Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Brobdingnagian

[ brob-ding-nag-ee-uhn ]

adjective

of huge size; gigantic; tremendous.

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What is the origin of Brobdingnagian?

The adjective Brobdingnagian, “enormous in size, immense, gigantic,” derives from the noun Brobdingnag, the land of the giants, the second of the exotic lands that Lemuel Gulliver visited as recorded in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Just as Lilliput and Lilliputian sound small and cute, so Brobdingnag and Brobdingnagian sound clumsy and heavy. Brobdingnagian entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is Brobdingnagian used?

… the entire space will be given over to a single Brobdingnagian sculpture—“Reverse Curve,” back-to-back plates that form an S-shape and wind, riverlike, for 99 feet.

Deborah Solomon, "Richard Serra Is Carrying the Weight of the World," New York Times, August 28, 2019

Since the launch of the Kepler telescope, scientists have discovered that the boiling, Brobdingnagian planets are in fact rarities and are just simpler to spot than cold, rocky planets.

Elizabeth Barber, "Milky Way may be brimming with Earth-sized, possibly habitable planets," Christian Science Monitor, November 5, 2013

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Word of the day

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

forby

[ fawr-bahy ]

preposition, adverb

Chiefly Scot.

besides.

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What is the origin of forby?

All the senses of the adverb forby are archaic, obsolete, or Scottish. Middle English forbi, meaning “past in space, past in time,” is formed from the adverbs and prepositions for—better, fore—“before” and by “nearby, close at hand.” German has the closely related adverb vorbei “past, gone, over (with).” Forby entered English in the 13th century.

how is forby used?

Forby, he had a bashfu’ spirit / That sham’d to tell / His worth or wants ….

Robert Tannahill, "Will MacNeil's Elegy," The Poetical Works of Robert Tannahill, 1825

Ither laddies a’ oot playin’ at something, an’ forby it’s no healthy to sit too lang aye readin’.

James C. Welsh, The Underworld, 1920

Word of the day

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

concinnate

[ kon-suh-neyt ]

verb (used with object)

to arrange or blend together skillfully, as parts or elements; put together in a harmonious, precisely appropriate, or elegant manner.

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What is the origin of concinnate?

The very rare verb concinnate,” to put together harmoniously, appropriately, or elegantly,” comes straight from the Latin past participle concinnātus “made ready, prepared, repaired, touched up,” from the verb concinnāre “to repair, set in order,” which has no known etymology. Concinnate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is concinnate used?

But first an explanation to concinnate my narrative.

Eugene Field, "Lute Baker and His Wife 'Em," The Holy Cross and Other Tales, 1893

I am glad you are trying to concinnate your nomenclature.

William Whewell to C. Lyell, January 31, 1831, William Whewell: An Account of His Writings, Vol. 2, 1876

Word of the day

Monday, December 09, 2019

tinselry

[ tin-suhl-ree ]

noun

cheap and pretentious display.

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What is the origin of tinselry?

Tinselry, “cheap and pretentious display,” is an obvious combination of the noun tinsel and the noun suffix –ry (a form of –ery). Tinsel, though, is an interesting word. It is a shortening of Middle French estincelle “spangle, spark” (source of the English noun stencil), from Old French estencele, estincele “a spark, flash,” from an unrecorded Vulgar Latin stincilla, a transposed variant of Latin scintilla. By the 14th and 15th centuries, French had lost the pronunciation of the s in es-, and estincelle developed into modern French étincelle. In Anglo-French the initial e– also disappeared, giving tencel, tincel. The earliest Middle English examples show tinsel, tinselle used as an adjective in tinselle satin, satin made to sparkle or glitter by brocading with or interweaving gold or silver thread, or by overlaying the satin with a thin coating of gold or silver. Tinselry entered English in the 19th century.

how is tinselry used?

Hence neither romance nor whim should be allowed to remove one useful feature, and substitute for it the gaudy and useless tinselry of false taste.

W. H. Barnes, "A Homily on Homes," The Ladies' Repository, Vol. 16, January 1856

But if it be true that the Emperor William, having the substance of power, could afford to dispense with some of its tinselry, and was personally of simple tastes, it is still true only in a sense which it is important to remember.

Herbert Tuttle, "The Emperor William," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1888

Word of the day

Sunday, December 08, 2019

ology

[ ol-uh-jee ]

noun

Informal or Facetious.

any science or branch of knowledge.

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What is the origin of ology?

The only people who would object to the formation of the colloquial noun ology, “any science or field of knowledge,” are those cranky, old-fangled philologists who insist on writing with a quill pen. Admittedly ology is a malformation—perversion if you like—for the correct (but meaningless) logy, but ology is easily extracted from common nouns like biology, geology, or theology, in which the –o– is a connecting vowel between the two halves of the word and not part of the combining form –logy. Ology entered English in the early 19th century.

how is ology used?

You learnt a great deal, Louisa, and so did your brother. Ologies of all kinds from morning to night.

Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1854

This home was in a large town, and my uncle a professor of philosophy, chemistry, geology, mineralogy, and many other ologies.

Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth, translated in 1871

Word of the day

Saturday, December 07, 2019

fastigiate

[ fa-stij-ee-it, -eyt ]

adjective

having branches that are erect and parallel, tapering to a pointed top.

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What is the origin of fastigiate?

The rare adjective fastigiate, “having branches that are erect and parallel, tapering to a pointed top, like a Lombardy poplar,” is used only in botany and zoology. It comes from Medieval Latin fastīgātus “high, lofty,” from Latin fastīgium “height, highest point, summit, taper.” Fastigiate entered English in the 17th century.

how is fastigiate used?

Most gardeners, looking for vertical features in a border, will turn to some conifer or other fastigiate shrub …

Christopher Lloyd, "Alternative means of support," Horticulture, November 1995

When one of two fastigiate oaks by her front door blew down in a hurricane, she watched it right itself, then called an arborist to prune its slender, upright branches.

Anne Raver, "Gardens in the Buff," New York Times, January 29, 2004

Word of the day

Friday, December 06, 2019

bonhomie

[ bon-uh-mee, bon-uh-mee ]

noun

frank and simple good-heartedness; a good-natured manner; friendliness; geniality.

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What is the origin of bonhomie?

The English noun bonhomie, “frank and simple good-heartedness, friendliness,” still feels French and foreign. The French original, bonhomie, bonhommie, which appeared only 40 years before the English noun, has the same meaning as the English. Bonhomie is a derivative of the Middle and Old French bon homme, bonhom, literally “good man” and later “commoner, peasant.” Even today in French-speaking countries bonhomme is a respectful form of address. Bon homme comes from Latin bonus homō; its plural, bonī hominēs, especially referred to the Albigensian heretics (also Cathars or Cathari), who were exterminated in the 13th century by the Inquisition. Bonhomie entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is bonhomie used?

Lennon would fire up his fellow Beatles with a bit of call-and-response bonhomie. “Where are we going, fellas?” he’d ask, to which Paul, George, and Ringo would respond, “To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!”

Andrew Romano, "Lennon's Other Legacy," Newsweek, December 13, 2010

Einstein’s manner was full of charm and bonhomie.

Jacob Epstein, Let There Be Sculpture, 1940

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