• Word of the day
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    Friday, October 18, 2019

    minutiae

    plural noun [mi-noo-shee-ee, -nyoo-]
    precise details; small or trifling matters: the minutiae of his craft.
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    What is the origin of minutiae?

    In English, minutiae is the plural of the noun minutia, which usually appears in the plural with the meaning “precise details, trifling matters,” the same sense as the Late Latin plural noun minūtiae. In Latin only the singular minūtia appears, and it has its literal meaning “smallness, fineness,” a derivative of minūtus, the past participle of minuere “to reduce in size, lessen.” From the same root min-, Latin also has the words minor “smaller in size or kind" (English minor), minus “a smaller number" (English minus), minimus “smallest, least” (English minimum and minimal), and minusculus “rather small, pretty small” (English minuscule). Minutiae entered English in the mid-18th century.

    How is minutiae used?

    In my preceding chapters I have tried, by going into the minutiae of the science of piloting, to carry the reader step by step to a comprehension of what the science consists of .... Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883

    In a thank-you note to his devotees that he tweeted last week, the congressman offered a similar lulling density of minutiae. Katy Waldman, "Beto O'Rourke's Rebirth as a Knausgaardian Blogger," The New Yorker, November 16, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 17, 2019

    erumpent

    adjective [ih-ruhm-puhnt]
    bursting forth.
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    What is the origin of erumpent?

    The rare adjective erumpent, used almost exclusively in biology, comes straight from Latin ērumpēns (stem ērumpent-), the present participle of ērumpere “to burst forth.” The compound verb ērumpere is composed of the prefix ē- (a variant of ex- “out, out of”) and the simple verb rumpere “to break,” whose past participle ruptus forms the much more common derivative erupt. Erumpent entered English in the mid-17th century.

    How is erumpent used?

    ... on his head—pressing down his erumpent red hair—the vaguely Westernish broad-brimmed hat that signalled his difference from other philosophers (as if any such signal were needed) .... John Gardner, Mickelsson's Ghosts, 1982

    Minutes passed, sun-bathed, as they crossed a stretch of open land; the river slowed, the valley wider, furrowed fields flanking the highway, an erumpent green from rich black soil. David Bosworth, "Psalm," Death of Descartes, 1981

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 16, 2019

    wordie

    noun [wur-dee]
    a person with an enthusiastic interest in words and language; a logophile: a new board game that will appeal to wordies of all ages.
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    What is the origin of wordie?

    Wordie in the sense “someone with an enthusiasm for words,” is relatively recent. There is also an older sense, “a little, wee word,” Scottish, dating from the first half of the 18th century and used by Robert Burns.

    How is wordie used?

    Eric has been a wordie since he was a kid growing up in New York City, a Games magazine acolyte who read the dictionary for fun and subscribes to Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics ... Stefan Fatsis, Word Freak, 2001

    As a teacher of English, a part-time poet and a full-time wordie, I took genuine delight in Patricia T. O’Conner’s review of books about language by Ben Yagoda and David Crystal .... Stephen J. Kudless, "Speech, Speech!" Letter to the Editor, New York Times, April 1, 2007

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  • Word of the day
    Previous Week
    Tuesday, October 15, 2019

    flagitious

    adjective [fluh-jish-uhs]
    shamefully wicked, as persons, actions, or times.
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    What is the origin of flagitious?

    English flagitious ultimately comes from the Latin adjective flāgitiōsus, “shameful, shocking,” a derivative of the noun flāgitium, a very strong word in Latin meaning “a public demonstration of disapproval outside someone’s house, an offense against decency, disgrace, infamy," is often applied to sexual misconduct, and even worse, to violations against military discipline. Flāgitium is related to flāgitāre “to press someone with demands, importune, dun (a debtor), summon someone to trial.” Flāgitāre in its turn is probably related to the noun flagrum “a whip, lash, flail (for punishment).” The Latin root flag- is also the source of flagellum “a whip,” flagellāre “to whip,” from which English derives flagellate, flagellant, and flagellation. Flagitious entered English in the 14th century.

    How is flagitious used?

    ... his faith is pure, though his manners are flagitious. Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776–1788

    He should have persisted in gloom, which would eventually earn a commercial reward that outran the avarice of his most flagitious villains. Caleb Crain, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," New York Times, December 6, 1998

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 14, 2019

    recherché

    adjective [ruh-shair-shey, ruh-shair-shey; French ruh-sher-shey]
    sought out with care.
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    What is the origin of recherché?

    The adjective recherché “carefully sought out, rare, exotic, obscure, elegant, pretentious,” comes straight from French recherché, the past participle of the verb rechercher “to look for carefully, research.” The prefix re- in rechercher indicates repetition; the verb chercher “to look for,” comes from Late Latin circāre “to go around,” a derivation of circus “circle.” (English search comes from Old French cerchier, French chercher.) Recherché entered English in the 17th century.

    How is recherché used?

    ... a tasteful and récherché stock of frames and feathers and ribbons was chosen .... William Dean Howells, A Woman's Reason, 1882

    But, among the books which load their shelves, there is the most recherché collection of European standard works to be found in this country .... "Scribner & Co.," New York Times, December 12, 1874

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 13, 2019

    aplomb

    noun [uh-plom, uh-pluhm]
    imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance.
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    What is the origin of aplomb?

    The English adjective aplomb is from the French noun aplomb “self-possession,” literally “perpendicularity,” from the Old French phrase a plomb “perpendicularly,” literally “according to the lead weight,” from Latin ad “at, to” and plumbum “lead.” Aplomb entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

    How is aplomb used?

    ... I had found that in entering with aplomb, and mounting the estrade with emphasis, consisted the grand secret of ensuring immediate silence. Charlotte Brontë, The Professor, 1857

    Whether he was coached in the art of transcendental stillness by his mother, whose acting career is not long over, has yet to be revealed, but he performed his task with aplomb. Anthony Lane, "Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Introduce Their Son, a Royal Named Archie," The New Yorker, May 8, 2019

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  • Word of the day
    Previous Week
    Saturday, October 12, 2019

    historiated

    adjective [hi-stawr-ee-ey-tid, -stohr-]
    decorated with animals, flowers, or other designs that have a narrative or symbolic purpose, especially of initial letters on an illuminated manuscript.
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    What is the origin of historiated?

    The adjective historiated comes from Medieval Latin historiātus, the past participle of the verb historiāre “to tell a story or a narrative in pictures” (as in an illuminated manuscript or capital letter), from Latin historia “investigation, research, inquiry, a record or account of an investigation, a history,” from Greek historía, a derivation of the noun hístōr “knowing, expert.” Historiated entered English in the mid-19th century.

    How is historiated used?

    Historiated initials often emphasize the praiseworthiness of a certain paragraph with an elaborately illustrated letter. Emma Green, "The Emoji Bible, Reviewed," The Atlantic, June 9, 2016

    At the request of Queen Claude, he used historiated rather than purely decorative borders. Roberta Smith, "Heaven and Earth, Sized to Grasp," New York Times, June 5, 2014

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