Word of the Day

Friday, August 10, 2018

agora

[ ag-er-uh ]

noun

the place where a popular political assembly met in Ancient Greece, originally a marketplace or public square.

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What is the origin of agora?

In Greek agorá originally meant “assembly,” especially of the common people, not of the ruling class. Agorá gradually developed the meanings “marketplace, the business that goes on in the marketplace, public speaking.” The Greek noun is a derivative of the verb ageírein “to gather,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ger-, gere- “to gather, collect,” source also of Latin grex “flock, herd,” with its English derivatives aggregate, egregious, and gregarious. Agora entered English in the late 16th century.

how is agora used?

In the fall of 1964, left-wing students at U.C. Berkeley demanded the right to hand out antiwar literature on Sproul Plaza, the red brick agora at the center of the campus.

Andrew Marantz, "How Social-Media Trolls Turned U.C. Berkeley Into a Free-Speech Circus," The New Yorker, July 2, 2018

… it has become a commonplace among ancient historians to single out the agora as the political centre of the polis where the people met to make all important decisions or, in oligarchies and tyrannies, to rubber stamp the decisions made by the rulers.

, "The Agora as the Political Centre of the Polis," The Polis as an Urban Centre and as a Political Community, Symposium, August 29–31, 1996
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Thursday, August 09, 2018

littoral

[ lit-er-uhl ]

adjective

of or relating to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean.

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What is the origin of littoral?

English littoral comes from the Latin adjective littorālis (lītorālis is more correct), a derivative of littor- (lītor-), the inflectional stem of lītus (littus) “shore, shoreline.” In general littoral is used for technical subjects, e.g., geography, biology. The one exception is the common noun lido meaning “fashionable beach resort,” and the somewhat less fashionable “public open-air swimming pool.” Lido comes directly from Venetian Italian Lido (di Venezia) (from Latin lītus), the name of a sandbar or chain of sandy islands between the Lagoon of Venice and the Adriatic, the site of the annual Venice Film Festival. Littoral entered English in the 17th century.

how is littoral used?

The Center for Advanced Studies would be built–perhaps there was still some virgin littoral stretch and the building he envisaged could be nestled somewhere along this lake or the other–but there would be modifications in the plan.

Ralph McInerny, The Green Revolution, 2008

In another hour the horns of motors began to blow down from the winding road along the low range of the Maures, which separates the littoral from true Provençal France.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night, 1934
Wednesday, August 08, 2018

calescent

[ kuh-les-uhnt ]

adjective

growing warm; increasing in heat.

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What is the origin of calescent?

The English adjective calescent comes directly from Latin calescent-, the inflectional stem of calescēns, the present participle of the verb calescere “to become warm or hot,” a verb derivative of calēre “to be warm or hot.” In Latin the element -sc- in the present tense has inceptive force (i.e., “I am beginning to x”); thus the present tense of noscere (also gnoscere) means “I get to know, I find out” and is the source of English recognize, cognition, and other words. Calescent entered English in the early 19th century.

how is calescent used?

I’ve tested the misting fan’s potency in several clammy places, from subway stations to the congested, calescent queues at Disney World (where, on a stinking-hot day, I’d unwisely worn a boiler suit).

Laura Bannister, "The Misting Fan That Kept Me Cool at Disney World," New York, June 12, 2017

Otis’ earlier statements had been calm, but calescent anger foamed in him and was soon to explode.

Arelo C. Sederberg, The Dynamite Conspiracy, 2001

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