Word of the Day

Thursday, April 11, 2019

alacrity

[ uh-lak-ri-tee ]

noun

cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness: We accepted the invitation with alacrity.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of alacrity?

Alacrity comes from Middle French alacrite from Latin alacritāt-, the stem of alacritās “liveliness, zeal, enthusiasm.” Alacritās is a derivative noun of the adjective alacer “nimble, brisk, enthusiastic, keen.” Latin alacer develops into Italian allegro and Spanish alegre “cheerful, happy.” Alacrity entered English in the 15th century.

how is alacrity used?

Mrs Tulliver was an amiable fish of this kind, and, after running her head against the same resisting medium for fourteen years, would go at it again to-day with undulled alacrity.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

The president has grumbled for months about what he views as Nielsen’s lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.

Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker, "Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say," Washington Post, November 12, 2018
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

flimflam

[ flim-flam ]

verb

to trick, deceive, swindle, or cheat: A fortuneteller flimflammed her out of her savings.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of flimflam?

Flimflam “to trick, deceive, swindle,” shows the same common vowel alteration in a reduplicated word as in mishmash or pitterpatter. Flimflam may possibly be based on a Scandinavian word, e.g., Old Norse flim “a lampoon, mockery.” Flimflam entered English in the 16th century as a noun meaning “idle talk, nonsense; a cheap deception.” The verb sense “to cheat, swindle,” originally an Americanism, arose in the late 19th century.

how is flimflam used?

Slamming my fist on my writing desk I cursed the day a year before that I’d allowed by friend Eddy Dorobek to flimflam me into buying a used laptop from him and giving up my dead father’s rickety old Underwood portable.

Dan Fante,  86'd, 2009

Col. Leonard was there and he knows how they tried to flimflam us.

Charlie Mann, "Evening Session: January 21, 1913," Annual Report of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, 1913
Tuesday, April 09, 2019

polysemy

[ pol-ee-see-mee, puh-lis-uh-mee ]

noun

a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of polysemy?

Fast can mean “moving quickly” or “firmly fixed.” The word shows polysemy, which ultimately derives from Greek polýsēmos “having many meanings.” Polýsēmos joins polýs “many, much,” and sêma “sign, mark, token.” Polýs yields the combining form poly-, seen in many English words, such as polygon “many angles” or polytheism “many gods.” Sêma produces another term used, like polysemy, in linguistics: semantics “the study of meaning.” In linguistics, polysemy and semantics were modeled on French polysémie and sémantique. These words were formed in the late 19th century by French linguist Michel Bréal (1832–1915)—a man perhaps better remembered for inspiring the modern Olympic marathon in 1896. Polysemy entered English in the 1920s.

how is polysemy used?

Twenty-three alternate meanings for it are listed in English alone—it is, the editors say, a model of “polysemy,” packing multiple meanings into a single sign … .

Adam Gopnik, "Word Magic," The New Yorker, May 26, 2014

This rich polysemy of language is the basis for William Empson’s first type of poetic ambiguity: “when a detail is effective in several ways at once.”

C. Namwali Serpell, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, 2014

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.