Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, May 20, 2022

hootenanny

[ hoot-n-an-ee ] [ ˈhut nˌæn i ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

an informal session at which folk singers and instrumentalists perform for their own enjoyment.

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What is the origin of hootenanny?

Hootenanny “an informal session where folk singers and instrumentalists perform” may be a term popularized by musicians such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, but its ultimate origin is unknown. The prevailing theory is that hootenanny stems from Appalachian dialectal English and had an earlier meaning similar to that of thingamajig—a fanciful word used when the speaker does not know the true name of the object or concept in question. As we learned from the recent Word of the Day whigmaleerie, English has developed innumerable placeholder words based on nonsensical elements, from the simpler blivit, doodad, and gadget to the more complex doohickey, thingamabob, and whatchamacallit. Hootenanny was first recorded in English in the early 1910s.

how is hootenanny used?

The musical activity didn’t congeal and spread to other cities until the folk revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. These hootenannies or hoots exemplified the values and practices of the folk movement. Later, hootenannies often coincided and helped energize political and countercultural events of the 60s …. Hoots could go on for hours and much like hoedowns often included other culturally expressively [sic] rituals, such as dancing, eating, and other community integrative activities.

Marcus Aldredge, Singer-Songwriters and Musical Open Mics, 2013

My to-do list has 300 items, but when my editor asked if I’d like to drink whiskey and write about it for The Wall Street Journal, I figured I could definitely add that to the list. After I learned the whiskey was named Yippee Ki-Yay, I asked if she could get it to me by Saturday because I knew I was heading to our monthly hoot. (That’s short for hootenanny, I guess I should explain.) At the hoot we play and sing old country tunes—two-, three-chord songs almost exclusively.

Sherrie Flick, “What Whiskey Pairs Best With a Hootenanny?,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2016

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

tenebrific

[ ten-uh-brif-ik ] [ ˌtɛn əˈbrɪf ɪk ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

producing darkness.

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What is the origin of tenebrific?

Tenebrific “producing darkness” is based on Latin tenebrae “darkness,” plus the adjective-forming suffix -fic. Tenebrae, which is also the source of English tenebrous “dark, gloomy, obscure,” appears to come from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “dark” that is also the source of German Dämmerung “twilight,” Sanskrit támas “darkness,” and Welsh tywyll “dark.” Another possible relative of tenebrae is Thames, a river that runs through southeastern England, which may come from a Celtic source meaning “dark.” Related to tenebrae is the Latin adverb temere “blindly, heedlessly,” perhaps originally meaning “in the dark,” which is the source of English temerarious “reckless, rash.” Tenebrific was first recorded in the 1640s.

how is tenebrific used?

“Tell me what you saw,” I ventured to suggest. At the question, a veil seemed to fall between us, impalpable but tenebrific. He shook his head morosely and made no reply. The human terror, which perhaps had driven him back toward his normal self, and had made him almost communicative for the nonce, fell away from Amberville. A shadow that was darker than fear, an impenetrable alien umbrage, again submerged him.

Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” Genius Loci and Other Tales, 1948

The opening was so narrow, I had to turn sideways to squeeze through. Narrow steps led to the top. The low-ceilinged space felt tight, claustrophobic. It smelled damp, and I tasted dust on my tongue. Tenebrific shadows danced on the walls as two brilliant flashes of lightning appeared in the small roof window about six paces to my right. A moment later, the muffled boom of thunder rattled the loose floorboards.

J. R. Ripley, Die, Die Birdie, 2016

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

agglutinative

[ uh-gloot-n-ey-tiv ] [ əˈglut nˌeɪ tɪv ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

pertaining to or noting a language characterized by combining morphemes (meaningful word elements) without fusion or change.

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What is the origin of agglutinative?

Agglutinative “pertaining to a language characterized by combining morphemes without fusion” is formed from the verb agglutinate “to unite, as with glue,” plus the adjective-forming suffix -ive. Agglutinate ultimately comes from the Latin noun glūten (stem glūtin-) “glue,” which also lends its name to the sticky protein that is found in wheat and other grains that can negatively affect those with an allergy or celiac disease. Partially or totally agglutinative languages are found worldwide, from Japanese, Malay, and Navajo (Diné Bizaad) to Basque (Euskera), Finnish, and Swahili. Agglutinative was first recorded in English circa 1630.

how is agglutinative used?

Cornelia Gerhardt, an English linguist at Saarland University in Germany and one of the founders of culinary linguistics, a field concerned with the ties between language and food, believes that English is a language that does not like to pack too much information into one word. “English is analytical, using a series of words to explain an idea,” Dr. Gerhardt said, “unlike polysynthetic languages (where entire concepts are reduced to a single word) or agglutinative languages (where suffixes and prefixes are added to a root word to create new words).”

Ruth Dsouza Prabhu, “‘Sitting Outside on a Sunny Day and Enjoying a Beer,’” New York Times, February 14, 2022
[F]ully appreciating the challenges of communicating technical information in ASL requires understanding that ASL is not a signed form of English. It’s a distinct language, with specific rules and grammar. When there’s a new phenomenon in English, people tend to create a new word for it. “ASL tends to use agglutinative structure, which means that the signs are composed of different signs, which do not change much when strung together to make a word,” says Jon Henner, a deaf linguist specializing in ASL at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Leigh Krietsch Boerner, "Expanding American Sign Language's scientific vocabulary," Chemical and Engineering News, July 11, 2021

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