem of papilio (butterfly).]
ugly duckling (UG-lee DUK-ling) noun
One that is considered ugly or unpromising at first but has the potential of becoming beautiful or admirable in maturity. [After The Ugly Duckling, a story by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875).]
diurnation (dy-uhr-NAY-shuhn) noun
The habit of sleeping or being dormant during the day. [From Latin diurnus (daily), from dies (day).]
timorous (TIM-uhr-uhs) adjective
Full of fear, timid. [Middle English, from Middle French timoureus, from Medieval Latin timorosus, from Latin timor fear, from timere, to fear.]
eudemonia (yoo-di-MO-nee-uh) noun, also eudaemonia
1. A state of happiness and well-being. 2. In Aristotelian philosophy, happiness in a life of activity governed by reason. [From Greek eudaimonia (happiness), from eudaimon (having a good genius, happy), from eu- (good) + daimon (spirit, fate, fortune).]
muggle (MUHG-uhl) noun
1. An ordinary person, one with no magical powers. 2. A clumsy or unskilled person. [From a series of children's novels by JK Rowling.]
extramundane (ek-struh-mun-DAYN) adjective
Beyond the physical world. [From Late Latin extramundanus (beyond the world), from Latin extra- + mundanus, from mundus (world).]
aphrodisiac (af-ruh-DIZ-ee-ak, -DEE-zee-) adjective
Arousing or intensifying sexual desire. noun Something, such as a drug or food, having such an effect. [Greek aphrodisiakos, from aphrodisia, sexual pleasures, from Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty in Greek Mythology.]
southpaw (SOWTH-paw) noun
Slang. A left-handed person, especially a left-handed baseball pitcher. [From the practice in baseball of arranging the diamond with the batter facing east to avoid the afternoon sun. A left-handed pitcher facing west would therefore have his pitching arm toward the south of the diamond.]
myriad (MIR-ee-ehd) adjective
1. Constituting a very large, indefinite number; innumerable. 2. Composed of numerous diverse elements or facets. myriad noun 1. A vast number. 2. Archaic. Ten thousand. [Greek murias, muriad-, ten thousand, from murios, countless.]
col (kol, rhymes with doll) noun
A mountain pass. [From French col (neck), from Latin collum (neck). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwel- (to revolve) that is also the source of words such as colony, cult, culture, cycle, cyclone, chakra, and collar.]
chaperon or chaperone (SHAP-uh-rohn) noun
1. A person, especially an older or married woman, who accompanies a young unmarried woman in public. 2. An older person who attends and supervises a social gathering for young people. 3. A guide or companion whose purpose is to ensure propriety or restrict activity: "to see and feel the rough edges of the society ... without the filter of official chaperones" (Philip Taubman). chaperon tr.verb To act as chaperon to or for. [French, from chaperon, hood, from Old French, diminutive of chape, cape, head covering.]
argillaceous (ahr-juh-LAY-shuhs) adjective
Made of, resembling, or relating to, clay: clayey. [From Latin argilla (clay). Ultimately from the Indo-European root arg- (to shine; white), that is also the source of words such as argentine (silvery) and argue (from Latin arguere, to make clear).]
scintillescent (sint-uh-LES-uhnt) adjective
Sparkling or twinkling. [From Latin scintillare (to sparkle), from scintilla (spark).]
smorgasbord (SMOR-guhs-bord) noun
1. A buffet featuring various dishes, such as hors d'oeuvres, salads, etc. 2. A medley or miscellany. [From Swedish Smörgåsbord, from smörgås (bread and butter), from smör (butter) + gås (goose, lump of butter) + bord (table).]
caduceus (kuh-DOO-si-uhs, -shuhs, -dyoo-) noun
1. A herald's wand or staff, especially in ancient times. Greek Mythology. A winged staff with two serpents twined around it, carried by Hermes. 2. An insignia modeled on Hermes' staff and used as the symbol of the medical profession. [Latin caduceus, alteration of Greek karukeion, from karux, herald.]
depone (di-POHN) verb tr., intr.
To declare under oath. [From Medieval Latin deponere (to testify), from Latin (to put down), from de- + ponere (to put). The word depone is often used in another form (depose). But the noun form of the word is clear: deponent.]
mascot (MAS-kot, -kuht) noun
A person, an animal, or an object believed to bring good luck, especially one kept as the symbol of an organization such as a sports team. [French mascotte, sorcerer's charm, mascot, from Provencal mascoto, sorcery, fetish, from masco, witch, ultimately from Late Latin, mask, specter, witch.]
feuilleton (FOI-i-ton) noun
1. The part of a European newspaper devoted to light literature, criticism, and the like; also something printed in this section. 2. A novel published in installments. 3. A short literary piece [From French, from feuillet (sheet of paper), diminutive of feuille (leaf), from Old French foille, from Latin folium (leaf). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us other descendants as flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
nosegay (NOZ-gay) noun
A small bunch of flowers. [Middle English : nose, + gai, joyous, ornament.]
crispin (KRIS-pin) noun
A shoemaker. [After St. Crispin, patron saint of shoemakers. He and his brother St. Crispinian were martyred as Christian missionaries. They made their living as shoemakers.]
pollard (POL-uhrd) noun
1. A tree whose top branches have been cut back to the trunk so that it may produce a dense growth of new shoots. 2. An animal, such as an ox, a goat, or a sheep, that no longer has its horns. pollard tr.verb To convert or make into a pollard. [From poll.]
dotard (doe-tuhrd) noun
A person who is in his or her dotage (a deterioration of mental faculties; senility). [Middle English, from doten, to dote.]
zoophyte (ZO-uh-fyt) noun
An animal (such as sponge, coral, sea anemone, etc.) resembling a plant. [These invertebrate animals are attached to a surface and have a branched structure, hence zoophyte, literally animal plant, from Modern Latin zoophyton, from Greek zoophyton, from zoo- (animal) + phyton (plant).]
juju (JOO-joo) noun
1. A fetish or charm. 2. The magic or supernatural power attributed to such an object. [Of uncertain origin, perhaps from west African language Hausa juju (fetish), probably from French joujou (toy).]
steerage (STEER-ij) noun
The part of a ship offered to those traveling at the cheapest rate. [From the fact that originally this section was located near the rudder of the ship.]
cenotaph (SEN-uh-taf) noun
A tomb or a monument in honor of a person (or a group) whose remains are elsewhere. [Via French and Latin, from Greek kenotaphion, from kenos (empty) + taphos (tomb).]
previse (pri-VYZ) verb tr.
1. To know in advance; foresee. 2. To notify in advance; forewarn. [Middle English previsen, from Latin praevidere, praevis- : prae-, pre- + videre, to see.]
pyromania (pie-roe-MAY-nee-uh, -MAYN-yuh) noun
An uncontrollable impulse to start fires. "Admitting to a `streak of pyromania,' Columbia's astronauts set small fires aboard the space shuttle yesterday to help NASA design better smoke detectors and extinguishers for use in weightlessness." Nation Briefs, Newsday, 03 Mar 1996. This week's theme: words derived by adding suffixes. -------- Date: Wed Mar 3 00:04:28 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--acarophobia acarophobia (ak-uh-ruh-FOE-bee-uh) noun An abnormal fear of mites, other small insects, or worms. "The Little Book of Phobias, by Joe Kohut, lists more than 200 different phobias alphabetically. It begins with acarophobia, which is the fear of skin infestation by mites or ticks, and concludes with xerophobia, an abnormal fear of dryness and dry places, like deserts." Erwin, Melanie, Fear Can Turn Into Life-changing Phobias, Intelligencer Journal Lancaster, 18 Apr 1996. -------- Date: Thu Mar 4 03:04:33 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--geomancy geomancy (JEE-uh-man-see) noun Divination by means of lines and figures or by geographic features. [Middle English geomancie, from Medieval Latin geomantia, from Late Greek geomanteia, divination by signs from the earth : Greek geo-, geo- + Greek manteia, divination.]
pathetic fallacy (puh-THET-ik FAL-uh-see) noun
The attribution of human traits to nature or inanimate objects. [Coined by John Ruskin in 1856.]
kilkenny cats (kil-KEN-ee kats) noun
People who fight relentlessly till their end. [From a pair of proverbial cats in Kilkenny who fought till only their tails were left.]
weltschmerz (VELT-shmerts) noun
World weariness; pessimism, apathy, or sadness felt at the difference between physical reality and the ideal state. [From German Weltschmerz, from Welt (world) + Schmerz (pain).]
anthropomorphize (an-thruh-puh-MOR-fyz) verb tr., intr.
To attribute human qualities to things not human. [From Greek anthropo- (human) + morph (form).]
bulimarexia (byoo-lim-uh-REK-see-uh, -lee-muh-, boo-) noun
An eating disorder in which one alternates between abnormal craving for and aversion to food. It is characterized by episodes of excessive food intake followed by periods of fasting and self-induced vomiting or diarrhea. Also called binge-purge syndrome, binge-vomit syndrome, bulimia nervosa. [bulim (ia) + (an)orexia.]
splendiferous (splen-DIF-uhr-uhs) adjective
Splendid. [Middle English, from Medieval Latin splendiferus, from Late Latin splendorifer : Latin splendor, splendor + Latin -fer.]
perihelion (per-i-HEE-lee-uhn_, -HEEL-yun) noun
The point in the orbit of a celestial body that is nearest to the sun. [From Greek peri- (around, near) + helios (sun). The point farthest from the sun is called aphelion, from apo- (away).]
hermeneutic (hur-muh-NOO-tik, -NYOO-) adjective
Interpretive or explanatory. [From Greek hermeneutikos (of interpreting), from hermeneuein (to interpret), from hermeneus (interpreter). After Hermes in Greek mythology, who served as a messenger and herald for other gods, and who himself was the god of eloquence, commerce, invention, cunning, and theft.]
leadfoot (LED-foot) noun
One who drives an automobile too fast, especially as a habit. [From the suggestion that one has feet made of lead, a heavy metal, that keeps the accelerator of the vehicle pressed down.]
rock-ribbed (rok-ribd) adjective
1. Having rocks or rock outcroppings; rocky. 2. Firm and unyielding, especially with regard to one's principles, loyalties, or beliefs. "Gloria's father, Al Thompson, was chief of the city parks police. Hers was a disciplined, rock-ribbed upbringing. As the Connorses were open and genial, so were the Thompsons tight and skeptical, even suspicious." Frank Deford, A man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother keeps., Sports Illustrated, 08-22-1994, pp 56 This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Thu Jul 16 00:05:05 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--troglodyte troglodyte (TROG-loh-dite) noun 1. A member of a fabulous or prehistoric race of people that lived in caves, dens, or holes. A person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish. 2. An anthropoid ape, such as a gorilla or chimpanzee. An animal that lives underground, as an ant or a worm. [From Latin Troglodytae, a people said to be cave dwellers, from Greek Troglodutai, alteration (influenced by trogle, hole, -dutai, those who enter), of Trogodutai.]
titian (TISH-uhn) noun
Color. A brownish orange. [After Titian (from his frequent use of the color in his paintings). Originally Tiziano Vecellio. 1488?-1576. Italian painter who introduced vigorous colors and the compositional use of backgrounds to the Venetian school.]
stalworth (STOL-wurth) adjective
Stalwart: strong, dependable, firm. [From Middle English, from Old English staelwierthe (serviceable), from stathol (support) + weorth (worth).]
midwife (MID-wife) noun
1. A person, usually a woman, who is trained to assist women in childbirth. Also called Regional: granny. 2. One who assists in or takes a part in bringing about a result: "In the Renaissance, artists and writers start to serve as midwives of fame" (Carlin Romano). midwife tr.verb 1. To assist in the birth of (a baby). 2. To assist in bringing forth or about: "Washington's efforts to midwife a Mideast settlement" (Newsweek). [Middle English midwif : probably mid, with (from Old English) + wif, woman (from Old English wif).]
algorithm (AL-guh-rith-uhm) noun
A finite sequence of well-defined steps for solving a problem. [After al Khwarizmi (the [man] of Khwarizm), a nickname of the 9th century Persian astronomer and mathematician Abu Jafar Muhammand ibn Musa, who authored many texts on arithmetic and algebra. He worked in Baghdad and his nickname alludes to his place of origin Khwarizm (Khiva), in present-day Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.]
sacrilegious (sak-ri-LIJ-uhs) adjective
Violating what is considered sacred. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sacrilegium, from sacrilegus (one who steals sacred thing), from scar, from sacer (sacred) + -legere (to gather, steal).]
autocrat (O-tuh-krat) noun
A ruler with absolute power or a person who has unrestricted authority. [From French autocrate, from Greek autokrates, auto- self + -krates, -crat, ruling.]
alexia (uh-LEK-see-uh) noun
A neurological disorder marked by the loss of ability to read words. Also called word blindness. [From Greek a- (not) + Greek lexis (speech), from legein (to speak), confused with Latin legere (to read) + Latin -ia (disease). Ultimately from Indo-European root leg- (to collect) that resulted in other derivatives such as lexicon, legal, dialogue, lecture, logic, legend, logarithm, intelligent, diligent, sacrilege, elect, and loyal.]
filial (FIL-ee-uhl) adjective
Of or relating to an offspring. [From Middle English, from Late Latin filialis, from Latin filius (son).]
yen (yen) noun
A strong desire or longing. verb intr. To have a strong desire; yearn. [From obsolete US slang yen-yen (craving for opium), from yinyan (opium) + yan (craving), from Cantonese yan.]
eremite (AR-uh-myte) noun
A recluse or hermit, especially a religious recluse. [Middle English, from Late Latin eremita.]
esemplastic (es-em-PLAS-tik) adjective
Having the capability of moulding diverse ideas or things into unity. [From Greek es- (into) + en, neuter of eis (one) + plastic. Coined by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), apparently after German Ineinsbildung (forming into one)]. Here is how Coleridge used the term in his 1817 Biographia Literaria or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. Vol. I, Chapter 13: On the imagination, or esemplastic power. O Adam! one Almighty is, from whom All things proceed, and up to him return If not depraved from good: created all Such to perfection, one first nature all Indued with various forms, various degrees. "Admirers of (A.N.) Wilson, and I have been one of them, may console themselves by speculating that he just got impatient, or tired. Or that a minor demon, in a snit over his prolific output and ambitious subject matter, cast a temporary malediction on his esemplastic powers of fiction-making." Gail Godwin, Losing It All, The Washington Post, Jan 23, 1994. Like a house of cards, Enron corporation came down a few weeks ago. Its bankruptcy proceedings opened what may turn out to be a Pandora's box for more than just the corporation itself. Journalists are using the freshly minted term Enronomics to describe this corporation's brand of economics and accounting: off-the-record dealings, cooking books, and number sorcery that led to its rise and crash. Creative accounting has been going on for ages but it seems that Enron perfected it. Whether the term enronomics sticks, only time will tell. But this is a good example of how new words are coined. Some weather the test of time and get anointed into the venerated pages of dictionaries, while others fade like last year's fashion. This week's AWAD features five words, all coined by people, that have stuck around. Those who brought these expressions to life are a diverse lot. We'll see inventions of a poet, a cartoonist, a zoologist, and two journalists during the next five days. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Jan 29 00:03:48 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--gonzo gonzo (GON-zo) adjective Having a bizarre, subjective, idiosyncratic style, especially in journalism. [Coined by Bill Cardoso, journalist and author, in 1971. It was first used in a published work by Hunter S. Thompson, journalist and author (1939- ). Perhaps from Italian gonzo (simpleton) or Spanish ganso (dull or fool, literally a goose).]
umbrage (UHM-brij) noun
1. Offense or annoyance arising from some insult. 2. Shade, as from a tree. 3. A vague suggestion or a feeling of suspicion. [From Latin umbra (shade, shadow), which also gave us the words umbrella, adumbrate, and somber.]
cicerone (sis-uh-RO-nee, chee-che-RO-nee) noun
A tour guide. [After Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE), the Roman statesman, orator, and writer, who was known for his knowledge and eloquence. He's one of the rare people who have given two eponyms to the English language. Another word coined after his name is ciceronian, meaning marked by ornate language, expansive flow, and forcefulness of expression.]
recusant (REK-yu-zant, ri-KYOO-) adjective
Refusing to submit to authority; dissenting. noun 1. One who refuses to obey authority. 2. One of the Roman Catholics during 16th and 18th century who refused to attend services of the Church of England and were punished for it. [From Latin recusant-, stem of recusans, present participle of recusare (to recuse or object).]
ultramontane (ul-truh-mon-TAYN) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to people or region beyond the mountains. 2. Supporting the Pope's authority over the Roman Catholic Church in all countries. noun 1. One who lives beyond the mountains. 2. One who favors papal supremacy. [From Medieval Latin ultramontanus, from Latin ultra- (beyond) + mont-, mons (mountain).]
pied piper (pied PIE-puhr) noun
1. A person who offers others strong yet delusive enticements. 2. One, such as a leader, who makes irresponsible promises. [After The Pied Piper of Hamelin, title and hero of a poem by Robert Browning.]
incult (in-KULT) adjective
Rude; uncultured. [From Latin incultus, from in- (not) + cultus, past participle of colere (to cultivate). Ultimately from the Indo-European root k(w)el- (to revolve) that's also the source of words such as culture, chakra, wheel, cycle, palindrome, decollate, cult, talisman. What a menagerie of words sprouting from a single root!]
micturate (MIK-chuh-rayt, MIK-tuh-) intr.verb
To urinate. [From Latin micturire, to want to urinate, desiderative of meiere, to urinate.]
centaur (SEN-tor) noun
1. An expert horse rider. 2. An unnatural creation made of disparate entities. [After Centaur, a race of monsters having the torso of a human and lower body of a horse. Also, early Greek literature depicted Centaurs as a tribe from Thessaly whose members were skilled horse riders.]
hat trick (hat trik) noun
Three consecutive successes in a game or another endeavor. For example, taking three wickets with three successive deliveries by a bowler in a game of cricket, three goals or points won by a player in a game of soccer or ice hockey, etc. [From cricket, from the former practice of awarding a hat to a bowler who dismissed three batsmen with three successive balls.]
whodunit (hoo-DUN-it) noun
A story about the solving of a crime, especially a murder. [Alteration of "Who done it?". Coined in 1930 by Donald Gordon in an ad ("A satisfactory whodunit") for a murder mystery.]
stare decisis (STAYR-ee di-SY-sis) noun
The legal principle of following precedents in deciding a case, the idea that future decisions of a court should follow the example set by the prior decisions. [Latin for "let the decision stand".]
butte (byoot) noun
An isolated hill rising abruptly from the surrounding area, having steep sides and a flat top. [From French butte (mound).]
annus mirabilis (AN-uhs mi-RAB-uh-lis) noun, plural anni mirabiles (AN-i
mi-RAB-uh-leez) A remarkable year. [From Latin annus (year) mirabilis (wondrous).]
sumptuary (SUMP-choo-er-ee) adjective
1. Relating to or regulating expenses. 2. Regulating personal habits or behavior on moral or religious grounds. [From Latin sumptuarius, from sumptus expense, past participle of sumere (to take up), from emere (to take). Ultimately from Indo-European root em- (to take or distribute) that is also the source of words such as example, sample, assume, consume, prompt, ransom, vintage, and redeem.]
adscititious (ad-si-TISH-uhs) adjective
Derived from outside; external; additional. [From Latin adscitus, past participle of adsciscere (to admit or adopt), from ad- (toward) + sciscere (to seek to know), from scire (to know). Ultimately from the Indo-European root skei- (to cut or split) that also gave us schism, ski, and shin.]
incarnadine (in-KAHR-nuh-dyn) adjective
Flesh-colored; blood-red. noun An incarnadine color. verb tr. To make incarnadine. [Via French and Italian from Latin caro, (flesh). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that's also the source of words such as skirt, curt, screw, shard, shears, carnage, carnivorous, carnation, sharp, and scrape.]
livid (LIV-id) adjective
1. Extremely angry. 2. Reddish, grayish, bluish, or pallid. [From Latin lividus, from livere (to be bluish).]
soporific (sop-uh-RIF-ik, so-puh-) adjective
1. Inducing or tending to induce sleep. 2. Drowsy. noun A drug or other substance that induces sleep; a hypnotic. [From Latin sopor, a deep sleep.]
potter's field (POT-uhrs feeld) noun
A burial place for poor or unidentified people. [The term derives from the name of the area where Judas was buried after he hanged himself. The land was bought with pieces of silver he had received for betraying Jesus.]
deuteragonist (doo-tuh-RAG-uh-nist, dyoo-) noun
The second most important part in a play. [From Greek deutero- (second) + agonistes (contestant, actor).]
buff (buf) noun
1. A soft, thick, undyed leather made chiefly from the skins of buffalo, elk, or oxen. 2. A military uniform coat made of such leather. 3. Color. A pale, light, or moderate yellowish pink to yellow, including moderate orange yellow to light yellowish brown. 4. Bare skin. 5. A piece of soft material, such as velvet or leather, often mounted on a block and used for polishing. adjective 1. Made or formed of buff. 2. Of the color buff. verb tr. 1. To polish or shine with a piece of soft material. 2. To soften the surface of (leather) by raising a nap. 3. To make the color of buff. [From obsolete buffle, buffalo, from French buffle, from Late Latin bufalus.]
quacksalver (KWAK-sal-vuhr) noun
A quack. [From obsolete Dutch (now kwakzalver), from quack (boast) + salve (ointment).]
nitid (NIT-id) adjective
Bright; shining; glossy. [From Latin nitidus (shining), from nitere (to shine).]
kitsch (kich) noun
1. Art or artwork characterized by sentimental, often pretentious bad taste. The aesthetic or mentality in which such art is conceived or appreciated. 2. Culture or civilization in a degraded state of sentimentality and vulgarity. adjective Relating to or characterized by kitsch. [German, probably of dialectal origin.]
bravura (bruh-VYOOR-uh, -VOOR-) noun, plural bravuras, bravure
1. A musical piece or performance involving great skill and a display of flair and brilliant style. 2. A display of spirit, daring, or boldness. adjective Marked by display of flair, spirit, style, boldness, etc. [From Italian bravura (bravery), from Latin barbarus, from Greek barbaros (barbarous).]
sensei (SEN-say, sen-SAY) noun
1. A judo or karate teacher. 2. A teacher or mentor. 3. Used as a form of address for such a person. [Japanese, teacher, master.]
sang-froid (sahn-FRWAH) noun
Coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances. [French : sang, blood (from Old French, from Latin sanguis) + froid, cold, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *frigidus, alteration of Latin frigidus.]
pink collar (PINGK KOL-uhr) noun
Pertaining to the type of jobs, such as telephone operator or secretary, traditionally held by women. [From the color pink, traditionally associated with women, on the model of phrases white collar or blue collar.]
hoosegow or hoosgow (HOOS-gou) noun
A jail. [From Spanish juzgado (court), past participle of juzgar (to judge), from Latin judicare (to judge). Ultimately from Indo-European root deik- (to show or to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]
talion (TAL-ee-uhn) noun
A punishment identical to the offense, as the death penalty for murder. [Middle English talioun, from Anglo-Norman, from Latin talio, talion-.]
gemutlichkeit (guh-myoo-likh-KYT, -MOOT-) noun
Warm friendliness; amicability. [German, from gemutlich, congenial.]
choleric (KOHL-uhr-ik) adjective
Easily irritated or angered: hot-tempered. [Middle English colerik, from Latin cholericus, from Greek cholerikos.]
garbology (gar-BOL-uh-jee) noun
The study of a society or culture by examining what it discards. [Garb(age) + -logy.]
tobacco road (tuh-BAK-oh road) noun
A poverty-stricken rural community. [After Tobacco Road (1932), a novel by Erskine Preston Caldwell (1903-1987).]
lexiphanes (lex-SIF-uh-neez) noun
One who uses words pretentiously. [From Greek lexiphanes (phrase monger), from lexis (word or phrase) + -phaneia (to show).]
tilde (TIL-duh) noun
A diacritical mark (~) placed over the letter n in Spanish to indicate the palatal nasal sound (ny), as in canon, or over a vowel in Portuguese to indicate nasalization, as in la, pao. [Spanish, alteration of obsolete Catalan title, from Latin titulus, superscription.]
blasphemy (BLAS-fuh-mee) noun
1. A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity. The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God. 2. An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct. [Middle English blasfemie, from Late Latin blasphemia, from Greek, from blasphemein, to blaspheme.]
accismus (ak-SIZ-muhs) noun
Feigning lack of interest in something while actually desiring it. [From Greek akkismos (coyness or affectation).]
nide (nyde) noun
A nest or brood of pheasants. [Latin nidus, nest.]
loricate (LOR-i-kayt) adjective
Covered with an armor, such as scales or bony plates on reptiles. [From Latin loricatus, from lorica (protective covering, corselet), from lorum (strap).]
eolian also aeolian (ee-O-lee-uhn, ee-OL-yuhn) adjective
Relating to, caused by, or carried by the wind. [From Aeolus, the god of the winds in Greek mythology.]
sad sack (sad sak) noun
A well-meaning but hopelessly inept person, especially a soldier. [After the cartoon character created by cartoonist George Baker (1915-1975) during World War II.]
retail therapy (REE-tayl THER-uh-pee) noun
Shopping as a means of comfort, relaxation, or cheering up. "Purchase a bauble and count the Rollses parked with motors running while the drivers wait for Madame and the packages from her afternoon blitz of retail therapy." Laura Kelly, Florida; A Palm Beach Survival Guide, The Washington Post, Nov 8, 1987. This week's theme: new words in the OED. -------- Date: Fri Jun 29 00:01:21 EDT 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--webliography webliography (web-lee-OG-ruh-fee) noun A list of electronic documents on a particular topic. [Blend of Web and bibliography.]
spatchcock (SPACH-kok) verb tr.
1. To insert or interpose something in a forced or awkward manner. 2. To split open a fowl for grilling. noun A fowl prepared in this manner. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps an alteration of spitchcock, a similar way of cooking an eel. Popular interpretation as a shortening of "dispatch cock" is etymologically not confirmed.]
taboo (tuh-BOO, TAB-oo) noun
Prohibition of a behavior, thing, person, etc. based on cultural or social norms. adjective Forbidden or banned. verb tr. To avoid or prohibit something as taboo. [From Tongan tapu or tabu (forbidden).]
amok (uh-MUK) adverb
1. In a murderous frenzy. 2. In a confused manner. adjective Wild with murderous frenzy. [From Malay amok.]
calefacient (cal-uh-FAY-shunt) noun
A substance (e.g. mustard) that produces a sensation of warmth when applied to a part of the body. adjective Producing warmth; heating. [From Latin calefacient-, stem of calefaciens, present participle of calefacere (to make warm), from calere (to be warm) + facere (to make). Other (some hot, some not) words derived from the Latin root calere are chafe, chauffeur (literally, a stoker) and nonchalant.]
moniker (MON-i-kuhr) noun
A person's name or nickname. [Probably from Shelta, a language used by itinerant people (known as Irish Travelers) in the British Isles. It has about 86,000 speakers.]
profluent (PROF-loo-ent) adjective
Flowing smoothly; flowing in full stream. [From Middle English, from Latin profluent-, stem of profluens, present participle of profluere (to flow forth), from pro- (forth) + fluere (to flow). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhleu- (to swell or overflow), from which flow words such as affluent, influence, influenza, fluctuate, fluent, fluid, fluoride, flush, flux, reflux, and superfluous.]
armada (ahr-MAH-duh) noun
1. A fleet of warships. 2. A large force or group, especially of things in motion. [From Spanish armada, from Latin armata (army).]
scission (SIZH-uhn) noun
1. An act of cutting or dividing. 2. Division, separation. [From Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin scission- from scindere (to cut).]
eyas (EYE-uhs) noun
A nestling hawk or falcon. [Middle English eias, from an eias, alteration of *a nias, an eyas, from Old French niais, from Latin nidus, nest.]
dictatress (dik-TAY-tres) noun
A female dictator. [From Latin dictator, from dictare (to dictate), frequentative of dicere (to say). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deik- (to show, to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]
ciceronian (sis-uh-RO-nee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or relating to Cicero. 2. In the style of Cicero, marked by ornate language, expansive flow, forcefulness of expression, etc. [After Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, orator, and writer (106-43 BCE). Another eponym derived from Cicero's name is cicerone (guide) ]
paludal (puh-LOOD-uhl) adjective
Of or relating to marshes. [From Latin palus (marsh).]
bibliopegy (bib-lee-OP-uh-jee) noun
The art and craft of binding books. [From Greek biblio- (book) + pegnynai (to fasten).]
coriaceous (kor-ee-AY-shuhs) adjective
Of or like leather, especially in texture. [From Late Latin coriaceus, from Latin corium, leather.]
hypnopompic (hip-no-POM-pik) adjective
Pertaining to the semiconscious state before waking. [From Greek hypnos (sleep) + pompe (sending away).]
toxophilite (tok-SOF-uh-lyt) noun
One who is fond of or expert at archery. [Coined by Roger Ascham (1515-1568), scholar and writer, as a proper name and the title of his book Toxophilus, from Greek toxon (bow) + -philos (loving).]
excursus (ik-SKUR-suhs) noun
1. A lengthy, appended exposition of a topic or point. 2. A digression. [Latin, from past participle of excurrere, to run out.]
bibliophage (BIB-lee-uh-fayj) noun
An ardent reader; a bookworm. [Biblio- book + -phage one that eats.]
monaural (mon-OR-uhl) adjective
1. Monophonic: sound recording and reproduction using only one channel. 2. Pertaining to one ear. [From mono-, one + aural, related to ear.]
pandemonium (pan-duh-MO-nee-uhm) noun
1. Wild uproar. 2. A place marked by disarray, noise, chaos, confusion, etc. 3. Hell. [From Pandaemonium, the capital of hell in Paradise Lost by John Milton (1608-1674).]
sentient (SEN-shent) adjective
1. Capable of perception by sense; conscious. 2. Sensitive in perception. noun Someone or something that has sensation. [From Latin sentient, present participle of sentire, to feel.]
meeken (MEEK-en) verb tr., intr.
To make or become meek or submissive. [From meek, from Old Norse mjukr (soft, meek).]
intercalary (in-TUHR-kuh-ler-ee, -KAL-uh-ree) adjective
Inserted in a calendar (for example, a day or a month). [From Latin inter- (between) + calare (to proclaim).]
guyot (GEE-oh) noun
A flat-topped submarine mountain. [After Arnold Henri Guyot (1807-1884), Swiss-born American geologist and geographer.]
proscenium (pro-SEE-nee-uhm) noun
The part of the stage that is in front of the curtain. [From Latin proscenium, from Greek proskenion, from pro- (before) + skene (scene).]
cherub (CHER-uhb) noun [plural cherubim (CHER-uh-bim, -yuh-bim)]
A winged celestial being. One of the second order of angels. cherub (CHER-uhb) noun [plural cherubs]
oligopsony (ol-i-GOP-suh-nee) noun
The market condition where a few buyers control the market for a product. [From Greek oligo- (few, little) + opsonia (purchase).]
disembogue (dis-em-BOAG) verb intr.
To discharge or pour out, as from the mouth of a river or stream. verb tr. To discharge. [From Spanish desembocar (to flow out), from des- (dis-) + embocar (to put into the mouth), from Latin en- (in) + boca (mouth), from bucca (cheek).]
perfervid (puhr-FUHR-vid) adjective
Extremely or excessively passionate. [From Latin perfervidus, from Latin per- (thoroughly) + fervidus (boiling). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhreu- (to boil or to bubble), that is also the source of brew, bread, broth, braise, brood, breed, and barmy.]
gunk (gungk) noun
Any sticky or greasy residue or accumulation. [Originally a trademark name for a degreasing solvent.]
eagre (EE-guhr) noun
A high tidal wave rushing upstream into an estuary. Also known as a tidal bore. [Of obscure origin.]
peccavi (pe-KAH-vee) noun
An admission of guilt or sin. [From Latin peccavi (I have sinned), from peccare (to err).]
cunctator (kungk-TAY-tuhr) noun
One who hesitates; a procrastinator or delayer. [From Latin cunctari (to hesitate, delay).]
bollard (BOL-uhrd) noun
A thick post on a ship or wharf, used for securing ropes and hawsers. [Middle English, probably from bole, tree trunk.]
pedagogue (PED-a-gog) noun, also pedagog
1. A schoolteacher; an educator. 2. One who instructs in a pedantic or dogmatic manner. [Middle English pedagoge, from Old French, from Latin paedagogus, slave who supervised children, including taking them to and from school, from Greek paidagogos : paido-, boy + agogos, leader (from agein, to lead).]
bloviate (BLO-vee-ayt) verb intr.
To speak pompously. [Pseudo-Latin alteration of blow, to boast; popularized by 29th US President, Warren G. Harding (1865-1923).]
iris (EYE-ris) noun, plural irises, irides
1. The pigmented tissue of the eye in the center of which is the opening called the pupil. 2. A rainbow. 3. A showy, flowering plant. [From Latin iris, from Greek Iris/iris (the goddess of the rainbow, rainbow).]
bombast (BOM-bast) noun
Pompous speech or writing. [From Old French bombace (cotton padding), from Latin bombax (cotton).]
amulet (AM-yuh-lit) noun
An object worn, especially around the neck, as a charm against evil or injury. [Latin amuletum.]
syllepsis (si-LEP-sis) noun
A construction in which a word governs two or more other words but agrees in number, gender, or case with only one, or has a different meaning when applied to each of the words, as in He lost his coat and his temper. [Late Latin syllepsis, from Greek sullepsis : sun-, + lepsis, a taking (from lambanein, to take).]
scrannel (SKRAN-l) adjective
1. Thin. 2. Unmelodious. [Of unknown origin.]
earwig (EER-wig) noun
Any of various elongate insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of pincerlike appendages protruding from the rear of the abdomen. earwig tr.verb To attempt to influence by persistent confidential argument or talk. [Middle English erwig, from Old English earwicga : eare, ear + wicga, insect.]
goliath (guh-LIE-eth) noun
A giant; a person or organization of enormous size or power. [After Goliath, a giant Philistine warrior, who was slain by David using a sling and a stone.]
lariat (LAIR-ee-uht) noun
A long, light rope with a running noose, used to catch cattle, horses, etc. Also known as a lasso. [From Spanish la reata (the rope), from reatar (to tie again), from re- (again) + atar (tie), from Latin aptare (join, fit), from aptus (apt, fit).]
picayune (pik-uh-YOON) adjective
1. Of little value or significance. 2. Petty, small-minded. noun 1. A Spanish-American coin equal to half the value of a real (a silver coin). 2. A small coin, especially a five-cent piece. 3. Something or someone of little value. [From French picaillon, from Provençal picaioun, a small coin.]
betise (bay-TEEZ) noun, plural betises (bay-TEEZ)
1. Stupidity, foolishness. 2. A foolish remark or action. [From French bêtise (stupidity, nonsense), from bête (foolish, beast), from Old French beste (beast), from Latin bestia. A related French term is bête noire (literally, black beast), something or someone dreaded or avoided.]
suppurate (SUHP-yuh-rayt) verb intr.
To produce or secrete pus. [From Latin suppuratus, past participle of suppurare, from sub- + pur- (pus).]
calvity (KAL-vi-ti) also calvities, noun
Baldness. [From Latin calvities (baldness), from calv-us (bald).]
temporize also temporise (TEM-puh-ryz) verb intr.
To delay so as to gain time or to avoid making a decision. [From French temporiser (to bide one's time), from Medieval Latin temporizare (to pass the time), from Latin tempor-, from tempus (time).]
guinea pig (GIN-ee pig) noun
1. A small rodent of the genus Cavia. 2. Someone or something used as a subject of experimentation. [Sense 2 from the fact the guinea pigs were formerly used for experimentation.]
vernissage (ver-nuh-SAZH) noun
A private showing or preview of an art exhibition before the public opening; also the reception celebrating the opening of an art exhibition. [From French vernissage (varnishing), from vernis (varnish), ultimately from Berenik, the name of an ancient city in Cyrenaica in northern Africa where natural resins were first used as varnish.]
sideburns (SYDE-burnz) plural noun
Growths of hair down the sides of a man's face in front of the ears, especially when worn with the rest of the beard shaved off. [Alteration of burnsides. After Ambrose Everett Burnside (1824-1881). American general and politician known more for his side-whiskers than for his career in the Union Army, which included defeats at Fredericksburg (1862) and Petersburg (1864)]
lacustrine (luh-KUS-trin) adjective
1. Of or relating to lakes. 2. Living or growing in or along the edges of lakes. [French, or Italian lacustre (from Latin lacus, lake) + -ine.]
panoply (PAN-uh-plee) noun
1. A splendid or striking array. 2. Ceremonial attire with all accessories. 3. Something that covers and protects. 4. The complete arms and armor of a warrior. [Greek panoplia : pan-, + hopla, arms, armor, pl. of hoplon, weapon.]
menology (mi-NOL-uh-jee) noun
A calendar, especially one commemorating specific people. [From Modern Latin menologium, from Late Greek menologion, from meno- (month) + -logy (account). It's the same meno that appears in menopause.]
wok (wok) noun
A pan with a convex base, used for frying, etc. [From Cantonese wohk (pan).]
galumph (guh-LUMF) verb intr.
To move or run clumsily or heavily. [Phonesthemic invention of Lewis Carroll, perhaps blend of gallop and triumphant.]
peripeteia also peripetia (per-uh-puh-TEE-uh, -TIE-uh) noun
A sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work. [Greek, from peripiptein, to change suddenly : peri-, peri- + piptein, to fall.]
alienist (AYL-yuh-nist) noun
A psychiatrist, especially one who has been accepted by a court to assess mental competence of those appearing in court regarding a case. [From French aliéniste (alienist), from Latin alienatus, past participle of alienare (to estrange), from Latin alienus (alien). Why this word? Because an alienist treats those who are believed to be alienated from their normal state of mind.]
acidulous (a-SIJ-uh-luhs) adjective
Somewhat sour in taste or in manner. [From Latin acidulus (slightly sour), diminutive of acidus (sour), from acere (to be sour). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ak- (sharp) that's also the source of acrid, vinegar, acid, acute, edge, hammer, heaven, eager, oxygen, and mediocre.]
manque (mank) noun
The numbers 1 to 18 in roulette. manque (mang-KAY) adjective Having failed, missed, or fallen short, especially because of circumstances or a defect of character; unsuccessful; unfulfilled or frustrated (usually used postpositively). [French past participle of manquer to lack, be short of, from Italian mancare, derivative of manco lacking, defective, from Medieval Latin, Late Latin mancus (Latin: feeble, literally, maimed, having a useless hand, probably derivative of manus hand)]
simpatico (sim-PA-ti-ko, -PAT-i-) adjective
1. Of like mind or temperament; compatible. 2. Having attractive qualities; pleasing. [Italian simpatico (from simpatia, sympathy), or Spanish simpatico, from simpatia, sympathy, both from Latin sympathia.]
sternutation (stur-nyuh-TAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of sneezing. 2. A sneeze. [Middle English sternutacioun, from Latin sternutatio, sternutation-, from sternutatus, past participle of sternutare, frequentative of sternuere, to sneeze.]
donnybrook (DON-ee-brook) noun
A brawl, a free-for-all. [After Donnybrook, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, where an annual fair was held until 1855. This Donnybrook Fair was known for its alcohol-fueled brawls.]
stormy petrel (STOR-mee PE-truhl) noun
1. Any of various small sea birds of the family Hydrobatidae having dark feathers and lighter underparts, also known as Mother Carey's Chicken. 2. One who brings trouble or whose appearance is a sign of coming trouble. [The birds got the name storm petrel or stormy petrel because old-time sailors believed their appearance foreshadowed a storm. It's not certain why the bird is named petrel. One unsubstantiated theory is that it is named after St Peter who walked on water in the Gospel of Matthew. The petrel's habit of flying low over water with legs extended gives the appearance that it's walking on the water.]
wunderkind (VOON-duhr-kind, wun-) noun, plural wunderkinder (-kin-duhr)
1. A child prodigy. 2. A person of remarkable talent or ability who achieves great success or acclaim at an early age. [German : Wunder, wonder, prodigy (from Middle High German, from Old High German wuntar) + Kind, child.]
syncretic (sin-KREH-tik) adjective
Combining different forms of belief or practice. [From Latin syncretismus, Greek synkretismos (union), from synkretizein (to unite in the manner of the Cretan cities), from syn (together) + Kret-, Kres (Cretan).]
acritochromacy (uh-KRIT-o-kro-muh-see) noun
Color blindness. [From Greek akritos (undistinguishing) + chroma (color).]
polliwog also pollywog (POL-ee-wog) noun
The limbless aquatic larva of a frog or toad, having gills and a long flat tail. As the polliwog approaches the adult stage, legs and lungs develop, and the tail gradually disappears. Also called tadpole. [Variant of polliwig, from Middle English polwigle : pol, head + wiglen, to wiggle.]
hobbledehoy (HOB-uhl-dee-hoy) noun
An awkward young fellow. [Of uncertain origin.]
lexis (LEK-sis) noun
The total set of words in a language as distinct from morphology; vocabulary. [Greek, speech, word.]
profligate (PROF-li-git, -gayt) adjective
1. Recklessly extravagant; wasteful. 2. Given over to dissipation; dissolute. noun A profligate person. [From Latin profligatus, past participle of profligare (to strike down, to ruin), from pro- (forth, down) + fligere (to strike).]
parisology (pa-ri-SOL-uh-jee) noun
The use of equivocal or ambiguous language. [From Ancient Greek parisos (almost equal, balanced) + logos (word).]
sophomoric (sof-uh-MOR-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to a sophomore or sophomores. 2. Suggestive of or resembling the traditional sophomore; intellectually pretentious, overconfident, conceited, etc., but immature. [Alteration (probably influenced by Greek sophos, wise, and moros, dull), of sophumer, from obsolete sophom, sophism, dialectic exercise variant of sophism.]
nares (NAR-eez) noun, singular naris
The nostrils or nasal passages. [From Latin nares, plural of naris (nostril).]
quinquagenarian (kwing-kwuh-juh-NAR-ee-uhn) noun
A person 50 years old, or in his or her fifties. adjective Of or characteristic of a person in his or her fifties. [From Latin quinquagenarius, containing fifty, from quinquageni, fifty each, from quinquaginta, fifty.]
endgame (END-gaym) noun
1. The final stage of a game of chess in which only a few pieces are left. 2. The final stage of a game, process, or activity. "Defense Secretary in the 1960s and memoir writer in the 1990s, McNamara still gropes for the elusive coherence that can offer a graceful endgame for his life." Ervin, Mike, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (book review), The Progressive (Madison, Wisconsin), Jun 1, 1995. This week's theme: words from chess. -------- Date: Mon Oct 8 00:02:02 EDT 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cecity cecity (SEE-si-tee) noun Blindness. [From Latin caecitas, from caecus (blind).]
salutary (SAL-yuh-ter-ee) adjective
1. Beneficial; useful; remedial. 2. Healthful. [Via French salutaire, or directly from Latin salutaris, from salut-, stem of salus- (health). Ultimately from Indo-European root sol- (whole). A few other words derived from this root are salute, safe, salvage, solemn, and save.]
bovine (BO-vyn, -veen) adjective
1. Of, relating to, or resembling a ruminant mammal of the genus Bos, such as an ox, cow, or buffalo. 2. Sluggish, dull, and stolid. noun An animal of the genus Bos. [Late Latin bovinus, from Latin bos, cow.]
litigious (li-TIJ-uhs) adjective
1. Pertaining to litigation. 2. Eager to engage in lawsuits. 3. Inclined to disputes and arguments. [From Middle English, from Latin litigiosus from litigium, dispute.]
moxie (MOK-see) noun
1. The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage. 2. Aggressive energy; initiative. 3. Skill; know-how. [From Moxie, trademark for a soft drink.]
roborant (ROB-uhr-uhnt) adjective
Strengthening. noun A tonic. [From Latin roborare (to strengthen), from robor- (oak, hardness). Ultimately from the Indo-European root reudh- (red) that also gave us red, rouge, ruby, ruddy, rubella, robust, corroborate, and rambunctious.]
mystagogue (MIS-tuh-gog) noun
One who teaches mystical doctrines or one who inititates others into a mystery cult. [From Latin mystagogus, from Greek mystagogos, from mystes (an initiate) + agogos (leader).]
vinculum (VING-kyuh-lum) noun
1. Mathematics. A bar drawn over two or more algebraic terms to indicate that they are to be treated as a single term. 2. Anatomy. A ligament that limits the movement of an organ or a part. 3. A bond or tie. [Latin, bond, tie, from vincire, to tie.]
cleave (kleev) verb tr., intr. Past tense: clove or cleft or cleaved. Past participle: cloven or cleft or cleaved
To split or divide. [From Old English cleofan. Ultimately from the Indo-European root gleubh- (to tear apart) that is also the source of glyph, clever, and clove (garlic). And that's also where cleavage, cleft palate, and cloven hooves get their names from.]
minnow (MIN-o) noun
1. Any of the small freshwater fish of the Cyprinidae family. 2. Someone or something considered insignificant. [Ultimately from Old High German munewa, a kind of fish, via Old English and Middle English.]
tittle-tattle (TIT-l-tat-l) noun
Petty gossip; trivial talk. intr.verb To talk idly or foolishly; gossip. [Reduplication of tattle.]
karst (karst) noun.
An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns. [German after the Karst, a limestone plateau near Trieste.]
per stirpes (pur-STUR-peez) noun
A method of dividing an estate in which each branch of the descendants of a deceased person receives an equal share. [From Latin, literally "by roots" or "by stocks".]
secund (SEE-kuhnd, SEK-uhnd) adjective
Arranged on (or turned towards) only one side of an axis. [From Latin secundus (following), from sequi (to follow).]
span-new (span-noo, -nyoo) adjective
Brand-new. [From Middle English spannewe, from Old Norse spannyr, from spann (chip of wood) + nyr (new). Ultimately from the Indo-European root newo- (new) that also gave us new, neo-, neon, novice, novel, novelty, innovate, and renovate. The same term appears in the phrase spick-and-span-new which was later shortened into spick-and-span. A spick is a spike; a spick-and-span-new ship referred to a brand new ship, one that is made up of new nails and new wood.]
silver bullet (SIL-vuhr BOOL-it) noun
A quick solution to a thorny problem. [From the belief that werewolves could be killed when shot with silver bullets.]
pococurante (po-ko-koo-RAN-tee, -kyoo-) adjective
Indifferent, apathetic, nonchalant. noun A careless or indifferent person. [From Italian, poco little + curante, present participle of curare, to care, from Latin, curare, cure, care.]
glossal (GLOS-uhl) adjective
Of or pertaining to the tongue. [From Greek glossa (tongue).]
seriatim (seer-i-AY-tim) adverb
One after another; in a series. [Medieval Latin seriatim, from Latin series, series.]
fourth wall (forth wol) noun
The imaginary wall between the stage and the audience. [From the idea of a stage as a box open on one side through which the audience sees the action. The term is also used as a metaphor for the boundary between fiction and reality.]
assuage (uh-SWAYJ, uh-SWAYZH) verb tr.
1. To soften or relieve (a burden or pain). 2. To pacify. 3. To appease or satisfy. [From Middle English aswagen, from Old French assouagier, from Vulgar Latin assuaviare, from Latin ad- + suavis (sweet).]
lissotrichous (li-SO-tri-kuhs) adjective
Having straight or smooth hair. [From Greek lissós (smooth) + trich-, from thrix, (hair). Some cousins of this word are cymotrichous (having wavy hair), trichotillomania (the compulsion to pull out one's hair), and its end result atrichia (baldness).]
pileous (PY-lee-uhs, PIL-ee-) adjective
Covered with hair. [From Latin pileus, from pilus (hair).]
lea (lee, lay) noun
A grassland. [From Old English leah (meadow). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leuk- (light) that has resulted in other words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, and lynx.]
noetic (no-ET-ik) adjective
Of or relating to the mind or intellect. [From Greek noetikos, from noein (to think), from nous (mind).]
sui juris (SOO-eye joor-is, SOO-ee) adjective
Legally competent to manage one's affairs or assume responsibility. [From Latin sui juris, from sui (of one's own) juris (right).]
peccadillo (pek-uh-DIL-o) noun
A minor offense. [From Spanish pecadillo, diminutive of pecado (sin), from Latin peccare (to sin). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ped- (foot) which gave us not only peccadillo (alluding to a stumble or fall) but also pedal, impeccable, podium, octopus, and impeach.]
indehiscent (in-di-HIS-uhnt) adjective
Not bursting open at maturity. [When a peapod is ripe after a long wait and bursts open, it's yawning, etymologically speaking. The term indehiscent comes from Latin dehiscere (to split open), from hiscere (to gape, yawn), from Latin hiare (to yawn). Another term that derives from the same root is hiatus.]
sine die (SY-nee DY-ee, SIN-ay DEE-ay) adverb
Without designating a future day for action or meeting; indefinitely. [From Latin sine (without) die (day).]
feme covert (fem KOV-uhrt) noun, plural femes covert
A married woman. [From Anglo-French feme covert, from feme (woman) + covert (protected).]
codicil (KOD-i-sil) noun
1. Law. A supplement or appendix to a will. 2. A supplement or appendix. [Middle English, from Old French codicille, from Latin codicillus, diminutive of codex, codic-, codex.]
circumscribe (SUHR-kuhm-skryb) verb tr.
To draw a line around, to enclose within bounds, to limit or restrict. [From Latin circumscribere, from circum- (around) + scribere (to write). Ultimately from the Indo-European root skribh- (to cut, separate, or sift) that has resulted in other terms such as manuscript, subscribe, scripture, scribble, describe, circumflex, and circumspect.]
frag (frag) noun
Fragmentation grenade: a grenade designed to scatter shrapnel over a large area. verb tr. To kill (especially an unpopular superior) by throwing a grenade or other explosive. [From shortening of fragmentation.]
panspermia (pan-SPUR-mee-uh) noun
The theory that microorganisms or biochemical compounds from outer space are responsible for originating life on Earth and possibly in other parts of the universe where suitable atmospheric conditions exist. [Greek, mixture of all seeds : pan-, pan- + sperma, seed.]
au contraire (oh kon-TRAIR) noun
On the contrary. [From French au contraire (on the contrary).]
greenroom or green room (GREEN-room) noun
A room in a studio or theater for performers to relax in before or after their appearances. [There are various unproven theories about the origin of the term. The most popular one, though unconfirmed, is that the area was painted green as a respite from the bright stage lighting.]
exurb (EK-suhrb) noun
A residential area outside a city and beyond its suburbs, typically inhabited by well-to-do families. [A blend of ex- + suburb.]
beacon (BEE-kuhn) noun
1. A signaling or guiding device, such as a lighthouse, located on a coast. 2. A radio transmitter that emits a characteristic guidance signal for aircraft. 3. A source of guidance or inspiration. 4. A signal fire, especially one used to warn of an enemy's approach. verb tr. To provide with or shine as a beacon. [Middle English beken, from Old English beacen.]
halcyon (HAL-see-uhn) adjective
1. Peaceful; tranquil. 2. Carefree; joyful. 3. Golden; prosperous. noun Any of various kingfishers of the genus Halcyon. [From Greek halkyon (kingfisher) via Latin and Middle English. Halcyon was a mythical bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was said to breed around the winter solstice. It nested at sea and had the power to charm the wind and waves so that they became calm.]
testate (TES-tayt) adjective
Having made a legally valid will. [From Latin testatus (witnessed), from testari (to bear witness or to make a will). Ultimately from the Indo-European root trei- (three) that's also the source of such words as three, testify (to be the third person: to bear witness), and triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).]
best gold (best gold) noun
The shot nearest the exact center of the bull's-eye. [The centermost circle (also known as bull's-eye) in a target is yellow or gold, hence the shot nearest to it is called the best gold.]
dittography (di-TOG-ruh-fee) noun
The inadvertent repetition of letters, words, or phrases in in writing. [From Greek ditto (double) + -graphy (writing).]
howbeit (hou-BEE-it) adverb
Nevertheless. Conjunction Although. [Originally from the expression 'how be it' (however it may be).]
nadir (NAY-duhr, NAY-deer) noun
1. The point on the celestial sphere directly below the observer, opposite the zenith. 2. The lowest point. [From Middle English, from Middle French, from Arabic nazir (opposite).]
kulturkampf as are the rabbis, see the deal as a step towards drawing
the ultra-Orthodox out of their ghettos of the mind and into the mainstream of cultural and intellectual life." Israel: Wasn't that worth waiting for?, The Economist, Jul 3, 1999. The German language's affinity for sesquipedalians once led Mark Twain to quip, "Some German words are so long that they have a perspective." Having polysyllabic words in a language is no sin as long as you get your words' worth. In that respect, those lengthy German words are worth every syllable. Where else can you find a single word, schadenfreude, for example, that conveys the whole concept of `pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others'. The English language knows a good thing when it sees one and has generously borrowed terms from German. This week we meet seven of them, both with and without `perspective'. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Mar 21 00:52:28 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ersatz ersatz (ER-zahts, er-ZATS) adjective Being an imitation or a substitute, usually an inferior one; artificial. [German, replacement, from ersetzen, to replace, from Old High German irsezzan : ir-, out + sezzan, to set.]
kleptomaniac (klep-tuh-MAY-nee-ak) noun
A person having an obsessive urge to steal, driven by emotional disturbance rather than material need. [From Greek klepto-, from kleptes (thief) + -mania (madness).]
hamartia (ha-mar-TEE-uh) noun
Tragic flaw. [Greek, from hamartanein, to miss the mark, err.]
oxter (OK-stuhr) noun
The armpit. [From Old English oxta. The Latin form is axilla. Both allude to the idea of the axis around which the arm rotates.]
ghost word (gost wurd) noun
A word that has come into a language through the perpetuation of a misreading of a manuscript, a typographical error, or a misunderstanding. "Reading a text in facsimile form is like a trapeze performance without a net: there's no glossary, for instance, and nothing to warn the unwary they may be puzzling over a scribally created ghost word rather than discovering something entered in no dictionary." Ralph Hanna, Facsimile of Oxford, The Huntington Library Quarterly, Jan 1, 1999. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Thu Sep 21 00:02:08 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--eisegesis eisegesis (eye-si-JEE-sis) noun, plural eisegeses (-seez) An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text. [From Greek eisegesis, equivalent to eis- into + (h)ege- (stem of hegeisthai to lead) + -sis.]
tar baby (tahr BAY-bee) noun
A situation or problem from which it is virtually impossible to disentangle oneself. [After "Bre'r Rabbit and the Tar Baby," (1879) an Uncle Remus story by Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908).]
perorate (PER-uh-rayt) verb intr.
1. To conclude a speech with a formal recapitulation. 2. To speak at great length, often in a grandiloquent manner; declaim. [Latin perorare, perorat- : per- + orare, to speak.]
athenaeum (ath-uh-NEE-um) noun
1. A library or reading room. 2. A literary or scientific club. [From Latin Athenaeum, from Greek Athenaion, a temple of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.]
rejoinder (ri-JOIN-duhr) noun
1. A sharp reply; retort. 2. In law, the defendant's answer to the plaintiff's reply/replication. [From Middle French rejoindre (to rejoin), from re- + joindre (to join), from Latin iungere. Ultimately from Indo-European root yeug- (to join), that is also the root of yoga, yoke, junction, jugular, junta, and adjust.]
capitol (KAP-i-tol) noun
1. A building or complex of buildings in which a state legislature meets. 2. Capitol. The building in Washington, D.C., where the Congress of the United States meets. [Middle English Capitol, Jupiter's temple in Rome, from Old French capitole, from Latin Capitolium after Capitolinus, Capitoline, the hill on which Jupiter's temple stood, perhaps akin to, caput, head.]
fin de siecle (fahn duh see-EH-kluh) adjective, also fin-de-siecle
Of or pertaining to the end of a century, especially the nineteenth century, and its climate of sophisticated world-weariness, self-doubt, etc. [From French, literally, the end of the century.]
solatium (so-LAY-shee-um) noun
Compensation for emotional suffering, injured feeling, inconvenience, grief, etc. (as opposed to physical injury, financial loss, for example). [From Latin solatium, variant of solacium (to comfort), from solari (to console).]
attainder (uh-TAYN-duhr) noun
Loss of property and civil rights of a person outlawed or sentenced to death. [Middle English, from Old French ataindre, to accuse.]
hornbook (HORN-book) noun
A primer. [From horn + book. In earlier times, a hornbook was a book containing the alphabet or other material for children. Though it would be stretching the definition of book by the present standard -- it had a wooden paddle with a handle that held a paper with learning material protected by the transparent layer of a cow's horn.]
calender (KAL-uhn-duhr) noun
A machine in which paper or cloth is made smooth and glossy by being pressed through rollers. verb tr. To press (paper or cloth) in the rollers of such a machine. [French calandre, from Vulgar Latin *colendra, alteration (possibly influenced by Latin columna, column), of Latin cylindrus, roller.]
flack (flak) noun
1. A press agent. 2. Publicity. Verb intr. To act as a press agent. Verb tr. To publicize. [Origin unknown, possibly after Gene Flack, a publicity agent for movies.]
catholicon (kuh-THOL-i-kuhn) noun
A panacea or cure-all. -Anu Garg (words at [Via Latin from Greek katholikos (general), from kata (according to, by) + holou (whole). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sol- (whole) that gave us words such as solid, salute, save, salvo, and soldier.]
concordance (kuhn-KOR-dns) noun
1. Agreement; concord. 2. An alphabetical index of all the words in a text or corpus of texts, showing every contextual occurrence of a word. 3. The presence of a given trait in both members of a pair of twins. "They began with a concordance to the scrolls -- an index that lists each word -- prepared under the auspices of the official team in the 1950s but not made available until 1988." Richard N. Ostling, The Computer Keys' Scrolls Closely held ancient documents are revealed through modern software, Time, 16 Sep 1991. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Sun Feb 13 00:04:28 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--holograph holograph (HOL-uh-graf) noun 1. A document written wholly in the handwriting of the person whose signature it bears. 2. A hologram. adjective Variant of holographic. [From Late Latin holographus, entirely written by the signer, from Greek holographos : holo-, + -graphos, -graph.]
heebie-jeebies (HEE-bee JEE-bee-z) noun
Extreme nervousness; jitters, creeps. [Coined by cartoonist Billy DeBeck (1890-1942) in his comic strip Barney Google. He also coined the term hotsy-totsy: ]
nom de guerre (nom deh GARE, rhymes with dare) noun, plural noms de guerre
An assumed name; pseudonym. [From French, nom (name) + de (of) + guerre (war). A related term is guerrilla. Both derive from the same Indo-European root wers- (to confuse, to mix up), also the root of such words as worse, worst, and war.]
duodenum (doo-uh-DEE-nuhm, doo-OD-n-uhm, dyoo-) noun
The first portion of the small intestine (so called because its length is approximately twelve fingers' breadth). [From Medieval Latin, short for intestinum duodenum digitorum (intestine of twelve fingers), from Latin duodeni (twelve each), from duodecim (twelve).]
forehanded (FOR-han-did) adjective
1. Providing for the future needs; prudent. 2. Well-to-do. 3. Made with the palm facing forward (such as a stroke in tennis). [From forehand, from fore- (front) + hand. From the idea of having worked toward the future.]
interrex (IN-tuhr-reks) noun, plural interreges (in-tuhr-REE-jeez)
A person holding supreme authority in a state during an interregnum (the interval of time between the end of a sovereign's reign and the accession of a successor). [From Latin, inter- between + rex, king.]
deride (di-RYD) verb tr.
To laugh at in scorn or contempt. [From Latin deridere, from de- + ridere (to laugh). Other words that share the same root are ridiculous and risible.]
flatulent (FLACH-uh-lent) adjective
1. Of, afflicted with, or caused by flatulence, the presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract. 2. Inducing or generating flatulence. 3. Pompous; bloated. [French, from Latin flatus, fart.]
cairn (kairn) noun
A heap of stones set up as a landmark or a memorial. [From Scottish Gaelic carn (pile of stones).]
firth (furth) noun
Scots. A long, narrow inlet of the sea. [Middle English furth, from Old Norse fjordhr.]
pandect (PAN-dekt) noun
1. A comprehensive digest or complete treatise. 2. pandects. A complete body of laws; a legal code. 3. Pandects. A digest of Roman civil law, compiled for the emperor Justinian in the sixth century A.D. and part of the Corpus Juris Civilis. In this sense, also called Digest. [Latin pandectes, encyclopedia, from Greek pandektes, all-receiving : pan-, + dektes, receiver (from dekhesthai, to receive, accept).]
taupe (toap, rhymes with rope) noun
A brownish gray, similar to the color of moleskin. [From French taupe (mole), from Latin talpa.]
interpellate (in-tuhr-PEL-ayt) verb tr.
To question formally an official, a member of government, etc. [From Latin interpellatus, past participle of interpellare (to interrupt), from inter- (between) + pellare (to thrust).]
duplicitous (doo-plisi-ts, dyoo-) adjective
Given to or marked by deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech. [Middle English duplicite, from Old French, from Late Latin duplicitas, doubleness, from Latin duplex, duplic-, twofold.]
agio (AJ-ee-o) noun
1. The charge for exchanging currency. 2. The premium or percentage when paying in a foreign currency to compensate for the exchange cost. 3. Foreign exchange business. [From Italian agio (ease, convenience).]
subjacent (sub-JAY-suhnt) adjective
Lying under or below something. [From Latin subjacent- (stem of subjacens), present participle of subjacere (to underlie), from sub- (under) + jacere (to lie). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ye- (to throw), that is also the source of jettison, eject, project, reject, object, subject, adjective, joist, and ejaculate.]
sexagesimal (sek-suh-JES-uh-muhl) adjective
Of, relating to, or based on the number 60. [From Latin sexagesimus, sixtieth.]
agrestic (uh-GRES-tik) adjective
1. Rural; rustic. 2. Crude; unpolished. [From Latin agrestis (of fields), from ager (field, land). Ultimately from the Indo-European root agro- (field) that's also the source of agriculture, acre, peregrine, and pilgrim (a variant of peregrine).]
saponaceous (sap-uh-NAY-shus) adjective
Soapy, slippery, evasive. [From New Latin saponaceus, from Latin sapon- (soap).]
netherworld also nether world (NETH-r-wurld) noun
1. The world of the dead; Hades. 2. The underworld; hell. 3. The lower depths of society. [Middle English, from Old English neothera, from neother, down + world.]
pod (pod) noun
1. Botany. A dehiscent fruit of a leguminous plant such as the pea. A dry, several-seeded, dehiscent fruit. Also called seedpod. 2. Zoology. A protective covering that encases the eggs of some insects and fish. 3. A casing or housing forming part of a vehicle, as: A streamlined external housing that encloses engines, machine guns, or fuel. Aerospace. A detachable compartment on a spacecraft for carrying personnel or instrumentation. 4. Something resembling a pod, as in compactness. verb intr. 1. To bear or produce pods. 2. To expand or swell like a pod. verb tr. To remove (seeds) from a pod. noun A school of marine mammals, such as seals, whales, or dolphins. noun 1. The lengthwise groove in certain boring tools such as augers. 2. The socket for holding the bit in a boring tool. [Origin unknown.]
dis (dis) verb tr., also diss
To show disrespect for. [Of uncertain origin, apparently a shortening of disrespect.]
fizzle (FIZ-uhl) intr.verb
1. To make a hissing or sputtering sound. 2. Informal. To fail or end weakly, especially after a hopeful beginning. fizzle noun Informal. A failure; a fiasco. [Probably from obsolete fist, to break wind, from Middle English fisten.]
milady also miladi (mi-LAY-dee) noun
1. An English gentlewoman or a woman member of the aristocracy. 2. A woman of fashion. [From French, from English my lady.]
alarum (a-LAH-ruhm) noun
A warning or an alarm, especially a call to arms. [Middle English alarom, variant of alarm, alarm.]
ekistics (i-KIS-tiks) noun
The science of human settlements, including city or community planning and design. [Ultimately from Greek oikistikos, of settlements, from oikistes, colonizer, founder, from oikizein, to settle, from oikos, house.]
apostrophe (uh-POS-truh-fee) noun
The superscript sign (') used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, and the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations. [French, from Late Latin apostrophus, from Greek apostrophos, from apostrephein, to turn away : apo-, + strephein, to turn.]
illation (i-LAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of inferring. 2. An inference or conclusion drawn. [From Late Latin illation-, from Latin illatus, past participle of inferre (to bring in), from il- + ferre (to carry).]
hydra (HIGH-druh) noun
Any of several small freshwater polyps of the genus Hydra and related genera, having a naked cylindrical body and an oral opening surrounded by tentacles. [New Latin Hydra, genus name, from Latin Hydra.]
mumbo jumbo (MUM-bo JUM-bo) noun
1. Meaningless, unintelligible, complicated, or confusing language. 2. Complicated language or jargon used in order to confuse. 3. An object believed to possess supernatural powers. [Or uncertain origin, probably from Mandingo, a group of Mande languages in western Africa.]
kip (kip) noun
A basic unit of currency in Laos. [Thai.]
calvous (KAL-vuhs) adjective
Bald. [From Latin calvus (bald).]
waspish (WOS-pish) adjective
1. Like a wasp, in behavior (stinging) or in form (slender build). 2. Easily annoyed; irascible; petulant. [From wasp, from Middle English waspe, from Old English waesp, from waeps.]
contumelious (kon-too-MEE-lee-uhs, -tyoo-) adjective
Rudely contemptuous. [From Latin contumelia, perhaps from contumax (insolent).]
ghetto (GET-o) noun
1. Part of a city, typically densely populated and run-down, inhabited by members of an ethnic group or a minority, for social, economic or legal reasons. 2. A situation or environment characterized by isolation, inferior status, bias, restriction, etc. [From a word for a foundry, to the name of an island, to the place where Jews were forced to live, to its current sense, the word ghetto is a fascinating example of how words come to mean something entirely different as they travel through time. The word originated from Latin jacere (to throw), the root of words such as project, inject, adjective, jet. Venetian getto is the word for a foundry for artillery. As the site of such a foundry, a Venetian island was named Getto. Later when Jews were forced to live there because of persecution, the word became synonymous with cramped quarters, populated by isolated people.]
pyrophoric (pie-ruh-FOR-ik) adjective
1. Spontaneously igniting in air. 2. Producing sparks by friction. [From pyrophorus, substance that ignites spontaneously :, from Greek purophoros, fire-bearing : puro-, pyro- + -phoros, -phorous.]
reverberate (ri-VUR-buh-rayt) verb intr.
1. To resound in or as if in a succession of echoes; reecho. 2. To be repeatedly reflected, as sound waves, heat, or light. 3. To be forced or driven back; recoil or rebound. verb tr. 1. To reecho (a sound). 2. To reflect (heat or light) repeatedly. 3. To drive or force back; repel. 4. To subject (a metal, for example) to treatment in a reverberatory furnace. [Latin reverberare, reverberat-, to repel : re-, + verberare, to beat (from verber, whip.]
colporteur (KAWL-por-tuhr) noun
A peddler of religious books. [From French colporteur (peddler), from col (neck) + porter (to carry), from Latin portare, from the idea of a peddler carrying his wares in a bag hung around his neck. Ultimately from Indo-European root per- (to lead, pass over) that gave us other words such as support, comport, petroleum, sport, passport, Swedish fartlek (a training technique), Norwegian fjord (bay), and Sanskrit parvat (mountain).]
margaritaceous (mar-guhr-i-TAY-shuhs) adjective
Pearly. [From Latin margarita, from Greek margarites (pearl).]
mecca (MEK-uh) noun
A place regarded as a center of some activity or one that many people visit. [After Mecca, a city in western Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Muhammad, and a place of pilgrimage for Muslims.]
kvell (kvel) verb intr.
To feel proud; to beam; to gloat. [From Yiddish kveln, from German quellen (to gush, to well up).]
deltiology (del-tee-OL-uh-jee) noun
The study or collecting of postcards. [From Greek deltion, diminutive of deltos (writing tablet) + -logy.]
polyphagia (pol-ee-FAY-jee-uh) noun
1. Excessive appetite or eating. 2. The habit of feeding on many kinds of food. [From Modern Latin, from Greek polyphagia, from polyphagos, from poly- (much, many) + phagy (eating).]
shank's mare (SHANGKS mare) noun
One's own legs. Also known as shank's pony. [From facetiously referring to one's legs as a horse, a shank being the part of the leg between the knee and ankle.]
caruncle (KAR-ung-kuhl) noun
A fleshy growth, such as a rooster's comb. [From Latin caruncula (small piece of flesh), diminutive of caro (flesh). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that is also the source of skirt, curt, screw, shard, shears, carnage, carnivorous, carnation, sharp, and scrape.]
magisterial (maj-uh-STEER-ee-uhl) adjective
1. Having the characteristics of a master or teacher; authoritative. 2. Domineering or overbearing. 3. Of or relating to a magistrate. [From Late Latin magisterialis (of authority), from magisterium, from Latin magister (master), ultimately from Indo-European root meg- (great) that's also the source of words such as magnificent, maharajah, mahatma, master, mistress, maestro, maximum, and magnify.]
physis (FY-sis) noun
1. Nature personified; nature as a source of growth or change. 2. Something that grows, changes, or becomes. [From Greek physis (origin).]
tarmac (TAHR-mak) noun
A tarmacadam road or surface, especially an airport runway. verb tr. To cause (an aircraft) to sit on a taxiway. verb intr. To sit on a taxiway. Used of an aircraft. [Originally a trademark.]
chrysalis (KRIS-uh-lis)
noun [plural chrysalises or chrysalides (kri-SAL-i-deez)]
riant (RI-uhnt) adjective
Smiling, cheerful. [From French riant, present participle of rire (to laugh), from Latin ridere (to laugh).]
backronym (BAK-ro-nim) noun
A word re-interpreted as an acronym. [Compound of back + acronym.]
virtuoso (vur-choo-OH-soh, -zos) noun [plural virtuosos or virtuosi (-see)]
1. A musician with masterly ability, technique, or personal style. 2. A person with masterly skill or technique in the arts. 3. A person who experiments or investigates in the arts and sciences; a savant. virtuoso adjective Exhibiting the ability, technique, or personal style of a virtuoso. [Italian, skilled, of great worth, virtuoso, from Late Latin virtuosus, virtuous, from Latin virtus, excellence.]
chapfallen or chopfallen (CHAP-faw-luhn, chop-) adjective
Dejected or dispirited. [From chap or chop (jaw) + fallen.]
deciduous (di-SIJ-oo-uhs) adjective
1. Falling off or shed at a specific season or stage of growth. 2. Shedding or losing foliage at the end of the growing season. 3. Not lasting; ephemeral. [From Latin deciduus, from decidere, to fall off : de-, de- + cadere, to fall.]
nudiustertian (nu-di-uhs-TUR-shuhn) adjective
Of or relating to the day before yesterday. [From Latin nudius tertius, literally, today is the third day.]
anchorite (ANG-kuh-ryt) noun, also anchoret
One who lives in seclusion; a hermit. [Via Middle English, Medieval Latin, Late Latin, Late Greek, from Greek anakhoretes, to withdraw.]
bounden (BOWN-den) adjective
1. Obligatory. 2. Archaic. Being under obligation; obliged. [Middle English, past participle of binden, to bind, from Old English bindan.]
scrofulous (SKROF-yuh-luhs) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to or affected with scrofula. 2. Morally corrupt. [From scrofula, a tuberculosis of the lymph glands, especially of the neck. The word scrofula derives from Late Latin scrofulae, plural of scrofula, diminutive of Latin scrofa (breeding sow), perhaps from the belief that breeding sows were subject to the disease. In olden times it was believed that a royal touch would cure the disease, which was also known as "king's evil".]
shellac (shuh-LAK) verb tr.
1. To coat or treat with varnish. 2. To defeat easily or decisively. 3. To strike repeatedly; batter. noun 1. Purified lac (a resinous substance secreted by the female of the lac insect) in the form of thin sheets. 2. Varnish made by dissolving this material in alcohol or other solvent. 3. A phonograph record made of this substance, played at 78 rpm. [From shell + lac (translation of French laque en ecailles: lac in thin plates).]
entente (ahn-TAHNT) noun
1. A friendly understanding or agreement between two or more parties, governments, etc. 2. The parties to such an agreement. [From French entente (understanding), from Old French entente (intent), past participle of entendre (to understand, intend), from Latin intendere, from in- (toward) + tendere (to stretch). Other words derived from the same Latin root are attend, extend, pretend, tense, and tender.]
thespian (THES-pee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or relating to drama; dramatic. 2. Thespian. Of or relating to Thespis. noun An actor or actress. [From Thespis, Greek poet (sixth century BCE), who reputedly originated Greek tragedy.]
lorgnette (lorn-YET) noun
A pair of eyeglasses or opera glasses on a handle. [From French, from lorgner (to have a furtive look), from Middle French lorgne (squinting).]
aglet (AG-lit) noun
1. A tag or metal sheath on the end of a lace, cord, or ribbon to facilitate its passing through eyelet holes. 2. A similar device used for an ornament. [Middle English, from Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille, needle, from Vulgar Latin *acucula, from Late Latin acucula, diminutive of Latin acus, needle.]
nudnik (NOOD-nik) noun
A boring pest. [From Yiddish nudyen (to bore), from Polish nudzic + -nik (suffix denoting a person associated with a particular quality, group, etc.]
synonym (SIN-uh-nim) noun
1. A word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or other words in a language. 2. A word or an expression that serves as a figurative or symbolic substitute for another. 3. A scientific name of an organism or of a taxonomic group that has been superseded by another name at the same rank. [Middle English sinonyme, from Old French synonyme, from Latin synonymum, from Greek sunonumon, from neuter of sunonumos, synonymous.]
palmary (PAL-muh-ree) adjective
Of supreme importance; outstanding; praiseworthy. [From Latin palmarius (deserving or carrying the palm), from palma (palm). The branches of the palm tree were carried as symbols of victory in ancient times. The name of the palm tree derives from the resemblance of the shape of its frond to the palm of a hand.]
androcracy (an-DROK-ruh-see) noun
Social and political rule by men. [Andro- male + -cracy, government, rule.]
druthers (DRUTH-uhrz) noun
One's own way; preference. [Plural of druther, contraction of "'d rather", as in "I/he/etc. would rather ..."]
chartreuse (shahr-TROOZ, -TROOS) noun
1. A light, yellowish green. 2. An aromatic, usually yellow or green liqueur, originally made by Carthusian monks in Grenoble, France. adjective Having a light, yellowish green color. [From French, after La Grande Chartreuse, the name of Carthusian monastery near Chartreuse mountain where this liqueur was first made.]
conspectus (kuhn-SPEK-tuhs) noun
A general survey, synopsis, outline, or digest of something. [From Latin conspectus, past participle of conspicere, from con- (complete) + spicere (to look).]
excursive (ik-SKUR-siv) adjective
Tending to wander off; rambling. [From Latin excurrere (to run out), from ex- (out) + currere (to run). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kers- (to run) that's also the source of car, career, carpenter, occur, discharge, and caricature. Why caricature? Because a caricature is a loaded or distorted picture of someone.]
redoubtable (re-DOU-tuh-buhl) adjective
Arousing fear or awe; evoking respect or honor. [From Middle English redoubtabel, from Old French redoutable, from redouter (to dread), from re- (again) + douter (to doubt, fear).]
palindrome (PAL-in-droam) noun
1. A word, phrase, verse, or sentence that reads the same backward or forward. For example: A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! 2. A segment of double-stranded DNA in which the nucleotide sequence of one strand reads in reverse order to that of the complementary strand. [From Greek palindromos, running back again, recurring : palin, again + dromos, a running.]
indite (in-DYT) verb tr.
To write or to compose. [From Middle English enditen, from Old French enditer, from Vulgar Latin indictare (to compose), from Latin indicere (to proclaim), from in- + dicere (to say).]
panopticon (pan-OP-ti-kon) noun
A building, as a prison, hospital, library, or the like, so arranged that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point. [Pan- + Greek optikon sight, seeing (neuter of optikos).]
dharma (DHAR-muh) noun
1. Duty; right behavior. 2. Law, especially the eternal law of the cosmos. 3. Religion. [From Sanskrit dharma (law, custom, duty). Ultimately from Indo-European root dher- (to hold firmly or support) that is also the source of firm, affirm, confirm, farm, fermata, and firmament.]
ninnyhammer (NIN-ee-ham-uhr) noun
A fool; blockhead. [Of uncertain origin. From ninny (perhaps shortening of innocent) + hammer (possibly from hammerheaded).]
labrose (LA-bros) adjective
Having thick or large lips. [From Latin labrosus, from labrum (lip). Other words derived from the same Latin root are lip, labial, and labret (an ornament worn in a pierced lip).]
cockamamie (KOK-uh-may-mee) adjective, also cockamamy
Ridiculous; nonsensical. [The origin of the term cockamamie is not confirmed. It's believed that it's a corruption of decalcomania, the process of transferring a design from a specially prepared paper to another surface. In the beginning, a cockamamie was a fake tattoo, moistened with water and applied to the wrist. How it took the sense of something pointless is uncertain. It's perhaps been influenced by such terms as cock-and-bull or poppycock.]
skedaddle (ski-DAD-l) verb intr.
To leave hurriedly. [First noticed during the American Civil War in 1861. Perhaps from northern England dialect.]
potvaliant (POT-val-iant) adjective, also pot-valiant
Showing courage under the influence of drink. Such courage is also known as Dutch courage. [From pot (a drinking vessel) + valiant (courageous).]
nostomania (nos-tuh-MAY-nee-uh, -mayn-yuh) noun
An overwhelming desire to return home or to go back to familiar places. [From Greek nostos (a return home) + -mania (excessive enthusiasm or madness).]
quean (kween) noun
1. A woman regarded as being disreputable, especially a prostitute. 2. Scots. A young woman. [Middle English quene, from Old English cwene, woman.]
velleity (vuh-LEE-i-tee) noun
Volition at its faintest. [From Latin velle (to wish), ultimately from Indo-European root wel- (to wish, will) which is also the ancestor of well, will, wealth, wallop, gallop, voluptuous, and voluntary.]
pronunciamento (proh-nun-si-uh-MEN-toh) noun
An official or authoritarian declaration; a proclamation or an edict. [Spanish pronunciamiento, from pronunciar, to pronounce, from Latin pronuntiare.]
annulus (AN-yuh-luhs) noun
1. A ringlike figure, part, structure, or marking, such as a growth ring on the scale of a fish. 2. A ring or group of thick-walled cells around the sporangia of many ferns that functions in spore release. The ringlike remains of a broken partial veil, found around the stipes of certain mushrooms. 3. Mathematics. The figure bounded by and containing the area between two concentric circles. [Latin anulus, ring, diminutive of anus.]
mogul (MO-guhl) noun, also moghul or mughal
A powerful or influential person; magnate. [After Mogul, one of the dynasty of Mongol conquerors whose rule in India spanned from 1526 to 1857.]
excelsior (ik-SEL-see-uhr) noun
Slender, curved wood shavings used especially for packing. [Originally a trade name.]
purple passage (PUR-puhl PAS-ij) noun, also purple patch, purple prose
1. A brilliant passage in an otherwise dull and uninspiring work. 2. A piece of writing marked by ornate, florid style. [From Latin pannus purpureus (purple patch), a phrase used by poet Horace in his Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry) to suggest a patch of royal fabric on an ordinary cloth.]
numen (NOO-muhn, NYOO-) noun [plural numina (-muh-nuh)]
1. A presiding divinity or spirit of a place. 2. A spirit believed by animists to inhabit certain natural phenomena or objects. 3. Creative energy; genius. [Latin numen, nod of the head, divine power, numen.]
rapscallion (rap-SKAL-yen) noun
A rascal; rogue. [From alteration of rascallion, from rascal.]
logrolling (LOG-ro-ling) noun
1. The exchanging of political favors, especially the trading of influence or votes among legislators to achieve passage of projects that are of interest to one another. 2. The exchanging of favors or praise, as among artists, critics, or academics. 3. A game of skill, especially among lumberjacks, in which two competitors try to balance on a floating log while spinning it with their feet. [From the early American practice of neighbors gathering to help clear land by rolling off and burning felled timber.]
brummagem (BRUM-uh-juhm) adjective
Cheap and showy. noun Something that is counterfeit or of inferior quality. [After Brummagem, a dialectal form of Birmingham, UK, where counterfeit coins were produced in the 17th century. Brummie is a nickname for someone from Birmingham.]
last hurrah (last hoo-rah) noun
A final appearance or effort, especially at the end of a career. [After The Last Hurrah, a novel by American writer Edwin O'Connor (1918-1968).]
endogenous (en-DOJ-e-nuhs) adjective
1. Produced or growing from within. 2. Originating or produced within an organism, a tissue, or a cell. [Endo- inside + -genous producing.]
schadenfreude (SHAAD-n-froiduh) noun
Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. [German : Schaden, damage (from Middle High German schade, from Old High German scado) + Freude, joy, from Middle High German vreude, from Old High German frewida, from fro, happy.]
asperse (a-SPURS) verb tr.
1. To spread false or damaging charges or insinuations against. 2. To sprinkle, especially with holy water. [Middle English, to besprinkle, from Latin aspergere, aspers- : ad- + spargere, to strew.]
randy (RAN-dee) adjective
Lustful; lewd; lecherous. Scots: rude; coarse. [Probably from obsolete Scots rand (to rant).]
garboil (GAHR-boil) noun
Confusion; turmoil. [Via French and Italian from Latin bullire (to boil).]
iniquity (i-NIK-wi-tee) noun
1. Gross immorality or injustice; wickedness. 2. A grossly immoral act; a sin. [Middle English iniquite, from Old French, from Latin iniquitas, from iniquus, unjust, harmful : in-, not + aequus, equal.]
dowse (douz) verb tr., intr.
To search for underground water or minerals with a divining rod. [Of obscure origin.]
satrap (SAY-trap, SAT-rap) noun
1. A governor of a province in ancient Persia. 2. A subordinate ruler or official. [Middle English satrape, from Latin satrapes, from Greek satrapes, from Old Persian khshathrapavan, protector of the county.]
hessian (HESH-uhn) adjective
1. A mercenary soldier or a ruffian. 2. Burlap. [After Hesse, a state in central Germany. Sense 1 derives from the fact that Hessian mercenaries served in the British army in America during the American Revolution.]
continuance (kuhn-TIN-yoo-uhns) noun
1. The state of continuing: remaining in the same place, action, etc. 2. An adjournment of a court proceeding to a future day. [From Anglo-French continuer, from Latin continuare, from continere (to hold together), from com- (together) + tenere (to hold).]
cinematheque (sin-uh-muh-TEK) noun
A small movie theater showing classic or avant-garde films. [French cinematheque, blend of cinema and bibliotheque, library (from Latin bibliotheca).]
sui generis (soo-eye JEN-uhr-is) adjective
Of its own kind; unique. [From Latin sui (of its own) + generis (kind).]
pogonotrophy (po-guh-NAW-truh-fee) noun
The growing of a beard. [From Greek pogon (beard) + -trophy (nourishment, growth).]
covey (KUV-ee) noun
1. A family or small flock of birds, especially partridge or quail. 2. A small group, as of persons. [Middle English, from Old French covee, brood, from feminine past participle of cover, to incubate, from Latin cubare, to lie down.]
herbivorous (hur-BIV-uhr-uhs, ur-) adjective
Feeding on plants; plant-eating. [From New Latin herbivorus : Latin herba, vegetation + Latin -vorus, -vorous.]
sangfroid or sang-froid (san-FRWA) noun
Calmness, especially under stress. [From French sang-froid (literally cold blood).]
calced (kalst) adjective
Wearing shoes. [From Latin calceus (shoe).]
opisthograph (o-PIS-thuh-graf) noun
A manuscript, parchment, or book having writing on both sides of the leaves. [Latin opisthographus, from Greek opisthographos: opistho-, back + -graph, writing.]
somnific (som-NIF-ik) adjective
Causing sleep. [From Latin somnificus (causing sleep), from somnus (sleep) + facere (to make). Ultimately from Indo-European root swep- (to sleep) that is also the source of insomnia, hypnosis, soporific (inducing sleep) and somnambulate (to walk in sleep).]
ragamuffin (RAG-uh-muf-in) noun
Someone, especially a child, in ragged, dirty clothes. [After Ragamoffyn, a demon in William Langland's 14th century poem Piers Plowman.]
ambsace (AYM-zays) noun, also amesace
1. The double ace, the lowest throw of the dice with one spot showing uppermost on both dice. 2. The smallest amount of anything. 3. Bad luck. [From Middle English ambes as, from Old French, from Latin ambas (both) + as (aces).]
disparage (di-SPAR-ij) verb tr.
1. To speak slightingly; to belittle. 2. To lower in rank or estimation. [From Middle English, from Old French desparage (to match unequally), from dis- + parage (equality), from per (peer), from Latin par (equal). A few cousins of this word are par, parity, peer, compare, and nonpareil.]
grommet (GROM-it) also grummet (GRUM-) noun
1. A reinforced eyelet, as in cloth or leather, through which a fastener may be passed. A small metal or plastic ring used to reinforce such an eyelet. 2. Nautical. A loop of rope or metal used for securing the edge of a sail to its stay. [Probably from obsolete French gromette, gormette, chain joining the ends of a bit, from Old French, from gourmer, to bridle.]
zugzwang (TSOOK-tsvahng) noun
A position where one is forced to make an undesirable move. [From German Zugzwang, Zug (move) + Zwang (compulsion, obligation).]
tokology (to-KOL-uh-jee) noun, also tocology
Midwifery or obstetrics. [From Greek toko, child, childbirth + logy.]
doublethink (DUB-uhl-thingk) noun
Thought marked by the acceptance of gross contradictions and falsehoods, especially when used as a technique of self-indoctrination. [Double + think, coined by George Orwell in his novel "1984" (1949).]
subdolous (SUB-duh-luhs) adjective
Sly; crafty; cunning. [From Latin subdolus, from sub- (slightly) + dolus (deceit).]
moiety (MOI-i-tee) noun
1. A half. 2. A portion. [From Latin medius (middle). Ultimately from the Indo-European root medhyo- (middle) that's also the source of middle, mean, medium, medal (originally a coin worth a halfpenny), mezzanine, and mediocre.]
reprobate (REP-ruh-bayt) adjective
Depraved. noun A wicked person. verb tr. To disapprove or condemn. [From Middle English, from Late Latin reprobatus, from reprobare (to disapprove), from re- + probare (to test, approve), from probus (good).]
flammable (FLAM-uh-buhl) adjective
Easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly; inflammable. [From Latin flammare, to set fire to, from flamma, flame.]
avatar (AV-uh-tahr) noun
1. A manifestation of a deity in Hinduism. 2. An embodiment of a concept. 3. A representation of a person or thing in computers, networks, etc. [From avatar (descent, as of a god from heaven to the earth), from ava- (away) + tarati (he crosses).]
carte blanche (kart blanch, kart blansh) noun
Unrestricted authority. [From French carte blanche (blank card or blank document).]
beestings (BEE-stingz) noun, also beastings, biestings
First milk produced by a mammal, especially a cow, after giving birth. Also known as colostrum or foremilk. [From Middle English bestynge, from Old English bysting.]
prospicient (pros-PISH-uhnt) adjective
Having foresight. [From Latin prospiciens, from prospicere (to look forward), from pro- (forward) + spicere, from specere (to look). Ultimately from Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), espionage, despise, telescope, and spectacles.]
psyche (SY-kee) noun
1. The spirit or soul. 2. Psychiatry. The mind functioning as the center of thought, emotion, and behavior and consciously or unconsciously adjusting or mediating the body's responses to the social and physical environment. [Latin psyche, from Greek psukhe, soul.]
nosocomial (nos-uh-KO-mee-uhl) adjective
(of infections) contracted as a result of being hospitalized; hospital-acquired. [Neo-Latin nosocomi(um) hospital from Late Greek nosokomeîon, equivalent to Greek noso- + kom- (base with sense `care, attendance,' as in gerokomos caring for the old) + -eion suffix of location) + -al.]
didymous (DID-uh-muhs) adjective
Occurring in pairs; twin. [From Greek didymos (twin). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dwo- (two) that also gave us dual, double, dubious, doubt, diploma, twin, and between.]
polemic (puh-LEM-ik, poh-) noun
1. A controversial argument. 2. A person who engages in arguments or controversy; a controversialist. adjective, also polemical Of or pertaining to a controversy or argument. [From Greek polemikós, from pólemos (war). A related word is polemology (the science and study of human conflict and war).]
antonomasia (an-toh-noh-MAY-zhuh) noun
1. The substitution of a title or epithet for a proper name, as in calling a sovereign "Your Majesty." 2. The substitution of a personal name for a common noun to designate a member of a group or class, as in calling a traitor a "Benedict Arnold." [Latin, from Greek antonomazein, to name instead : anti-, instead of + onomazein, to name (from onoma, name).]
scullion (SKUL-yen) noun
1. A kitchen servant who does menial work. 2. A low or contemptible person. [Middle English sculyon, probably from Old French escouvillon, dishcloth, diminutive of escouve, broom, from Latin scopa, branches, broom.]
inchoate (in-KO-it) adjective
1. In an initial or early stage; incipient. 2. Imperfectly formed or developed. [Latin inchoatus, past participle of inchoare, to begin, alteration of incohare : in- + cohum, strap from yoke to harness.]
auscultation (o-skuhl-TAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of listening. 2. The act of listening for sounds made by internal organs, as the heart and lungs, to aid in the diagnosis of certain disorders. [Latin auscultatio, auscultation-, from auscultatus, past participle of auscultare, to listen to.]
dodecagon (do-DEK-uh-gon) noun
A polygon having 12 sides and 12 angles. [From Greek dodekagonon, from dodeka- (twelve), duo (two) + deka (ten) + -gon (angled).]
desultory (DES-uhl-tor-ee) adjective
1. Marked by absence of a plan; disconnected; jumping from one thing to another. 2. Digressing from the main subject; random. [From Latin desultorius (leaping, pertaining to a circus rider who jumps from one horse to another), from desilire (to leap down), from salire (to jump). Other words derived from the same Latin root (salire) are sally, somersault, insult, result, saute, salient, and our recent friend, saltant.]
pleochroic (plee-uh-KRO-ik) adjective
Showing different colors when viewed from different directions. [From Greek pleo- (more) + -chroic (having a color).]
lexeme (LEK-seem) noun
The fundamental unit of the lexicon of a language. Find, found, and finding are members of the English lexeme find. [Lex (icon) + -eme.]
humble pie (HUM-buhl pi) noun
Humiliation in the form of apology or retraction. Often in form of the phrase "to eat humble pie." [From the phrase, an umble pie, transformed by folk etymology by resemblance to the word humble. The phrase an umble pie itself was made by false splitting from a numble pie. Numbles or nombles are edible animal entrails. The words came to us from Latin via French.]
therblig (THUR-blig) noun
In time and motion study, any of the basic elements involved in completing a given manual operation or task that can be subjected to analysis. [Americanism, anagram of F. B. Gilbreth (1868-1924), American engineer.]
flews (flooz) plural noun
The pendulous corners of the upper lip of certain dogs, such as the bloodhound. [Origin unknown.]
distingue (dees-tang-GAY, dis-, di-STANG-gay) adjective
Distinguished in appearance, manner, or bearing. [French, past participle of distinguer, to distinguish, from Old French.]
agitprop (AJ-it-prop) noun
Propaganda, especially one that's political in nature, disseminated through art, drama, literature, etc. [From Russian Agitpróp, from agitatsiya (agitation) + propaganda.]
twenty-twenty (TWEN-tee TWEN-tee) adjective, also 20/20
1. Possessing or relating to normal vision. 2. Having ability to see an issue clearly. [From a method of testing visual acuity involving reading a chart of letters or symbols at 20 feet away.]
deadman's hand (DED-manz hand) noun
In a game of poker, a hand containing two aces and two eights. [After Wild Bill Hickok, nickname of James Butler Hickok (1837-1876). Hickok was a legendary figure in the American Wild West who worked variously as an army scout, lawman, and professional gambler. He was shot dead while playing poker, holding a hand that had two aces and two eights.]
bad hair day (bad hair day) noun
A day when everything seems to go wrong. [Extension of the literal meaning of the term bad hair day, a day when one's hair is, well, hairy.]
pantheon (PAN-thee-on) noun
1. A collection of people highly respected in a particular field. 2. A temple dedicated to all the gods. 3. All the gods of a people or religion collectively. 4. A public building containing tombs of illustrious people. [After Pantheon, a domed circular temple in Rome, built c. 120 AD. From Greek pantheion (temple of all the gods), from pan- (all) + theos (gods).]
mooncalf (MOON-kaf) noun
1. A daydreamer or absent-minded person. 2. A fool or simpleton. 3. A congenitally deformed person. [From the earlier belief that a misshapen birth was a result of effects of the moon.]
junta (HOON-tuh, JUHN-) noun
A group, especially one made of military officers, ruling a country after a coup. [From Spanish and Portuguese junta (committee, association), from Latin jungere (to join). Ultimately from the Indo-European root yeug- (to join) that also gave us yoke, junction, jugular, adjust, Sanskrit yoga, and Greek zeugma.]
paradox (PAR-uh-doks) noun
1. A statement that appears contradictory or absurd yet in fact may be true. 2. A self-contradictory statement that appears true or is derived from true statements. 3. A statement that contradicts commonly accepted opinion. [From Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from paradoxos (contrary to opinion), from para- (beyond) + doxa (opinion), from dokein (to think).]
godwottery (god-WOT-uhr-ee) noun
1. Gardening marked by an affected and elaborate style. 2. Affected use of archaic language. [From the line "A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!" in a poem by Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897).]
daedal (DEED-al) adjective
1. Ingenious and complex in design or function; intricate. 2. Finely or skillfully made or employed; artistic. [Latin daedalus, from Greek daidalos.]
slice-of-life (SLYS ov LYF) noun
Realistic portrayal of life, especially everyday life, in a book, movie, etc. [Translation of French tranche de la vie, coined by playwright Jean Jullien (1854-1919).]
laches (LACH-iz) noun
Negligence in the performance of a duty or claiming an opportunity, especially the failure to assert a legal claim in time, that makes it invalid. [From Middle English lachesse, from Anglo French, from Middle French laschesse, from Old French lasche (slack), ultimately from Latin laxare (to loosen).]
nark (nark) noun
1. An annoying person. 2. A stool pigeon or informer verb intr. 1. To irritate or annoy. 2. To be an informer. [From Romany nak (nose). Ultimately from Indo-European root nas- (nose) that is also the source of other words for nose: English nose, Hindi nak, Spanish nariz, French nez, and related words nuzzle, nostril, and nasal.]
cheval de bataille (shuh-VAL duh ba-TAH-yuh) noun
plural chevaux de bataille (shuh-VOH duh ba-TAH-yuh) A favorite topic; hobbyhorse. [From French, literally battle-horse.]
emeritus (i-MER-i-tuhs) adjective, plural emeriti; feminine emerita, plural emeritae
Retired but retaining an honorary title. [From Latin emeritus (one who has served his time), past participle of emerere (to serve out one's term), from merere (to deserve, serve, earn).]
benighted (bi-NYT-id) adjective
1. Intellectually, morally, or socially ignorant; unenlightened. 2. Overtaken by night or darkness. [From be- + night + -ed.]
condign (kuhn-DYN) adjective
Well-deserved, appropriate. [From Middle English condigne, from Anglo French, from Latin condignus, from com- (completely) + dignus (worthy). Ultimately from Indo-European root dek- (to take, accept) that's the ancestor of other words such as deign, dignity, discipline, doctor, decorate, and docile.]
philoprogenitive (fil-o-pro-JEN-i-tiv) adjective
1. Producing many offspring; prolific. 2. Loving one's own offspring or children in general. 3. Of or relating to love of children. "The government draws the poverty line according to family size and age. For a single person under 65 years, it's an annual income of less than $5,701. For a couple over 65, poverty means income below $6,630. For a married couple with two children, it's an income under $11,113. For philoprogenitive families with nine or more members, the threshold rises to $21,185." Louis S. Richman, Edward Prewitt, The Economy, Fortune, 29 Aug 1988. This week's theme: words that prompt you to say, "eschew obfuscation." -------- Date: Wed Jun 24 00:06:52 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--comestible comestible (kuh-MES-ti-buhl) adjective Fit to be eaten; edible. comestible noun Something that can be eaten as food. [French, from Old French, from Late Latin comestibilis, from Latin comestus, alteration (influenced by potus, drunk), of comesus, past participle of comedere, to eat up : com-, intensive pref. + edere, to eat.]
coprolalia (kop-ruh-LAY-lee-uh) noun
The uncontrolled, often excessive use of obscene or scatological language that may accompany certain mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or Tourette's syndrome. [Copro- dung + Greek lalia, babbling (from lalein, to talk).]
soi-disant (swa-dee-ZAN) adjective
Self-styled; so-called. [French : soi, oneself + disant, saying.]
cookie (KOOK-ee) noun
A handle, transaction ID, or other token of agreement between cooperating programs. "I give him a packet, he gives me back a cookie." The claim check you get from a dry-cleaning shop is a perfectly mundane example of a cookie; the only thing it's useful for is to relate a later transaction to a preceding one (so you get the same clothes back). Now mainstream in the specific sense of web-browser cookies. "Many Web sites you visit put little gremlins called cookies right into your computer. They sit quietly in your machine. When you go back to the site, the cookies announce your presence." Jane Bryant Quinn and Dori Perrucci, Money Watch, Good Housekeeping, Aug 2000. This week's theme: words from the hackers' jargon. -------- Date: Sun Sep 17 00:02:10 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--kludge kludge (klooj) noun 1. Incorrect (though regrettably common) spelling of kluge (US). These two words have been confused in American usage since the early 1960s, and widely confounded in Great Britain since the end of World War II. 2. A crock that works. (A long-ago "Datamation" article by Jackson Granholme similarly said: "An ill-assorted collection of poorly matching parts, forming a distressing whole.") verb 3. To use a kludge to get around a problem. "I've kludged around it for now, but I'll fix it up properly later." [This word appears to have derived from Scots `kludge' or `kludgie' for a common toilet, via British military slang. It apparently became confused with U.S. kluge during or after World War II; some Britons from that era use both words in definably different ways, but kluge is now uncommon in Great Britain. `Kludge' in Commonwealth hackish differs in meaning from `kluge' in that it lacks the positive senses; a kludge is something no Commonwealth hacker wants to be associated too closely with. Also, `kludge' is more widely known in British mainstream slang than `kluge' is in the U.S.]
quiddity (KWID-i-tee) noun
1. The essence of someone or something. 2. A trifling point. [From Latin quid (what) which also gave us quidnunc and quid pro quo ]
quintessence (kwin-TES-ens) noun
1. The pure, concentrated essence. 2. Most perfect embodiment of something. [From Middle French quinte essence, from medieval Latin quinta essentia (fifth essence).]
agita (AJ-i-tuh) noun
1. Heartburn; acid indigestion. 2. Anxiety. [Americanism, from Italian agitare (to agitate), from Latin agitare (agitate).]
bosky (BOS-kee) adjective
1. Having an abundance of bushes, shrubs, or trees. 2. Of or relating to woods. [From Middle English bosk, bush, from Medieval Latin bosca, of Germanic origin.]
brougham (broom, BROO-uhm, broam, BROA-uhm) noun
1. A closed four-wheeled carriage with an open driver's seat in front. 2. An automobile with an open driver's seat. 3. An electrically powered automobile resembling a coupe. [After Henry Peter Brougham, First Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778-1868), Scottish-born jurist.]
onychophagia (on-i-ko-FAY-juh, -jee-uh) noun
The practice of biting one's nails. [From Greek onycho, onyx, nail + -phagia, eating.]
concatenate (kon-KAT-n-ayt, kuhn-) verb tr.
1. To connect or link in a series or chain. 2. Computer Science. To arrange (strings of characters) into a chained list. adjective (-nit, -nat) Connected or linked in a series. [Late Latin concatenare, concatenat- : com- + catenare, to bind (from Latin catena, chain).]
dexterous (DEK-struhs, -stuhr-uhs) adjective, also dextrous
1. Skillful or adroit, mentally or bodily. 2. Right-handed. [From Latin dexter, right-hand, skillful.]
dentifrice (DEN-tih-fris) noun
A substance, such as a paste or powder, for cleaning the teeth. [French, from Old French, from Latin dentifricium : denti- + fricare, to rub.]
frowzy (FROU-zee) adjective, also frowsy, frouzy
1. Unkempt, slovenly. 2. Having a musty odor. [Origin unknown.]
hadal (HAYD-l) adjective
Of or relating to the deepest regions of the ocean, below about 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). [French, from Hades, from Greek Haides, the god of the netherworld and dispenser of earthly riches, his netherworld kingdom, the abode of the shades of the dead.]
oleaginous (o-lee-AJ-uh-nuhs) adjective
1. Containing or producing oil; relating to oil. 2. Marked by excessive and false earnestness; ingratiating. [From Middle English, from French oleagineux, from Latin oleaginus (of the olive tree), from olea (the olive tree).]
duodecimal (doo-uh-DES-uh-muhl, dyoo-) adjective
Of or relating to the number twelve. noun A twelfth. [From Latin duodecimus (twelfth), from duodecim (twelve), from duo (two) + decem (ten).]
bilabial (by-LAY-bee-uhl) adjective
Using both lips. noun A bilabial sound or consonant, for example p, b, m, where both lips touch each other, and w in which lips are rounded. [Latin bi- (two) + labial, from labium (lip), ultimately from Indo-European root leb- (lip, to lick) that's also the source of lip, labrose (having thick or large lips), and labret (an ornament worn in a pierced lip).]
theophany (thee-OF-uh-nee) noun
An appearance of a god to a person. [Medieval Latin theophania, from Late Greek theophaneia, Greek theo-, + -phaneia, to show.]
golden calf (GOL-den KAHF) noun
Something unworthy that is excessively esteemed, especially money. [In the biblical story Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments only to find Israelites worshiping a calf made of gold.]
loose cannon (loos KAN-uhn) noun
An uncontrollable or unpredictable person, often causing damage to his own faction. [From allusion to a cannon broken loose on the deck of a rolling ship.]
archon (AHR-kon) noun
A high official or ruler. [From Latin archon, from Greek arkhon (magistrate), from arkhein (to be first, to rule). An archon was one of the nine principal magistrates in ancient Athens.]
force majeure (fors ma-ZHOOR) noun
1. An unforeseeable and uncontrollable event (for example, a war or a strike) that exempts a party from a contract. 2. Superior force. [From French, literally superior force.]
circular (SUHR-kyuh-luhr) adjective
1. In the shape of or related to a circle. 2. Roundabout, indirect. 3. Involving fallacious reasoning that tries to prove something previously assumed true. noun A widely distributed letter, notice, advertisement, etc. [From Middle English circuler, from Middle French, from Latin circularis, from circulus (small circle), diminutive of circus (circle or ring), from Greek kirkos (circle).]
bijou (BEE-zhoo, bee-ZHOO) noun, plural bijoux (-zhoo, -zhooz)
A small, delicate jewel or ornamental object of delicate workmanship. [From French, from Breton bizou (jeweled ring), from biz (finger).]
uvarovite (oo-VAR-uh-vyt, yoo-) noun
An emerald-green mineral, a variety of garnet. [After Count Sergei Semenovich Uvarov (1785-1855), president of the St. Petersburg Academy.]
florilegium (flor-uh-LEE-jee-uhm, FLOR-) noun, plural florilegia
A collection of literary pieces; anthology. [Neo-Latin florilegium, equivalent to Latin flori- + leg(ere) to gather + -ium, on the model of spicilegium gleaning; a calque of Greek anthologia, anthology]
cacology (ka-KOL-uh-jee) noun
1. Poor choice of words. 2. Incorrect pronunciation. [From Greek caco- (bad) + -logy (word).]
gyrovague (JYE-ro-vayg) noun
A monk who travels from one place to another. [From French, from Late Latin gyrovagus gyro- circle + vagus wandering.]
incommunicado (in-kuh-myoo-ni-KA-do) adjective, adverb
Out of contact, either voluntarily or deprived of the right to communicate with anyone; in solitary confinement. [From Spanish incomunicado, past participle of incomunicar (to deprive of communication), from in- (not) + comunicar (to communicate), from Latin communicare, from communis (common). Ultimately from Indo-European root mei- (to change or move) that has given us other words such as commute, mutual, migrate, common, mistake, and immune.]
spoliation (spo-lee-AY-shun) noun
1. The act of pillaging and plundering. 2. Seizure of neutral ships at sea in time of war. 3. The deliberate destruction or alteration of a document. [From Middle English, from Latin spoliation, past participle of spoliare, to spoil.]
imprimis (im-PRY-mis, -PREE-) adverb
In the first place. [From contraction of Latin phrase in primis (among the first), from in (among) and primus (first). The word was originally used to introduce the first of a number of articles in a list, such as a will, inventory, etc.]
pneuma (NOO-muh, NYOO-) noun
Spirit, soul. [From Greek pneuma (breath, wind, spirit). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pneu- (to breathe) that is also the source of pneumatic, pneumonia, apnea, sneer, sneeze, snort, snore, and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis .]
notaphily (noh-TAF-uh-lee) noun
The collecting of paper currency as a hobby. [From Latin nota (note) + Greek -phily (love).]
derring-do (DER-ing DOO) noun
Daring acts, often tinged with recklessness. [From Middle English dorryng do (daring to do) misprinted as derrynge do and interpreted as a noun form.]
mantic (MAN-tik) adjective
Of or relating to divination. [From Greek mantikos, from mantis (prophet), from mainesthai (to rage). Ultimately from Indo-European root men- (to think) that is also the source of words such as mind, mental, mention, Sanskrit mantra, automatic, mania, money, praying mantis, monument, music, and amnesia.]
bourn (born) noun
1. A destination or goal. 2. A boundary or limit. [From Middle French bourne, from Old French bodne (boundary). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhendh- (to bind) that is also the source of band, bend, bind, bond, bundle, and bandanna.]
tremulous (TREM-yuh-luhs) adjective
1. Trembling. 2. Timid; nervous. [From Latin tremere (to tremble).]
widow's walk (WID-oz wok) noun
A railed platform atop a roof, typically on a coastal house, that was used to look out for returning ships. [In the 18th and 19th centuries sailors' wives used such platforms to look for signs of their husbands returning home.]
putsch (pooch) noun
A secretly plotted, sudden attempt to overthrow a government. [From Swiss German Putsch (thrust, blow).]
morose (mo-ROS) adjective
Gloomy, sullen. [From Latin morosus, peevish, equivalent to mor-, mos, will, inclination + -osus, -ose.]
ducat (DUK-uht) noun
1. An admission ticket. 2. A piece of money. 3. Any of various gold coins formerly used in some European countries. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Old Italian ducato, from Late Latin ductus, from duchy (so named because the word appeared on some early ducats), from ducy (a territory ruled by a duke or a duchess).]
adultescent (uh-duhl-TES-uhnt) noun
An adult whose activities and interests are typically associated with youth culture. [Blend of adult and adolescent. The term was first noticed in 1996 in a trade publication called Precision Marketing. Marketers love to come up with new ways to slice their demographics. Another such term is tween: ]
apothegm also apophthegm (AP-oh-them) noun
A terse, witty, instructive saying; a maxim. [Greek apophthegma, from apophthengesthai, to speak plainly : apo-, intensive pref. + phthengesthai, phtheg-, to speak.]
impresario (im-pruh-SAR-ee-o) noun
1. An organizer, promoter, or manager of public entertainments, such as a ballet, opera, concert, or theater company. 2. Any manager or director. [From Italian impresario (one who undertakes a business), from impresa (undertaking), from imprendere (to undertake).]
yestreen (ye-STREEN) noun
Yesterday evening. [From Middle English yester- + even.]
tohubohu (TOH-hoo-BO-hoo) noun
Chaos; confusion. [From Hebrew tohu wa-bhohu, from tohu (formlessness) and bhohu (emptiness).]
satchel (SACH-uhl) noun
A small bag, often with a shoulder strap, for carrying books, clothing, etc. [From Middle English sachel, from Old French, from Late Latin saccellus, double diminutive of saccus (bag).]
tribune (TRIB-yoon, tri-BYOON) noun
1. An officer of ancient Rome elected by the plebeians to protect their rights from arbitrary acts of the patrician magistrates. 2. A protector or champion of the people. [Middle English, from Old French tribun, from Latin tribunus, from tribus, tribe.]
sixty-four-dollar question (SIKS-tee fohr DOL-uhr KWES-chuhn) noun
also $64 question The critical question about a problem; a crucial issue. [From a popular radio quiz show in the US in the 1940s which offered $64 as the largest prize. The first question had a prize of $1 and the prize total doubled with each successive question: $2, 4, 8, 16, 32, culminating in the $64 question. With inflation, this term is used in many variant forms, such as, "$64,000 question" and upwards.]
intenerate (in-TEN-uh-rayt) verb tr.
To make tender or to soften. [From Latin in- + tener (tender).]
patrician (puh-TRISH-uhn) noun
A person of high social rank, good background, etc.; an aristocrat. [From Latin patricius (having a noble father), from pater (father).]
nonplus (non-PLUS, NON-plus) verb tr.
To put at a loss for what to do, think, or say; perplex. noun A state of perplexity or bewilderment. [From Latin non plus (no more).]
dekko (DEK-oh) noun
A look. [From Hindi dekho (look), imperative of dekhna (to look).]
malocclusion (mal-uh-KLOO-zhun) noun
Faulty contact between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed. [Middle English, from Old French : mal- + occlusus, past participle of Latin occludere, to occlude.]
quotha (KWO-thuh) interjection
Indeed. [From quoth a, an alteration of quoth he (said he).]
congeneric (kon-juh-NER-ik) adjective, also congenerous
1. Belonging to the same genus. 2. Of the same kind or similar in nature. noun A company offering closely related services. [From Latin, con- together + gener- race.]
gosling (GOZ-ling) noun
1. A young goose. 2. A naive or inexperienced young person. [Middle English, variant (influenced by gos, goose), of gesling, from Old Norse gaeslingr, diminutive of gas.]
chapman (CHAP-man) noun
A peddler; a merchant. [From Old English ceapman, from ceap (trade, bargain), from Latin caupo (shopkeeper or innkeeper) + man. The German equivalent is Kaufmann, Dutch koopman.]
prepone (pree-PON) verb tr.
To reschedule an event to an earlier time. [Modeled after the word postpone, from Latin pre- (before) + ponere (to put).]
scut (skut) noun
A worthless, contemptible fellow. This term often appears in the form "scut work". [Or uncertain origin, perhaps from scout.]
epicene (EP-i-seen) adjective
1. Having characteristics of both sexes. 2. Effeminate. noun A person or object that is epicene. [From Middle English, from Latin epicoenus, from Greek epikoinos, epi- + koinos, common.]
bonhomie (bon-uh-MEE) noun
Friendliness; affability; geniality. [From French bonhomie, from bonhomme (good-natured man), from bon (good) + homme (man).]
busman's holiday (BUS-manz HOL-i-day) noun
A holiday spent doing things as at work. [Imagine a bus driver having a day off, 'enjoying' a bus ride and you'll have a pretty good idea of this term. Going on a long drive might be a great vacation for many of us, but not for a bus driver. Of course, when the phrase came up some 200 years ago, bus drivers had charge of horse-drawn buses. The term is sometimes seen as 'businessman's holiday'.]
ahimsa (uh-HIM-sah) noun
The principle of noninjury to living beings. [Sanskrit ahimsa : a-, not + himsa, injury (from himsati, he injures).]
epiphenomenon (ep-i-fuh-NOM-uh-non, nuhn) noun
1. A secondary phenomenon, one resulting from another. 2. An additional symptom appearing during the course of an illness, but not necessarily related to it. [From Greek epi- (upon, after, over) + phainomenon (that which appears), from phainesthai (to appear).]
stigma (STIG-mah) noun [plural stigmata (stig-MA-tuh, STIG-muh-) or stigmas]
1. A mark or token of infamy, disgrace, or reproach. 2. A small mark; a scar or birthmark. 3. Medicine. A mark or spot on the skin that bleeds as a symptom of hysteria. A mark or characteristic indicative of a history of a disease or abnormality. 4. stigmata. Marks or sores corresponding to and resembling the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, sometimes occurring during religious ecstasy or hysteria. 5. Biology. A small mark, spot, or pore, such as the respiratory spiracle of an insect or an eyespot in certain algae. 6. Botany. The receptive apex of the pistil of a flower, on which pollen is deposited at pollination. 7. Archaic. A mark burned into the skin of a criminal or slave; a brand. [Middle English stigme, brand, from Latin stigma, stigmat-, from Greek, tattoo mark, from stizein, stig-, to prick.]
mach (makh) noun, Also mach number
A number indicating the ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound in the surrounding medium. So a plane moving at twice the speed of sound is traveling at Mach 2. [After Ernst Mach, physicist and philosopher (1838-1916).]
caliginous (kuh-LIJ-uh-nuhs) adjective
Dark, gloomy, obscure, misty. [From Latin caliginosus (misty, dark).]
bovarism (BO-vuh-riz-em) noun
An exaggerated, especially glamorized, estimate of oneself; conceit. [From French bovaryisme, after Emma Bovary, a character in Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary.]
nubilous (NOO-buh-luhs, NYOO-) adjective
1. Cloudy, misty, or foggy. 2. Vague or obscure. [From Latin nubilosus (cloudy), from nubes (cloud).]
henotheism (HEN-uh-thee-iz-uhm) noun
Belief in one god without denying the existence of others. [Greek heno-, from hen, neuter of heis, one. + the (o)- + -ism.]
pleonexia (pli-uh-NEK-see-uh) noun
Excessive or insatiable covetousness. [From Greek pleonektein (to be greedy), from pleion (more) + ekhein (have).]
stalking-horse (STOK-ing-hors) noun
1. Something used to cover one's true purpose; a decoy. 2. A sham candidate put forward to conceal the candidacy of another or to divide the opposition. 3. A horse trained to conceal the hunter while stalking. A canvas screen made in the figure of a horse, used for similar concealment. "The main parties in the 23 May Front are the leftist Combatant Clergy Society and the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party. Both groups view Rafsanjani, who says he is an independent, as a stalking horse for rightwing factions opposed to Khatami." Khatami coalition weighs Rafsanjani role, Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 2000. This week's theme: words about government, politics, and elections. -------- Date: Wed Jun 7 00:12:09 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--enfranchise enfranchise (en-FRAN-chyz) verb tr. 1. To bestow a franchise on. 2. To endow with the rights of citizenship, especially the right to vote. 3. To free, as from bondage. [Middle English enfraunchisen, from Old French enfranchir, enfranchiss-, to set free : en-, intensive pref + franchir (from franc, free).]
redound (ri-DOUND) verb intr.
1. To have an effect or consequence. 2. To return; recoil. 3. To contribute; accrue. [Middle English redounden, to abound, from Old French redonder, from Latin redundare, to overflow.]
amigo (uh-MEE-goh) noun
A friend. [From Spanish amigo (friend), from Latin (amicus).]
cilice (SIL-is) noun
1. An undergarment of haircloth, worn by monks in penance. 2. Haircloth. [From Old English cilic, from Latin cilicium, from Greek kilikion, from kilikios (Cilician). This cloth was originally made of Cilician goats' hair. Cilicia was an ancient region in southeast Asia Minor which later became part of the Roman Empire. It's now part of southern Turkey.]
gastronome (GAS-truh-nome) also gastronomer (ga-STRON-uh-muhr) noun
A connoisseur of good food and drink; a gourmet. Also called gastronomist. [French, back-formation from gastronomie, gastronomy.]
reeding (REE-ding) noun
1. A convex decorative molding having parallel strips resembling thin reeds. 2. Parallel grooves cut into the edge of a coin at right angles to the faces. [Middle English rede, from Old English hreod + -ing.]
cancrine (KANG-krin) adjective
1. Reading the same backwards as forwards, palindromic. For example, "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama." (letter cancrine) "So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so!" (word cancrine) 2. Crab-like. [From Latin cancr- (stem of cancer) cancer + -ine.]
gaslight (GAS-lyt) verb tr.
To manipulate psychologically. [From the title of the classic movie Gaslight (1940 and its 1944 remake), based on author Patrick Hamilton's play. The title refers to a man's use of seemingly unexplained dimming of gaslights (among other tricks) in the house in an attempt to manipulate his wife into thinking she is going insane. See more about this movie at ]
reticent (RET-i-suhnt) adjective
1. Inclined to keep one's thoughts, feelings, and personal affairs to oneself. 2. Restrained or reserved in style. 3. Reluctant; unwilling. [Latin reticens, reticent-, present participle of reticere, to keep silent : re- + tacere, to be silent.]
recto (REK-toe) noun
A right-hand page of a book or the front side of a leaf, on the other side of the verso. [From Latin (folio) recto, (the leaf) being right, ablative of rectus, straight, right.]
brainiac (BRAY-nee-ak) noun
A very intelligent person. adjective Highly intelligent. [After Brainiac, a highly intelligent villainous character in the Superman comic strip.]
ataraxia (at-uh-RAK-see-uh) also ataraxy, noun
A state of freedom from disturbance of mind. [From Greek ataraktos (not disturbed), from tarassein (to disturb).]
nosophobia (nos-uh-FO-bee-uh) noun
An irrational fear of contracting diseases. [From Greek nosos (disease) + -phobia (fear).]
testaceous (teh-STAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Having a hard shell or shell-like outer covering. Composed of a shell or shell-like material. 2. Having the reddish-brown or brownish-yellow hue of bricks. [From Latin testaceus, from testa, shell.]
schlub (shlub) noun, also spelled as zhlub or zhlob
A clumsy oaf. [From Yiddish, from Polish zhlob (blockhead, trough, manger).]
spoonerism (SPOO-nuh-riz-em) noun
The transposition of usually initial sounds of words producing a humorous result. [After William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), British clergyman and educator.]
napiform (NAY-puh-form) adjective
Turnip-shaped: round at the top and tapering down sharply at the bottom. [From Latin napus (turnip) + -form.]
devoir (duh-VWAR) noun
1. Duty; responsibility. 2. An act of respect or courtesy. [From Middle English devoir (duty), from Old French, from Latin debere (to owe). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghebh- (to give or receive) that is also the forefather of such words as give, have, endeavor, handle, able, and duty.]
callipygian (kal-uh-PIJ-ee-uhn) adjective
Having well-shaped buttocks. [From Greek calli- (beautiful) + pyge (buttocks).]
haiku (HIE-koo) noun
1. A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons. 2. A poem written in this form. [Japanese : hai, amusement (from Chinese pa, farce) + ku, sentence, from Chinese ju.]
trepid (TREP-id) adjective
Fearful; timid. [From Latin trepidus (alarmed).]
sarcophagus (sar-KOF-uh-guhs) noun
A stone coffin, often inscribed or decorated with sculpture. [Latin, from Greek sarkophagos, coffin, from (lithos) sarkophagos, limestone that consumed the flesh of corpses laid in it : sarx, sark-, flesh + -phagos, -phagous.]
ventripotent (ven-TRI-pot-ehnt) adjective
Having a large belly; gluttonous. [From French, from Latin ventri- (abdomen) + potent (powerful).]
eleventh hour (i-LEV-uhnth our) noun
The last moment. [From the parable in the Bible where laborers hired at the eleventh hour of the twelve-hour workday were paid the same as those hired earlier.]
syllogistic (sil-uh-JIS-tik) adjective
1. Of or relating to syllogism (a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion). 2. Subtle or specious. noun 1. Deductive reasoning. 2. A subtle or specious piece of reasoning. [Via Middle English, French, and Latin from Greek syllogizesthai (to syllogize). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leg- (to collect, speak) that is also the source of other words such as lexicon, lesson, lecture, legible, legal, and select.]
blackball (BLAK-bawl) verb tr.
1. To vote against, especially to prevent someone from joining a club or a group. 2. To ostracize or boycott. noun A negative vote. [From black + ball. From the former practice of depositing a white ball or a black ball as a ballot to vote for or against a candidate.]
paralipsis (par-uh-LIP-sis) noun, plural paralipses (-seez)
The suggestion, by deliberately concise treatment of a topic, that much of significance is being omitted, as in "not to mention other faults.' Also, paraleipsis, paralepsis. Also called preterition. [From Late Latin paralipsis, from Greek paraleipsis an omitting, equivalent to paraleip(ein) to leave on one side (para- + leipein to leave) + -sis.]
pantaloon (pan-tuh-LOON) noun
1. Men's wide breeches extending from waist to ankle, worn especially in England in the late 17th century. Often used in the plural. Tight trousers extending from waist to ankle with straps passing under the instep, worn especially in the 19th century. Often used in the plural. 2. Trousers; pants. Often used in the plural. [French pantalon, a kind of trouser, from Pantalon. See Pantaloon.]
polyphyletic (pol-ee-fye-LET-ik) adjective
Relating to or characterized by development from more than one ancestral type. William Oscar Johnson, Olympics: Who is the Greatest? TIME International, 24 Jun 1996, pp. 50+. "Oh, yes, the species Homo olympianus is a madly mixed breed -- polyphyletic beyond any other on earth." This week's theme: words about relations. -------- Date: Fri Oct 15 00:03:50 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--progenitor progenitor (pro-JEN-i-tuhr) noun 1. A direct ancestor. 2. An originator of a line of descent; a precursor. 3. An originator; a founder. [Middle English progenitour, from Old French progeniteur, from Latin progenitor, from progenitus, past participle of progignere, to beget : pro-, forward. + gignere, gen-, to beget.]
flatfoot (FLAT-foot) noun
1. A condition of the foot in which the arch of the instep is flattened and the entire sole touches the ground. 2. A police officer. [Originally sense 2 referred to a foot soldier. In the past the term has been applied to sailors, and to police officers who walked on patrol. Today, it refers to any police officer and even to a detective.]
collyrium (kuh-LIR-ee-ehm) noun, plural collyriums or collyria
A medicinal lotion applied to the eye; eyewash. [Latin, from Greek kollurion, eye salve, poultice, diminutive of kollura, roll of bread.]
plica (PLY-kuh) noun, plural plicae (PLI-see, -kee)
1. A fold, especially of skin. 2. Hair in dirty, matted form. [From Medieval Latin, fold, from Latin plicare, to fold.]
perambulate (puh-RAM-byuh-layt) verb tr.
1. To walk through. 2. To inspect (an area) on foot. verb intr. To walk about; roam or stroll. [Latin perambulare, perambulat- : per-, + ambulare, to walk.]
concrete poetry (KON-kreet PO-i-tree, kon-KREET -) noun
Poetry that employs physical arrangement of words or letters on a page for visual effect to add to the meaning of the poem. [From either Portuguese poesia concreta or German konkrete Dichtung.]
obeisance (o-BAY-sans, o-BEE-) noun
1. A movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy, or other similar gesture. 2. Deference or homage. [Middle English obeisaunce, from Old French obeissance, from obeissant, present participle of obeir, to obey.]
passible (PAS-uh-buhl) adjective
Capable of feeling, especially pain or suffering; susceptible to sensation. [From Middle English, from Middle Latin passibilis, from Latin passus, past participle of pati (to suffer).]
pleach (pleech, playch) verb tr.
To interlace branches or vines to make a hedge, decorative shape, arbor, etc. [From Old French plechier, from Latin plectere (to plait). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plek- (to plait) that is also the source of plait, pleat, pliant, ply, apply, deploy, display, exploit, replicate, and perplex.]
animadvert (an-uh-mad-VURT) verb intr.
To comment critically (upon) or to express criticism. [From Latin animadvertere (to turn the mind to), from animus (mind) + advertere (to turn).]
bindlestiff (BIN-dl-stif) noun
A hobo who carries a bundle of bedding and other possessions. [From English bindle (bundle) + stiff (tramp). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhendh- (to bind), that is also the source of such words as bandanna, band, bond, and bundle.]
mingy (MIN-jee) adjective
Characterized by lack of generosity: mean and stingy. [Blend of mean and stingy.]
neuston (NOO-ston, NYOO-) noun
The aggregate of minute aquatic organisms that inhabit the surface of a body of water. [From Greek neuston (swimming), from nein to (swim).]
truculent (TRUK-yuh-luhnt) adjective
1. Disposed to fight; pugnacious. 2. Expressing bitter opposition; scathing. 3. Disposed to or exhibiting violence or destructiveness; fierce. [Latin truculentus, from trux, truc-, fierce.]
bedizen (bi-DY-zuhn) verb tr.
To dress or decorate in a showy or gaudy manner. [From be- + dizen, from [possibly Low German] disen (to put flax on a distaff for spinning), from dis- (bunch of flax).]
diastema (die-uh-STEE-mah) noun
A gap or space between two teeth. [Late Latin, interval, from Greek diastema, from diastenai, to separate, second aorist of diistanai.]
palilogy (puh-LIL-uh-jee) noun
The technique of repeating a word or phrase for emphasis. Also, palillogy. [From Greek palillogia recapitulation, equivalent to palin again, back + -logia -logy.]
grog (grog) noun
1. An alcoholic drink, especially rum diluted with water. 2. Any strong alcoholic drink. [After Old Grog, nickname of Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757), who ordered diluted rum to be served to his sailors. The admiral earned the nickname from his habit of wearing a grogram cloak. Grogram is a coarse fabric of silk, wool, mohair, or a blend of them. The word grogram is from French gros grain (large grain or texture).]
bibacious (by-BAY-shuhs) adjective
Overly fond of drinking. [From Latin bibere (to drink).]
epos (EP-os) noun
1. An epic. 2. A number of poems, not formally united or transmitted orally, that treat an epic theme. [From Latin, from Greek epos (speech, word).]
scop (shoap) noun
An Old English poet or bard. [Old English.]
teetotal (tee-TOT-l) adjective
1. Of, relating to, or practicing complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages. 2. Total; absolute. [Probably partly tee (pronunciation of the first letter in total) + total (abstinence), and partly reduplication of total, coined by R. Turner, of Preston, England, in 1833, in a speech advocating total abstinence from alcoholic drinks]
prepossessing (pree-puh-ZES-ing) adjective
Creating a favorable impression; attractive. [From pre- + possess, from Latin possidere (to occupy, dominate, seize), from potis (able) + sedere (to sit).]
titivate (TIT-i-vayt) verb tr., intr.
To make smarter; to spruce up; to decorate. [From earlier tidivate, perhaps from tidy + elevate. The word titillate is from Latin titillare (to tickle).]
terete (tuh-REET, ter-EET) adjective
Smooth-surfaced, cylindrical, and tapering at the ends. [From Latin teret-, stem of teres (round).]
verso (VUR-so) noun
1. A left-hand page. 2. The back of a page. [Short for Latin verso folio, from verso (turned) and folio (leaf). From versus (turning), from vertere (to turn). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wer- (to turn or bend), also the source of wring, weird, writhe, worth, revert, and universe.]
linsey-woolsey (LIN-zee WOOL-zee) noun
1. A strong, coarse fabric of wool and cotton or wool and linen. 2. An incongruous mix. [From Middle English linsey (linen, or from Lindsey, a village in Suffolk, UK) + woolsey (a rhyming compound of wool).]
axiomatic (ak-see-uh-MAT-ik) adjective
1. Indisputably true; self-evident. 2. Aphoristic. [From Greek axiomatikos, from axioma (honorable). Ultimately from Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that's also the fount of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
emetic (i-MET-ik) adjective
Causing vomiting. noun An agent that causes vomiting. [Latin emetica, feminine of emeticus, provoking vomiting, from Greek emetikos, from emetos, vomiting, from emein, to vomit.]
lambent (LAM-buhnt) adjective
1. Flickering lightly over a surface. 2. Softly glowing. 3. Marked by lightness or grace (in an expression) [From Latin lambent, stem of lambens, present participle of lambere (to lick).]
cathexis (kuh-THEK-sis) noun, plural cathexes (-THEK-seez)
Concentration of emotional energy on an object or idea. [Greek kathexis, holding, retention, from katekhein, to hold fast : kat-, kata-, intensive prefix + ekhein, to hold.]
passive-aggressive (PAS-iv uh-GRES-iv) adjective
Relating to a personality disorder characterized by expression of aggressive behavior in a passive way, such as procrastination, stubbornness, or inefficiency. [From Latin passivus (submissive) and aggredi (to attack). The term was first introduced to describe uncooperative soldiers, in a 1945 US War Department technical bulletin. Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder is no longer recognized as a proper diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association.]
factory farming (FAK-tuh-ree FAHR-ming) noun
An industrialized system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine. [From the idea of operating a large-scale farm as an efficient factory.]
orrery (OR-uh-ree) noun
A mechanical model of the solar system. [After Charles Boyle, Fourth Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), for whom one was made.]
froufrou (FROO-froo) noun
1. Something fancy, elaborate, and showy. 2. A rustling sound, as of a silk dress. [From French, of imitative origin.]
anagnorisis (an-ag-NOR-uh-sis) noun
The moment of recognition or discovery (in a play, etc.) [From Latin, from Greek anagnorizein (to recognize or discover). Ultimately from Indo-European root gno- (to know) that is the ancestor of such words as know, can, notorious, notice, connoisseur, recognize, diagnosis, ignore, annotate, noble, and narrate.]
sticky wicket (STIK-ee WIK-it) noun
A difficult, awkward or uncertain situation. [From cricket, when the ground is partly wet, resulting in the ball bouncing unpredictably.]
gest or geste (jest) noun
1. A notable adventure or exploit. 2.a. A verse romance or tale. b. A prose romance. [Middle English geste, tale, from Old French, from Latin gesta, deeds, from neuter pl. past participle of gerere, to perform.]
pollicitation (puh-lis-i-TAY-shuhn) noun
A promise or an offer made but not yet accepted. [From Latin pollicitation, from polliceri (to promise).]
monadnock (muh-NAD-nok) noun
A mountain or rocky mass that has resisted erosion and stands isolated in an essentially level area. [After Mount Monadnock, a peak of southwest New Hampshire.]
gulosity (gyoo-LOS-i-tee) noun
Gluttony; greediness. [From Late Latin gulositas, from Latin gulosus (gluttonous), from gula (gullet, gluttony).]
fifth column (fifth KOL-uhm) noun
A group of traitors acting in sympathy with their country's enemies. [From Spanish quinta columna, from the column of supporters that General Mola claimed to have in Madrid while he was leading four columns of his army to invade the city during the Spanish Civil War.]
abigail (AB-i-gayl) noun
A lady's maid. [After Abigail, an attendant in The Scornful Lady (1610), a play by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. She was probably named after the Biblical character Abigail the Carmelitess, who often called herself a handmaid. The name Abigail derives from Hebrew Avigayil meaning "father's joy".]
liniment (LIN-uh-ment) noun
A liquid preparation (having camphor, alcohol, etc.) for rubbing into the skin to relieve pain or stiffness of a joint. [From Middle English, from Late Latin linimentum (ointment), from Latin linere (to smear). Ultimately from Indo-European root lei-/slei- (slimy) that's also the source of such words as slime, lime, slick, slippery, schlep, and oblivion.]
jugulate (JOO-gyuh-layt) verb tr.
1. To stop something by extreme measures. 2. To slit the throat. [From Latin jugulatus, past participle of jugulare (to cut the throat), from jugulum (collarbone, neck), diminutive of jugum (yoke). Ultimately from the Indo-European root yeug- (to join) that is also the ancestor of such words as junction, yoke, yoga, adjust, juxtapose, and junta.]
prandial (PRAN-dee-uhl) adjective
Of or relating to a meal. [From Latin prandium, late breakfast.]
bodacious (boh-DAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Outright, thorough. 2. Remarkable, impressive. 3. Gutsy, brazen. 4. Voluptuous. [A blend of bold and audacious.]
douceur (doo-SUHR) noun
A tip or bribe. [From French douceur (sweetness), from Late Latin dulcor (sweetness), from Latin dulcis (sweet).]
synesthesia or synaesthesia (sin-uhs-THEE-zhuh, -zhee-uh) noun
1. A sensation felt in one part of the body when stimulus is applied to another part, e.g. visualization of a color on hearing a sound. 2. (In literature) Using an unrelated sense to describe something, e.g. warm sounds or fragrant words. [From New Latin, from syn- (together) + -esthesia, from Greek aisthesis (sensation or perception). Ultimately from Indo-European root au- (to perceive) from which other words such as audio, audience, audit, obey, oyez, auditorium, anesthesia, and aesthetic are derived.]
monody (MON-uh-dee) noun
1. A poem in which the poet laments someone's death. 2. A piece of music in which a single melodic line predominates. [From Greek monoidos (singing alone), from mono- (one) + (oide) song.]
scorbutic (skor-BYOO-tik) adjective
Pertaining to or afflicted with scurvy. [From Latin scorbutus (scurvy) which also shows up in ascorbic acid (scientific name of vitamin C), the deficiency of which causes scurvy.]
canard (kuh-NAHRD) noun
1. A deliberately misleading story; hoax. 2. An airplane with small forward wings mounted in front of the main wings; also such a wing. [From French, literally a duck. The term is said to have come from the French expression vendre un canard à moitié or "to half-sell a duck" or to take in or swindle.]
apian (AY-pee-uhn) adjective
Of or relating to bees. [From Latin apis (bee).]
nummary (NUM-uh-ree) adjective
Pertaining to coins or money. [From Latin nummarius, from nummus (coin).]
paragoge (par-uh-GO-jee) noun
The addition of a letter or syllable at the end of a word, either through natural development or to add emphasis. For example, height-th for height. [Via Latin, from Greek paragoge, from para- (beyond) + -agogue (leader).]
malkin (MO-kin, MAL-kin) noun
1. An untidy woman; a slattern. 2. A scarecrow or a grotesque effigy. 3. A mop made of a bundle or rags fastened to a stick. 4. A cat. 5. A hare. [From Middle English Malkyn (little Molly), diminutive of the name Maud or Molly/Mary.]
schlep (shlep) also schlepp, shlep, shlepp
verb tr. To drag or haul something. verb intr. To move clumsily or tediously. noun 1. A tedious journey. 2. Someone who is slow or awkward. [From Yiddish shlepn (to drag, pull) from Middle High German sleppen, from Middle Low German slepen.]
kahuna (kuh-HOO-nuh) noun
1. A priest or a medicine man. 2. An important person (usually in the phrase: big kahuna). [From Hawaiian kahuna. Hawaiian is a Polynesian language spoken in the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific. The number of native speakers of the language has decreased to just a few hundred.]
hesternal (he-STER-nuhl) adjective
Of yesterday. [From Latin hesternus (of yesterday).]
punctilious (pungk-TIL-ee-uhs) adjective
Extremely attentive to minute details of action or behavior. [From Italian punctiglio, from Spanish puntillo, diminutive of punto, point, from Latin punctum, point.]
dehisce (di-HIS) verb intr.
1. To burst open, as the pod of a plant. 2. To gape. [When a peapod is ripe after a long wait and bursts open, it's yawning, etymologically speaking. The term dehisce comes from Latin dehiscere (to split open), from hiscere (to gape, yawn), from Latin hiare (to yawn). Another term that derives from the same root is hiatus.]
tommyrot (TOM-ee-rot) noun
Nonsense; foolishness. [From English dialectal tommy (fool), shortening of Thomas + English rot.]
crinite (KRY-nyt) adjective
Hairy. [From Latin crinitus, from crinis (hair). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to turn or bend) that's also the fount of other words such as curve, crest, arrange, shrink, crow, and crisp.]
dunce (duns) noun
A person regarded as stupid. [After John Duns Scotus., whose writings and philosophy were ridiculed in the 16th century.]
fiasco (fee-AS-koh) noun
A complete failure. [French, from Italian fare fiasco, to make a bottle, fail, from fiasco, bottle (translation of French bouteille, bottle, error, used by the French for linguistic errors committed by Italian actors on the 18th-century French stage), from Late Latin flasco.]
epigeal (ep-i-JEE-uhl) adjective
Living close to the ground, as certain plants. [From Greek epigeios (on the earth), from epi (upon) + ge (earth).]
facile (FAS-il, -yl) adjective
Easy; simple; superficial; fluent. [From Middle French, from Latin facilis, from facere (to do). Ultimately from Indo-European root dhe (to set or put) which is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion, face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, and many other words.]
verily (VER-uh-lee) adverb
In truth, indeed, truly, certainly. [From Middle English verraily, from verrai/verray (very), from Old French verai (true), from vulgar Latin veracus, from Latin verax (truthful).]
rumbustious (rum-BUS-chuhs) adjective
Wild; rambunctious. [Origin uncertain. Probably both rumbustious and rambunctious are alterations of robustious.]
merry-andrew (MER-ee AN-droo) noun
A clown. [From English merry + generic use of proper name Andrew.]
philosophy (fi-LOS-uh-fee) noun
1. Love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline. The investigation of causes and laws underlying reality. A system of philosophical inquiry or demonstration. 2. Inquiry into the nature of things based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods. 3. The critique and analysis of fundamental beliefs as they come to be conceptualized and formulated. 4. The synthesis of all learning. 5. All learning except technical precepts and practical arts. 6. All the disciplines presented in university curriculums of science and the liberal arts, except medicine, law, and theology. 7. The science comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology. 8. A system of motivating concepts or principles. 9. A basic theory; a viewpoint. 10. The system of values by which one lives. [Middle English philosophie, from Old French, from Latin philosophia, from Greek, from philosophos, lover of wisdom, philosopher.]
agnate (AG-nayt) adjective
1. Related on or descended from the father's or male side. 2. Coming from a common source; akin. noun A relative on the father's or male side only. [Latin agnatus, past participle of agnasci, to become an agnate : ad-, + nasci, to be born.]
brass-collar (BRAS KOL-uhr) adjective
Unwaveringly loyal to a political party; always voting a straight party ticket. [Apparently from the allusion to the collar of a faithful dog.]
bridewell (BRYD-wel) noun
A prison. [After a prison that formerly stood near the church of St. Bride in London during 1545-55.]
dyspeptic (dis-PEP-tik) adjective
1. Relating to or having dyspepsia. 2. Of or displaying a morose disposition. dyspeptic noun A person who is affected by dyspepsia. "Though U.S. unemployment edged up to 5.7% in January, it is still below the 6% rate that many, including dyspeptic bondtraders, consider compatible with stable inflation." Louis S. Richman, et al., Global Growth is on a Tear, Fortune, 20 Mar 1995. Albert Camus, a French writer and philosopher, once said, "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." Can you recognize such souls around you? This week's words will assist you in describing them. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Nov 24 00:04:33 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--nebbish nebbish (NEB-ish) noun A person regarded as weak-willed or timid. [Yiddish nebekh, poor, unfortunate, of Slavic origin.]
crossbuck (KROS-buk) noun
An X-shaped warning sign at a highway-railroad crossing. [From cross- + buck, from sawbuck.]
condottiere (kon-duh-TYAR-ee, -ay) noun
1. A leader of a private band of mercenary soldiers in Italy, especially in the 14th and 15th centuries. 2. Any mercenary; soldier of fortune. [From Italian, equivalent to condotto, from Latin conductus hired man, past participle of condicere to conduce + -iere, from Latin -arius -ary.]
anile (AN-yl, AY-nyl) adjective
Of or like an old woman. [From Latin anilis, from anus old woman.]
taciturn (TAS-i-tuhrn) adjective
Temperamentally untalkative. [From Latin taciturnus (quiet), from tacitus (silent), past participle of tacere (to be silent).]
mainstay (MAYN-stay) noun
A chief support or main part. [On a sailing ship, the mainstay is a strong rope that secures the mainmast. The noun stay (a heavy rope) is from Old English.]
pudency (PYOOD-n-see) noun
Modesty, bashfulness. [From Late Latin pudentia, from pudent-, pudens, from pudere (to make or be ashamed).]
dornick (DOR-nik) noun
1. A piece of rock small enough to throw. [From Irish dornog (small stone, literally fistful).]
eonism (EE-uh-niz-uhm) noun
Adoption of female clothing and manners by a male. [After Chevalier d'Éon (1728-1810), a spy and soldier who lived the second half of his life as a woman.]
atrichia (ay-TRIK-ee-uh) noun
Absence of hair, typically congenital. Also called atrichosis. [From Greek a- (not) + trich- (hair).]
bootless (BOOT-lis) adjective
Useless; unsuccessful, unprofitable. [From Old English botleas, from Old English bot (advantage) + less, from Old English laes (without).]
wattle (WOT-l) noun
1. A construction of poles intertwined with twigs, reeds, or branches, used for walls, fences, and roofs. Material used for such construction. 2. A fleshy, wrinkled, often brightly colored fold of skin hanging from the neck or throat, characteristic of certain birds, such as chickens or turkeys, and some lizards. 3. Any of various Australian trees or shrubs of the genus Acacia. verb tr. 1. To construct from wattle. 2. To weave into wattle. [Middle English wattel, from Old English watel, hurdle.]
recalcitrant (ri-KAL-si-truhnt) adjective
Stubbornly resistant to authority. [From Latin recalcitrare (to kick back, to be disobedient), from re- (again) + calcitrare (to kick), from calx (heel). If you have a dog that has dug his heels in while you're trying to pull him forward, you have a case of an animal that's being recalcitrant, literally.]
redux (ri-DUKS) adjective
Brought back; revisited. [From Latin re- (again) + dux (leader), from ducere (to lead). Ultimately from Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
quoin (koin, kwoin) noun
1. An external angle of a wall; outer corner. 2. One of the stones or bricks forming such an angle: cornerstone. 3. A wedge-shaped block. verb tr. 1. To build a corner with distinctive blocks. 2. To secure metal type with a quoin (in printing). [Variant of coin.]
ananym (AN-uh-nim) noun
A name formed by reversing letters of another name, often used as a pseudonym. [From Greek ana- (back) + -onym (name).]
stump speech (stump speech) noun
A political speech, delivered on a campaign tour. [Originally, campaigning politicians often stood on tree stumps when addressing voters. Today, the stump is used metaphorically in expressions such as "stump speech" (a campaign speech) or "on the stump" (on the campaign trail).]
antebellum (an-tee-BEL-uhm) adjective
Relating to the period before a war, especially the American Civil War (1861-1865). [From Latin ante (before) + bellum (war). Some other words that have derived from Latin bellum are belligerent, rebel, postbellum, and duel.]
superficies (soo-puhr-FISH-ee-eez) noun
Outer surface or appearance of something or someone. [From Latin superficies, from super (over, above) + facies (form, face), from facere (to make or do). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhe- (to set or put) that is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion, face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, Sanskrit sandhi (literally, joining), Urdu purdah (literally, veil or curtain), and Russian duma (council).]
sheep's eyes (sheepz eyez) noun
Shy amorous glances. [The origin of the term is uncertain. Various theories attribute the term to Gaelic or any of the various Germanic languages. It has also been suggested that the term refers to the docile appearance of a sheep's eyes.]
fustilugs (FUS-ti-lugs) noun
A fat and slovenly person. [From Middle English fusty (smelly, moldy) + lug (to carry something heavy).]
misology (mi-SOL-uh-jee) noun
Hatred of logic or reason. [From Greek miso- (hate) + -logy (science, study).]
catbird seat (KAT-burd seet) noun
A position of power and advantage. [A catbird (named after its catlike call) is known to build a pile of rocks to attract a mate and sit on the highest point around. This expression was often used by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball commentator Red Barber and further popularized by the author James Thurber in his story "The Catbird Seat" where a character often utters trite phrases, including the expression "sitting in the catbird seat".]
marmoreal (mahr-MOHR-ee-uhl) also marmorean (-ee-uhn) adjective
Resembling marble, as in smoothness, whiteness, or hardness. [From Latin marmoreus, from marmor, marble.]
ossuary (OSH-oo-eh-ree) noun, plural ossuaries
A place or container for depositing the bones of the dead. Also, ossuarium. [Late Latin ossuarium, from neuter of Latin, ossuarius, of bones, from Old Latin ossua, plural of oss-, os, bone.]
elliptical (i-LIP-ti-kuhl) adjective (also elliptic)
1. Of, relating to, or having the shape of an ellipse. 2. Containing or characterized by ellipsis (omission of a word or phrase). 3. Of or relating to extreme economy of oral or written expression. Marked by deliberate obscurity of style or expression. [New Latin ellipticus, from Greek elleiptikos, defective, from elleipsis, a falling short, ellipsis, from elleipein, to fall short.]
pelagic (puh-LAJ-ik) adjective
Of, relating to, or living in open oceans or seas rather than waters adjacent to land or inland waters. [Latin pelagicus, from Greek pelagikos, from pelagos, sea.]
shoal (shol, rhymes with hole) noun
1. A shallow area in a body of water. 2. A sandbank or sandbar in the bed of a body of water, constituting a navigation hazard. [From Middle English shold, from Old English sceald (shallow). The homonym shoal, referring to a school of fish or a crowd, has a different origin, probably from Dutch schole (band or troop).]
lipogram (LIP-uh-gram) noun
A piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet. [From Greek lipo- (lacking) + gram (something written).]
drawcansir (draw-CAN-suhr) noun
A blustering, bragging bully. [From the name of a character in the play The Rehearsal (1671) by George Villiers (1628-1687), 2nd Duke of Buckingham. The character was apparently named for his potvaliant tendencies: Draw can (of liquor). The play was a satire on poet John Dryden's inflated tragedies and the character Drawcansir was modeled as a parody of Almanzor in Dryden's Conquest of Granada. Dryden in turn lampooned Villiers in a passage in his poem Absalom and Achitophel (1681).]
hibernaculum (hi-buhr-NAK-yuh-luhm) noun, also hibernacle
1. Winter quarters of a hibernating animal. 2. The protective covering of an animal or plant bud that protects it during its dormant stage in the winter. [From Latin hibernaculum (winter residence), from hibernare (to spend the winter). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghei- (winter) that is the ancestor of words such as, chimera (literally a lamb that is one winter, or one year old) and the Himalayas, from Sanskrit him (snow) + alaya (abode).]
mellifluous (muh-LIF-LOO-uhs) adjective
Smoothly or sweetly flowing, as if like honey. [From Middle English, from Late Latin mellifluus, from melli-, from Latin mel (honey) + fluere (to flow).]
viperine (VY-puhr-in, -puh-ryn) adjective
Of, pertaining to, or resembling a viper; venomous. [Middle English vipere, from Old French, from Latin vipera, snake, contraction of *vivipera : vivus, alive + parere, to give birth.]
fawn (fon) verb intr.
1. To exhibit affection or attempt to please, as a dog does by wagging its tail, whining, or cringing. 2. To seek favor or attention by flattery and obsequious behavior. [Middle English faunen, from Old English fagnian, to rejoice, from fagen, faegen, glad.]
eristic (i-RIS-tik) adjective
Characterized by controversy or disputes. noun 1. One who engages in arguments or disputes; a controversialist. 2. The art of disputation. [From Greek eristikos, from erizein (to wrangle), from eris (strife). Eris was the goddess of discord in Greek mythology. The Romans called her Discordia.]
debouch (di-BOUCH, di-BOOSH) verb intr.
1. To march out from a narrow or confined place into an open area. 2. To emerge or issue from a narrow area into the open. [From French deboucher, from de- (out of) + boucher, from bouche (mouth), from Latin bucca (mouth or cheek). The word buckle (as in a belt) derives from the same Latin root.]
caryatid (kar-ee-AT-id) noun, plural caryatids or caryatides (-i-deez)
A supporting column sculptured in the form of a draped female figure. [From Latin Caryatides, maidens of Caryae, caryatids, from Greek Karuatides, from Karuai, Caryae, a village of Laconia in southern Greece.]
versicolor (VUR-si-kul-uhr) adjective
1. Having a variety of colors; variegated. 2. Changing in color; iridescent. [Latin : versus, past participle of vertere, to turn + color.]
sciolist (SAI-uh-list) noun
One who engages in pretentious display of superficial knowledge. [From Late Latin sciolus (smatterer), diminutive of Latin scius (knowing), from scire (to know). Another example of the similar kind of word formation is the name of the bird oriole which is derived from the diminutive form of Latin aureus (golden).]
circumflex (SUR-kuhm-fleks) noun
A mark (^) used over a vowel in certain languages or in phonetic keys to indicate quality of pronunciation. adjective 1. Having this mark. 2. Curving around. [From Latin circumflexus, bent around, circumflex, past participle of circumflectere, to bend around : circum- + flectere, to bend.]
pecuniary (pi-KYOO-nee-er-ee) adjective
1. Relating to money. 2. Involving monetary fine. [Latin pecuniarius, from pecunia, property, wealth, derivative of pecu flock, farm animals; akin to pecus cattle.]
querulous (KWER-uh-luhs, KWER-yuh-) adjective
1. Given to complaining; peevish. 2. Expressing a complaint or grievance; grumbling. [Middle English querulose, litigious, quarrelsome, from Old French querelos, from Late Latin querulosus, querulous, from Latin querulus, from queri, to complain.]
hubba-hubba (HUB-uh HUB-uh) interjection
Used to express approval, enthusiasm, or excitement. Also, akin to wolf whistle. [Of unknown origin.]
hubble-bubble (HUB-buhl-BUB-buhl) noun
1. A form of hookah: a smoking device in which the smoke is passed through a bowl of water, making a bubbling noise, before being drawn through a long pipe. 2. Commotion, uproar, turmoil. [Reduplication of the word bubble.]
bluebeard (BLOO-beerd) noun
A man who marries and kills one wife after another. [After Bluebeard, the nickname of the main character Raoul in a fairy tale by Charles Perrault (1628-1703). In the story, Bluebeard's wife finds the bodies of his previous wives in a room she was forbidden to enter. Yes, he did have a blue beard.]
figurehead (FIG-yuhr-hed, FIG-uhr-hed) noun
A person who is head of a group in name only, having no authority or responsibility. [The term is derived from the figurative use of the term figurehead which is an ornamental carving, usually of a human figure, on the bow of a ship. From Latin figure (form, shape) + Old English heafod (top of the body).]
mano a mano (MA-no a MA-no) plural manos a manos
adverb In direct competition; head to head. adjective One-on-one; face-to-face. noun 1. A bullfight where two matadors compete in turn, fighting several bulls. 2. A direct or face-to-face confrontation. [From Spanish mano a mano, literally hand to hand.]
gargantuan (gar-GAN-choo-uhn) adjective
Gigantic. [After Gargantua, a voracious giant, the father of Pantagruel, in a series of novels by François Rabelais (c. 1490-1553).]
embrocation (em-broh-KAY-shuhn) noun
1. A liquid medication rubbed on the skin. 2. The act of applying a lotion to the bruised part of the body. [From Middle English, from Medieval Latin embrocare (to rub with lotion), from Greek embroche (lotion).]
armamentarium (ahr-muh-men-TAR-ee-uhm) noun, plural armamentaria
The collection of equipment and techniques available to one in a particular field, especially in medicine. [From Latin armamentarium (arsenal), eventually from Latin armare (to arm). Ironically, the word to describe the apparatus of war (armament) and the word for healing paraphernalia (armamentarium) derive from the same root.]
sacred cow (SAY-krid kou) noun
Something that is beyond criticism. [From the special regard for a cow in the Hindu religion.]
limpet (LIM-pit) noun
1. Any of numerous marine gastropod mollusks, as of the families Acmaeidae and Patellidae, characteristically having a conical shell and adhering to rocks of tidal areas. 2. One that clings persistently. 3. A type of explosive designed to cling to the hull of a ship and detonate on contact or signal. [Possibly Middle English lempet, European limpet (sense uncertain).]
soporose (SOP-uh-ros) adjective
Sleepy; in an unusually deep sleep. [From Latin sopor (a deep sleep). Ultimately from the Indo-European root swep- (to sleep) that is also the source of insomnia, hypnosis, and somnambulate (to walk in sleep).]
topiary (TOE-pee-er-ee) adjective
Of or characterized by the clipping or trimming of live shrubs or trees into decorative shapes, as of animals. topiary noun 1. Topiary work or art. 2. A topiary garden. [Latin topiarius, from topia, ornamental gardening, from Greek topia, pl. of topion, field, diminutive of topos, place.]
wiki (wiki) noun
A collaborative Web site that can be edited by anyone. [From Hawaiian wiki (quick). First citation of the word in English is from 1995, when programmer Ward Cunningham used it in naming his new software WikiWikiWeb.]
piddle (PID-l) verb tr.
To use triflingly; squander. verb intr. 1. To spend time aimlessly; diddle. 2. Informal. To urinate. [Origin unknown.]
tarry (TAR-ee) verb intr.
1. To delay or be late in going, coming, or doing. 2. To wait. 3. To remain or stay temporarily, as in a place; sojourn. verb tr. To wait for; await. noun A temporary stay; a sojourn. [Middle English tarien.]
malediction (mal-i-DIK-shuhn) noun
1. The calling down of a curse. A curse. 2. Slander. [Middle English maladicte, from Latin maledictus, past participle of maledicere, to curse : male, ill + dicere, to speak.]
brachylogy (bra-KIL-uh-jee) noun
Conciseness of diction or an instance of such. [From Medieval Latin brachylogia, from Greek brakhulogi, brakhu-, brachy-, short + -logy.]
sequacious (si-KWAY-shuhs) adjective
Unthinkingly following others. [From Latin sequax (inclined to follow), from sequi (to follow).]
petulant (PECH-uh-lent) adjective
1. Unreasonably irritable or ill-tempered; peevish. 2. Contemptuous in speech or behavior. [Latin petulans, petulant-, insolent, from petere, to assail.]
niddering (NID-uhr-ing) noun, adjective
A coward or wretch. [From erroneous reading of Middle English nithing, from Old English nithing. This form of the word originated in the 1596 text of historian William of Malmesbury.]
abbreviation (uh-bree-vee-AY-shuhn) noun
1. The act or product of shortening. 2. A shortened form of a word or phrase used chiefly in writing to represent the complete form, such as Mass. for Massachusetts or USMC for United States Marine Corps. 3. Music. Any of various symbols used in notation to indicate that a series of notes is to be repeated. [Middle English abbreviaten, from Late Latin abbreviare, abbreviat- : ab- (variant of ad-) + breviare, to shorten, from brevis, short.]
ciao (chou) interjection
Used to express greeting or farewell. [Italian, from dialectal ciau, alteration of Italian (sono vostro) schiavo, (I am your) slave, from Medieval Latin sclavus.]
zanjero (zahn-HAY-ro) noun
One who is in charge of water distribution. [From Spanish zanja (ditch, irrigation canal).]
arctophile (ARK-tuh-fyl) noun
A person who is very fond of and is usually a collector of teddy bears. [Greek arkto-, combining form of arktos bear + -phile.]
croupier (KROO-pee-uhr, -pee-ay) noun
An attendant at a gaming table at a casino who collects and pays bets, deals the cards, spins the roulette, etc. [From French, literally one who sits behind another on horseback, from croupe (rump). The term arose because originally such a person stood behind a gambler to offer advice.]
fress (fres) verb intr.
To eat without moderation; to pig out. [From Yiddish fresn (to devour) or German fressen (to eat, when referring to eating by an animal).]
white-shoe (hwyt, wyt shoo) noun
Pertaining to a business or those who run it, typically conservative, rich, and elite, in fields such as law, finance, etc. [Apparently from the earlier popularity of white shoes among such men.]
keelhaul (KEEL-hawl) verb tr.
1. To haul under the keel of a ship. 2. To rebuke sharply. [From Dutch kielhalen, from kiel (keel) + halen (to haul). In the olden times this form of punishment was inflicted in the Dutch and British navies. The punished sailor was tied to a rope looped under the ship and thrown in the water. Then he was dragged along the bottom of the ship to the other side. The result was either severe injuries from brushing against the barnacles on the ship's bottom or death from drowning. Thankfully, in modern times keelhauling is performed only metaphorically.]
proscribe (pro-SKRYB) verb tr.
1. To forbid something, especially by law. 2. To denounce, condemn, or exile someone. [From Latin proscribere (to publish in writing, to name someone as outlawed), from pro- (front) + scribere (write).]
trichotillomania (trik-uh-til-uh-MAY-nee-uh) noun
A compulsion to pull out one's hair. [Tricho- hair + Greek till(ein) to pluck, pull out + -o- + -mania.]
sansculotte also sans-culotte (sanz-kyoo-LOT) noun
1. An extreme radical republican during the French Revolution. 2. Any revolutionary with extremist views. [From French, literally, without knee breeches. In the French Revolution, this was the aristocrats' term of contempt for the ill-clad volunteers of the Revolutionary army who rejected knee breeches as a symbol of the upper class and adopted pantaloons. As often happens with such epithets, the revolutionaries themselves adopted it as a term of pride.]
smarmy (SMAR-mee) adjective
1. Hypocritically, complacently, or effusively earnest; unctuous. 2. Sleek. [From smarm, to smear.]
oust (oust) verb tr.
To expel from a place or position. [From Middle English, from Anglo-French ouster, from Old French oster, from Latin obstare (to stand in the way), from ob- (in the way) + stare (to stand).]
denouement (day-noo-MAHN) noun
1. The final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot. The events following the climax of a drama or novel in which such a resolution or clarification takes place. 2. The outcome of a sequence of events; the end result. [French denouement, from Old French desnouement, an untying, from desnouer, to undo : des-, de- + nouer, to tie (from Latin nodare, from nodus, knot.]
poindexter (POIN-dek-stuhr) noun
An extremely intelligent but socially inept person. [After Poindexter, a character in the animated series Felix the Cat.]
absquatulate (ab-SKWOCH-uh-layt) verb intr.
To leave in a hurry; to flee. [A Mock-Latinate formation, from ab- (away) + squat + -ulate (as in congratulate). First cited from the late 1830s.]
smithereens (smith-uh-REENZ) noun
Tiny fragments. [Probably from Irish smidirin, diminutive of smiodar (fragment).]
opuscule (o-PUS-kyool) noun
A small, minor work. [Latin opusculum, diminutive of opus, work.]
divers (DY-vuhrz) adjective
Various; several. [From Latin diversus, from divertere (to turn aside), from di- (away, apart) + vertere (to turn). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wer- (to turn or bend) that is also the source of words such as wring, weird, writhe, worth, revert, and universe.]
balsamic (bal-SAM-ik) adjective
1. Fragrant. 2. Soothing or healing. 3. Relating to balsam. [From Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon.]
analects (AN-uh-lekts) also analecta (an-uh-LEK-tuh) plural noun
Selections from or parts of a literary work or group of works. Often used as a title. [Greek analekta, selected things, from neuter plural of analektos, gathered together, from analegein, to gather : ana- + legein, to gather.]
eyeservice (EYE-sur-vis) noun
Work done only when the employer is present. [Referring to the service performed only when the employer is watching.]
tellurian (te-LOOR-ee-uhn) adjective
Of, relating to, or inhabiting Earth. noun 1. An inhabitant of Earth; a terrestrial. 2. Variant of tellurion, an apparatus that shows how the movement of Earth on its axis and around the sun causes day and night and the seasons. [Latin tellur- (stem of tellus) earth + -ian]
argonaut (AR-go-not) noun
A cephalopod mollusk (Argonauta argo) with eight tentacles, the female of which inhabits a paper-thin shell that later acts as an egg case. Also known as paper nautilus. [Latin, Argonaut.]
skookum (SKOO-kuhm) adjective
Powerful; first-rate; impressive. [From Chinook Jargon, from a Chehalis word meaning spirit or ghost.]
vaudeville (VAWD-vil) noun
Theatrical entertainment featuring a variety of acts such as songs, dances, comedy, acrobatics, magic, pantomime, etc. [From French vaudeville, from Old French vaudevire, a shortening of chanson du Vau de Vire (song of the Valley of Vire), from Vire, a valley of Calvados, Normandy in France where satirical folksongs were composed by Olivier Basselin in the fifteenth century.]
lilliputian (lil-i-PYOO-shuhn) adjective
Very small. noun A very small person. [After Lilliput, a fictional island nation in Jonathan Swift's satirical novel Gulliver's Travels. Everything was diminutive in Lilliput -- its inhabitants were six inches in height.]
steatopygia (stee-at-uh-PIJ-ee-uh) noun
An extreme accumulation of fat on the buttocks. [Steato- fat + Greek pyge, rump + -ia.]
philomath (FIL-uh-math) noun
A lover of learning. [From Greek philomaths (fond of learning), from philo- (loving) + math- root of manthanein (to learn).]
logogram (LO-guh-gram, LOG-) noun
A written symbol representing an entire spoken word without expressing its pronunciation; for example, for 4 read "four" in English, "quattro" in Italian. Also called ideogram, logograph. "Are our alphabets, decimal counting, Arabic numerals, and Gregorian calendar really superior to Chinese logograms, Babylonian base-60 counting, Roman numerals, and the Mayan calendar?" Diamond, Jared, The curse of QWERTY.(why an inferior typewriter keyboard became the standard), Discover Magazine, 1 Apr 1997. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Sun Oct 18 00:04:21 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--wordmonger wordmonger (WURD-mung-guhr, -mong-) noun A writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly. "But now word came that Henry would still sit for yet another pitch by the ambitious and flashy wordmonger who, not yet 40, headed up the huge Ford Div." Murphy, Walter T., Mustang's birthing pains; Iacocca scores on his third pitch to Henry Ford II.(Lee Iacocca)(U.S. Automotive Centennial), Ward's Auto World, 1 May 1996. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Mon Oct 19 00:04:31 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cremains cremains (kri-MAYNZ) noun The ashes that remain after cremation of a corpse. [Blend of cremated and remains.]
peremptory (puh-REMP-tuh-ree) adjective
1. Putting an end to all debate or action: a peremptory decree. 2. Not allowing contradiction or refusal; imperative: The officer issued peremptory commands. 3. Having the nature of or expressing a command; urgent: The teacher spoke in a peremptory tone. 4. Offensively self-assured; dictatorial: a swaggering, peremptory manner. [Latin peremptorius, from peremptus, past participle of perimere, to take away : per- + emere, to obtain.]
armillary (AHR-muh-ler-ee, ahr-MIL-uh-ree) adjective
Of or pertaining to rings, circles, or hoops. [From Latin armilla (bracelet, ring), from armus (shoulder).]
niminy-piminy (NIM-uh-nee PIM-uh-nee) adjective
Affectedly delicate or refined. [Origin uncertain; probably alteration of namby-pamby.]
syzygy (SIZ-uh-jee) noun
1. Astronomy. Either of two points in the orbit of a celestial body where the body is in opposition to or in conjunction with the sun. Either of two points in the orbit of the moon when the moon lies in a straight line with the sun and Earth. The configuration of the sun, the moon, and Earth lying in a straight line. 2. The combining of two feet into a single metrical unit in classical prosody. [Late Latin syzygia, from Greek suzugia, union, from suzugos, paired : sun-, syn- + zugon, yoke.]
insomnolent (in-SOM-nuh-lunt) adjective
Sleepless. noun One afflicted with insomnia. [From Latin in- (not) + Middle English sompnolent, from Old French, from Latin somnolentus, from somnus (sleep).]
pinchbeck (PINCH-bek) noun
1. An alloy of zinc and copper used as imitation gold. 2. A cheap imitation. pinchbeck adjective 1. Made of pinchbeck. 2. Imitation; spurious. [After Christopher Pinchbeck (1670?-1732), English watchmaker.]
excrescence (ik-SKRES-uhns) noun
1. An abnormal outgrowth, e.g. wart. 2. A normal outgrowth, e.g. hair or nail. 3. An unwanted, unnecessary, or disfiguring extension or addition. [From Middle English, from Latin excrescentia, from excrescent- (stem of excrescens), present participle of excrescere (to grow out), from ex- (out), + crescere (to grow). Other derivatives from the same Latin root are crew, crescendo, crescent, accrue, concrete, decrease, increase, recruit.]
filemot (FIL-mot) noun, adjective
The color of a dead or faded leaf: dull brown or yellowish brown. [From the corruption of the French term feuillemorte, from feuille (leaf) + morte (dead). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
finis (FIN-is, fee-NEE) noun
The end; conclusion. [From Middle English, from Latin finis.]
opus (OH-pus) noun [plural opera (OH-puhr-a, OP-uhr-a) or opuses]
A creative work, especially a musical composition numbered to designate the order of a composer's works. [Latin. oper-, opus, work.]
ebrious (EE-bree-uhs) adjective
1. Inclined to excessive drinking. 2. Tipsy. [From Latin ebrius (drunk). Two cousins of this word are inebriated and sobriety.]
quaquaversal (kwuh-kwuh-VUR-sal) adjective
Sloping downward from the center in all directions. [From Latin quaquavers(us) literally, wheresoever turned, turned everywhere + -al.]
telamon (TEL-uh-mon) noun, plural telamones (-MOH-neez)
A figure of a man used as a supporting pillar. [Latin telamon, from Greek, bearer.]
pundit (PUN-dit) noun also pandit
1. A source of opinion. 2. A learned person. [Hindi pandit, learned man, from Sanskrit panditah, learned; scholar, perhaps of Dravidian origin.]
octopus (OK-tuh-pus) noun, plural octopuses or octopi
1. Any of numerous carnivorous marine mollusks of the genus Octopus or related genera, found worldwide. The octopus has a rounded soft body, eight tentacles with each bearing two rows of suckers, a large distinct head, and a strong beaklike mouth. Also called devilfish. 2. Something, such as a multinational corporation, that has many powerful, centrally controlled branches. [New Latin Octopus, genus name, from Greek oktopous, eight-footed : okto, eight, okto(u) + pous, foot.]
ichor (EYE-kohr, EYE-kuhr) noun
1. Greek Mythology. The rarefied fluid said to run in the veins of the gods. 2. Pathology. A watery, acrid discharge from a wound or ulcer. [Middle English icor, from Late Latin ichor, from Greek ikhor.]
extirpate (EK-stuhr-payt) verb tr.
1. To destroy completely. 2. To pull up by the roots. [From Latin extirpare (to root out), from stirps (stem, root).]
macroscopic (mak-ruh-SKOP-ik) adjective
1. Large enough to be visible to the unaided eye. 2. Of or relating to large units; comprehensive. [From Greek macro- (large, long) + -scopic, from scope, from skopos (aim, mark).]
ambit (AM-bit) noun
1. Circumference, boundary, or circuit. 2. Scope, range, or limit. [From Latin ambitus (going around), from ambire (to go around).]
baxter (BAK-stuhr) noun
A baker, especially a female baker. [From Old English baecestre, feminine of baecere, from bacan (to bake).]
bibliomancy (BIB-lee-o-man-see) noun
Divination by interpreting a passage picked at random from a book, especially from a religious book such as the Bible. [From Greek biblio- (book) + -mancy (divination).]
point-device (point di-VYS) adverb
Completely; perfectly. adjective Perfect; precise; meticulous. [From the phrase "at point devis" meaning "at a fixed point" or "to perfection".]
orthography (or-THOG-ruh-fee) noun
1. The art or study of correct spelling according to established usage. 2. The aspect of language study concerned with letters and their sequences in words. 3. A method of representing the sounds of language or a language by letters and diacritics; spelling. [Late Middle English ortografye, Latin orthographia correct writing, orthogonal projection, Greek orthographia.]
armigerous (ahr-MIJ-ehr-us) adjective
Bearing or entitled to bear heraldic arms. [From Latin armi-, arms + -ger bearing + ous.]
chiaroscuro (kee-ar-uh-SKYOOR-o) noun
The treatment of light and shade in a work of art, especially to give an illusion of depth. Also known as claire-obscure. [From Italian, from chiaro (clear, light) + oscuro (obscure, dark).]
palmy (PAH-mee) adjective
1. Abounding in palm trees. 2. Flourishing; prosperous. [From Latin palma (palm tree).]
parapraxis (par-uh-PRAK-sis) noun
A slip of the tongue (or pen) that reveals the unconscious mind. [Parapraxis is a fancy word for the Freudian slip. It's derived from Greek para- (beside, beyond) + praxis (act).]
presentism (PREZ-uhn-tiz-uhm) noun
Evaluating past events and people by present-day values. [From English present, from Middle English, from Old French, from Latin praesent- (stem of praesens), from present participle of praeesse (to be present before others), from prae- (pre-) + esse (to be).]
hornswoggle (HORN-swog-uhl) verb tr.
To cheat, hoax, or deceive someone. [Of unknown origin.]
thersitical (thur-SIT-i-kuhl) adjective
Foulmouthed; scurrilous. [After Thersites, a Greek in Iliad known for his abusive and foulmouthed nature. He called Agamemnon greedy and Achilles a coward.]
occlude (uh-KLOOD) verb tr.
1. To close, obstruct, or to shut out. 2. To absorb or adsorb (in physical chemistry). verb intr. 1. To close such that the cusps (of the upper and lower jaws) fit together (in dentistry). 2. To force air aloft, as when a cold front overtakes a warm front, resulting in an occluded front (in meteorology). [From Latin occludere, from ob- + claudere (to close).]
foley (FO-lee) adjective
Of or relating to the sound effects. [After Jack Donovan Foley (1891-1967) who pioneered the techniques of adding sound effects during his three decades at Universal Pictures.]
tabby (TAB-ee) noun
1. A rich watered silk. 2. A fabric of plain weave. 3. A domestic cat with a striped or brindled coat of a gray or tawny color. A domestic cat, especially a female. 4. A spinster. 5. A prying woman; a gossip. 6. South Atlantic U.S. A mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water used as a building material. adjective 1. Having light and dark striped markings. 2. Made of or resembling watered silk. [French tabis, from Old French atabis, from Medieval Latin attabi, from Arabic attabi after al-Attabiya, a suburb of Baghdad, Iraq.]
missish (MIS-ish) adjective
Prudish. [From miss + -ish.]
tragus (TRAY-guhs) noun, plural tragi (-gi, -ji)
1. The projection of little flap in front of the ear. 2. Any of the hairs growing at the entrance of the ear. [New Latin, from Greek tragos, goat, hairy part of the ear.]
false colors (fawls KUL-uhrs) noun
Deceptive actions. [When ships approached each other at sea, sailors would look to the flag to determine whether the other vessel was from a friendly or enemy nation. They'd often try to confuse the other by flying a false flag until they were close enough to attack.]
cosmopolis (koz-MOP-uh-lis) noun
A large city inhabited by people from many different countries. [Cosmo- + Greek polis, city.]
cheap shot (cheep shot) noun
1. An act of intentional roughness against an opponent, especially in a contact sport. 2. An unsportsmanlike remark or action directed at a known weakness of another. "We don't care if he's Time magazine's `Person of the Year' or not, that was a cheap shot New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took at Boston and its police." Editorial: Rudy Giuliani Shows Skin Still Very Thin, The Boston Herald, Dec 29, 2001. This week's theme: words from games and sports. -------- Date: Mon Jan 14 00:16:27 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--opsimath opsimath (OP-si-math) noun One who begins learning late in life. [From Greek opsi- (late) + math (learning).]
skinflint (SKIN-flint) noun
Someone who is stingy; a miser. [Flint stones were used in olden times to start a fire. The term skinflint derives from the idea that a miserly person would go to the extreme and "skin a flint" or use a flint till it's as thin as skin.]
dragon's teeth (DRAG-uhns teeth) noun
Seeds of discord. Usually used in the form "to sow dragon's teeth": to take an action that leads to future conflict. [In Greek mythology, the Phoenician prince Cadmus killed a dragon and sowed its teeth. From those teeth sprang an army of men who fought each other until only five were left.]
resipiscent (re-si-PIS-uhnt) adjective
Having returned to a saner mind. [From Latin resipiscere (to recover one's senses), from re- (again) + sapere (to taste, to know). Ultimately from Indo-European root sep- (to taste or perceive) that is also the source of sage, savant, savvy, savor, sapid, sapient, and insipid.]
latitudinarian (lat-i-TOOD-n-ar-ee-uhn, -TYOOD-) adjective
Holding broad and tolerant views, especially on matters of religion. noun One who is broadminded and tolerant, especially concerning religion. [From Latin latitudin-, stem of latitudo (breadth), from latus (broad).]
tabula rasa (TAB-yuh-luh RAH-sa, -za) noun, plural tabulae rasae (TAB-yuh-lee
RA-see, -ze) 1. The mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience. The unformed, featureless mind in the philosophy of John Locke. 2. A need or an opportunity to start from the beginning. [Medieval Latin tabula rasa : Latin tabula, tablet + Latin rasa, feminine of rasus, erased.]
therefor (ther-FOR) adverb
For that; in return or exchange for something, e.g. "placing an order and sending payment therefor". [From Middle English therefor, from there + for. The word 'therefore' arose as a variant spelling of this word.]
hierarch (HY-uh-rark) noun
A high-ranking person. [From Latin hierarcha, from Greek hierarkhes (high priest), from hieros (sacred) + arkhes (ruling), from arkhein (to be first, to rule).]
orihon (OR-ee-hon) noun
A book or manuscript folded like an accordion: a roll of paper inscribed on one side only, folded backwards and forwards. [From Japanese, ori (fold), + hon (book).]
aught also ought (awt) pronoun
Anything whatever adverb Archaic. In any respect; at all. [Middle English, from Old English auht.]
elysian landscape in which the burly-sounding Lovano can romp and, at
the top of his range, skitter." Jeremy Helligar; Eric Levin; Lyndon Stambler; Craig, Picks & Pans: Song, People, 13 Jan 1997. This week's theme: words from Greek mythology. -------- Date: Fri Apr 23 00:07:25 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--promethean Promethean (pruh-MEE-thee-uhn) adjective 1. Relating to or suggestive of Prometheus. 2. Boldly creative; defiantly original. noun One who is boldy creative or defiantly original in behavior or actions. [From Prometheus, a Titan who stole fire from Olympus and gave it to humankind for which Zeus chained him to a rock and sent an eagle to eat his liver, which grew back daily.]
demagogue (DEM-uh-gog) noun, also demagog
A person who appeals to the prejudices and emotions of the people to gain power. verb tr. and intr. To manipulate an issue, to speak, or to act in the manner of a demagogue. [From Greek demagogos (leader of the people), from demos (people) + agogos (leader). In ancient Greece, a demagogos was a popular leader and the word didn't have any negative connotations. With the passage of time, the word shifted meaning and today no leader would like to be called a demagogue, no matter how often he uses words such as "patriotism", "honor", "courage", and "sacrifice" in trying to sway people.]
plebeian (ple-BEE-uhn) adjective
1. Of or relating to the common people of ancient Rome: a plebeian magistrate. 2. Of, belonging to, or characteristic of commoners. 3. Unrefined or coarse in nature or manner; common or vulgar: plebeian tastes. plebeian noun 1. One of the common people of ancient Rome. 2. A member of the lower classes. 3. A vulgar or coarse person. [From Latin plebius, from plebs, pleb-, the common people.]
isthmus (IS-muhs) noun
1. A narrow strip of land with water on each side, joining two larger land masses, for example, the Isthmus of Panama. 2. A narrow strip of tissue joining two large organs or cavities. [From Latin isthmus, from Greek isthmos (a neck of land).]
newel (NOO-el, NYOO-) noun
1. A center column that supports the steps of a spiral staircase. 2. A post supporting the handrail of a staircase. [Middle English nowel, from Middle French nouel, kernel, from Late Latin nucalis, nutlike, from Latin nuc-, nux nut.]
thanatophobia (than-uh-tuh-FO-bee-uh) noun
An abnormal fear of death. [Thanato- death + -phobia.]
pilgarlic (pil-GAHR-lik) noun
A bald-headed person. [Literally peeled garlic, from pill (to peel) + garlic.]
babel also Babel (BAB-uhl, BAY-buhl) noun
1. A confusion of sounds or voices. 2. A scene of noise and confusion. [After Babel. In the Old Testament, a city (now thought to be Babylon) in Shinar where construction of a heaven-reaching tower was interrupted when the builders became unable to understand one another's language.]
cakewalk (KAYK-wok) noun
Something very easy to do, having little or no opposition. [In the 19th century, cakewalk was a popular contest among slaves on the American plantations. It was a strutting dance, developed as a parody of white owners, in which couples with the most stylish steps won a cake as a prize. The dance may or may not have been easy but it was certainly a lot of fun, and eventually the term cakewalk begin to be used to refer to anything easy to do. The idiom "to take the cake" has the same origin.]
obturate (OB-tuh-rayt, -tyuh-) verb tr.
To close or obstruct. [Latin obturare, obturat- : ob- + -turare, to stop up.]
mammon (MAM-uhn) noun
1. Wealth; money. 2. The personification of wealth and of inordinate desire for it; the material wealth considered having an evil influence. [From Middle English, from Late Latin mammona, from Greek mammonas, from Aramaic mamona (riches). Mammon was personified as a false god in the New Testament.]
gourmet (goor-MAY, GOOR-may) noun
A connoisseur of fine food and drink. gourmet noun attributive Often used to modify another noun: gourmet cooking; gourmet restaurants. [French, from Old French, alteration (influenced by gourmand, glutton. of groumet, servant, valet in charge of wines, from Middle English grom, boy, valet.]
postprandial (post-PRAN-dee-uhl) adjective
After a meal, especially dinner. [From Latin post- (after) + prandium (meal). Ultimately from Indo-European root ed- (to eat or to bite) that has given other words such as edible, comestible, obese, etch, and fret.]
maven (MAY-vuhn) noun
An expert, connoisseur, or enthusiast. [From Yiddish meyvn, from Hebrew mebhin (one who understands).]
algorism (AL-guh-riz-uhm) noun
1. The Arabic system of numeration; the decimal system. 2. Computation with Arabic figures. [Middle English algorisme, from Old French, from Medieval Latin algorismus after Muhammad ibn Khwarizmi-Musa Al-.]
posthumous (POS-chuh-muhs) adjective
1. Occurring or continuing after one's death: a posthumous award. 2. Published after the writer's death: a posthumous book. 3. Born after the death of the father: a posthumous child. [Middle English posthumus, from Late Latin, alteration (perhaps influenced by Latin humus, earth, and, or humare, to bury), of postumus, superlative of posterus, coming after.]
roscian (ROSH-ee-uhn) adjective
Of or related to acting. [After Quintus Roscius Gallus (c.126-62 BCE), a Roman actor famous for his talent in acting.]
mesne (meen) adjective
Intermediate; intervening. [From Anglo-French, a variant of meen, from meien, from Latin medianus, from medius (middle). Other words derived from the same root are median, medieval, mediate, medium, intermediate, and mediocre.]
bathypelagic (bath-uh-puh-LAJ-ik) adjective
Of, relating to, or living in the depths of the ocean, especially between about 600 and 3,000 meters (2,000 and 10,000 feet). "Below this region are the bathypelagic fishes, with small eyes and luminescent organs ..." Leonard P. Schultz, Fish, Colliers Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 28 Feb 1996. This week's theme: words about oceans and seas. -------- Date: Mon Dec 14 00:04:29 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--stick-in-the-mud stick-in-the-mud (stik-in-thuh-MUD) noun One who lacks initiative, imagination, or enthusiasm. "Leninetz is forward-looking: it began diversifying away from arms in 1988. But its example is being copied by stick-in-the-mud firms in the city." Hoppe, Kathryn, Success dressed as failure, Vol. 325, Economist, 12-05-1992, pp 10. Idioms are colorful expressions peculiar to a particular language or locale whose meaning cannot be literally derived from their component words. They can add spice to informal conversation or writing and impart a warm, hearty feeling. Use this week's phrases to impart earthiness to yours. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Dec 15 00:04:38 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hole-in-the-wall hole-in-the-wall (HOAL-in-thuh-wawl) A small, very modest, often out-of-the-way place. "All in the same week that the Chemical Brothers stormed the massive Manhattan Centre; and an energized Echo and the Bunnymen staged their jubilant US comeback (in the incongruous setting in a hole-in-the-wall club on the Lower East Side)." Dennis Lim, American Graffiti, Independent on Sunday, 25 May 1997. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Wed Dec 16 00:04:38 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bred-in-the-bone bred-in-the-bone (bred-in-thuh-BOAN) adjective 1. Deeply instilled; firmly established. 2. Persistent; habitual. "Typical of Rosanna's bred-in-the-bone bohemianism, though, she doesn't seem to care that the spotlight has shifted." Seipp, Catherine, Arquette act. (sisters Patricia and Rosanna Arquette), Harper's Bazaar, 1 Aug 1994. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Thu Dec 17 00:04:27 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--down-at-the-heel down-at-heel (doun-at-HEEL) or down-at-the-heel adjective 1. Worn out from long use or neglect; dilapidated. 2. Shabbily dressed because of poverty; seedy. "In Missing Susan (1991), for instance, we have a group of American tourists as seen through the eyes of a down-at-the-heels English tour guide, Rowan Rover, who has been paid to arrange a fatal accident for one of his charges." Robert F. Geary, Elegy for the Last Outlaw, The World & I, 1 Jan 1995. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Fri Dec 18 00:04:27 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--straight-from-the-shoulder straight-from-the-shoulder (strayt-fruhm-thuh-SHOAL-duhr) adjective Frank and forthright: straight-from-the-shoulder reporting. "A striking poem called Sequinned ends this way: Girl, don't you let that city get away. Lift it up, raise it up, slip your arms through and take it back to dance. This is poetry that speaks to us boldly, straight from the shoulder." Natalie Soto, et al., On the Shelf, Rocky Mountain News, 21 Dec 1997. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Sat Dec 19 00:04:22 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--catch-as-catch-can catch-as-catch-can (kach-az-kach-KAN) adjective Using or making do with whatever means are available. catch-as-catch-can adverb However or by whatever means possible. "Some of us first discovered the artistry of Fritz Reiner on a catch-as-catch-can basis in the waning years of the LP era, when most of his CSO records had dropped from the catalog, before the CD reissue boom started in the mid-1980s." Hansen, Lawrence, American Record Guide, July-August 1996. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Sun Dec 20 00:04:25 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hail-fellow-well-met hail-fellow-well-met (HAYL-feloe-wel-met) adjective Heartily friendly and congenial. [From the obsolete greeting hail, fellow!.]
tractate (TRAK-tayt) noun
A treatise; an essay. [Latin tractatus.]
hyperbaton (hye-PUR-buh-ton), noun, plural hyperbatons, hyperbata
The use, especially for emphasis, of a word order other than the expected or usual one, as in "Bird thou never wert.' [Greek huperbaton, from neuter of huperbatos, transposed, from huperbainein, to step over : huper-, over, across + bainein, to step.]
neoteric (nee-uh-TER-ik) adjective
New; recent; modern. [Late Latin neotericus, from Greek neoterikos, youthful, from neoterios, comparative of neos new.]
prolix (pro-LIKS, PRO-liks) adjective
Tediously wordy. [From Latin prolixus (extended, poured), from liquere (to flow), which is also the source of words such as liquid, liquor, licorice. Now you see the connection -- why consuming liquor makes people prolix.]
baedeker (BAY-de-kuhr) noun
A guidebook to countries or a country. [After Karl Baedeker (1801-1859) German publisher who established a series of guidebooks in 1829.]
gaffer (GAF-uhr) noun
1. The head of the electrical department responsible for the lighting setup on a movie or television set. 2. An old man, especially a country man. 3. A foreman, supervisor, or boss. [Contraction of godfather, influenced by grandfather.]
pillory (PIL-uh-ree) noun
A wooden framework on a post, with holes for the head and hands, in which offenders were formerly locked to be exposed to public scorn as punishment. verb tr. 1. To expose to ridicule and abuse. 2. To put in a pillory as punishment. [Middle English, from Old French pilori, probably from Latin pila, pillar.]
pawky (PAW-kee) adjective
Sly, shrewd; dryly humorous. [From Scots pawk (trick).]
idiopathy (id-ee-OP-uh-thee) noun
A disease of unknown origin or one having no apparent cause. [From New Latin idiopathia (primary disease), from Greek idiopatheia, from idio-, from idios (one's own, personal) + -patheia, -pathy (feeling, suffering).]
in medias res (in MAY-dee-uhs rays, in MEE-dee-uhs REEZ, in MAY-dee-as RAYS) adverb
In or into the middle of things. [From Latin in medias res, from in (in, into) + medius (middle) + res (thing). A related term is ab ovo (from the beginning, literally, from the egg). Both come from Horace's Ars Poetica (Art of Poetry), where the Roman poet advises that an epic poet ought to begin in the middle of the action rather than at the beginning. The story is then told by flashbacks.]
atomy (AT-uh-mee) noun
Archaic. 1. A tiny particle; a mote. 2. A tiny being. [From Latin atomi, pl. of atomus, atom.]
pintle (PIN-tl) noun
1. A pin or a bolt on which another part pivots. 2. Nautical. The pin on which a rudder turns. 3. The pin on which a gun carriage revolves. 4. A hook or a bolt on the rear of a towing vehicle for attaching a gun or trailer. [Middle English pintel, from Old English, penis.]
epeolatry (ep-i-OL-uh-tree) noun
The worship of words. [From Greek epos (word) + -latry (worship). The first citation of the word is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in his 1860 book Professor at the Breakfast Table.]
lability (luh-BIL-i-tee) noun
Susceptibility to change, lapse, error or instability. [Via French/Middle English from Late Latin labilis (prone to slip), from labi (to slip). Other words from the same root are avalanche, lapse, and lava.]
schlock (shlok) adjective
Cheap, inferior, or shoddy. noun Something that is of inferior quality; junk. [From Yiddish shlak (evil, nuisance).]
detente (day-TANT) noun
An easing of tension between rivals. [From French détente (loosening, relaxation). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ten- (to stretch) that's also the source of tense, tendon, tenor, pretend, extend, tenure, tetanus, and hypotenuse.]
calcar (KAL-kar) noun [plural calcaria (kal-KAR-ee-uh)]
A spur or spurlike projection, such as one found on the base of a petal or on the wing or leg of a bird. [Latin, spur, from calx, calc-, heel.]
erose (i-ROS) adjective
Irregularly notched, toothed, or indented. [From Latin erosus, past participle of erodere, to gnaw off.]
blarney (BLAHR-nee) noun
1. Flattery. 2. Misleading talk. [After the Blarney stone, a stone in Blarney Castle in Blarney village, near Cork, Ireland which, according to legend, gives the gift of the gab to anyone who kisses it.]
scrimmage (SKRIM-ayg) noun
1. A rough struggle. 2. A practice game, often between two parts of the same team. 3. A tussle for the ball in games such as football, rugby, soccer, etc. verb tr, intr. To engage in a scrimmage. [Middle English metathetic variant of skirmish.]
abrogate (AB-ruh-gayt) verb tr.
To put aside or treat as nonexistent, especially by an authoritative act. [From Latin abrogatus (repealed), past participle of abrogare (to repeal a law), from ab- (away from) + rogare (to ask, propose a law). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regent, regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.]
conversant (kuhn-VUHR-suhnt) adjective
Having familiarity by study or experience. [From Middle English conversaunt (associated with), present participle of converser, from Latin conversari (to associate with).]
boustrophedon (boo-struh-FEED-n, -FEE-don) noun
A method of writing in which lines are written alternately in opposite direction, from left to right, and right to left. [From boustrophedon, literally ox-turning, referring to the movement of an ox while plowing a field, from bous (ox) and strophe (turning). It's the same strophe that shows up in catastrophe (literally, an overturning) and apostrophe (literally, turning away, referring to the omission of a letter).]
chiasmus (ki-AZ-muhs) noun
A rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures. [New Latin, from Greek khiasmos, syntactic inversion, from khiazein, to invert or mark with an X.]
dog's letter (dogz LET-uhr) noun
The letter R. [From Latin littera canina, literally dog's letter. In Latin the sound of the letter R was trilled. Think Grrr! of a snarling dog. A good example of a trilling R is none other that the Spanish word for a dog: perro.]
operose (OP-uh-roas) adjective
1. Tedious; diligent. 2. Requiring great effort. [From Latin operosus (laborious, painstaking; active), from oper-, from opus (work). Ultimately from Indo-European root op- (to work, produce) that is also the ancestor of words such as opera, opulent, optimum, maneuver, and manure.]
vivify (VIV-i-FY) verb tr.
1. To endow with life; animate. 2. To impart vitality or liveliness. [From Latin vivus (alive) via Late Latin vivificare.]
meed (meed) noun
Reward; recompense; wage. [From Middle English mede, from Old English med.]
bulimia (boo-LIM-ee-uh, byoo-) noun
1. Excessive or insatiable appetite. 2. An emotional disorder marked by bouts of overeating followed by purging, by means of self-induced vomiting, laxatives, etc. [From New Latin bulimia, from Greek boulimia, from bous (ox) + limos (hunger).]
erythrophobia (i-rith-ruh-FO-bee-uh) noun
1. Hypersensitivity to the color red. 2. An extreme fear of blushing. [From Greek erythros (red) + phobia (fear).]
junto (JUN-to) noun
A small, usually secret group united for a common interest. [Alteration of junta, Spanish and Portuguese, conference, probably from Latin iuncta, feminine past participle of iungere, to join.]
rhinorrhea (ry-nuh-REE-uh) noun
A runny nose. [From Neo-Latin, from Greek rhino- (nose), -rrhea (flow).]
embrangle (em-BRANG-guhl) verb tr.
To embroil or entangle. [From en- + brangle (to shake), from French branler (to shake).]
gainsay (GAYN-say) verb tr.
To deny or contradict. [From Middle English gainsayen, from gain- (against), from Old English gegn- + sayen, from secgan (to say).]
philography (fi-LOG-ruh-fee) noun
The practice of collecting autographs. [From Greek philo-, loving + -graphy, writing.]
eaves (eevz) noun
Overhanging edge of a roof. [From Middle English eves, from Old English efes. That's where we got the word eavesdrop, from eavesdropper, literally one who stands within the eavesdrop of a house to listen to conversations inside.]
goombah (GOOM-bah) noun
1. Friend, accomplice, or crony. 2. Godfather or mentor. 3. Gangster or Mafioso. [Dialectal pronunciation of Italian compa, a clipping of compare (godfather, friend, or accomplice), from Latin compater, from com- (with) + pater (father).]
gadarene (GAD-uh-reen) adjective
Headlong; rash. [After the town of Gadara in a biblical story where two demon-possessed men ask Jesus to send them into a herd of swine. They dash into the herd and all the animals rush violently over a cliff.]
antiphony (an-TIF-uh-nee) noun
Responsive alternation between two groups, especially between singers. [From antiphon (a song sung in alternate parts), from Middle English, from Greek antiphona.]
magnum opus (MAG-num OH-puhs) noun
A great work of literature, music, art, etc., especially the finest work of an individual. [From Latin magnum opus, from magnum, neuter of magnus (large), opus (work).]
temblor (TEM-bluhr) noun
An earthquake. [From Spanish temblor (trembling), from temblar (to tremble), from Vulgar Latin tremulare, from Latin tremulus (tremulous), from tremere (to tremble).]
trade-last (TRAYD-last) noun
A compliment that a person has heard and offers to repeat to the one complimented in exchange for a compliment made about oneself. [From trade + last.]
ambisinister (am-bi-SIN-uh-stuhr) adjective
Clumsy with both hands. (Literally, with two left hands.) [Latin ambi- both, + sinister, on the left side.]
luxuriant (lug-ZHOOR-ee-ent, luk-SHOOR-) adjective
1. Abundant or lush in growth, as vegetation. 2. Producing abundantly, as soil; fertile; fruitful; productive. 3. Richly abundant, profuse, or superabundant. 4. Florid, as imagery or ornamentation; lacking in restraint. [Latin luxurians, luxuriant-, present participle of luxuriare, to be luxuriant.]
advertorial (ad-vuhr-TOR-ee-uhl) noun
A newspaper or magazine ad resembling editorial content in style and layout. [A blend of advertisement + editorial. The radio/television equivalent of an advertorial is another blend word, infomercial: information + commercial.]
discombobulate (dis-kuhm-BOB-yuh-layt) tr.verb
To throw into a state of confusion. [Perhaps alteration of discompose.]
levin (LEV-in) noun
Lightning; a bright light. [From Middle English levene. Ultimately from Indo-European root leuk- (light) that's resulted in other words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, and lynx.]
lucre (LOOK-uhr) noun
Money or profits. [Middle English, from Latin lucrum.]
gulag (GOO-lahg) noun
1. The system of forced-labor camp in the former Soviet Union. 2. Any prison or forced-labor camp, especially one for political prisoners. 3. A place of great hardship. [From Russian Gulag, acronym from Glavnoe Upravlenie ispravitel'no-trudovykh LAGere (Chief Administration for Corrective Labour Camps).]
demotic (di-MOT-ik) adjective
1. Of or relating to the common people; popular. 2. Of, relating to, or written in the simplified form of ancient Egyptian hieratic writing. 3. Demotic. Of or relating to a form of modern Greek based on colloquial use. [Greek demotikos, from demotes, a commoner, from demos, people.]
jape (jayp) intr.verb
To joke or quip. jape tr.verb To make sport of. jape noun A joke or quip. [Middle English japen, probably from Old French japer, to yap, chatter, nag, of imitative origin.]
labanotation (lah-buh-noh-TAY-shun) noun, also Labanotation
A system of notating details of a dance movement on a staff. [After choreographer Rudolph Laban (1879-1958) who devised it.]
anserine (AN-suh-ryn, -rin) adjective, also anserous
1. Of or belonging to the subfamily Anserinae, which comprises the geese. 2. Of or resembling a goose; gooselike. 3. Stupid; foolish; silly. [Latin anserinus, pertaining to geese, from anser, goose.]
fedora (fi-DAWR-uh, -dor-) noun
A soft felt hat with a fairly low crown creased lengthwise and a brim that can be turned up or down. [After Fedora, a play by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908).]
snafu (sna-FOO, SNA-foo) noun
A bad situation, especially one resulting from incompetence. adjective Marked by confusion; chaotic. verb tr. To throw into disorder or confusion. [US military acronym from Situation Normal, All F**ked Up, also euphemistically, Situation Normal, All Fouled Up. Note: We've asterisked the F word here to make sure this newsletter doesn't get held by the nanny software.]
dragoman (DRAG-uh-man) noun, plural dragomans or dragomen
An interpreter or guide. [The word took a scenic route to its present form via French, Italian, and medieval Latin/Greek, from Arabic tarjuman, from Aramaic turgemana, from Akkadian targumanu (interpreter).]
lassitude (LAS-i-tood, -tyood) noun
Weariness; listlessness; lethargy. [From French, from Latin lassitudo, from lassus (weary). Ultimately from Indo-European root le- (to let go or slacken) that's also the ancestor of words such as late, last, alas, allegiance, and lenient.]
cock-a-hoop (kok-uh-HOOP) adjective
1. Being elated or exulting, especially in a boastful manner. 2. Askew. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from the phrase to set cock on a hoop (to be festive).]
involution (in-vuh-LOO-shuhn) noun
1. The act of involving. The state of being involved. 2. Intricacy; complexity. 3. Something, such as a long grammatical construction, that is intricate or complex. 4. Mathematics. The multiplying of a quantity by itself a specified number of times; the raising to a power. 5. Embryology. The ingrowth and curling inward of a group of cells, as in the formation of a gastrula from a blastula. 6. Medicine. A decrease in size of an organ, as of the uterus following childbirth. A progressive decline or degeneration of normal physiological functioning occurring as a result of the aging process. [Latin involutio, involution-, from involutus, past participle of involvere, to enwrap.]
polyonymous (pol-ee-ON-uh-muhs) adjective
Having or known by many names. [From Greek polyonymos, from poly- (many) + -onyma (name).]
clodhopper (KLOD-hop-uhr) noun
1. A clumsy, awkward fellow. 2. A strong, heavy work shoe. [Apparently modeled after grasshopper: clod + hopper.]
echt (ekht) adjective
Authentic; typical. [From German echt (genuine, typical).]
longanimity (long-guh-NIM-i-tee) noun
Calmness in the face of suffering and adversity; forbearance. [Middle English longanimite, from Old French, from Late Latin longanimitas, from longanimis, patient : Latin longus, long + Latin animus, mind, reason.]
acrostic (a-KRAW-stik, a-KRAWS-tik) noun
1. A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence. 2. A set of words arranged in a square such that they read the same horizontally and vertically. Also called word square. [French acrostiche, from Old French, from Greek akrostikhis : akron, head, end. acro- + stikhos, line.]
styptic (STIP-tik) adjective
1. Able to check bleeding, whether by contracting the tissues or by promoting clotting. 2. Tending to contract organic tissues. noun A substance that stops bleeding of minor cuts. [From Late Latin stypticus, from Greek stupikos, from stuphein, (to contract).]
couloir (KOOL-wahr) noun
A steep mountainside gorge or gully. [From French couloir (passage), from couler (to flow), from Latin colare (to filter), from colum (sieve).]
horrent (HOR-ehnt) adjective
Standing up like bristles, bristling. [From Latin horrent-, stem of horrens, present participle of horrere (to bristle).]
liminal (LIM-uh-nl) adjective
1. At an intermediate state. 2. At the threshold of consciousness. [From Latin limen (threshold).]
lebensraum (LAY-behns-roum) noun
1. Additional territory deemed necessary to a nation, especially Nazi Germany, for its continued existence or economic well-being. 2. Adequate space in which to live, develop, or function. [German : Lebens, genitive sing. of Leben, life (from Middle High German, from Old High German leben) + Raum, space, from Middle High German roum, from Old High German rum.]
hypercorrection (hi-puhr-kuhr-REK-shun) noun
A grammatical, usage or pronunciation mistake made by `correcting' something that's right to begin with. For example, use of the word whom in "Whom shall I say is calling?" [From Greek hyper- (over) + correction.]
baksheesh (BAK-sheesh) noun
A payment, such as a tip or bribe. [From Persian bakhshish, from bakhshidan, from baksh (to give).]
pollex (POL-eks) noun, plural pollices
The thumb. [From Latin.]
portend (por-TEND) verb tr.
1. To serve as an omen or a warning of; presage. 2. To indicate by prediction; forecast. [Middle English portenden, from Latin portendere.]
ligneous (LIG-nee-uhs) adjective
Consisting of or having the texture or appearance of wood; woody. [From Latin ligneus, from lignum, wood.]
pizzicato (pit-si-KA-toe) adjective
Played by plucking rather than bowing the strings. pizzicato noun A pizzicato note or passage. [Italian, past participle of pizzicare, to pluck, from pizzare, to prick, from pizzo, point.]
fiddle-faddle (FID-l-fad-l) noun
Nonsense. verb intr. To fritter away one's time; dally. [Reduplication of fiddle.]
theomania (thee-o-MAY-nee-uh, -MAIN-yuh) noun
The belief that one is God or specially chosen by God on a mission. [From Greek theos (god) + -mania (excessive enthusiasm or craze).]
supernumerary (soo-puhr-NOO-muh-rer-ee, -NYOO-) adjective
More than required; extra. noun 1. A supernumerary person. 2. An actor who appears in a drama or film with no speaking part. [Latin supernumerarius : super, above- + numerus, number.]
escarpment (i-SKARP-ment) noun
A long, steep slope separating two relatively level areas of land at differing elevations. [From French escarpement, from Italian scarpa (slope).]
potemkin village (po-TEM-kin VIL-ij) noun
An impressive showy facade designed to mask undesirable facts. [After Prince Potemkin, who erected cardboard villages for Catherine II's visit to the Ukraine and the Crimea in 1787.]
cellarer (SEL-uhr-uhr) noun
A person, as in a monastic community, who is responsible for maintaining the supply of food and drink. [Middle English celerer, from Old French, from Latin cellarius, steward, from cella, storeroom.]
mortmain (MOWRT-mayn) noun
1. Law. Perpetual ownership of real estate by institutions such as churches that cannot transfer or sell it. 2. The often oppressive influence of the past on the present. [Middle English mortemayne, from Old French mortemain : morte, feminine of mort, dead + main, hand (from Latin manus).]
epuration (ep-yuh-RAY-shun) noun
Purification, especially removal of officials or politicians believed to be disloyal; purge. [From French epuration, epurer, to purify + ation.]
bowyer (BO-yuhr) noun
One who makes, sells, or uses bows. [From Old English boga, ultimately from the Indo-European root bheug- (to bend) that is also the source of bagel, buxom, and bog.]
hemidemisemiquaver (hem-ee-dem-ee-SEM-ee-kway-vuhr) noun
Chiefly British. A sixty-fourth note. "The rest of the event offered carefree virtuosity, musical probing and Levinson's breathtaking intelligence. Bartok's Dance Suite uncovered all the colors and kinetic irresistibility of its parts; the Schoenbergpieces were handsomely sculptured to a hemidemisemiquaver." Daniel Cariaga, Music Review; At 26, Levinson Shows He's a Versatile Force at the Keyboard, Los Angeles Times, 16 Dec 1998. Why does it take the longest to pronounce the word for the shortest note? This week's theme: words that go out of their way to not apply to themselves. -------- Date: Fri Apr 2 00:07:23 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--descender descender (di-SEN-duhr) noun 1. One that descends. 2. The part of the lowercase letters, such as g, p, and q, that extends below the other lowercase letters. A letter with such a part. [Middle English descenden, from Old French descendre, from Latin descendere : de- + scandere, to climb.]
prepense (pri-PENS) adjective
Planned; premeditated. [From Anglo-Norman purpenser (to premeditate), from Latin pensare (to think).]
asinine (AS-uh-nyn) adjective
1. Utterly stupid or silly. 2. Of, relating to, or resembling an ass. [Latin asininus, of an ass, from asinus, ass.]
bandersnatch (BAN-duhr-snach) noun
1. An imaginary wild animal of fierce disposition. 2. A person of uncouth or unconventional habits, attitudes, etc., especially one considered a menace, nuisance, or the like. [Coined by Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking Glass" (1871)]
third degree (thurd di-GREE) noun
Intensive questioning using rough treatment. adjective Pertaining to the third degree. verb To subject to such treatment. "Halfway through the meal, I spotted his psycho ex walking toward us. She immediately gave him the third degree, asking why he had let her go and who this new girl was with him." Cara Birnbaum and Jennifer Benjamin, Mortifying Meet-the-Parents Moments, Cosmopolitan, Feb 2001. -------- Date: Thu May 17 00:02:10 EDT 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--second fiddle second fiddle (SEK-und FID-l) noun Secondary role. A person in such a role. "Until last year the club had played second fiddle to their great rivals Leicester in recent times." Ian Malin, Rugby Union, The Guardian (UK), Mar 10, 2001. -------- Date: Fri May 18 00:02:12 EDT 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--first water first water (furst WA-tuhr) noun 1. The highest degree of quality in a precious stone, especially diamond. 2. The best grade or quality. "Anne-Sophie Mutter: The German-born former prodigy was once known more for her strapless gowns and her glamor, but she has matured into a musical diamond of the first water." Melinda Bargreen, Strings of Success, The Seattle Times, Jan 17, 1999. -------- Date: Mon May 21 00:21:12 EDT 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--albedo albedo (al-BEE-doh) noun 1. The fraction of light reflected from a body or surface. For example, earth's albedo is around 0.39. 2. The white, spongy inner lining of a citrus fruit rind. [From Late Latin albedo, whiteness, from Latin albus, white.]
devil's advocate (DEV-uhlz AD-vuh-kuht) noun
One who argues against something for the sake of argument, for example, to provoke discussion and subject a plan to thorough examination. [From Latin advocatus diaboli (devil's advocate). The Roman Catholic Church used to have a person appointed as a devil's advocate to argue against elevating someone to sainthood. The person arguing for the proposition was known as God's advocate (Latin advocatus dei).]
redact (ri-DAKT) verb tr.
1. To draw up or frame (a proclamation, for example). 2. To make ready for publication; edit or revise. [Middle English redacten, from Latin redigere, redact-, to drive back : re-, red-, re- + agere, to drive.]
nevus (NEE-vuhs) noun
A congenital blemish on the skin, such as a mole or birthmark. [From Latin naevus (mole).]
boodle (BOOD-l) noun
An illegal payment, as in graft. verb intr. To take money dishonestly, especially from graft. [From Dutch boedel (property).]
antanaclasis (ant-an-uh-KLAS-is) noun
A form of speech in which a key word is repeated and used in a different, and sometimes contrary, way for a play on words, as in The craft of a politician is to appear before the public without craft. [From Greek antanaklasis literally echo, reflection, equivalent to ant- + ana- + klasis a breaking, bending.]
roman-fleuve (roe-maan-FLOEV) noun
A long novel, often in many volumes, chronicling the history of several generations of a family, community, or other group and often presenting an overall view of society during a particular epoch. Also called saga novel. [French : roman, novel + fleuve, river.]
ocker (OK-uhr) noun
1. An uncultured Australian male. 2. An uncouth, offensive male chauvinist. adjective 3. Of or pertaining to such a person. 4. Typically Australian. [After Ocker, a character in an Australian television series.]
pharaoh (FAR-o) noun, also Pharaoh
1. A title of an ancient Egyptian ruler. 2. A tyrant. [From Middle English pharao, from Old English, from Latin pharao, from Greek pharao, from Hebrew pharoh, from Egyptian pr-o, from pr (house) + o (great). The designation was for the palace but later used to refer to the king, just as White House can refer to the US President.]
chav (chav) noun
A youth whose behavior is marked by ignorance, aggression, and a fondness for jewelry and clothing. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Romany chav (child) or from shortening of Chatham, the name of a town in Kent, UK. The first print citation of the term in the OED is from a 2002 article in The Observer (London).]
moliminous (mo-LIM-in-uhs) adjective
Massive; laborious. [From Latin molimen (effort, weight, importance).]
borborygmus (bor-buh-RIG-muhs) noun
A rumbling noise produced by the movement of gas through the intestines. [New Latin, from Greek borborugmos, of imitative origin.]
incogitant (in-KOJ-i-tuhnt) adjective
Thoughtless; inconsiderate. [From Latin incogitant-, from cogitare (to think), from agitare (to agitate), from agere (to drive). Ultimately from Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that's also the fount of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
bissextile (by-SEKS-til) adjective
Of or pertaining to the leap year or the extra day in the leap year. noun Leap year. [From Late Latin bisextilis annus (leap year), from Latin bissextus (February 29: leap day), from bi- (two) sextus (sixth), from the fact that the sixth day before the Calends of March (February 24) appeared twice every leap year.]
tridecennary (try-di-SEN-uh-ree) noun
1. A period of thirteen years. 2. A thirteenth anniversary. [From Latin tres (three), from decem (ten) + annus (year).]
bumf (bumf) noun
1. Toilet paper. 2. Printed matter of little importance: documents such as corporate memos, governmental forms, junk mail, promotional pamphlets, etc. [Short for bum fodder.]
histrionic (his-tree-ON-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to actors, acting, or theater. 2. Overly dramatic or affected. [From Late Latin histrionicus, from Latin histrion-, histrio (actor).]
hallux (HAL-uhks) noun, plural halluces (HAL-yuh-seez)
Big toe. More generally, the innermost digit on the hind foot of animals. It is usually backward-directed in birds. [From Late Latin hallux, from Latin hallus, similar to pollex, thumb.]
sententious (sen-TEN-shuhs) adjective
1. Full of pithy expressions. 2. Full of pompous moralizing. [From Middle English, from Latin sententiosus (full of meaning), from sententia (opinion), from sentire (to feel or to have an opinion). Some other words derived from the same root are: sense, sentence, sentiment, sentinel, assent, consent, dissent, resent.]
fourth estate (forth i-STAYT) noun
Journalistic profession, the press. [Supposedly, a power other than the three estates (the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the House of Commons) in UK.]
doyenne (doi-EN) noun
A woman who is the eldest or senior member of a group or profession. [From Late Latin decanus (chief of ten), via Old French deien and Middle French doyenne. Her male counterpart is a doyen.]
scripophily (skri-POF-uh-lee) noun
The hobby of collecting historic stock and bond certificates. Also, such a collection. [From scrip, short for subscription + Greek -phily (love).]
jackboot (JAK-boot) noun
1. A long, sturdy, leather boot reaching up to or above the knee, worn especially by soldiers in the Nazi regime. 2. Oppressive, bullying, or authoritarian tactics. 3. A person who employs such tactics. [Where the word jack in jackboot came from is uncertain.]
widow's cruse (WID-oz KROOZ) noun
An inexhaustible supply of something that appears meager. [From the biblical story of the widow's jug of oil that miraculously replenished itself to supply Elijah during a famine. A cruse is a small earthen pot for holding liquids.]
scalawag (SKAL-uh-wag) noun, also scallywag or scallawag
1. A rascal. 2. In US history, a white Southerner who acted in support of the Reconstruction after the Civil War. [Of unknown origin.]
cadogan (kuh-DUG-uhn) noun
A lidless teapot, inspired by Chinese wine pots, that is filled from the bottom. [After William Cadogan, 1st Earl of Cadogan (1675-1726), who was said to be the first Englishman to own such a pot.]
sororal (suh-ROR-uhl) adjective
Of or pertaining to a sister; sisterly. [From Latin soror (sister). Ultimately from Indo-European root swesor- (sister) that is also the source of words cousin and sister, and words for sister in other languages such as French soeur, German Schwester, and Dutch zuster.]
contrail (KON-trayl) noun
Streaks of condensed water vapor or ice crystals forming in the wake of an aircraft or rocket. Also known as vapor trail. [Blend of condensation + trail.]
indigent (IN-di-juhnt) adjective
Lacking necessities of life, such as food, clothing, etc.; impoverished. noun A person who is extremely poor. [From Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin indigent- (stem of indigens), present participle of indigere (to lack in), from indu (in-) + egere (to lack, to need).]
macroscian (muh-KROSH-i-uhn) noun
1. One casting a long shadow. 2. One who inhabits polar regions. [From Greek macros (long) + skia (shadow).]
substantive (SUB-stahn-tiv) adjective
1. Substantial; considerable. 2. Independent in existence or function; not subordinate. 3. Not imaginary; actual; real. 4. Of or relating to the essence or substance; essential: substantive information. 5. Having a solid basis; firm. 6. Grammar. Expressing or designating existence; for example, the verb to be. 7. Grammar. Designating a noun or noun equivalent. substantive noun Grammar. A word or group of words functioning as a noun. [Middle English substantif, self-sufficient, independent, from Old French, substantive, from Late Latin substantivus, from Latin substantia, substance.]
scrutator (skroo-TAY-tuhr) noun
One who investigates. [From Latin scrutator (searcher), from scrutari (to examine), from scruta (trash).]
rondeau (RON-do) noun
A poem of 13 lines with two rhymes and the opening words used as a refrain in two places. [From Old French rondeau (little circle), from rondel, diminutive of rond (round). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ret- (to run or to roll) that is also the source of rodeo, rotunda, rotate, and roulette.]
sylvan also silvan (SIL-vuhn) adjective
1. Relating to or characteristic of woods or forest regions. 2. Located in or inhabiting a wood or forest. 3. Abounding in trees; wooded. sylvan noun One that lives in or frequents the woods. [Medieval Latin sylvanus, from Latin Silvanus, god of the woods, from silva, forest.]
galen (GAY-luhn) noun
A physician. [After Galen, a famous Greek physician in the 2nd century. He pioneered the study of anatomy and wrote extensively about his findings.]
cloud-cuckoo-land (KLOUD-koo-koo-land) noun
An idealized, illusory domain of imagination; cloudland. [Translation of Greek Nephelokokkygia, the realm which separates the gods from mankind in Aristophanes' The Birds.]
charrette (shuh-RET) noun
1. A final intense effort to complete a design project. 2. A preliminary meeting involving stakeholders (citizens, planners, designers, etc.) to brainstorm or to elicit input on a project. [From French charrette (cart), from Old French. How we get from a cart to the above mentioned senses is not clear. It's perhaps from the idea of speed when referring to wheels. Also, according to a story, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris collected students' drawings in a cart and the latter would often jump on the charrette to complete last-minute details.]
serein (suh-RAN [the second syllable is nasal]) noun
Fine rain falling from an apparently cloudless sky, typically observed after sunset. [From French serein, from Old French serain (evening), from Latin serum (evening), from serus (late).]
stet (stet) verb tr., intr.
Let it stand. [From Latin stet (let it stand), from stare (to stand). Ultimately from Indo-European root sta- (to stand) that is also the source of stay, stage, stable, instant, establish, static, and system.]
tintinnabulate (tin-ti-NAB-yuh-layt) verb intr.
To ring; to tinkle. [From Latin tintinnabulum (bell), from tintinnare (to jingle).]
verjuice (VUHR-joos) noun
The sour juice of unripe grapes, crab apples, etc. adjective Sour in temper. [From French verjus, from vert (green) + jus (juice).]
vibe (vyb) noun
1. Vibration. 2. An emotional feeling, aura, or atmosphere from someone or something. [Short for vibration, from vibrate, from Latin vibratus, past participle of vibrare (to move to and fro).]
emprise (em-PRYZ) noun
1. A chivalrous or adventurous enterprise. 2. Chivalrous daring or skill. [From Middle English, from Middle French, from Old French, from emprendre (to undertake), from Vulgar Latin imprendere, from Latin in- + prendere (to seize).]
analphabetic (an-al-fuh-BET-ik) adjective
1. Not alphabetical. 2. Unable to read; illiterate. noun One who is unable to read; an illiterate. [From Greek analphabetos, not knowing the alphabet : an-, not + alphabetos, alphabet.]
bumbershoot (BUM-buhr-shoot) noun
An umbrella. [Blend of sounds of umbrella + parachute.]
mulligrubs (MUL-i-grubz) noun
1. Grumpiness; colic; low spirits. 2. An ill-tempered person. [From mulliegrums, apparently from megrims (low spirits).]
lee (lee) noun
1. Shelter. 2. The side (of a ship, for example) that's sheltered or away from the direction from which the wind blows. adjective Of or pertaining to the side that's away from the wind. [From Middle English, from Old English hleo (shelter).]
mercer (MUR-suhr) noun
A dealer in textiles, especially silk and other fine materials. [From Old French mercier (trader), from Latin merx (goods). Words such as market, merchant, commerce, and mercantile share the same origin.]
supererogatory (soo-puhr-uh-ROG-uh-tor-ee) adjective
1. Going beyond the call of duty. 2. Superfluous. [From Latin supererogare (to pay over and above), from super- (above) + erogare (to spend), from rogare (to ask). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.]
nincompoop (NIN-kuhm-poop, NING-) noun
A person regarded as silly, foolish, or stupid. [Origin unknown.]
vug (vug, voog) noun
A small cavity in a rock, often lined with crystals of a different mineral. [From Cornish vooga cave.]
gravity (GRAV-i-tee) noun
1. The natural force of attraction exerted by a celestial body, such as Earth, upon objects at or near its surface, tending to draw them toward the center of the body. The natural force of attraction between any two massive bodies, which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Gravitation. 2. Grave consequence; seriousness or importance. 3. Solemnity or dignity of manner. [French gravite, heaviness, from Old French, from Latin gravitas, from gravis, heavy.]
implore (im-PLOHR) tr.verb
1. To appeal to in supplication; beseech: implored the tribunal to have mercy. 2. To beg for urgently; entreat. implore intr.verb To make an earnest appeal. [Latin implorare : in-, toward. See IN-2 + plorare, to weep.]
calico (KAL-i-co) noun, plural calicoes or calicos
1. A brightly printed coarse cotton cloth. 2. (Mainly British) A plain white cotton cloth. 3. An animal having a spotted coat, especially with red and black patches. adjective 1. Made from such a cloth. 2. Having a spotted pattern. [From Calicut, former name of Kozhikode, a city in southern India from where this cloth was exported. Other words for clothes with Indian origins are bandana, cashmere, chintz, dungarees, jodhpurs, khakis, pajamas, and seersucker.]
wishy-washy (WISH-ee-wosh-ee) adjective
1. Thin and watery, as tea or soup; insipid. 2. Lacking in strength of character or purpose; ineffective. [Reduplication of washy, thin, watery from wash.]
crabwise (KRAB-wyz) adjective
1. Sideways. 2. In a cautious or roundabout manner. [From the sideways movement of crabs.]
frabjous (FRAB-juhs) adjective
Wonderful, elegant, superb, or delicious. [Coined by Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking-Glass"; perhaps meant to suggest fabulous or joyous.]
pinto (PIN-to) adjective
Marked with patches of white and another color. noun 1. Pinto horse: a horse having patches of white and another color. 2. Pinto bean: a variety of kidney beans having mottled seed. [From American Spanish pinto (spotted), from obsolete Spanish, from Vulgar Latin pinctus (painted), past participle of pingere (to paint). Ultimately from Indo-European root peig- (to cut, mark) that's the source of such words as paint, depict, picture, pigment, pint, and pimento.]
idoneous (i-DO-nee-uhs) adjective, also idonaeous
Appropriate, suitable, fit. [From Latin idoneus (fit).]
yegg (yeg) noun
A thug or burglar, especially a safecracker. [Of unknown origin.]
hyoid (HIE-oid) adjective
Of or relating to the hyoid bone, a U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue that supports the muscles of the tongue. noun The hyoid bone. [New Latin hyoides, the hyoid bone, from Greek huoeides, shaped like the letter upsilon : hu, name of the letter upsilon + -oeides, -oid.]
sallow (SAL-o) adjective
Of a sickly yellowish hue or complexion. verb tr. To make sallow. [Middle English salowe, from Old English salo.]
ex parte (eks PAHR-tee) adverb
Involving one side only. [From Latin ex parte (from a side).]
paraph (PAR-uhf, puh-RAF) noun
A flourish at the end of a signature, originally as a precaution against forgery. [Via French and Latin from Greek paragraphos (a line showing a break in sense or a change of speakers), from para- (beside) + graphein (write). Ultimately from the Indo-European root gerbh- (to scratch), which also gave us crab, crayfish, carve, crawl, grammar, anagram, program, and graphite.]
terrestrial (tuh-RES-tree-uhl) adjective
1. Pertaining to the earth or its inhabitants. 2. Pertaining to the land (as distinct from water or air) or those living on land. 3. Worldly, mundane. noun One living on the earth. [From Latin terrestris (relating to earth), from terra (earth). Some other words derived from the same Latin root are terrace, mediterranean, turmeric, country, subterranean, territory, terrier, and terra cotta.]
nyctalopia (nik-tuh-LO-pee-uh) noun
Night blindness: a condition in which vision is faint or completely lost at night or in dim light. [From Late Latin nyctalopia, from Greek nuktalops (night-blind), from nykt- (night) + alaos (blind) + ops, op- (eye).]
habile (HAB-il) adjective
Having general ability; skillful. [From Latin habilis (able), from habere (to have or to hold). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghabh- (to give or to receive) that is also the source of give, gift, able, habit, prohibit, due, and duty.]
glaucous (GLO-kuhs) adjective
1. Of a grayish or bluish green or white color. 2. Covered with a powdery coating of such colors, as on grapes, plums, etc. [From Latin glaucus (bluish-gray or green), from Greek glaukos.]
didactic (dy-DAK-tik) also didactical (-ti-kal) adjective
1. Intended to instruct. 2. Morally instructive. 3. Inclined to teach or moralize excessively. 4. didactics, (used with a singular verb) the art or science of teaching. [Greek didaktikos, skillful in teaching, from didaktos, taught, from didaskein, didak-, to teach, educate.]
ceteris paribus (KAY-tuhr-uhs PAR-uh-buhs, SET-uhr-is) adverb
Other factors remaining the same. [From Latin, literally, other things the same.]
skulk (skulk) verb intr.
1. To lie in hiding, as out of cowardice or bad conscience; lurk. 2. To move about stealthily. 3. To evade work or obligation; shirk. noun 1. One who hides, lurks, or practices evasion. 2. A congregation of vermin, especially foxes, or of thieves. [Middle English skulken, of Scandinavian origin.]
vulgate (VUL-GAYT) noun
1. Everyday, informal speech of a people. 2. Any widely accepted text of a work. 3. The Latin version of the Bible made by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century. [From Late Latin vulgata editio (popular edition), past participle of vulgare (to make public or common), from vulgus (the public).]
terpsichorean (turp-si-kuh-REE-uhn, turp-si-KOR-ee-uhn, -KORE-) adjective
Of or relating to dancing. noun A dancer. [From Terpsichore, The Muse of dancing and choral singing in Greek mythology.]
jettison (JET-i-suhn, -zuhn) tr.verb
1. To cast overboard or off 2. Informal. To discard (something) as unwanted or burdensome noun 1. The act of discarding or casting overboard. 2. Jetsam. [From Middle English jetteson, a throwing overboard of goods to lighten ship, from Anglo-Norman getteson, from Vulgar Latin *iectatio, iectation-, from *iectatus, past participle of -iectare, to throw.]
bon mot (bon mo) noun, plural bons mots
A witty remark. [From French bon mot, literally good word. It's from the same language in which mother-in-law is called belle-mere, literally beautiful mother. No wonder French was once the language of diplomacy.]
lithosphere (LITH-uh-sfeer) noun
The solid outer portion of the Earth consisting of the crust and upper mantle, approximately 100 km (62 miles) thick. [From litho- (stone) + -sphere.]
bricolage (bree-ko-LAZH) noun
Something created using a mix of whatever happens to be available. [From French bricolage (do-it-yourself job), from bricoler (to putter around, to do odd jobs), from bricole (trifle), from Italian briccola.]
personate (PUR-suh-nayt) tr.verb
1. To play the role or portray the part of (a character); impersonate. 2. To endow with personal qualities; personify. 3. Law. To assume the identity of, with intent to deceive. [Late Latin personare, personat-, to bear the character of, represent, from Latin persona, person.]
sachem (SAY-chuhm) noun
1. The chief of a tribe or a federation. 2. A political leader. [From Algonquian.]
virgule (VUR-gyool) noun
A diagonal mark (/) used especially to separate alternatives, as in and/or, to represent the word per, as in miles/hour, and to indicate the ends of verse lines printed continuously, as in Old King Cole/Was a merry old soul. [French, comma, obelus, from Late Latin virgula, accentual mark, from Latin, obelus, diminutive of virga, rod.]
verbalism (VUR-buh-liz-uhm) noun
1. An expression in words; a word or phrase. The manner in which something is phrased; wording. 2. A wordy phrase or sentence that has little meaning. 3. Abundant use of words without conveying much meaning. "Crimes against women were attacked at the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in June 1993 with 160 countries and countless non-governmental organizations demanding not mere vitriolic verbalism but effective action to make gender justice a living reality." Iyer, V.R. Krishna, Witanage, Susie, In the Court of Women II-Asia Tribunal on Women's Human Rights in Tokyo, Contemporary Women's Issues Database, 12 Mar 1994. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Wed Feb 17 00:04:27 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--homograph homograph (HOM-uh-graf, HOA-muh-) noun One of two or more words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation. "Whatever system is chosen, one must allow for homographs in some rational manner. DJPA uses an alphabetic arrangement; homographs are ordered by part of speech, and are numerically distinguished only when both the part of speech and consonantal orthography are identical." Kaufmann, Stephen A., Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. (book reviews), The Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1 Apr 1994. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Thu Feb 18 00:04:26 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--verbalist verbalist (VUR-buh-list) noun 1. One skilled in the use of words. 2. One who favors words over ideas or substance. "Though not the most skilled verbalist on the mike. Pac forcefully spoke words of substance and wisdom with each breath." Dwayne Nelson, A Black `Soulja's Story': Tupac's Life And Death, New Pittsburgh Courier, 27 Nov 1996. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Fri Feb 19 00:04:29 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--epigraph epigraph (EP-i-graf) noun 1. An inscription, as on a statue or building. 2. A motto or quotation, as at the beginning of a literary composition, setting forth a theme. [Greek epigraphe, from epigraphein, to write on.]
bobby (BOB-ee) noun
Chiefly British. A police officer. [After Sir Robert Peel, home secretary of England when the Metropolitan Police Force was created in 1829.]
coadunate (ko-AJ-uh-nit, -nayt) adjective
United by growth; closely joined. [From Late Latin coadunatus, past participle of coadunare, to combine, a compound word from Latin co- (together) + ad- (toward) + unus (one).]
wamble (WOM-buhl) verb intr.
1. To move unsteadily; to totter, waver, roll, etc. 2. To feel nausea. 3. (Of a stomach) To rumble or growl. noun 1. An unsteady motion. 2. A feeling of nausea. [From Middle English wamelen (to feel nausea). Ultimately from Indo-European root wem- (to vomit) that's also the source of words such as vomit and emetic (something that induces vomiting).]
caucus (KAW-kuhs) noun
1. A meeting of the local members of a political party especially to select delegates to a convention or register preferences for candidates running for office. A closed meeting of party members within a legislative body to decide on questions of policy or leadership. A group within a legislative or decision-making body seeking to represent a specific interest or influence a particular area of policy. 2. Chiefly British. A committee within a political party charged with determining policy. caucus intr. verb To assemble in or hold a caucus. caucus tr. verb To assemble or canvass (members of a caucus). [After the Caucus Club of Boston (in the 1760's), possibly from Medieval Latin caucus, drinking vessel.]
nonet (no-NET) noun
1. A combination of nine instruments or voices. 2. A composition written for such a combination. [Italian nonetto, from diminutive of nono, ninth, from Latin nonus.]
proboscis (proe-BOS-is) noun [plural proboscises or proboscides]
1. A long, flexible snout or trunk, as of an elephant. 2. The slender, tubular feeding and sucking organ of certain invertebrates, such as insects, worms, and mollusks. 3. A human nose, especially a prominent one. [Latin, from Greek proboskis : pro-, in front + boskein, to feed.]
myopic (my-OP-ik) adjective
1. Nearsighted; unable to see clearly objects at a distance. 2. Shortsighted; lacking foresight; narrow-minded. [From New Latin, from Greek, myopia, from myop- nearsighted, from myein, to close + ops, eye.]
dasypygal (da-si-PYE-gul) adjective
Having hairy buttocks. [From Greek dasy- (hairy, dense) + pyge (buttocks).]
polyvalent (pol-ee-VAY-luhnt) adjective
1. Having many layers, meanings, values, etc.; multifaceted. 2. (In chemistry) Having multiple valences. 3. (In medicine or biology) Effective against multiple agents. [From poly- (many) + -valent (having a valence), from Latin valere (to be strong). Ultimately, it derives from the same Indo-European root wal- (to be strong) as the words valiant, avail, valor, and value.]
precipitation (pri-sip-i-TAY-shuhn) noun
1. A headlong fall or rush. 2. Abrupt or impulsive haste. 3. A hastening or an acceleration, especially one that is sudden or unexpected. 4. Any form of water, such as rain, snow, sleet, or hail, that falls to the earth's surface. The quantity of such water falling in a specific area within a specific period. 5. The process of separating a substance from a solution as a solid. [Latin praecipitare, praecipitat-, to throw headlong, from praeceps, praecipit-, headlong : prae-, pre- + caput, capit-, head + -tion]
carrageen or carragheen (KAR-uh-geen) noun
An edible seaweed, usually purplish, found on the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America. Also called Irish moss. Carrageen is the source of carrageenan, used as a thickener and emulsifier (to make sure a solid is evenly distributed in a liquid). [After Carrageen, near Waterford in southeast Ireland.]
shenanigan (shuh-NAN-i-guhn) noun, usually plural
A deceitful trick or mischievous act; a prank. [Of unknown origin.]
phyletic (fi-LET-ik) adjective
Of or relating to the evolutionary descent and development of a species or group of organisms; phylogenetic. [From Greek phuletikos, of or for a tribesman, from phuletes, tribesman, from phule, tribe.]
monestrous (mon-ES-truhs) adjective
Of or related to mammals which experience one estrus (rut or period of heat) in a breeding season. [Combining form mon- (one) from Greek monos, mono- + oistros (gadfly, madness).]
withal (with-OL)
adverb: 1. In addition. 2. Nevertheless. preposition: With (used postpositively). [From the joining of the phrase "with al" (with all).]
anon (uh-NON) adverb
1. At another time. 2. Soon. 3. At once; immediately (archaic). [From Middle English, from Old English on an, (in one).]
brogan (BROA-guhn) noun
A heavy, ankle-high work shoe. [Irish Gaelic brogan, diminutive of brog, brogue.]
boondocks (BOON-doks) noun
1. An uninhabited area filled with thick brush. 2. A rural area; backwoods. [From Tagalog bundok, mountain.]
unctuous (UNGK-choo-uhs) adjective
1. Characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness. 2. Having the quality or characteristics of oil or ointment; slippery. 3. Containing or composed of oil or fat. 4. Abundant in organic materials; soft and rich. [Middle English, from Old French unctueus, from Medieval Latin unctuosus, from Latin unctum, ointment, from neuter past participle of unguere, to anoint.]
hypergolic (hy-puhr-GOL-ik) adjective
Igniting on contact. [From German Hypergol (hypergolic fuel), from Greek hyper- (over, above) + erg- (work). Ultimately from the Indo-European root werg- (to do) which gave us ergonomic, work, energy, metallurgy, surgery, wright, and orgy.]
exiguous (ig-ZIG-yoo-uhs) adjective
Scanty; small; slender. [From Latin exiguus (scanty), from exigere (to measure or to demand). Ultimately from Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that's also the fount of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
jaywalk (JAY-wok) verb intr.
To cross a street in a reckless manner, disregarding traffic rules. [As with other birds, the name jaybird denotes a naive person or simpleton. Early last century, country folks visiting big cities were often oblivious of any approaching traffic when they were crossing streets. Eventually their nickname, jays, became associated with crossing a street illegally.]
velitation (vel-i-TAY-shuhn) noun
A minor dispute or skirmish. [From Latin velitation-, from velitatus, past participle of velitari (to skirmish), from veles (light-armed foot soldier). Ultimately from Indo-European root weg- (to be strong or lively), that's the source for vegetable (Kids, etymology gives you another reason to eat your veggies!), vigor, velocity, watch, vigilante, and vigil.]
tegument (TEG-yuh-muhnt) noun
A natural outer covering; an integument. [Middle English, from Latin tegumentum, from tegere, to cover.]
algolagnia (algoe-LAG-nee-uh) noun
Sexual gratification derived from inflicting or experiencing pain. [New Latin : algo- + Greek lagneia, lust (from lagnos, lustful).]
banausic (buh-NAW-sik, -zik) adjective
Mechanical, utilitarian or routine, as opposed to inspiring or imaginative. [From Greek banausikos, from banausos (mechanic).]
pinguid (PING-gwid) adjective
Fat; greasy; unctuous. [From Latin pinguis (fat).]
perennial (puh-REN-ee-uhl) adjective
1. Lasting for a long time; perpetual. 2. (of a plant) Living several years. 3. Recurrent. noun 1. A perennial plant. 2. Something that continues or is recurrent. [From Latin perennis (through the year), from per- (throughout) + annus (year). Ultimately from Indo-European root at- (to go) that is also the source of annual, annals, annuity, and anniversary.]
supercilious (soo-puhr-SIL-i-uhs) adjective
Feeling or showing haughty disdain. [Latin superciliosus, from supercilium, eyebrow, pride : super-, + cilium, lower eyelid.]
wifty (WIF-tee) adjective
Eccentric, silly, scatterbrained. [Of unknown origin.]
liverish (LIV-er-ish) adjective
1. Resembling liver, especially in color. 2. Ill-natured, grouchy. [From Middle English, Old English lifer + -ish. From the former belief that such disposition was a symptom of excess secretion of bile due to liver disorder.]
babbitt (BAB-it) noun
A self-satisfied narrow-minded person who conforms to conventional ideals of business and material success. [After the main character in Sinclair Lewis's 1922 novel Babbitt.]
sequela (si-KWEL-uh) noun, plural sequelae (si-KWEL-ee)
A pathological condition resulting from a previous disease or injury. [From Latin sequela (sequel).]
causerie (ko-zuh-REE) noun
1. Chat. 2. A piece of informal writing. [From French, from causer (to chat), from Latin causari (to plead, discuss), from causa (case, cause). Other words derived from the same root are accuse, rush, and excuse.]
bromide (BRO-myd) noun
1. A tired or meaningless remark. 2. A tiresome or boring person. [From bromine, from Greek bromos (stench).]
skeuomorph (SKYOO-uh-morf) noun
A design feature copied from a similar artifact in another material, even when not functionally necessary. For example, the click sound of shutter in an analog camera that is now reproduced in a digital camera by playing a sound clip. [From Greek skeuos (vessel, implement) + -morph (form).]
mendacious (men-DAY-shuhs) adjective
Telling lies, especially as a habit. [From Latin mendac-, stem of mendax (lying), from mendum (fault or defect) that also gave us amend, emend, and mendicant.]
odium (O-dee-uhm) noun
1. Hatred accompanied by contempt. 2. A state of infamy or disgrace. [From Latin odium (hatred), from odisse (to hate). Ultimately from Indo-European root od- (to hate) that is also the source of the words annoy, noisome, and ennui.]
delitescent (del-i-TES-uhnt) adjective
Hidden; latent. [From Latin delitescent-, stem of delitescens, present participle of delitescere (to hide away).]
fomites (FOM-i-teez) plural noun
Any inanimate object, such as a book, money, carpet, etc. that can transmit germs from one person to another. [From Latin fomites, plural of fomes (touchwood, tinder), from fovere (to warm).]
albedo (al-BEE-doh) noun
1. The fraction of light reflected from a body or surface. For example, earth's albedo is around 0.39. 2. The white, spongy inner lining of a citrus fruit rind. [From Latin albedo (whiteness), Latin albus (white).]
jeremiah (jer-uh-MY-uh) noun
A person who complains continually, has a gloomy attitude, or one who warns about a disastrous future. [After Jeremiah, a Hebrew prophet during the seventh and sixth centuries BCE who prophesied the fall of the kingdom of Judah and whose writings are collected in the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations.]
yob (yob) noun
Chiefly British. A rowdy, destructive youth; a hooligan or ruffian. [Alteration of boy (spelled backward).]
cheval-de-frise (shuh-VAL duh FREEZ) noun
plural chevaux-de-frise (shuh-VOH duh FREEZ) 1. An obstacle, typically made of wood, covered with barbed wire or spikes, used to block the advancing enemy. 2. A line of nails, spikes, or broken glass set on top of a wall or railing to deter intruders. [From French, literally horse of Friesland, so named because it was first used by Frisians who lacked cavalry.]
acolyte (AK-uh-lite) noun
1. One who assists the celebrant in the performance of liturgical rites. 2. A devoted follower or attendant. [Middle English acolit, from Old French, from Medieval Latin acolytus, from Greek akolouthos, attendant.]
seltzer (SELT-suhr) noun
1. Naturally effervescent mineral water. 2. Artificially carbonated water. [From German Selterser (literally, from Selters), after Selters, a village near Wiesbaden in Germany where such springs were discovered.]
trompe l'oeil (tromp loi) noun
1. A style of painting in which objects are rendered in extremely realistic detail, giving an illusion of reality. 2. A painting, mural, etc. made in this style. [From French, literally "fools the eye", from tromper (to deceive) + le (the) + oeil (eye).]
slipslop (SLIP-slop) noun
1. Trivial conversation or writing; twaddle. 2. Archaic. Unappetizing liquid or watery food; slops. [Reduplication of slop.]
retronym (RE-truh-nim) noun
A term, such as acoustic guitar, coined in modification of the original referent that was used alone, such as guitar, to distinguish it from a later contrastive development, such as electric guitar. [Latin Retro- back + -nym.]
mansard (MAN-sard) noun
1. A roof having two slopes on all four sides, with the lower slope almost vertical and the upper almost horizontal. 2. The upper story formed by the lower slope of a mansard roof. [French mansardeafter Francois Mansart (1598-1666), French architect.]
effete (i-FEET) adjective
1. Worn out; no longer fertile or productive. 2. Weak, ineffectual. 3. Marked by decadence or self-indulgence. 4. Effeminate. [From Latin effetus (worn out from bearing), from ex- + fetus (bearing young).]
schlimazel or shlimazel (shli-MAH-zuhl) noun
Someone prone to having extremely bad luck. [From Yiddish, from shlim (bad, wrong) + mazl (luck). A related term is mazel tov (literally, good luck) used to convey congratulations or best wishes.]
fractious (FRAK-shuhs) adjective
1. Irritable; cranky. 2. Unruly. [From Middle English fraccioun, from Late Latin fraction-, stem of fractio (act of breaking), from Latin fractus, past participle of Latin frangere (to break). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhreg- (to break) that's also the progenitor of words such as break, breach, fraction, and fragile.]
fulsome (ful-sum) adjective
1. Offensively flattering or insincere. 2. Offensive to the taste or sensibilities. 3. (Usage Problem) Copious or abundant. [Middle English fulsom, abundant, well-fed, arousing disgust : ful, full + -som, adjective suff.]
sass (sas) noun
Impertinent, disrespectful speech; back talk. sass tr.verb To talk impudently to. [Back-formation from sassy.]
preposterous (pri-POS-tuhr-uhs) adjective
Nonsensical, absurd. [From Latin praeposterus (inverted, literally: first coming last), from prae (before) + posterus (coming after).]
autonym (O-tuh-nim) noun
1. A person's own name. 2. A book published under the real name of the author. [Aut- self + -onym name.]
karma (KAHR-ma) noun
1. In the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions, a person's action (bad or good) that determines his or her destiny. 2. Destiny; fate. 3. An aura or atmosphere generated by someone or something. [From Sanskrit karma (deed, work). The word Sanskrit comes from the same Indo-European root.]
blimey (BLY-mee) interjection
An expression of surprise, dismay, etc. [Contraction of "blind me" or "blame me", from "God blind/blame me"; sometimes heard in the form gorblimey or corblimey.]
edentulous (ee-DEN-chuh-lus) adjective
Having no teeth; toothless. [From Latin edentulus : e-, ex- + dens, dent-, tooth.]
eximious (eg-ZIM-ee-uhs) adjective
Excellent, distinguished. [From Latin eximius (select, choice), from eximere (to take out, remove).]
snivel (SNIV-uhl) intr. verb
1. To sniffle. 2. To complain or whine tearfully. 3. To run at the nose. snivel noun 1. The act of sniffling or sniveling. 2. Nasal mucus. [Middle English snivelen, from Old English *snyflan.]
corky (KAWR-kee) adjective
1. Of or resembling cork. 2. Lively; buoyant. "Koogle: And on the branding side, you know, people always have viewed us as slightly irreverent, kind of fun, corky, a little bit zany." Ann Sundius, Interview with Tim Koogle, CEO, YAHOO!, MSNBC Private Financial Network, 30 Jul 1997. This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Fri Jul 2 00:01:33 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--clamant clamant (KLAY-mant, KLAM-uhnt) adjective 1. Clamorous; loud. 2. Demanding attention; pressing. [Latin clamans, clamant-, present participle of clamare, to cry out.]
nuncle (NUNG-kuhl) noun
Chiefly British. An uncle. [From the phrase an uncle.]
greenmail (GREEN-mayl) noun
The practice of buying a large quantity of a company's stock as a hostile takeover measure, and then selling it to the company at a higher price. [From green (money) + mail (as in blackmail).]
anemious (uh-NEE-mi-uhs) adjective