Word of the Day

Monday, February 11, 2019

amphiscians

[ am-fish-ee-uhnz, -fish-uhnz ]

plural noun

Archaic. inhabitants of the tropics.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of amphiscians?

Amphiscians is an altogether strange word, at least in its meaning. The English word, a plural noun, comes from Medieval Latin Amphisciī “those who cast a shadow on both sides,” i.e., in the tropics a person’s shadow will fall towards the north or towards the south depending on whether the sun is above or below the equator. Amphisciī is a straightforward borrowing of Greek amphískioi (a plural adjective used as a noun) “casting a shadow or shadowy on both sides,” formed from the preposition and prefix amphí, amphi- “around, about” (akin to Latin ambi- with the same meaning) and the noun skiá “shadow, shade, specter” (from the same Proto-Indo-European root from which English has shine). (Heteroscians is, of course, the opposite of amphiscians.) Amphiscians entered English in the 17th century.

how is amphiscians used?

The amphiscians, whose noon shadows fall on both sides, are the people who live between the two tropics, in the region which the ancients call the middle zone.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), On the Revolutions, translated by Edward Rosen, 1978

Are we not similar to those amphiscians / whose shadows fall at one season to the north, / but at another to the south?

Evan S. Connell, Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel, 1962
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.
Sunday, February 10, 2019

prebuttal

[ pri-buht-l, pree- ]

noun

an argument constructed in anticipation of a criticism: The alderman began his speech with a question-answer style prebuttal.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of prebuttal?

Prebuttal is a clever combination of the prefix pre- “before” and (re)buttal. It is equivalent to the Latin rhetorical term prolēpsis “anticipation in the form of a brief summary” or Late Latin procatalēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments,” a borrowing from Greek prolēpsis “(in rhetoric) anticipation” and prokatálēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments.” Former Vice President Al Gore seems to be the first person to use prebuttal in 1996.

how is prebuttal used?

President Clinton’s White House and campaign team have been drawing favorable reviews for their rapid response operation and penchant for picking off issues before Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) even gets his TelePrompTer warmed up. Vice President Gore calls it “prebuttal.”

Dan Balz, Washington Post, May 26, 1996

Both in the short term and for posterity, Sotomayor’s work will serve as a prebuttal to what Chief Justice John Roberts and company are poised to do.

Andrew Cohen, "Sonia Sotomayor and the Real Lessons of Affirmative Action," Atlantic, January 11, 2013
Saturday, February 09, 2019

inculpate

[ in-kuhl-peyt, in-kuhl-peyt ]

verb

to involve in a charge; incriminate.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of inculpate?

Inculpate, like inflammable, is capable of two opposite meanings depending on whether you take in- to be a negative prefix (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-) or an intensive prefix. If in- is the negative prefix, then inculpate means “unblamed, blameless,” the only meaning of the Latin inculpātus and a meaning that inculpate had in (and only in) 17th-century English. Likewise inflammable would mean “not flammable,” a very common mistake in modern English. The in- in inculpate and inflammable is in fact the intensive in-; Late Latin inculpāre means “to blame”; inflammāre means “to set on fire.” The Romans, too, were confused by the two different prefixes: inaudīre (in- here the intensive prefix) means “to catch the sound of, get wind of, hear”; its past participle inaudītus (in- here the negative prefix) means “unheard, unheard of, not listened to.” Inculpate in the sense “to blame” entered English in the late 18th century.

how is inculpate used?

Then someone came into your room and placed the pistol there in order to inculpate you.

Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Problem of Thor Bridge," The Strand Magazine, Volume 63, 1922

Their job was simply to get as much information as possible, which, along with corroborating evidence, would either inculpate the suspect or set him free.

Douglas Starr, "The Interview," The New Yorker, December 9, 2013

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.