• Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 13, 2019

    aplomb

    noun [uh-plom, uh-pluhm]
    imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance.
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    What is the origin of aplomb?

    The English adjective aplomb is from the French noun aplomb “self-possession,” literally “perpendicularity,” from the Old French phrase a plomb “perpendicularly,” literally “according to the lead weight,” from Latin ad “at, to” and plumbum “lead.” Aplomb entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

    How is aplomb used?

    ... I had found that in entering with aplomb, and mounting the estrade with emphasis, consisted the grand secret of ensuring immediate silence. Charlotte Brontë, The Professor, 1857

    Whether he was coached in the art of transcendental stillness by his mother, whose acting career is not long over, has yet to be revealed, but he performed his task with aplomb. Anthony Lane, "Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Introduce Their Son, a Royal Named Archie," The New Yorker, May 8, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 12, 2019

    historiated

    adjective [hi-stawr-ee-ey-tid, -stohr-]
    decorated with animals, flowers, or other designs that have a narrative or symbolic purpose, especially of initial letters on an illuminated manuscript.
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    What is the origin of historiated?

    The adjective historiated comes from Medieval Latin historiātus, the past participle of the verb historiāre “to tell a story or a narrative in pictures” (as in an illuminated manuscript or capital letter), from Latin historia “investigation, research, inquiry, a record or account of an investigation, a history,” from Greek historía, a derivation of the noun hístōr “knowing, expert.” Historiated entered English in the mid-19th century.

    How is historiated used?

    Historiated initials often emphasize the praiseworthiness of a certain paragraph with an elaborately illustrated letter. Emma Green, "The Emoji Bible, Reviewed," The Atlantic, June 9, 2016

    At the request of Queen Claude, he used historiated rather than purely decorative borders. Roberta Smith, "Heaven and Earth, Sized to Grasp," New York Times, June 5, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 11, 2019

    felicitate

    verb (used with object) [fi-lis-i-teyt]
    to compliment upon a happy event; congratulate.
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    What is the origin of felicitate?

    The verb felicitate comes from Late Latin fēlīcitātus, past participle of fēlīcitāre “to make happy,” a derivative of the Latin adjective fēlix (inflectional stem fēlīc-) “fruitful, fertile, rich, auspicious, wealthy, lucky, blessed.” Related Latin words include fēcundus “fertile, fruitful” (English fecund); fēlāre “to suckle”; fēmina “woman, female” (English feminine); and fīlius and fīlia “son, daughter” (from which English has filial). The Latin forms derive from the Proto-Indo-European root dhē-, dhēi-, dhi- “to suck, suckle.” From that root Sanskrit has dhāya- “nourishing,” dhātrī “wet nurse, mother,” and dhḗnā “milch cow.” Greek has thēlḗ “mother’s breast, nipple,” thḗnion “milk,” tithḗnē (also títhē) “wet nurse.” Among the Celtic languages, Old Irish has dīnu “lamb” and the verb dīth “(he) sucked”; Breton has denaff “(I) suck,” and Welsh dynu “(to) suck.” Felicitate entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

    How is felicitate used?

    Mrs. Smithers, you will also permit me to felicitate you upon this happy event. John Kendrick Bangs, Coffee and Repartee, 1893

    The novelists appear to felicitate themselves in all sincerity upon their success ... Thomas R. Lounsbury, "Differences in English and American Usage," Harper's Monthly Magazine, Vol. 127, June–November 1913

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 10, 2019

    biomorph

    noun [bahy-oh-mawrf]
    a painted, drawn, or sculptured free form or design suggestive in shape of a living organism, especially an ameba or protozoan: The paintings of Joan Miró are often notable for their playful, bright-colored biomorphs.
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    What is the origin of biomorph?

    Biomorph is easily broken down to the combining forms bio- and -morph, both Greek in origin and both thoroughly naturalized in English. Bio- comes from Greek bíos “life, mode of life, the world we live in” (bíos does not mean "animal life," which is zōḗ). The combining form -morph comes from the Greek combining form -morphós, a derivative of the noun morphḗ “form, shape, beauty.” Morphḗ may perhaps be related to Latin forma, perhaps via Etruscan (the usual suspect). Biomorph entered English at the end of the 19th century.

    How is biomorph used?

    She painted biomorphs and wonky grids within the defined parameters of the picture plane .... Tess Thackara, "The Brief, Transformative Career of Eva Hesse," Artsy, September 3, 2019

    There is nothing bitter or sweet about this antsy, unnamable biomorph; refusing to stay put in its own painterly space, it reels ... into ours — willfully rude and buoyantly playful, a jolt of unalloyed energy. Thomas Micchelli, "Elizabeth Murray, Force of Nature," Hyperallergic, January 14, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 09, 2019

    lambent

    adjective [lam-buhnt]
    dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly playful: lambent wit.
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    What is the origin of lambent?

    Lambent comes straight from Latin lambent-, the inflectional stem of the present participle lambēns, from the verb lambere “to lick, (of food or liquid) lick up, suck up, absorb.” Lambere has the transferred senses "(of fire) to play upon, lick,” "(of water) to wash, bathe,” and "(of creeping plants) to surround, wreathe.” The only English sense deriving from the Latin is “running or moving lightly over a surface”; the other senses, including "dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject," developed within English. Lambent entered English in the mid-17th century.

    How is lambent used?

    There is the lightning wit that flashes of a short sentence or an apt reply, and there is the lambent wit that sparkles either by description or dialogue. Walter Sydney Sichel, "The Wit and Humour of Lord Beaconsfield," Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. 44, May–October 1881

    He goes to Oxford, where his lambent gift of tongues is recognized and encouraged, and then to war, where everything he values is laid waste. Anthony Lane, "Why Make Movies About Writers," The New Yorker, May 10, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 08, 2019

    expiate

    verb (used with object) [ek-spee-eyt]
    to atone for; make amends or reparation for.
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    What is the origin of expiate?

    The verb expiate, “to atone for, make amends for, make reparation for,” comes from Latin expiātus, the past participle of expiāre “to make atonement to the gods for, appease, propitiate (deities, spirits)," a compound formed by the intensive prefix ex- and the simple verb piāre “to propitiate (a deity, spirit),” a derivative of the very important Roman adjective pius “dutiful, faithful (to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred, and friends)." Aeneas is called pius Aeneas 20 times in the Aeneid. Expiate entered English in the early 17th century.

    How is expiate used?

    Ridding oneself of guilt is often easier than overcoming shame, in part because our society offers many ways to expiate guilt-inducing offenses, including apologizing, paying fines, and serving jail time. Annette Kämmerer, "The Scientific Underpinnings and Impacts of Shame," Scientific American, August 9, 2019

    Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins. Andy Newman, "If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?" New York Times, June 3, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 07, 2019

    tellurian

    adjective [te-loor-ee-uhn]
    of or characteristic of the earth or its inhabitants; terrestrial.
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    What is the origin of tellurian?

    The adjective and noun tellurian ultimately derive from the Latin noun tellūs (inflectional stem tellūr-) “ground, dry land, earth, the earth.” In English the adjective tellurian, meaning pretty much the same as terrestrial, was a technical term used in astronomy. Tellurian used as a noun, “an inhabitant of earth, earthling,” appears in the first half of the 19th century. Throughout much of the 20th century, tellurian, adjective and noun, occurs especially in science fiction. Tellūs comes from a Proto-Indo-European root tel- “flat, level, floor, ground,” the root of Sanskrit tala- “flat surface, flat of the hand”; Old Irish talam “earth"; Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language) talus “floor (of a room)”; and Greek tēlía “board for rolling dice on, kitchen board.” Tellurian entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

    How is tellurian used?

    That ... I should feel in touch with something that I am, or was, and yet seems to go beyond the rational either bespeaks the power of self-delusion in even those with trained minds, or reveals that tellurian force still present and available to us ... Catharine Savage Brosman, "Turn My Face Out to the West," The Shimmering Maya and Other Essays, 1994

    Her [the moon's] antiquity in preceding and surviving successive tellurian generations ... James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922

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