Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, March 14, 2020

à la mode

[ ah luh mohd, al-uh-; French a la mawd ]

adjective

(of pie or other dessert) served with a portion of ice cream, often as a topping: apple pie à la mode.

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What is the origin of à la mode?

In French the phrase à la mode “in the current fashion” is a shortening of à la mode de “in the style of (X),” a meaning extant in U.S. English. But to most Americans à la mode means a dessert, typically a wedge of pie, topped with ice cream, a meaning that has been current in U.S. English since the early 1890s but not in British English. À la mode entered English in the 17th century.

how is à la mode used?

If your server mentions apple-and-caramel pie a la mode, don’t hesitate.

Tom Snyder, The Two-Lane Gourmet, 2007

You can find a hotel, convenience store, and pay-per-use showers there; more important, though, you can find blueberry pie a la mode.

Rebecca Flint Marx, "10 Pies to Eat on a Cross-Country Road Trip from New York to San Francisco," Bon Appétit, June 12, 2013

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Friday, March 13, 2020

hobgoblin

[ hob-gob-lin ]

noun

something causing superstitious fear; a bogy.

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What is the origin of hobgoblin?

Hobgoblin is a compound of the nouns hob and goblin. Hob (also Hobbe), a pet form or nickname of Robin or Robert, was used as early as the 15th century as a shortened form of Robin Goodfellow, a.k.a. Puck (as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and a.k.a. Hobgoblin (i.e., the common noun used as a personal name). Goblin comes from Middle English gobelin goblin, gobolin “a devil, incubus, fairy,” from Middle French gobellin. Further etymology is uncertain and speculative: The French forms may come from Medieval Latin gobelīnus, from an unrecorded Late Latin gobalus, cabalus “domestic sprite,” from Greek kóbalos “malicious knave, mischievous genie.” The Latin suffix –īnus and French suffix –in complete the word. Hobgoblin entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is hobgoblin used?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," Essays, 1841

The enemy was very real, literally an existential foe … not just the hobgoblin of alleged McCarthyite paranoia.

Jonah Goldberg, "How Politics Destroyed a Great TV Show," Commentary, October 2009

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

punctilio

[ puhngk-til-ee-oh ]

noun

a fine point, particular, or detail, as of conduct, ceremony, or procedure.

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What is the origin of punctilio?

The English noun punctilio comes via Italian puntiglio “minor point (of detail or behavior),” from Spanish puntillo “a dot, minute point, point of honor” a diminutive of punto “point, spot, dot.” The Spanish and Italian noun punto comes from Latin punctum “small hole, puncture,” a noun use of the past participle punctus from the verb pungere “to pierce, prick, sting (of insects).” The c in Latin punctum is the source of c in English punctilio. Punctilio entered English in the late 16th century.

how is punctilio used?

I omitted not the least punctilio, and was surprised that in these matters I should know without ever having learned. I arranged all my papers, and regulated all my affairs, without the least assistance from any one.

Lydia Maria Francis Child, The Biographies of Lady Russell, and Madame Guyon, 1832

This version of the dance gets a shortened title, “Errand” — a punctilio that the deviations from the original seem too minor to justify.

Brian Seibert, "After the Flood, Drying Off the Classics and Letting Them Fly," New York Times, February 26, 2013

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