Word of the Day

Monday, March 22, 2021

abecedarian

[ ey-bee-see-dair-ee-uhn ]

adjective

arranged in alphabetical order.

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What is the origin of abecedarian?

The English noun and adjective abecedarian has several closely related senses. As a noun, it means “someone learning the letters of the alphabet,” and more loosely, “a beginner in a field of learning.” As an adjective, abecedarian means “pertaining to the alphabet; arranged in alphabetical order; elementary, rudimentary.” Abecedarian comes from Medieval Latin abecedāriānus, a derivative of Late Latin abecedārius, an adjective and noun first used by St. Augustine of Hippo. As an adjective, abecedārius means “pertaining to the alphabet; alphabetical.” As a masculine noun, abecedārius means “one learning the alphabet”; the feminine noun abecedāria means “elementary instruction,” and the neuter noun abecedārium “the alphabet.” The noun abecedarium has been in English since the days of the Old English monk and scholar Byrhtferth of Ramsey, who used the word. In modern English abecedarium is a fairly technical word, meaning “an ancient writing system using an alphabet,” usually referring to the languages of ancient Italy (e.g., Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, Etruscan) and the many dialects and local alphabets of ancient Greece. Abecedarian in the sense “someone learning the letters of the alphabet” entered English in the beginning of the 17th century.

how is abecedarian used?

It turns out that the shared element here is in the placement of the letters of each word: They are in abecedarian sequence, meaning the letters appear in alphabetical order, something more unusual than I first imagined.

Caitlin Lovinger, "Only a Little," New York Times, March 14, 2017

But now that Pie’s name is set and done, the eyes of the Android naming community must turn to the real challenge: this year’s Android 10 Q release. We’ve always known that, one day, we’d have to cross this road, given Google’s abecedarian naming conventions for Android, and with Google I/O 2019 right around the corner, it’s time to revisit this nomenclature nightmare to see what the possibilities are.

Chaim Gartenberg, "What will Google call Android 10 Q?" The Verge, May 6, 2019

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

foozle

[ foo-zuhl ]

verb (used with or without object)

to bungle; play clumsily.

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What is the origin of foozle?

Foozle “to bungle; play clumsily; bungle a stroke at golf,” perhaps comes from German dialect fuseln “to work badly, clumsily, hurriedly.” The verb foozle is somehow connected with the noun foozle “an old fogey; a bungled stroke at golf.” The verb and noun both entered English in the late 1850s.

how is foozle used?

The landscape itself takes on the shape and lineaments of the beloved; according to the fortunes of love, shots desperately flail and foozle or else miraculously take wing and fly over obstacles.

Charles McGrath, "Mixed Greens," New York Times, July 29, 2001

For although I made many excellent, and even brilliant, strokes, I would constantly foozle others, with the result that I never got round the links under 100 …

Robert Marshall, The Haunted Major, 1902

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

vernal

[ vur-nl ]

adjective

of or relating to spring.

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What is the origin of vernal?

Vernal “relating to the season of spring” comes from the pretty rare Latin adjective vernālis, a derivative of the far more common adjective vernus. Vernus is a derivative of the noun vēr “the season of spring,” from Proto-Indo-European wesṛ-, which becomes vār in Old Norse, éar (and wéar) in Greek, vasarà in Lithuanian, and vesna in Old Church Slavonic. Vernal entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is vernal used?

The vernal equinox is one of two points in Earth’s orbit where the sun creates equal periods of daytime and nighttime across the globe. Many people mark it as the first day of the spring.

"Sync your calendar with the solar system," New York Times, January 3, 2021

To this riot of stimuli, this vernal bombardment of the senses, I have capitulated without a fight.

Campbell McGrath, "At the Ruins of Yankee Stadium," The New Yorker, April 20, 2020

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