Word of the Day

Sunday, July 26, 2020

anfractuous

[ an-frak-choo-uhs ]

adjective

characterized by windings and turnings; sinuous; circuitous: an anfractuous path.

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What is the origin of anfractuous?

Anfractuous ultimately comes from the Late Latin adjective ānfrāctuōsus, a term in rhetoric meaning “roundabout, prolix,” and first used by St. Augustine of Hippo in one of his sermons. Ānfrāctuōsus is a derivative of the noun ānfrāctus (also āmfrāctus) “a bend, curve, circular motion, digression, recurrence,” formed by the prefix am-, an-, a rare variant of ambi– “both, around, about,” and a derivative of the verb frangere “to break, shatter, smash.” Anfractuous entered English in the early 15th century.

how is anfractuous used?

Then, as the road resumed its anfractuous course, clinging to the extreme margin of this tumbled and chaotic coast, the fun began.

Jonathan Raban, "The Getaway Car," New York Times, June 10, 2011

Chavis endured a bumpy, anfractuous trip …. He started with a turbulent flight from Syracuse, where the Pawtucket Red Sox were stationed, to Detroit. Then another flight from Detroit to Tampa.

Christopher L. Gasper, "'That was awesome, dude!' — Michael Chavis enjoys his Red Sox debut," Boston Globe, April 21, 2019

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

coffers

[ kaw-ferz, kof-erz ]

plural noun

funds, especially of a government or corporation.

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What is the origin of coffers?

English coffers, “treasury, funds,” is the plural of coffer, “box, chest (for valuables).” The Middle English cofre (and coffre, coffer) had the same senses in the singular and plural. Middle English cofre comes from Old French cofre, from Latin cophinus “basket, hamper,” from Greek kóphinos “big basket; unit of measure.” Cophinus, going the easy way, yields coffin in English via Old French coffin “basket; coffer; sarcophagus.” (Latin ph from Greek words frequently becomes f in the Romance languages.) Cophinus, going the hard way, becomes cophn(o); the n then dissimilates to r, cofn(o) becoming cofre, just as Latin Londinium “London” becomes Londn(ium), the second n dissimilating to Londr- (Londres in Modern French). Coffers entered English in the 13th century.

how is coffers used?

For decades, American presidential campaigns have churned out enormous quantities of swag—$5 buttons, $15 mugs, $75 guacamole bowls—to promote candidates, fill campaign coffers and gather sophisticated data about supporters.

Mihir Zaveri and , "Where Does All the Swag Go After Campaigns Fail? Everywhere," New York Times, February 25, 2020
[The team] required shareholders to buy six season tickets, hoping to fill the bleachers and the coffers in a single go.

Austin Smith, "The Lords of Lambeau," Harper's Magazine, January 2017

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Friday, July 24, 2020

taciturn

[ tas-i-turn ]

adjective

inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation.

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What is the origin of taciturn?

Taciturn ultimately derives from Latin taciturnus “keeping silent, saying nothing, silent by habit or disposition,” a derivative of tacitus, past participle of tacēre “to say nothing, be silent.” Tacēre and its derivatives come from an uncommon Proto-Indo-European root tak-, takē- “to be silent.” Tak- regularly becomes thah- in Germanic, yielding Gothic thahan “to keep silent, hold one’s peace,” and Old Icelandic thagna “become silent.” Tak- in Celtic yields Welsh tagu and Breton taga “strangling, choking” (one way of obtaining silence). Taciturn entered English in the 18th century.

how is taciturn used?

But there at the depot was her husband, the taciturn man who kept his emotions to himself …
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, 2010

Ernő Rubik has often been painted as a taciturn loner, a grudging genius who built a beautiful object he hoped would create an introspective space where individuals could consider the elegance of geometry, and who instead became an icon for one of the great marketing crazes of all time.

Stefany Anne Goldberg, "Puzzled: The Rubik's Cube at 30." The Smart Set, April 13, 2010

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

clamber

[ klam-ber, klam-er ]

verb (used with or without object)

to climb, using both feet and hands; climb with effort or difficulty.

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What is the origin of clamber?

Clamber, “to climb using hands and feet, with effort or difficulty,” comes from Middle English clambren (also clameren, clemeren), possibly a frequentative verb from climben (also clemme, climme, klimbe, clomme) “to climb.” Further etymology is unsatisfying: it has been suggested that clamber is a blend of Old English climban “to climb” and clæmman “to press”; clamber is akin to Old Norse klambra “to hook onto,” and Middle High German klamben and German klammern, both meaning “to clamp tightly.” Clamber entered English in the second half of the 14th century.

how is clamber used?

Outdoor restaurant tables and chairs could be seen bobbing in the waters, and tourists were forced to clamber through the windows of high-end hotels as the water rose to about six feet before 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

Elisabetta Povoledo, "Venice Flooding Brings City to 'Its Knees,'" New York Times, November 13, 2019

He began to clamber as fast as he could out of the enclosed space, his feet scrabbling at the wall and knocking bricks free.

Matthew Hughes, "Jewel of the Heart," Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2018

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

fungible

[ fuhn-juh-buhl ]

adjective

being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

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What is the origin of fungible?

Fungible, with its precise definition “(especially of goods) of such a kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable for another of similar kind,” is pretty much restricted to law and finance. However the term is also used with a more general meaning of “interchangeable.” Fungible comes from Medieval Latin fungibilis “useful, interchangeable,” used especially in the legal term rēs fungibilēs “fungible things, interchangeable items.” Fungibilis is a derivation of Latin fungī “to perform the office of, enjoy.” Fungī forms part of the idiomatic phrase fungī vice or fungī prō “to take the place of,” which supplies the meaning for fungibilis. Fungible entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is fungible used?

Facebook and Google need content, but it’s all fungible.

Alexis C. Madrigal, "Prepare for the New Paywall Era," The Atlantic, November 30, 2017

Given that the Hong Kong-listed shares and the New York ones will be completely fungible, Alibaba can easily sell $13 billion of shares … at a small discount to its current share price.

Jacky Wong, "Hong Kong's Protests Won't Derail Alibaba's #13 Billion Listing," Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2019

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

mirabilia

[ mee-rah-bil-i-ah; English mir-uh-bil-ee-uh ]

plural noun

Latin.

marvels; miracles.

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What is the origin of mirabilia?

In English, mirabilia is a plural noun meaning “miracles, wonders.” Mirabilia comes straight from Latin mīrābilia, a noun use of the neuter plural of the adjective mīrābilis “wonderful, marvelous, remarkable, singular.” In the Vulgate (the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d.,) the adjective mīrābilis means “glorious, miraculous;” the noun use, mīrābile in the singular, mīrābilia in the plural, means “wondrous deed, miracle.” The corresponding form in Vulgar Latin, mīribilia (noun), regularly becomes merveille in Old French, merveille in Middle English, and marvel in English. Mirabilia entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is mirabilia used?

Reading this compendium is like exploring a cabinet of curiosities, each section home to uncanny and startling mirabilia.

Kanishk Tharoor, "Aphrodisiacs? Search This Medieval Islamic Encyclopedia," New York Times, October 7, 2016

in Rome you caused mirabilia to appear that the Romans themselves had never dreamed of, starting with the gabble of that Hugo of Jabala …

Umberto Eco, Baudolino, translated by William Weaver, 2002

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Monday, July 20, 2020

singularity

[ sing-gyuh-lar-i-tee ]

noun

a hypothesized future era or event when exponential improvements in computer intelligence and advances in technology will result in an acute change in human society and evolution.

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What is the origin of singularity?

Singularity comes from Middle English singularite, singulerite “solitude, solitary living; personal gain or advantage; individual or particular things; singleness of purpose,” from Old French singulerte, singulariteit “singular character or quality; peculiarity” or from Late Latin singulāritās (inflectional stem singulāritāt-) “a being alone or by oneself,” a derivative of the adjective singulāris “alone, alone of its kind, one by one, singular.” The computer or technological sense, “a hypothesized future in which exponential improvements in computer intelligence and technological advances result in an acute change in human society and evolution,” is closely associated with the computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who popularized this sense in his writings, most notably in his 1986 novel Marooned in Realtime, and later in an article titled “Technological Singularity” published in Whole Earth Review in 1993. Singularity entered English in the 14th century.

how is singularity used?

A lot of smart people are thinking about the singularity, when the machines grow advanced enough to make humanity obsolete.

Matt Simon, "The WIRED Guide to Robots," WIRED, April 16, 2020

But fulfilling the wishes of a revered biological legacy will occupy only a trivial portion of the intellectual power that the Singularity will bring.

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, 2005

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