Word of the Day

Sunday, September 20, 2020

alimentation

[ al-uh-men-tey-shuhn ]

noun

nourishment; nutrition.

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What is the origin of alimentation?

Alimentation, “nourishment, food,” comes via Medieval Latin alimentātiō (inflectional stem alimentātiōn-), ultimately a derivative of the Latin verb alere “to nourish.” The many English derivatives from alere include alumnus and alumna “nursling, foster son, foster daughter,” aliment (from alimentum “food, nourishment, provisions”), alimentary (from alimentārius “pertaining to nutrition;” the alimentary canal runs from the mouth to the anus), alimony (from alimōnia “food, support, nourishment”), and alma māter, literally “nourishing mother” (from the adjective almus “nourishing”). Latin alere comes from the Proto-Indo-European root al– “to grow, make grow, nourish,” source of Old Irish alim “I nourish,” Welsh al “litter (of animals),” Gothic alan “to grow up,” Old Norse ala “to nourish, raise.” Finally, the suffixed Proto-Indo-European form alto– “grown, grown up” becomes ald– in Germanic, the source of English old; the Germanic compound noun wer-ald, literally “man age, life on earth,” becomes weorold in Old English, world in English. Alimentation entered English in the late 16th century.

how is alimentation used?

In mid-March, in the tense week before the British government announced its belated coronavirus-induced lockdown, certain everyday products became extraordinarily hard to find. Panicked buyers swept up fundamentals of alimentation and elimination: yeast, flour, bathroom tissue.

Rebecca Mead, "The Therapeutic Power of Gardening," The New Yorker, August 17, 2020

The effect and value of alimentation was a question for the philosopher as well as for the physiologist, and the gourmand gave utterance to a truism when he said that the destiny of nations depended upon the manner in which they were fed.

"Alimentation in Its Relation to National Prosperity," New York Times, November 13, 1873

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Saturday, September 19, 2020

probity

[ proh-bi-tee, prob-i- ]

noun

integrity and uprightness; honesty.

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What is the origin of probity?

Probity, “integrity and uprightness, honesty,” comes via Old French probité from Latin probitās (inflectional stem probitāt-) “moral integrity, uprightness, honesty; sexual purity,” a derivative of the adjective probus. Probus is composed of pro– “forward” and –bhwo– “growing,” the entire word meaning “going forward, growing well.” The element –bhwo– comes from the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root bheuə-, bheu-, bhou-, bhwo-, bhū– (with still more variants) “to be, exist, become, grow.” The root appears in Latin fuisse “to have been,” futūrus “what is going to be, future,” and fīerī “to become,” English be and been, Lithuanian bū́ti “to be,” Greek phýesthai “to grow, arise, become,” and its derivatives phýsis “nature” and physikós “pertaining to nature, natural.” Probity entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is probity used?

For an instant he had been tempted to accept the carriage as a gift, but probity never deserted him for very long, not to mention an unrelenting awareness of the importance of the appearance of things.

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

Coolidge ended up serving twice as long as Harding in the White House, sanitizing the place with his dignified, even endearing probity.

Thomas Mallon, "How the Promise of Normalcy Won the 1920 Election," The New Yorker, September 14, 2020

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Friday, September 18, 2020

mellifluous

[ muh-lif-loo-uhs ]

adjective

flowing with honey; sweetened with or as if with honey.

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What is the origin of mellifluous?

Mellifluous comes from Late Latin mellifluus “flowing with honey, (of a taste or scent) sweetened with or as if with honey,” and by extension “eloquent, persuasive.” Mellifluus is a compound of mel (inflectional stem mell-) “honey” and –fluus “flowing,” a derivative of fluere “to flow.” Mel is the Latin result of the Proto-Indo-European melit “honey,” which in Greek appears as méli (inflectional stem mélit-). Melit– corresponds exactly with Hittite milit (from melit), Old Irish mil (also from melit). In the Germanic languages, an expanded form, melitom, yields Gothic milith “honey,” Old English mildēaw, meledēaw “honey dew, nectar” (in English, the mil– of mildew, which was thought to be distilled or condensed from air like dew). Mellifluous entered English in the 14th century.

how is mellifluous used?

As the bee flies from flower to flower, taking nectar from each blossom in order to make its mysterious, mellifluous conversion, so the poet should, according to Seneca, “blend those several flavors into one delicious compound …”

Susan Bridgen, Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest, 2012

He is Mr. A. I. Kaplan, whose power to aid art came through his efficient conduct in the molasses business, about which mellifluous substance he knows more than anyone else in the world.

"Sixty-Six," The New Yorker, November 14, 1925

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