Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 23, 2020 is:
crabwise • \KRAB-wyze\ • adverb
1 : sideways
2 : in a sidling or cautiously indirect manner
“Covered in river scum, hair hanging down his forehead like oily kelp, he found his way to the hold, clambering on hands and knees, inching crabwise over rough-hewn wooden boards, and picking his way past intriguing crates of explorer supplies to find the out-of-view spot he’d settled on during his reconnaissance mission nine days before.” — Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Outside, 24 Jan. 2018
“It’s true that Tito’s actions aren’t really interrogated, and neither are the consequences of raising boys the way Lydia did—and does, with her grandson Alex. That’s a conflict the show is sidling up to crabwise, and I really do wonder what will happen if and when it finally confronts machismo head-on.” — Lili Loofbourow, Slate, 14 Feb. 2019
Did you know?
There’s no reason to be indirect when explaining the etymology of crabwise—we’ll get right to the point. As you might guess, the meaning of the word is directly related to that sidling sea creature, the crab. If you have visited a beach near the sea, you have probably seen crabs scuttling along, often moving sideways. Though the behavior is surely above reproach to the crabs themselves, English speakers tend to be suspicious of what comes at them from the side, and the modern meanings of crabwise reflect this suspicion of the crab’s lateral approach. The word crept into English in the early 19th century and has been sidling into our sentences ever since.
September 23, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 22, 2020 is:
operose • \AH-puh-rohss\ • adjective
“Reading this biography reminded me that Lawrence’s prose, though old-fashioned and a bit operose, is full of beautiful things.” — Matthew Walther, The Spectator, 11 Oct. 2014
“After several operose months of the tear-out and build-up process, Brandon Stupka, the one who has been working on the remodel project…, has finally opened his doors for business….” — The McPherson (Kansas) Sentinel, 17 Apr. 2013
Did you know?
Operose comes from the Latin operōsus, which has the meaning of “diligent,” “painstaking” or “laborious.” That word combines opera, meaning “activity,” “effort,” or “work,” with -ōsus—the Latin equivalent of the English -ose and -ous suffixes, meaning “full of” or “abounding in.” In its earliest uses, in the mid-16th century, the word was used to describe people who are industrious or painstaking in their efforts. About a century later, the word was being applied as it more commonly is today: as an adjective describing tasks and undertakings requiring much time and effort.
September 22, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 21, 2020 is:
juncture • \JUNK-cher\ • noun
1 : a point of time; especially : one made critical by a concurrence of circumstances
2 : joint, connection
3 : an instance of joining : junction
“At this juncture in the editing process,” said Philip, “it is important that all facts have been double-checked and sources verified.”
“‘Palm Springs’ further cements [Andy] Samberg as one of the funniest talents in comedy today. From cult-classics such as ‘Hot Rod’ and ‘Popstar’ to the hit sitcom, ‘Brooklyn-Nine-Nine,’ his comedic chops are hall-of-fame-level at this juncture.” — Austin Ellis, The Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa), 17 July 2020
Did you know?
Juncture has many relatives—both obvious and obscure—in English. Juncture derives from the Latin verb jungere (“to join”), which gave us not only join and junction but also conjugal (“relating to marriage”) and junta (“a group of persons controlling a government”). Jungere also has distant etymological connections to joust, jugular, juxtapose, yoga, and yoke. The use of juncture in English dates back to the 14th century. Originally, the word meant “a place where two or more things are joined,” but by the 17th century it could also be used of an important point in time or of a stage in a process or activity.
September 21, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 20, 2020 is:
ubiquitous • \yoo-BIK-wuh-tuss\ • adjective
: existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered : widespread
“Within China, WeChat is ubiquitous, serving as an all-in-one app that’s important for making payments and even for displaying someone’s coronavirus test results.” — David Ingram, NBCNews.com, 7 Aug. 2020
“Without companies that developed front-facing smartphone cameras for luxury smartphones, we never would have had the now ubiquitous selfie camera.” — Shira Ovide, The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2020
Did you know?
Ubiquitous comes to us from the noun ubiquity, meaning “presence everywhere or in many places simultaneously.” Both words are ultimately derived from the Latin word for “everywhere,” which is ubique. Ubiquitous, which has often been used with a touch of exaggeration to describe those things that it seems like you can’t go a day without encountering, has become a more widespread and popular word than ubiquity. It may not quite be ubiquitous, but if you keep your eyes and ears open, you’re apt to encounter the word ubiquitous quite a bit.
September 20, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 19, 2020 is:
fountainhead • \FOUN-tun-hed\ • noun
1 : a spring that is the source of a stream
2 : principal source : origin
“For all that Paradise Valley represents as a fountainhead of visual awe, the living is not easy for those who steward its most coveted, valuable and threatened asset—its open space, [Whitney Tilt] asserts.” — Todd Wilkinson, The Mountain Journal (Bozeman, Montana), 30 July 2020
“With the advancements in technology, there is an unprecedented demand for electronic products that are portable or more compact. This trend has been a fountainhead for most of the ‘smart’ devices that we see today, such as fit bands, smart bulbs, and smart watches.” — Business Wire, 10 June 2020
Did you know?
When it first entered English in the late 16th century, fountainhead was used only in a literal sense—to refer to the source of a stream. By the 17th century, however, it was already beginning to be used figuratively in reference to any original or primary source. In his 1854 work Walden, Henry David Thoreau used the word in its figurative sense, while paying full homage to its literal meaning as well: “Morning air! If men will not drink of this at the fountainhead of the day, why, then, we must even bottle up some and sell it in the shops, for the benefit of those who have lost their subscription ticket to morning time in this world.”
September 19, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 18, 2020 is:
delve • \DELV\ • verb
1 : to dig or labor with or as if with a spade
2 a : to make a careful or detailed search for information
b : to examine a subject in detail
“‘My brother and I,’ said he, ‘were, as you may imagine, much excited as to the treasure which my father had spoken of. For weeks and for months we dug and delved in every part of the garden, without discovering its whereabouts.'” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four, 1890
“They’ll soon release a second short, Climate Crisis, and Why We Should Panic. It will be voiced by Kiera Knightley, and delves into the cause of climate change and why governments must enter crisis mode to handle the issue.” — Angie Martoccio, Rolling Stone, 13 Aug. 2020
Did you know?
We must dig deep into the English language’s past to find the origins of delve. The verb traces to the early Old English word delfan and is related to the Old High German word telban, meaning “to dig.” For centuries, there was only delving—no digging—because dig didn’t exist until much later; it appears in early Middle English. Is the phrase “dig and delve” (as in the line “eleven, twelve, dig and delve,” from the nursery rhyme that begins “one, two, buckle my shoe”) redundant? Not necessarily. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in some local uses, dig was the term for working with a mattock (a tool similar to an adze or a pick), while delve was reserved for work done using a spade.
September 18, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 17, 2020 is:
limpid • \LIM-pid\ • adjective
1 a : marked by transparency : pellucid
b : clear and simple in style
2 : absolutely serene and untroubled
“She leaned toward him, entreaty in her eyes, and as he looked at her delicate face and into her pure, limpid eyes, as of old he was struck with his own unworthiness.” — Jack London, Martin Eden, 1909
“Last summer, the edges of the Greenland ice sheet experienced up to three extra months of melting weather. Limpid blue pools formed on its surface; floods of melt gushed off the edge of the continent….” — Madeleine Stone, National Geographic, 7 July 2020
Did you know?
Since around 1600, limpid has been used in English to describe things that have the soft clearness of pure water. The aquatic connection is not incidental; language scholars believe that limpid probably traces to lympha, a Latin word meaning “water.” That same Latin root is also the source of the word lymph, the English name for the pale liquid that helps maintain the body’s fluid balance and that removes bacteria from tissues.
September 17, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 16, 2020 is:
cronyism • \KROH-nee-iz-um\ • noun
: partiality to cronies especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications
“From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the New Deal, America’s national parties retained their incoherence because most of the important political power was at the state and local level…. Some states and cities were better governed than others, and there was plenty of cronyism and corruption throughout the country, but the stakes of national elections were lower than today.” — Lee Drutman, The Cato Policy Report (The Cato Institute), July/August 2020
“Civil service regulations attempted to eliminate cronyism by setting strict rules governing hiring, firing and promotions within professional government services…. Under the system used in Idaho Falls, promotions rely heavily on scores from written, oral and other tests.” — Bryan Clark, The Idaho Falls Post Register, 4 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
“Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him” (Ecclesiasticus 9:10). Practitioners of cronyism would probably agree. The word cronyism evolved in the 19th century as a spin-off of crony, meaning “friend” or “pal.” Crony originated in England in the 17th century, perhaps as a play on the Greek word chronios, meaning “long-lasting,” from chronos, meaning “time.” Nineteenth-century cronyism was simply friendship, or the ability to make friends. The word didn’t turn bad until the next century, when Americans starting using cronyism to refer to the act of playing political favorites.
September 16, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 15, 2020 is:
Sisyphean • \sis-uh-FEE-un\ • adjective
: of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus; specifically : requiring continual and often ineffective effort
“I felt stuck in a Sisyphean loop, writing the same press release over and over. Even more, I was tired of promoting other people’s creations instead of creating something myself.” — Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni, 2013
“In Beirut, balconies are the only spaces in public view that residents can … make theirs. Furniture is displayed; a birdcage is suspended; plants are meticulously arranged and watered—and everything is kept clean, in a Sisyphean battle against the dust.” — Bernardo Zacka, The New York Times, 9 May 2020
Did you know?
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who annoyed the gods with his trickery. As a consequence, he was condemned for eternity to roll a huge rock up a long, steep hill in the underworld, only to watch it roll back down. The story of Sisyphus is often told in conjunction with that of Tantalus, who was condemned to stand beneath fruit-laden boughs, up to his chin in water. Whenever he bent his head to drink, the water receded, and whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches moved beyond his grasp. Thus to tantalize is to tease or torment by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach—and something Sisyphean (or Sisyphian, pronounced \sih-SIFF-ee-un\) demands unending, thankless, and ultimately unsuccessful efforts.
September 15, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 14, 2020 is:
purport • \per-PORT\ • verb
1 : to have the often specious appearance of being, intending, or claiming (something implied or inferred); also : claim
“One study at M.I.T. purported to show that the subway was a superspreader early in the pandemic, but its methodology was widely disputed.” — Christina Goldbaum, The New York Times, 2 Aug. 2020
“To support his applications, Hayford provided lenders with fraudulent payroll documentation purporting to establish payroll expenses that were, in fact, nonexistent.” — editorial, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 7 Aug. 2020
Did you know?
The verb purport may be more familiar nowadays, but purport exists as a noun that passed into English from Anglo-French in the 15th century as a synonym of gist. Sir Walter Scott provides us with an example from his 19th-century novel Rob Roy: “I was a good deal mortified at the purport of this letter.” Anglo-French also has the verb purporter (meaning both “to carry” and “to mean”), which combines the prefix pur- (“thoroughly”) and the verb porter (“to carry”). In its original English use, the verb purport meant “to signify”; the “to profess or claim” sense familiar to modern English speakers didn’t appear until the 17th century.
September 14, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 13, 2020 is:
verbiage • \VER-bee-ij\ • noun
1 : a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content
2 : manner of expressing oneself in words : diction
“One resident … said during a virtual focus group that a lot of his community was concerned reading the changes of verbiage from ‘flood control task force’ to ‘infrastructure resilience.'” — Paul Wedding, The Houston Chronicle, 31 Jul. 2020
“It was always G-rated trash talk—he is a devout Catholic, after all, and the strongest epithet he ever seemed to let loose was ‘Shoot’…. And his verbiage was often misunderstood. To opposing fans he was a mouthy loose cannon. To those who knew and understood him, it was just his joy and exuberance spilling over.” — Jim Alexander, The Daily News of Los Angeles, 10 Feb. 2020
Did you know?
Verbiage descends from French verbier, meaning “to trill” or “to warble.” The usual sense of the word implies an overabundance of possibly unnecessary words, much like the word wordiness. In other words, a writer with a fondness for verbiage might be accused of “wordiness.” Some people think the phrase “excess verbiage” is redundant, but that’s not necessarily true. Verbiage has a second sense meaning, simply, “wording,” with no suggestion of excess. This second definition has sometimes been treated as an error by people who insist that verbiage must always imply excessiveness, but that sense is well-established and can be considered standard.
September 13, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 12, 2020 is:
foment • \FOH-ment\ • verb
: to promote the growth or development of : rouse, incite
Rumors that the will was a fake fomented a lot of bitterness between the two families.
“Last year, the country leaked personal information of an American official in Hong Kong, accusing her of fomenting unrest….” — Shibani Mahtani, The Washington Post, 22 May 2020
Did you know?
If you had sore muscles in the 1600s, your doctor might have advised you to foment the injury, perhaps with heated lotions or warm wax. Does this sound like an odd prescription? Not if you know that foment traces to the Latin verb fovēre, which means “to heat or warm” or “to soothe.” The earliest documented English uses of foment appear in medical texts offering advice on how to soothe various aches and pains by the application of moist heat. In time, the idea of applying heat became a metaphor for stimulating or rousing to action. Foment then started being used in political contexts to mean “to stir up” or “to call to action.”
September 12, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 11, 2020 is:
ruddy • \RUDD-ee\ • adjective
1 : having a healthy reddish color
3 British — used as an intensive
“There was a stout man with a ruddy complexion, a merchant probably, half asleep.” — Elif Shafak, The Architect’s Apprentice, 2014
“Lichen green and the reds of fired brick exude a splash of ruddy color on the exterior of Manchester State Park’s enclosed picnic area….” — Bob Smith, The Kitsap Daily News, 5 Nov. 2019
Did you know?
In Old English, there were two related words referring to red coloring: rēad and rudu. Rēad evolved into our present-day red. Rudu evolved into rud (a word now encountered only in dialect or archaic usage) and ruddy. Most often, ruddy is applied to the face when it has the red glow of good health or is red from a suffusion of blood from exercise or excitement. It is also used in the names of some birds, such as the American ruddy duck. In British English, ruddy is also used as a colorful euphemism for the sometimes offensive intensive bloody, as 20th-century English writer Sir Kingsley Amis illustrates in The Riverside Villas Murder: “Ruddy marvelous, the way these coppers’ minds work…. I take a swing at Chris Inman in public means I probably done him in.”
September 11, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 10, 2020 is:
encumber • \in-KUM-ber\ • verb
1 : weigh down, burden
2 : to impede or hamper the function or activity of : hinder
3 : to burden with a legal claim (such as a mortgage)
“Those who do handle radioactive material must first don protective suits that are inherently cumbersome and are further encumbered by the air hoses needed to allow the wearer to breathe.” — The Economist, 20 June 2019
“‘The water reservoir is absolutely needed in Vernon Hills,’ said David Brown, Vernon Hills’ public works director/village engineer. While supportive, the village thinks there are ‘some other viable locations in town,’ he added. So does the park district, which owns the land but is encumbered by an easement….” — Mick Zawislak, The Chicago Daily Herald, 1 Aug. 2020
Did you know?
In Old French, the noun combre meant a defensive obstacle formed by felled trees with sharpened branches facing the enemy. Later, in Middle French, combre referred to a barrier, similar to a dam or weir, constructed in the bed of a river to hold back fish or protect the banks. That notion of holding back is what informs our verb encumber. One can be physically encumbered (as by a heavy load or severe weather) or figuratively (as by bureaucratic restrictions). Combre also gives us the adjectives cumbersome and cumbrous, both meaning “awkward or difficult to handle.”
September 10, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 9, 2020 is:
bunkum • \BUNG-kum\ • noun
: insincere or foolish talk : nonsense
I hesitated to voice my opinions, fearful that my companions would deride my views as bunkum.
“Out on social media, people are reposting and retweeting and emailing myths, hurling them across the internet with the kind of speed attainable only by pure bunkum.” — Heather Yakin, The Times Herald-Record, 17 Mar. 2020
Did you know?
Some words in the English language have more colorful histories than others, but in the case of bunkum, you could almost say it was an act of Congress that brought the word into being. Back in 1820 Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was determined that his voice be heard on his constituents’ behalf, even though the matter up for debate was irrelevant to Walker’s district and he had little to contribute. To the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome “speech for Buncombe.” His persistent—if insignificant—harangue made buncombe (later respelled bunkum) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.
September 09, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 8, 2020 is:
impregnable • \im-PREG-nuh-bul\ • adjective
1 : incapable of being taken by assault : unconquerable
2 : unassailable; also : impenetrable
“The castle was built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable….” — Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897
“In his first months at Kryptos Logic, Hutchins got inside one massive botnet after another…. Even when his new colleagues at Kryptos believed that a botnet was impregnable, Hutchins would surprise them by coming up with a fresh sample of the bot’s code….” — Andrew Greenberg, Wired, 12 May 2020
Did you know?
Impregnable is one of the many English words that bear a French ancestry, thanks to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It derives from the Middle French verb prendre, which means “to take or capture.” Combining prendre with various prefixes has given our language many other words, too, including surprise, reprise, and enterprise. Remarkably, impregnable has a different origin from the similar-looking word pregnant; that word comes from a different Latin word, praegnas, meaning “carrying a fetus.”
September 08, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 7, 2020 is:
plaudit • \PLAW-dit\ • noun
1 : an act or round of applause
2 : enthusiastic approval — usually used in plural
“For all of the accolades, and two Grammys she’s won, this might be the song and album that finally earns McKenna the plaudits her vocals also richly deserve.” — Jay N. Miller, The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), 22 July 2020
“Long before he was collecting headlines and plaudits for his work, Babcock was quietly creating a functioning farm to give people in his South Dallas neighborhood a real hand in improving their lives, through working on the farm or from being nourished by its fruits.” — editorial, The Dallas Morning News, 8 July 2020
Did you know?
You earn plaudits for your etymological knowledge if you can connect plaudit to words besides the familiar applaud and applause. A word coined by shortening Latin plaudite, meaning “applaud,” plaudit had gained approval status in English by the first years of the 17th century. Latin plaudite is a form of the verb plaudere, meaning “to applaud”; plaudere, in turn, is ancestor to explode, plausible, and the archaic displode (a synonym of explode).
September 07, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 6, 2020 is:
colloquial • \kuh-LOH-kwee-ul\ • adjective
1 a : used in or characteristic of familiar and informal conversation; also : unacceptably informal
b : using conversational style
2 : of or relating to conversation : conversational
The author can switch from formal academic language to a charmingly colloquial style, depending on the audience and subject of her writing.
“The [show’s] dialogue is often colloquial and rapid-fire, however, and you may need to switch on the English subtitles fairly frequently. On the other hand, you’ll know exactly how to say ‘What an idiot!’ in French after an episode or two.” — Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times, 11 May 2020
Did you know?
The noun colloquy was first used in English to refer to a conversation or dialogue, and when the adjective colloquial was formed from colloquy it had a similar focus. Over time, however, colloquial developed a more specific meaning related to language that is most suited to informal conversation—and it ultimately garnered an additional, disparaging implication of a style that seems too informal for a situation. Colloquy and colloquial trace back to the Latin verb colloqui, meaning “to converse.” Colloqui in turn was formed by combining the prefix com- (“with”) and loqui (“to speak”). Other conversational descendants of loqui in English include circumlocution, eloquent, loquacious, soliloquy, and ventriloquism.
September 06, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 5, 2020 is:
heyday • \HAY-day\ • noun
: the period of one’s greatest popularity, vigor, or prosperity
“The theater engaged Mr. Leslie ‘Les’ Jones to build and paint the sets. He was in his early sixties when I arrived—he’d been a legendary scene painter during the heyday of vaudeville.” — Kate Bornstein, A Queer and Present Danger, 2012
“But there are few drive-in theaters left. They’ve dwindled to just a handful in the Twin Cities since their heyday in the 1950s and ’60s. There are only six left in Minnesota.” — Kathy Berdan, TwinCities.com (St. Paul, Minnesota), 26 July 2020
Did you know?
In its earliest appearances in English, in the 16th century, heyday was used as an interjection that expressed elation or wonder (similar to our word hey, from which it derives). Within a few decades, heyday was seeing use as a noun meaning “high spirits.” This sense can be seen in Act III, scene 4 of Hamlet, when the Prince of Denmark tells his mother, “You cannot call it love; for at your age / The heyday in the blood is tame….” The word’s second syllable is not thought to be borne of the modern word day (or any of its ancestors), but in the 18th century the syllable’s resemblance to that word likely influenced the development of the now-familiar use referring to the period when one’s achievement or popularity has reached its zenith.
September 05, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 4, 2020 is:
docile • \DAH-sul\ • adjective
1 : easily taught
2 : easily led or managed : tractable
“The zoo has one bearded dragon, dubbed Six because that number was painted on its back when it arrived…. Six is not on public exhibit but because it’s friendly and docile, the bearded dragon is an ambassador in the zoo’s Wild Connections animal encounter program.” — Meg Jones, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 20 Feb. 2020
“I hate the idea that we have to be polite as women, or we have to be docile. It’s good to be kind, of course, but that we have to be agreeable, and if we’re anything else we’re labeled difficult.” — Elisabeth Moss, quoted in Elle, 8 July 2020
Did you know?
Docile students can make teaching a lot easier. Nowadays, calling students “docile” indicates they aren’t trouble-makers; however, there’s more than just good behavior connecting docility to teachability. The original meaning of docile is more to the point: “readily absorbing something taught.” “The docile mind may soon thy precepts know,” rendered Ben Jonson, for example, in a 17th-century translation of the Roman poet Horace. Docile comes from Latin docēre, which means “to teach.” Other descendants of docēre include doctrine (which can mean “something that is taught”), document (an early meaning of which was “instruction”), and doctor and docent (both of which can refer to college teachers).
September 04, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 3, 2020 is:
matriculate • \muh-TRIK-yuh-layt\ • verb
1 : to enroll as a member of a body and especially of a college or university
2 : to be enrolled at a college or university
A spokesperson for the college said the school is expected to matriculate approximately 1,000 students for the fall semester.
“Vince Carter, the player who would come to be known as ‘Half-Man, Half-Amazing,’ matriculated at the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1995.” — Ben Golliver, The Washington Post, 28 June 2020
Did you know?
Anybody who has had basic Latin knows that alma mater, a fancy term for the school you attended, comes from a phrase that means “fostering mother.” If mater is mother, then matriculate probably has something to do with a school nurturing you just like good old mom, right? Not exactly. If you go back far enough, matriculate is distantly related to the Latin mater, but its maternal associations were lost long ago—even in terms of Latin history. It is more closely related to Late Latin matricula, which means “public roll or register.” Matricula has more to do with being enrolled than being mothered, but it is the diminutive form of the Latin matrix, which in Late Latin was used in the sense of “list” or “register” and earlier referred to female animals kept for the purposes of breeding.
September 03, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 2, 2020 is:
pediculous • \pih-DIK-yuh-lus\ • adjective
: infested with lice : lousy
All of the campers in the cabin had to be checked for lice when one boy’s sleeping bag was discovered to be pediculous.
“They say pediculous humors and flyborne air are culprits of plague, so the townsmen make a pyre of flowers and brush, attar and spikenard, by way of purging the air of offense.” — Fiona Maazel, Last Last Chance, 2008
Did you know?
Count on the English language’s Latin lexical options to pretty up the unpleasant. You can have an entire conversation about lice and avoid the l-word entirely using pediculous and its relatives. None of the words (from pediculus, meaning “louse”) is remotely common, but they’re all available to you should you feel the need for them. There’s pediculosis, meaning “infestation with lice,” pedicular, “of or relating to lice,” and pediculoid, “resembling or related to the common lice.” Pediculid names a particular kind of louse—one of the family Pediculidae. And if you’d like to put an end to all of this you might require a pediculicide—defined as “an agent for destroying lice.”
September 02, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 1, 2020 is:
allusion • \uh-LOO-zhun\ • noun
1 : an implied or indirect reference especially in literature; also : the use of such references
2 : the act of making an indirect reference to something : the act of alluding to something
“The learning by rote and the endeavours to remember the complex prosodic structures of Shakespearean verses also stretch the muscles of the mind. The speeches are all dramatic, full of emotional appeal and inclusive of several allusions to Greco-Roman mythology. One thinks of these allusions and wonders about their meanings or metaphoric resonances.” — Sophie Barry, Business World, 17 June 2020
“Other than a bunch of cryptic allusions to a masterplan scattered throughout the season, her plan was never made clear. It didn’t help that she seemed to vacillate between cold-blooded killer and teary-eyed sentimentalist several times an episode.” — Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone, 3 May 2020
Did you know?
Allusion was borrowed into English in the 16th century. It derives from the Latin verb alludere, meaning “to play with,” “to jest,” or “to refer to,” as does its cousin allude, meaning “to make indirect reference” or “to refer.” Alludere, in turn, derives from a combination of the prefix ad- (“to or toward”) and ludere (“to play”). Ludere is a Latin word that English speakers have enjoyed playing with over the years, creating collude, delude, elude, and prelude, just to name a few.
September 01, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 31, 2020 is:
longanimity • \long-guh-NIM-uh-tee\ • noun
: a disposition to bear injuries patiently : forbearance
The fans continue to show their longanimity by coming back year after year to cheer on the perpetually losing team.
“Most of the conspirators were gentlemen in their early thirties and the majority had wild pasts. They were frustrated men of action, ‘swordsmen’ the priests called them, and ‘they had not the patience and longanimity to expect the Providence of God.'” — Jessie Childs, God’s Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England, 2014
Did you know?
Longanimity is a word with a long history. It came to English in the 15th century from the Late Latin adjective longanimis, meaning “patient” or “long-suffering.” Longanimis, in turn, derives from the Latin combination of longus (“long”) and animus (“soul”). Longus is related to English’s long and is itself an ancestor to several other English words, including longevity (“long life”), elongate (“to make longer”), and prolong (“to lengthen in time”). Now used somewhat infrequently in English, longanimity stresses the character of one who, like the figure of Job in the Bible, endures prolonged suffering with extreme patience.
August 31, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 30, 2020 is:
cadge • \KAJ\ • verb
“Reiner had his car and was driving to Manhattan to drop the book off to his editor. Wouk cadged a ride in, and Reiner took him up on his polite offer to read it.” — Frank Lovece, Newsday (Long Island, New York), 30 June 2020
“A friend ordered the Burrito Grande, easily the biggest burrito I’ve ever seen. I cadged a bite, and the flavors were delicate, but tasty, complemented by the creamy cheese sauce on top.” — Leslye Gilchrist, The Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, 27 Sept. 2019
Did you know?
As long ago as the 1400s, peddlers traveled the British countryside, each with a packhorse or a horse and cart—first carrying produce from rural farms to town markets, then returning with small wares to sell to country folk. The Middle English name for such traders was cadgear; Scottish dialects rendered the term as cadger. Etymologists are pretty sure the verb cadge was created as a back-formation of cadger (which is to say, it was formed by removal of the “-er” suffix). At its most general, cadger meant “carrier,” and the verb cadge meant “to carry.” More specifically, the verb meant to go about as a cadger or peddler. By the 1800s, it was used when someone who posed as a peddler turned out to be more of a beggar, from which arose our present-day use.
August 30, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 29, 2020 is:
asunder • \uh-SUN-der\ • adverb or adjective
1 : into parts
2 : apart from each other
“Though they sip their port in close contiguity, they are poles asunder in their minds and feelings.” — Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, 1862
“Anna Andrews is the ‘she’ in the story…. As an adult, Anna’s private life is in tatters, but at least she has a prestigious job as a BBC news anchor. In the space of 48 hours, even that’s torn asunder.” — Carole E. Barrowman, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 31 May 2020
Did you know?
Asunder can be traced back to the Old English word sundor, meaning “apart.” It is a relative of the verb sunder, which means “to break apart” or “to become parted, disunited, or severed.” The “into parts” sense of asunder is often used in the phrase “tear asunder,” which can be used both literally and figuratively (as in “a family torn asunder by tragedy”). The “apart from each other” sense can be found in the phrase “poles asunder,” used to describe two things that are as vastly far apart as the poles of the Earth.
August 29, 2020 at 01:00PM
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 28, 2020 is:
undertaker • \UN-der-tay-ker\ • noun
1 : one who undertakes : one who takes the risk and management of business : entrepreneur
2 : one whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals
3 : an Englishman taking over forfeited lands in Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries
The undertaker offered the family several choices of coffins for the burial service.
“The movement towards home-thrown funerals is being spearheaded by Heidi Boucher, a self-proclaimed home death-care guide. Boucher is what could best be described as half holistic hippie, and half 19th century undertaker.” — Rob Hoffman, The Times Union (Albany, New York), 24 Feb. 2020
Did you know?
You may wonder how the word undertaker made the transition from “one who undertakes” to “one who makes a living in the funeral business.” The latter meaning descends from the use of the word to mean “one who takes on business responsibilities.” In the 18th century, a funeral-undertaker was someone who undertook, or managed, a funeral business. There were many undertakers in those days, undertaking all sorts of businesses, but as time went on undertaker became specifically identified with the profession of arranging burial. Today, funeral director is more commonly used, but undertaker still appears.
August 28, 2020 at 01:00PM