Word of the Day

Thursday, August 16, 2018

anodyne

[ an-uh-dahyn ]

noun

anything that relieves distress or pain: The music was an anodyne to his grief.

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What is the origin of anodyne?

Anodyne has a surprising etymology. Its Greek original, anṓdynos “painless,” breaks down to the elements an-, ṓd-, -yn-, -os-. The first element, an- “not,” is from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Latin in- and Germanic (English) un-. The second to last element -yn- is from the noun suffix -ýnē; the last element, -os, is an adjective ending. The main element odýnē “pain” (édyna in the Aeolic dialect) consists of ṓd-, a derivative of the Greek root ed-, od- from the Proto-Indo-European root ed-, od- “to eat” (source of Latin edere, Germanic (Old English) etan, Hittite et-, Homeric Greek édmenai, all meaning “eat, to eat.”) In Greek odýnē is something that eats you (cf. colloquial English, “What’s eating you?”). The Germanic languages also have the compound verb fra-etan “to eat up, devour,” which becomes in German fressen “devour, gorge, corrode,” and in Old English fretan “to devour,” English fret, which nowadays usually has only its extended sense “feel worry or pain.” Anodyne entered English in the 16th century.

how is anodyne used?

… he realized that then, and now, work had been an anodyne of sorts. It had occupied his mind.

Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Courtship, 2010

… he would run down the great staircase, with its lions of gilt bronze and its steps of bright porphyry, and wander from room to room, and from corridor to corridor, like one who was seeking to find beauty an anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration from sickness.

Oscar Wilde, "The Young King," A House of Pomegranates, 1891
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

marplot

[ mahr-plot ]

noun

a person who mars or defeats a plot, design, or project by meddling.

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What is the origin of marplot?

The noun marplot is a combination of the verb mar “to damage, spoil” and its direct object, the noun plot, formed like the noun pickpocket. Marplot is a character in a farce, The Busie Body, written by Susanna Centlivre, c1667-1723, an English actress, poet, and playwright, and produced in 1709. In the play Marplot is a well-meaning busybody who meddles in and ruins the romantic affairs of his friends.

how is marplot used?

… Time is unalterable; he swings his merry bomb through centuries, nor feels a jot the mental agony of us sublunary mortals; therefore is he, to our thinking, a Marplot.

, "New Music," The Metropolitan, April 1843

Humpty is Puss’ childhood frenemy: pal, rival and seemingly inept marplot to our hero’s suave efficiency in a crisis.

Richard Corliss, "Antonio Banderas in Puss in Boots: One Cool Cat," Time, October 28, 2011
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

riant

[ rahy-uhnt, ree- ]

adjective

laughing; smiling; cheerful.

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What is the origin of riant?

The rare adjective riant is a direct borrowing from the French present participle riant “laughing,” from the verb rire, ultimately from Latin rīdēre “to laugh,” which comes from a very complicated Proto-Indo-European root wer- “to twist, bend” (rīdēre would mean “twist the face or mouth”). Wer- has many suffixes and extensions that form some startling words. The meaning of the root extended with the suffix -t is clearly seen in Latin vertere “to turn,” with its many English derivatives, e.g., revert, convert, invert. The Germanic form of wert- is werth-, source of the English suffix -ward(s), as in homeward(s), toward(s). A variant form of wer- with the suffix -m forms Latin vermis “worm” (from its twisting) and Germanic wurmiz (Old English wyrm “dragon, serpent”; English worm). Finally, somewhat related to rīdēre is the Latin noun rictus “wide open mouth, gaping jaws” (English rictus). Riant entered English in the 16th century.

how is riant used?

Mistress Marjory bent her head with a murmured assurance of “giving him small trouble,” but again the riant eyes belied the lips …

Sara Beaumont Kennedy, "Sweet Marjory," Outing, Volume XXVII, January 1896

At the head of that open and legal agitation, was a man of giant proportions in body and mind; … a humor broad, bacchant, riant, genial and jovial …

John Mitchel, Jail Journal; or, Five Years in British Prisons, 1854

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