Word of the Day

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

ahistorical

[ ey-hi-stawr-i-kuhl, -stor-i-kuhl ]

adjective

without concern for history or historical development; indifferent to tradition.

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What is the origin of ahistorical?

The formation of the adjective ahistorical is clear: the first syllable, a-, is a variety of the Greek prefix an-, a- “not” (an-, a- is from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-). Historical is a derivative of Greek historía “learning or knowing by inquiry, history,” a derivative of hístōr “one who knows or sees,” akin to English wit and Latin vidēre “to see,” and the Latin suffix -al, with the general sense “of the kind of, pertaining to, having the form or character of” that named by the stem. Ahistorical entered English in the 20th century.

how is ahistorical used?

The notion that all human history – and all human societies – can be shoehorned into a simple binary scheme is not new … But it is always simplistic, ahistorical, and therefore wrong.

Alan Knight, "Tight/loose cultures theory is simplistic and ahistorical," The Guardian, September 18, 2018

The boxlike room, stripped of all embellishment or parlor fussiness, a room that wished to be timeless or ahistorical, and there, in the middle of it, my deeply historical, timeworn grandmother.

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2002
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Monday, December 10, 2018

logogriph

[ law-guh-grif, log-uh- ]

noun

an anagram, or a puzzle involving anagrams.

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What is the origin of logogriph?

A logogriph is a special kind of word puzzle in which a word, and other words formed from any or all of its letters, must be guessed from hints given in verses. Lógos is well known in English: the first, most obvious of its many, many meanings is “word,” as in the prologue to St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (Lógos).” The combining form logo- is very common in Greek (e.g., logopoieîn “to compose, write speeches,” logoprageîn “to write copiously”) and in English (e.g., logocentrism and logorrhea). The tricky word is grîphos (its variant grîpos shows it is not a native Greek word). Grîphos means “(woven) fishing basket, creel,” and metaphorically “something intricate, dark saying, riddle; forfeit paid for failing to guess a riddle.” Grîphos by itself would have been sufficient; adding the combining form logo- specifies its meaning. Logogriph entered English in the late 16th century.

how is logogriph used?

He was most anxious to secure for himself the priority of discovery, and yet he was unwilling to make a premature and possibly incorrect announcement. So he resorted to the ingenious device of a “logogriph,” or puzzle. It appears … as follows: aaaaaaa ccccc d eeeee g h iiiiiii llll mm nnnnnnnnn oooo pp q rr s ttttt uuuuu

Harold Jacoby, Astronomy: A Popular Handbook, 1913

That one man should have possessions beyond the capacity of extravagance to squander, and another, able and willing to work, should perish for want of embers, rags and a crust, renders society unintelligible. It makes the charter of human rights a logogriph.

John J. Ingalls, “John J. Ingalls on the Social Malady,” Sunday Herald, June 11, 1893
Sunday, December 09, 2018

rutilant

[ root-l-uhnt ]

adjective

glowing or glittering with ruddy or golden light.

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What is the origin of rutilant?

It is one thing to see greatly varying descendants of Proto-Indo-European words in its daughter languages, as for instance in the very common (and easy to handle) Proto-Indo-European root bher-, bhor- “to carry, bear, bear children,” which appears as bhar- in Sanskrit, pher- in Greek, fer- in Latin, and ber- in Slavic, Armenian, and Germanic (English bear). It is another thing to see wildly variant forms of a Proto-Indo-European root within one language, but Latin offers a good example from the Proto-Indo-European root reudh-, roudh-, rudh- “red.” (The root variant roudh- becomes raud- in Germanic, rēad in Old English (the ēa is a diphthong from au) and red in English.) Roudh- is also the source of Latin rūfus, a dialect word meaning “red, tawny” and also a proper name “Red” (rufous and Rufus in English). Roudh- also yields Latin rōbus “red (of oxen and other animals),” rōbur “oak, red oak” (the adjective rōbustus “of oak, oaken, strong” becomes robust in English). The root variant rudh- yields Latin ruber “red,” rutilus “glowing red,” with its derivative verb rutilāre “to glow with a bright red or golden color,” whose present participle stem rutilant- becomes English rutilant. Rutilant entered English in the 15th century.

how is rutilant used?

Sometimes, when reading one of his works, I wonder whether Mr. Lawrence has not mistaken his medium, and whether it is not a painter he ought to have been, so significant is for him the slaty opalescence of the heron’s wing and so rutilant the death of the sun.

W. L. George, "Three Young Novelists," Literary Chapters, 1918

She looks up occasionally, between cross stitches, to gaze upon the steady stream of tourists stopping to admire the rutilant, shimmering sandstone folds unfurling 4,000 feet below.

Sam McManis, "Discoveries: Grand Canyon's South Rim crowded but not overbearing," Sacramento Bee, July 25, 2015

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