Word of the Day

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

antepenultimate

[ an-tee-pi-nuhl-tuh-mit ]

adjective

third from the end.

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What is the origin of antepenultimate?

In its most general sense, antepenultimate means “third from the end.” In discussions of grammar and prosody, antepenultimate more often describes the third from last syllable in a word, as te in antepenult. Working backward on antepenultimate, ultimate means “the last, final” (as in ultimatum “the final, last-chance demand)”; pen– is from Latin paene “almost” (as in English peninsula “an almost island)”; ante– is the familiar English prefix meaning “before” (from the Latin preposition, adverb, and prefix ante, ante-). Antepenultimate entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is antepenultimate used?

Theresa May, in her antepenultimate day as the Conservative Party leader, had read an emotional passage from a letter …

Rebecca Mead, "A D Day Journey in the Spirit of A. J. Liebling," The New Yorker, June 7, 2019

this antepenultimate episode takes a softer tack, suggesting that cruel and horrible people can change if they really want to.

Allie Pape, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Recap: Nevada Pizza," Vulture, January 28, 2019

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Augean

[ aw-jee-uhn ]

adjective

difficult and unpleasant: an Augean chore.

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What is the origin of Augean?

The English adjective Augean comes via Latin Augēus “of Augeas” (an adjective used only of King Augeas’ stables), from the proper name Augēās (mentioned in Latin only for the dung in his stables), from Greek Augeíās. Augeíās, whose name may be related to the adjective augḗeis “bright-eyed, clear-sighted,” a derivative of augḗ “light of the sun, ray, beam,” was the king of Elis (in the western Peloponnesus); his stables, filled with 3,000 immortal cattle, had not been cleaned for over 30 years. The cattle, moreover, were not only immortal but also divinely robust and healthy and therefore produced a prodigious amount of dung. Hercules’ fifth task was to clean the dung in Augeas’ stables, a task that was deliberately meant to be humiliating and impossible. Hercules cleansed the stables by diverting the river Alpheus through them. Augean entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is Augean used?

Now, after an accumulation of filth for three months, the Spring thaw comes and an Augean task presents itself.

"Street-Cleaning and Common Sense," New York Times, March 23, 1881

Augean jobs were deliberately assigned to him, tasks of almost unhearable tedium—immense bales of spinach to trim alone—in the expectation that he would muster a chef’s endurance or quit.

John McPhee, "A Philosopher in the Kitchen," The New Yorker, February 12, 1979

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Augean

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Monday, June 15, 2020

dilly

[ dil-ee ]

noun

Informal.

something or someone regarded as remarkable, unusual, etc.: a dilly of a movie.

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What is the origin of dilly?

The noun and adjective dilly, like many slang terms, has an obscure etymology. One etymology is that dilly is an alteration of delightful or delicious; the suffix –y is either the native English adjective suffix –y (as in juicy), or the originally Scottish noun suffix –y (as in granny). Dilly was originally an Americanism, first appearing in print in the early 20th century.

how is dilly used?

It would be a dilly of a painting.

Susan Vreeland, The Forest Lover, 2004

The two big numbers, and they were dillies, were “La Toilette de la Cour” by Anthony Philip Heinrich, and Albert Gehring’s “The Soul of Chopin.”

Harold C. Schonberg, "Tidbits of Forgotten Music Evoke an American Past," New York Times, May 25, 1973

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dilly

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Samaritan

[ suh-mar-i-tn ]

noun

one who is compassionate and helpful to a person in distress.

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What is the origin of Samaritan?

Samaritan as an adjective means “pertaining to Samaria or the Samaritans”; as a noun, it means “a native or inhabitant of Samaria.” Most commonly, however, Samaritan is short for Good Samaritan, after Jesus’ parable in Luke 10:30-37. Samaritan comes from the Late Latin adjective Samarītānus “Samaritan” (used as a noun in the masculine plural), from the Greek noun Samarī́tēs “a Samaritan,” a derivative of Samareía, the name of a city and region in Palestine. Greek Samareía comes from Aramaic Shamerayin, from Hebrew Shōmərôn, of uncertain meaning, but possibly from Shemer, the owner who sold Shōmərôn to Omri, king of Israel, in 1 Kings 16:24. Samaritan entered English before 1000.

how is Samaritan used?

That night, they slept in a good Samaritan‘s home, washed dirty laundry, and showered for the first time since leaving home.

Lourdes Medrano, "Border Crisis from the other side: One Guatemalan mother's journey," Christian Science Monitor, October 5, 2014

Kids want to counteract inequality, to be good samaritans and help the little guy.

Alia Wong, "The Preschooler's Empathy Void," The Atlantic, November 2, 2016

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Samaritan

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

stridulate

[ strij-uh-leyt ]

verb (used without object)

to produce a shrill, grating sound, as a cricket does, by rubbing together certain parts of the body.

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What is the origin of stridulate?

The English verb stridulate, “to produce a shrill, grating sound like that of a cricket,” is an English derivative of the English noun stridulation, which comes from French stridulation. The French noun is a derivative of the New Latin verb strīdulāre “to produce a shrill, grating sound,” a derivation of the classical Latin adjective strīdulus, itself a derivation of the noun strīdor “a high-pitched sound.” Strīdere, the classical Latin equivalent of New Latin strīdulāre, is related to Greek trízein “to buzz, squeak,” and a little farther out of town, to Tocharian A trisk– “to drone” (Tocharian is the group name for two or three related Indo-European languages, now extinct, spoken in what is now Chinese Turkestan). The Latin, Greek, and Tocharian forms derive from the onomatopoeic Proto-Indo-European root (s)trei– “to buzz, hiss.” Strīdere and trízein are related to Greek strínx, stríx (stem stríng-, stríg-) “owl, night raven,” and to Latin strix (stem strig-) “an owl, bird of ill omen, evil spirit, vampire.” Either Latin strig– or Greek stríg– was the source of Vulgar Latin striga “evil spirit, witch, hag,” which becomes strega “witch” in modern Italian, as in the late Tomie DePaola’s series of wonderful children’s books “starring” Strega Nona, “Granny Witch.” Stridulate entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is stridulate used?

To stridulate, or chirr, one of the minor achievements of the cricket, your species is dependent on the intestines of the sheep and the hair of the horse.

James Thurber, "Interview with a Lemming," My World—And Welcome To It, 1942

Even so most often does the singing insect stridulate: it is celebrating life.

J. Henri Fabre, The Life of the Grasshopper, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, 1917

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Friday, June 12, 2020

panivorous

[ pa-niv-er-uhs ]

adjective

subsisting on bread; bread-eating.

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What is the origin of panivorous?

The English adjective panivorous “bread-eating” comes from the Latin noun pānis (inflectional stem pāni-) “bread” and the Latin combining form -vorus “devouring,” a derivative of the verb vorāre “to eat up, devour” (pānivorus does not occur in Latin).

how is panivorous used?

I ate it toasted for breakfast and took it to school as the foundation of my lunch sandwich. An equivocal frisson traversed my now infinitely more sophisticated panivorous spirit when I read that Wonder Bread’s parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Steven L. Kaplan, "Introduction," The Stakes of Regulation: Perspectivees on Bread, Politics and Political Economy Forty Years Later, 2015

the people who persevered in their panivorous propensities, accused the emperor of selling our corn to the English.

Joseph Fouché, Memoirs of Joseph Fouché, translated from French, 1825

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

klatsch

[ klahch, klach ]

noun

a casual gathering of people, especially for refreshments and informal conversation: a sewing klatsch.

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What is the origin of klatsch?

You usually associate klatsch “a casual party” with coffee klatsch “a casual gathering for gossiping and drinking coffee.” Coffee klatsch is a partial rendering of German Kaffeeklatsch (in English kaffee klatsch or kaffee klatch). Coffee and Kaffee need no explanation. Klatsch is informal German for “gossip, gossiping,” from the verb klatschen, of imitative origin. In German Klatsch also means “a slap, a crack (as of a bat), a clap (of the hands).” Klatsch (klatch) entered English in the 1950s.

how is klatsch used?

Maybe they didn’t have anything in common and that was the point, was the thing that made the klatsch interesting, hearing the various perspectives people had.

Sam Savage, "Klatsch," An Orphanage of Dreams, 2019

At coffee-break time, Billy made a nice addition to our little klatsch.

Jim Windolf, "My Associate," The New Yorker, May 7, 2001

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