Word of the Day

Friday, April 05, 2019

anthophobia

[ an-thuh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an abnormal fear of flowers.

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What is the origin of anthophobia?

Anthophobia, “an abnormal fear of flowers,” is surely one of the odder phobias, as opposed to acrophobia “an abnormal fear of heights” or arachnophobia “an abnormal fear of spiders” or—a good one!—chiroptophobia “an abnormal fear of bats (the flying mammal).” Anthophobia is composed of two Greek nouns: ánthos “flower” and the combining form –phobíā “fear.” Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) suffered from anthophobia, especially of a fear of roses, which has no technical name. Anthophobia entered English in the 19th century.

how is anthophobia used?

And if you dislike the task of summer gardening, you may even be a victim of anthophobia, the fear of flowers, although that’s a rare malady indeed.

Hal Boyle, "Some Phobias You Can Enjoy," Tallahassee Democrat, Associated Press, May 23, 1969

Queen Elizabeth I is said to have been terrorized by roses, a subcategory of anthophobia, a generalized fear of flowers.

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, "Conquering Our Phobias: The Biological Underpinnings of Paralyzing Fears," U.S. News & World Report, December 6, 2004
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Thursday, April 04, 2019

multiverse

[ muhl-ti-vurs ]

noun

a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, including our own.

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What is the origin of multiverse?

Multiverse, a combination of the common prefix multi– and (uni)verse, nowadays means “a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, ours included,” a sense first suggested in 1952 by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961). Multiverse, however, was coined by the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910). Multiverse to James was an alternative to or an opposite of universe and meant “the universe imagined as lacking order, unity, or a single ruling and guiding power.” James used multiverse in a lecture “Is Life Worth Living?” in 1895.

how is multiverse used?

Multiverse proponents advocate the idea that there may exist innumerable other universes, some of them with totally different physics and numbers of spatial dimensions; and that you, I and everything else may exist in countless copies.

Heinrich Päs, "Quantum Monism Could Save the Soul of Physics," Scientific American, March 5, 2019

Ten days before he died, Stephen Hawking sent one more written insight out into the cosmos—a paper, co-written with physicist Thomas Hertog of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, tackling the problem of a multiverse.

Sarah Kaplan, "One of Stephen Hawking's final scientific acts: Tackling the multiverse," Washington Post, May 3, 2018
Wednesday, April 03, 2019

hamartia

[ hah-mahr-tee-uh ]

noun

the character defect that causes the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy; tragic flaw.

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What is the origin of hamartia?

In Greek the noun hamartíā means “failure, fault, error (of judgment), guilt, sin.” Hamartia, if familiar at all, will be familiar as the term that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) uses in his Poetics for the personal defect or frailty—the tragic flaw—that brings about the ruin of a prosperous or eminent man who is neither utterly villainous nor totally good, like, for instance, Oedipus. Hamartíā is a derivative of the verb hamartánein “(of a spear) to miss the mark, (in general) to fail in one’s purpose, fall short, go wrong.” Hamartánein with its derivatives and related words, like about 60 percent of Greek vocabulary, has no known etymology. Hamartia entered English in the late 19th century.

how is hamartia used?

Every person was felt to have his or her hamartia—a tragic flaw, or potential for error in judgment that would frequently destroy an otherwise promising career. The most common among these flaws was hubris ….

James P. Atwater, "Letter to the Editor: The President's Men," New York Times, August 29, 1982

… his hamartia (“error”) leads to the loss of all that matters to him, as well as to a puncturing of his former worldview.

Mark Buchan, "Sophocles with Lacan," A Companion to Sophocles, 2012
Tuesday, April 02, 2019

versify

[ vur-suh-fahy ]

verb

to relate, describe, or treat (something) in the form of poetry.

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What is the origin of versify?

Versify comes via Old French versifier from Latin versificāre “to write or compose verse.” Versificāre is partly composed of the noun versus “a line of writing, a line of poetry, a sequence of notes.” The basic meaning of versus is “a circular movement (in a dance), twirl” and is a derivative of the verb vertere “to turn, revolve, pass through a cycle.” The combining form –ficāre means “doing, making, causing” and ultimately derives from the verb facere “to make, build, construct.” Versify entered English in the 14th century.

how is versify used?

… the energetic singer who cannot repress the impromptu urge to versify the mundane things going on around him.

Franklin D. Lewis, "Introduction," Rumi: Swallowing the Sun, 2008

He served in Africa, southern France and Italy during World War II, a period that he said led him to “versify in earnest.”

Harrison Smith, "Richard Wilbur, American poet who twice won the Pulitzer Prize, dies at 96," Washington Post, October 15, 2017
Monday, April 01, 2019

fool

[ fool ]

noun

British Cookery.

a dish made of fruit, scalded or stewed, crushed and mixed with cream or the like: gooseberry fool.

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What is the origin of fool?

Fool, “a dessert made of scalded or stewed fruit, crushed and mixed with cream,” is just the sort of word to cause an etymological food fight. Fool is probably a specialized sense of fool “a silly or stupid person.” In the late 16th century, trifle, now meaning “something of little value, consequence, or importance,” was a synonym for fool (the dessert), though the dessert we call trifle is now something different. Another (discredited) etymology derives fool from Old French foulex, fole, “a pressing, treading,” from fouler, foler “to press, tread.” Fool (the dessert) entered English in the 16th century.

how is fool used?

The fool, one of the oldest English desserts, is basically nothing more than a mixture of puréed fruit, sugar, and thick cream, the simplest thing in the world.

James Beard, Beard on Food, 1974

One of the simplest ways to prepare strawberries when you want a departure from serving them plain is to chop them into a Fool.

Moira Hodgson, "Desserts Made from the Fresh Berries of Summer," New York Times, July 14, 1985
Sunday, March 31, 2019

velutinous

[ vuh-loot-n-uhs ]

adjective

having a soft, velvety surface, as certain plants.

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What is the origin of velutinous?

Velutinous, “having a soft, velvety surface or hairs,” is a very rare adjective, a technical term used in botany and entomology. Velutinous comes directly from the New Latin adjective velūtīnus “velvety,” from Medieval Latin velūtum “velvet.” Velūtum possibly comes from assumed Vulgar Latin villūtus, from Latin villus “shaggy nap.” Velutinous entered English in the 19th century.

how is velutinous used?

He picked up his bread, pulled open the crust so the soft velutinous white inside was exposed, pushed it into a piece of omelet, then lifted the dripping morsel to his lips and bit upon it.

M. J. Carter, The Devil's Feast, 2016

The deep shag of a plush carpet was beneath our feet and velutinous purple flocked wallpaper covered the walls.

Cavan Scott, Sherlock Holmes: Cry of the Innocents, 2017
Saturday, March 30, 2019

nadir

[ ney-der, ney-deer ]

noun

the lowest point; point of greatest adversity or despair.

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What is the origin of nadir?

Nadir comes via Middle French and Late Latin nadir “point opposite the sun, point opposite the zenith” from Arabic naẓīr (as-samt) “opposite (the zenith).” Arabic samt is the source of zenith. Nadir (and zenith) entered English in the late 14th century.

how is nadir used?

At the nadir of the global stock market crash in March 2009, the kronor hit a low of 8.48 euro cents per kronor ….

Heather Farmbrough, "After Sweden's Election, What Next for the Kronor?" Forbes, September 8, 2018

… [the] fragment was hurled from what had seemed the nadir of horror to black, clutching pits of a horror still more profound.

H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," Weird Tales, July 1934

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