Word of the Day

Sunday, May 02, 2021

apothegm

[ ap-uh-them ]

noun

a short, pithy, instructive saying; a terse remark or aphorism.

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What is the origin of apothegm?

Apothegm, “a short, instructive saying; a terse remark,” is hard enough to pronounce even in its simplified spelling, which is based on the pronunciation of the word. The original spelling, still used, is apophthegm. Apothegm was the usual spelling until Dr. Johnson settled on apophthegm in his dictionary (1755). Apophthegm ultimately comes from the Greek noun apóphthegma, a derivative of the verb apophthéngesthai “to speak out, speak one’s opinion plainly,” a compound of the prefix apo- “forth” and the simple verb phthéngesthai “to speak, raise one’s voice.” Apothegm and apophthegm entered English within two years of each other, in the second half of the 16th century.

how is apothegm used?

“To live outside the law, you must be honest.” Thompson, like a lot of people in the sixties and seventies, interpreted Dylan’s famous apothegm to mean that in order to be honest you must live outside the law.

Louis Menand, "Believer," The New Yorker, February 27, 2005

It calls to mind the hoary apothegm that academic rivalries are so vicious because the stakes are so small. Ditto for the lit’ry folk, who can work themselves into lathers over matters that the big dogs who bark in the real world would decline even to sniff at, much less raise a leg over.

Jonathan Yardley, "British literati, gnashing their teeth," Washington Post, February 6, 1995

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Saturday, May 01, 2021

polliniferous

[ pol-uh-nif-er-uhs ]

adjective

producing or bearing pollen.

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What is the origin of polliniferous?

Those who suffer from rose fever in the spring or hay fever in the fall may be familiar with polliniferous “producing or bearing pollen,” the cause of their discomfort. Polliniferous, also spelled polleniferous, comes from Latin pollen (inflectional stem pollin-) “fine flour, mill dust, dust” and the combining form –ferous “bearing, producing.” The pol- in Latin pollen is a derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root pel-, pol– “dust, ground grain, meal”; Latin pol(l)enta “barley meal, groats” becomes Italian polenta, originally “grain made of barley or chestnuts,” but now “cornmeal, corn flour, cornmeal porridge,” which English adopted in the 18th century. The combining form –ferous is a derivative of the Latin verb ferre “to bear, carry,” from the widespread Proto-Indo-European root bher-, bhor-, bhṛ-, appearing in Sanskrit bhárati “he carries,” in Greek as phérein “to carry,” in Proto-Germanic as beran (Old English beran, Modern English “to bear”), Old Irish biru “I carry,” Armenian eber “he carried,” and Old Church Slavonic berǫ “I carry.” Polliniferous entered English in the beginning of the 19th century.

how is polliniferous used?

Every observing person who has given attention to the matter has noticed that bees visit berries, it is necessary to intermix polliniferous plants quite liberally if we wish good crops.

"The Mission of Bees in the Orchard and Garden," extract from a paper read before the Iowa S.H. Society by Hon. Eugene Secor, printed in Sydney Mail, February 12, 1898

When trees, weeds or grasses release pollen, it floats through the air and eventually settles on the mast cells. The second grains of pollen deliver the finishing blow: they follow their polliniferous cousins and release a protein which causes inflammation of the blood vessels.

Matthew Lubanko, "Allergy-prone dread first breath of spring," Record-Journal, April 12, 1987

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Friday, April 30, 2021

arboreal

[ ahr-bawr-ee-uhl, -bohr- ]

adjective

of or relating to trees; treelike.

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What is the origin of arboreal?

Arboreal, “relating to trees; treelike; living in or among trees,” comes from the Latin adjective arboreus “pertaining to trees; wooden,” a derivative of the noun arbor (inflectional stem arbor-) “tree, tree trunk, trees, timber, gallows, (ship’s) mast, (wooden) beam or post.” Latin arbor has no reliable etymology. The original meaning of arboreal is “relating to trees”; the sense “living in or among trees” dates from the first half of the 19th century. One must not confuse the Latin noun with arbor “leafy, shady recess formed by tree branches,” which comes from Old French herbier, erbier “grassy place,” with Late Latin herbārium “dried plants, herbarium,” a derivative of herba “grass, small plant, herb.” Arboreal entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is arboreal used?

Like an arboreal matchmaker, a forester could take seeds from spruces or lodgepole pines at a low elevation, say, and plant them farther upslope.

Josh Fischman, Hillary Rosner
, "How to Move a Forest of Genes," Scientific American,

Gaps in the treetops might even curb the spread of leaf-munching insects, parasitic vines, or infectious disease. In some ways, crown shyness is the arboreal version of social distancing …

Katherine J. Wu, "Some trees may 'social distance' to avoid disease," National Geographic, July 6, 2020

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