Word of the Day

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

appellative

[ uh-pel-uh-tiv ]

noun

a descriptive name or designation, as Bald in Charles the Bald.

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What is the origin of appellative?

Appellative comes from the Late Latin grammatical term appellātīvus “pertaining to a common noun” and nōmen appellātīvum “a common noun” (in contrast to nōmen proprium “a proper noun”). Appellātīvus is a derivative of the verb appellāre “to speak to, address, call upon, invoke.” Appellative in the sense “descriptive name,” as Great in Alfred the Great, is a development in English dating from the first half of the 17th century. Appellative in its original Latin sense entered English in the early 16th century.

how is appellative used?

In connection with this appellative of “Whalebone whales,” it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature may be convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales, yet it is in vain to attempt a clear classification of the leviathan …

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

In addition too to this almost Cimmerian gloom was the agrément of a penetrating rain, known perhaps to some of my readers by the gentle appellative of a Scotch mist …

"Goodwood Races", The Sporting Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 144, September 1829
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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

fictioneer

[ fik-shuh-neer ]

noun

a writer of fiction, especially a prolific one whose works are of mediocre quality.

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What is the origin of fictioneer?

The noun fictioneer is composed of the noun fiction and the noun suffix –eer denoting agency. The suffix is neutral in words like engineer and mountaineer, but it frequently has a pejorative sense, as in profiteer and racketeer. Fictioneer, too, has always had a hint of contempt in it: an early (1901) definition of fictioneer reads “a writer of ‘machine-made’ fiction.” Fictioneer entered English in the early 20th century.

how is fictioneer used?

If you were not a fictioneer, if you did not place a monetary value on the efforts of your imagination, I should be inclined to think that you were lying ….

Theodore Goodridge Roberts, "The Whisper," Munsey's Magazine, Vol. 54, 1915

That was long ago, and she’s a grandmother today, but still she can toss around the lingo of the Wild West with a fluency that would be the envy of a Hollywood scenarist or a fictioneer of the great open spaces.

Jean Ashton, "Revives Glories of 'Wild West'," Windsor Daily Star, August 30, 1941
Monday, June 03, 2019

fecund

[ fee-kuhnd, -kuhnd, fek-uhnd, -uhnd ]

adjective

very productive or creative intellectually: the fecund years of the Italian Renaissance.

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What is the origin of fecund?

The English adjective fecund ultimately comes from Latin fēcundus “fertile, productive,” used of humans, animals, and plants. The first syllable – is a Latin development of the Proto-Indo-European root dhē(i)– “to suck, suckle.” From – Latin forms the derivatives fēlīx “fruitful, productive, fortunate, blessed, lucky” (source of the English name Felix and felicity), fēmina “woman” (originally a feminine participle meaning “suckling”), fētus “parturition, birth, conception, begetting, young (plant or animal), child,” and fīlius and fīlia “son” and “daughter,” respectively (and source of filial). Dhē(i)– appears in Greek as thē(i)-, as in thêsthai “to suckle” and thēlḗ “nipple, teat” (an element of the uncommon English noun thelitis “inflammation of the nipple”). Fecund entered English in the 15th century.

how is fecund used?

… he possesses a fecund imagination able to spin out one successful series after another ….

John Koblin, "As the Streaming Wars Heat Up, Ryan Murphy Cashes In," New York Times, February 14, 2018

He sort of reminded me of Billy Name … the guy who pretty much functioned as the Factory’s foreman during its most fecund years.

Mark Leyner, Gone with the Mind, 2016
Sunday, June 02, 2019

jactation

[ jak-tey-shuhn ]

noun

boasting; bragging.

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What is the origin of jactation?

Jactation comes straight from the Latin noun jactātiōn– (the inflectional stem of jactātiō) “a flinging or throwing about, a shaking or jolting, tossing of the waves at sea,” and by extension, “frequent changing of one’s mind or attitude, boastfulness, grounds for boasting.” Jactātiō is a derivative of the verb jactāre “to throw, hurl, toss,” a frequentative verb from jacere “to throw, toss, sow (seed), cast (anchor).” Jactation entered English in the 16th century.

how is jactation used?

Judge of my mortification, t’other day, when in a moment of jactation, I boasted of being born in that illustrious, ancient, and powerful kingdom!

Robert Murray Keith to his sisters, April 10, 1971, in Memoirs and Correspondence of Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., Vol. 2, 1849

Others see in them merely the jactation of a limited wit, which is nothing more.

George Saintsbury, A Short History of French Literature, 5th ed., 1901
Saturday, June 01, 2019

disinvent

[ dis-in-vent ]

verb (used with object)

to undo the invention of; to reverse the existence of.

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What is the origin of disinvent?

Disinvent is an obvious compound of the prefix dis-, here having a reversing force, and the verb invent. It is quite rare, first appearing in the second half of the 19th century (for the “disinventing” of the telegraph). In the 20th century disinvent has been applied to the impossibility of “disinventing” nuclear or chemical weapons.

how is disinvent used?

However alarmed we are by those weapons, we cannot disinvent them. The world cannot cancel the knowledge of how to make them. It is an irreversible fact.

Margaret Thatcher, "Disarmament with Security: Towards Peace with Freedom," speech to UN General Assembly, June 23, 1982

A number of science fiction movies have actually had to “disinvent” existing technologies in order to retell the myth of how rebels against “the system” help preserve free and open societies.

Mark Hagerott and Daniel Sarewitz, "A Future in Denial," Slate, July 30, 2013
Friday, May 31, 2019

persiflage

[ pur-suh-flahzh, pair- ]

noun

light, bantering talk or writing.

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What is the origin of persiflage?

The origin of persiflage all comes down to sound. English persiflage is borrowed from French persiflage, derived from persifler “to banter” and -age, a noun-forming suffix. Persifler combines per-, an intensive prefix meaning “thoroughly,” and siffler “to whistle, hiss.” Siffler in turn comes from Late Latin sīfilāre, from Latin sībilāre, also “to whistle, hiss.” This perfectly expressive verb yields English sibilate “to hiss” and sibilant “hissing,” which, in phonetics, characterizes such sounds as the –s– and –zh– in persiflage. We can well imagine how the teasing repartee, for example, of two sweethearts in a romantic comedy, sizzles with sibilant sounds, but for all the “hissing” of persiflage, its raillery is light and good-natured. Persiflage entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is persiflage used?

He was not an Italian, still less a Frenchman, in whose blood there runs the very spirit of persiflage and of gracious repartee.

E. M. Forster, Howards End, 1910

… when persons of unrestrained wit devote their attention to airy persiflage, much may be included in their points of view.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Head of the House of Coombe, 1922
Thursday, May 30, 2019

foment

[ foh-ment ]

verb

to instigate or foster (discord, rebellion, etc.).

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What is the origin of foment?

English foment ultimately comes from the Latin noun fōmentum “a soothing dressing or compress (hot or cold), a remedy, alleviation.” Fōmentum is a contraction of an earlier, unrecorded fovimentum or fovementum, a derivative of the verb fovēre “to keep warm, protect from the cold, refresh, ease.” The Latin neuter suffix –mentum is used to form concrete nouns from verbs, such as armāmentum “sailing gear, tackle,” from armāre “to fit out with equipment or weapons.” Foment entered English in the 15th century.

how is foment used?

Russian attempts to influence American voters—including ad purchases on social media intended to foment racial division—coexisted with and benefitted from domestic attempts to discourage people from casting a vote.

Jelani Cobb, "The House Takes On America's Voting-Rights Problem," The New Yorker, February 10, 2019

The coordinated attacks, which took place in three Sri Lankan cities and killed more than 300 people, were designed to foment religious strife in a country that has been slowly recovering from a quarter-century-long civil war.

Noam Cohen, "Like Guns, Social Media Is a Weapon That Should Be Regulated," Wired, April 23, 2019

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