Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, January 16, 2021

terrene

[ te-reen, tuh-, ter-een ]

adjective

earthly; worldly.

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What is the origin of terrene?

Terrene ultimately comes, via Middle English terrene, terrain, from Anglo-French terreine, terren, from Old French terrïen, from Latin terrēnus “belonging to or living on dry land, earthly, earthy, pertaining to the material part of humans, belonging to this mortal world (as opposed to the celestial or divine).” Terrēnus is a derivative of the noun terra (from unrecorded tersa) “land, dry land, mainland, surface of the earth,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ters– “to dry,” from which Greek derives térsesthai “to become dry,” Albanian ter “to dry (in the open air),” and Old English thurst “dryness,” English “thirst.” Terrene entered English in the 14th century.

how is terrene used?

Over all this Raynaud looked from his high citadel as if he had no concern in these terrene matters.

C. F. Keary, "The Four Students," Macmillan's Magazine, January 1892

we were created, and sent into the world, to struggle through many hardships; some to serve for examples to deter others from vice, some to prove that Virtue enables her votaries to rise above all terrene objects.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Emma; or, The Unfortunate Attachment, 1773

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Word of the day

Friday, January 15, 2021

ergo

[ ur-goh, er-goh ]

conjunction, adverb

therefore.

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What is the origin of ergo?

The conjunction and adverb ergo comes straight from the Latin conjunction ergō, ergo “therefore, consequently, accordingly, and so,” much used in rhetoric and logic. Ergo came into Middle English toward the end of the 14th century as a conjunction or adverb introducing the conclusion of a syllogism, e.g., “Socrates is a man, / all men are mortal; / ergo Socrates is mortal.”

how is ergo used?

Nonetheless, receiving rapid testing for the virus has become a mark of status and, ergo, a trending topic on social media.

Alyson Krueger, "Rapid Testing Is the New Velvet Rope," New York Times, August 16, 2020

Almost all professional orchestras have their own Web sites, where you can … read cute bios of the players. (The oboist bungee-jumps; ergo, musicians are human beings, not alien geeks.)

Alex Ross, "On the Road," The New Yorker, June 25, 2007

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Word of the day

Thursday, January 14, 2021

discombobulate

[ dis-kuhm-bob-yuh-leyt ]

verb (used with object)

to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate.

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What is the origin of discombobulate?

Discombobulate “to confuse, upset, or frustrate” was originally a jocular American coinage from the North Midland U.S. (from Ohio west through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, to Nebraska). Discombobulate is a pseudo-Latinism like absquatulate and confusticate, and based on learned Latin words like disaffiliate or disaggregate, or humorous alterations of discompose or discomfort. The many variant spellings include discombobligate, discombobolate, discomboberate, discombooberate, and discumboblificate. Discombobulate entered English in 1825 in the spelling discomboberated.

how is discombobulate used?

The filmmaking theory seems to be that if you discombobulate viewers with random shifts of the camera perhaps they won’t notice that your U.F.O. show contains no hard evidence of U.F.O.’s.

Neil Genzlinger, "An Alien March Madness: Is There Life in Space?" New York Times, February 28, 2014

On how humankind will cope, I tend to take the long view: new transformative technologies have discombobulated us before and we’ve managed to adapt—to the invention of writing and printing, to living in cities, to the Industrial Revolution and instant communication and automobiles and nuclear technology.

Kurt Andersen, "Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence," Vanity Fair, November 26, 2014

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Word of the day

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

umbrageous

[ uhm-brey-juhs ]

adjective

apt to take offense.

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What is the origin of umbrageous?

Umbrageous has two main senses: “creating or providing shade, shady” and “apt or likely to take offense.” The word comes via French ombrageux “shady; inclined to take offense,” from Latin umbrāticus “(of a person or an activity) living or performed in the shade, secluded, devoted to quiet, impractical pursuits.” Umbrāticus, a derivative adjective and noun of umbra “shadow, shade, reflection, outline,” does not have the senses “shady, providing shade” or “apt or inclined to take offense,” which are senses that English borrowed from 17th-century French. Umbrageous entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is umbrageous used?

… he was quite umbrageous, and his personality lent itself to confrontation.

Chuck Pfarrer, Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country, 2016

Is it possible to spend time with friends whose company I do enjoy without incurring the wrath of the umbrageous?

"Miss Manners: Host needs specific dates for holiday guests," Washington Post, December 6, 2019

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Word of the day

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

bunkum

[ buhng-kuhm ]

noun

insincere talk; claptrap; humbug.

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What is the origin of bunkum?

Bunkum means “insincere talk by a politician” and is an alteration of Buncombe, a county in North Carolina. Bunkum is an all-American word that fittingly enough derives from a debate in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 16th United States Congress (1819-21) during the House debate about the admission of Missouri as a state into the Union. This so-called “Missouri Question” was extremely important, because it dealt with whether Missouri entered the Union as a Free State or Slave State. (Under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Maine was admitted as a Free State, Missouri as a Slave State.) Just before the vote was called, Felix Walker (1753-1828), U.S Representative from North Carolina, began a long, tedious, irrelevant, dull, and exasperating speech. His House colleagues tried to shout him down, but Walker persisted, saying that he was obliged to say something for the newspapers back home to prove that he was doing his job: “I shall not be speaking to the House, but to Buncombe.”

how is bunkum used?

It’s bunkum to suppose we can be touched by tragedies other than our own.

Beryl Bainbridge, Every Man for Himself, 1996

According to the Mail worldview of recent years, dignified British ways are under attack, mauled by vain liberal cosmopolitans, crafty foreigners, and fashionable bunkum.

Tom Rachman, "A Tabloid Changes Course—and Could Change Britain," The Atlantic, July 12, 2018

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Word of the day

Monday, January 11, 2021

aoristic

[ ey-uh-ris-tik ]

adjective

indefinite; indeterminate.

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What is the origin of aoristic?

Aoristic “indeterminate, undefined,” comes from Greek aoristikós, a derivative of the verbal adjective aóristos “unlimited, unbounded, indeterminate, debatable,” which is a compound of the negative prefix a-, an– (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as un– in English and in– in Latin), and the verbal adjective horistós “definable (of words), delimited (of property or land).” Horistós comes from the verb horízein “to divide, separate,” whose present active masculine participle horízōn “separating,” when modifying the noun kýklos “circle” (“the separating circle”) refers to the (apparent) circle separating the land from the sea, the horizon. Horízōn kýklos seems to be a coinage of Aristotle’s; so it can be trusted. Aoristic entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is aoristic used?

Because Gideon is away indefinitely our lives seem bracketed in a kind of aoristic limbo where things happen haphazardly, without an ordered sequence.

Elon Salmon, When There Were Heroes, 2003

She caught at the nerves like certain aoristic combinations in music, like tones of a stringed instrument swept by the wind, enticing, unseizable.

George Meredith, Beauchamp's Career, 1875

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Word of the day

Sunday, January 10, 2021

guileless

[ gahyl-lis ]

adjective

sincere; honest; straightforward; frank.

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What is the origin of guileless?

Guileless means “without guile, sincere, honest, frank.” Guile comes from Middle English gile, guile “a crafty or fraudulent trick, double-dealing,” from Old French guile “lie, trick, deception,” most likely from a Germanic source. The problem is: Which Germanic language or languages? From the point of view of phonetics, Old French guile could very well come from Germanic wīl, but sources are lacking: Old English wīl “device, trick” may itself be a borrowing from Old French. Old Norse vél “artifice, device, trick” is wrong for phonetic reasons. Guileless entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is guileless used?

Looking at them is an exercise in nostalgia not only for the languid California of the early seventies, or the looseness offered by working in a medium that had little respect from the art world and therefore no money, but for a moment when, even if only in the world of these images, the encounter between self and stranger could be guileless.

Emma Cline, "Mike Mandel's Selfies from the Seventies," The New Yorker, October 12, 2020

Guileless? Guess again, sister. There is nothing remotely guileless about this guy, and nowhere is that more evident than in his land deals.

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man, 2002

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