Word of the Day

Word of the day

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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Word of the day

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

aegis

[ ee-jis ] [ ˈi dʒɪs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

protection; support.

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What is the origin of aegis?

Aegis “protection, support” comes by way of Latin from Ancient Greek aigís “shield of Zeus or Athena,” which may derive from aíx (stem aig-) “goat” in reference to a type of cloak or shield made of goatskin, plus -is, a noun-forming suffix. Because the stem of aigís is aigíd-, aegis may be pluralized in English either as aegises or, more traditionally, as aegides. Ancient Greek aíx does not have any clear relatives in modern English, and it remains uncertain whether aíx is of Indo-European origin or is a borrowing from a Middle Eastern source. Be sure not to confuse aíx with Latin agnus “lamb,” which looks similar but is not related. Aegis was first recorded in the mid-15th century.

how is aegis used?

Longtime home of the Anasazi and inhabited by the Navajo since at least the 1700s, Canyon de Chelly is now a national park in Chinle, Arizona, and is operated by Navajos under the aegis of the National Park Service. The guides, who are all Navajo, speak of the remarkable geology of what is the second largest canyon in the United States, and about what has been learned from artifacts found in the 84,000-acre archaeological sanctuary.

Frances Madeson, “Fate of Navajo, Canyon de Chelly, and Sheep Is Life Celebration on Field Trip Agenda,” Indian Country Today, June 13, 2017

The history of the towns that became Roman is known to us very imperfectly and unevenly …. Further, great mystery shrouds the particulars of their overthrow when the aegis of the Roman authority was withdrawn. There are but few survivals of towns to the present day, and parallels must be sought rather in Pannonia and North Africa than in the Western European Empire.

James Oliver Bevan, The Towns of Roman Britain, 1917

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