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[ ahr-keyn ] [ ɑrˈkeɪn ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret.

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More about arcane

Arcane “known by very few” comes by way of Middle French from Latin arcānus “secret, concealed,” from the verb arcēre “to shut up, keep.” Arcēre (stems arc- and erc-) is also the source of coerce and exercise, and it derives from arca “chest, box,” which is the source of ark. Despite the resemblance, arca is not related to arcus “bow, curve,” the latter of which is the ancestor of arc, arcade, arch, and archer. Thanks to Grimm’s law, Latin c tends to correspond to Old English h, and Latin arcus is therefore a distant relative of arrow (from Old English earh). Arcane was first recorded in English in the 1540s.

how is arcane used?

Dubbed the worst problem no one has heard of, an obscure land rights law is winning attention as lawmakers overhaul arcane U.S. inheritance rules that are exploited by predators. At the root of the problem is so-called heirs’ property–a type of enforced communal ownership–which can arise when land or a home is passed on without a clear will.

Cary L. Biron, “Arcane U.S. land law gets slow makeover to help poor,” Reuters, June 19, 2018

Federal officials contend that wolves are resilient enough to bounce back even if their numbers drop sharply due to intensive hunting …. Friday’s hearing focused on a much more arcane, legal issue: Were wolves properly classified under the endangered act prior to losing their protected status last year? A U.S. Justice Department attorney said they were not, because of changes to the act by Congress in 1978.

Matthew Brown, “Fight over US wolf protections goes before judge,” Indian Country Today, November 15, 2021
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[ zoh-fer-uhs ] [ ˈzoʊ fər əs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


an architectural band on an outside wall decorated with sculptural representations of people or animals.

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More about zophorus

Zophorus “an architectural band decorated with animals,” also often spelled zoophorus, comes by way of Latin from Ancient Greek zōiophóros “bearing animals,” a compound of zôion “animal” and -phoros “bearing.” For more on zôion, compare the recent Word of the Day zooid. The element -phoros is the present participle of the verb phérein “to bear,” which is also the source of dysphoria, pheromone, the names Berenice and Christopher, and—far more distantly—the recent Word of the Day auriferous. Zophorus was first recorded in English circa 1560.

how is zophorus used?

[T]he external face of the zophorus, being coated with a very fine cement, had assimilated in colour with the marble of the building, so as to be deceptive, except upon minute inspection.

William Wilkins, Prolusiones Architectonicae, 1837

The architrave in both the Ionic and the Corinthian orders consists of plain slabs, but the frieze … is in nearly every case enriched with a series of beautiful figure subjects, and is therefore known as the Zoophorus or figure-bearer.

Nancy Meugens Bell, Architecture, 1914
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[ ahr-ee-oh-soh, ar- ] [ ˌɑr iˈoʊ soʊ, ˌær- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


in the manner of an air or melody.

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More about arioso

Arioso “in the manner of a melody” is a loanword from Italian, in which it means “songlike” and is a compound of aria “air, song” and –oso, an adjective-forming suffix meaning “-like.” Aria comes via Latin āēr from Ancient Greek āḗr “the lower atmosphere,” which is in contrast to aithḗr “the upper air,” the source of ether and ethereal (compare the recent Word of the Day empyrean). Though unconfirmed, āḗr may come from the same root as midair- or wind-related words such as aorta (from aortḗ “something carried”), artery (from artēria “windpipe”), aura (from aúrā “breath”), and meteor (from aeírein “to raise, lift”). Arioso was first recorded in English circa 1740.

how is arioso used?

[Composer Kaija Saariaho’s] ability to match every mood and shift in the words with music is remarkable, as is her brilliant use of the offstage chorus to add vocalization to the orchestra, and words when necessary. The score is lyrical, mysterious, powerful and hypnotic, and her melodic, arioso vocal lines ride this musical wave with intense drama.

Paula Citron, “Hitting the high notes,” The Globe and Mail, July 29, 2002

Think of Rodolfo’s Act I aria in La Bohème, “Che gelida manina,” in which he tells Mimì, who had knocked on his garret door just moments before, all about his life. The aria is like a monologue in which melodic phrases segue into stretches of arioso writing that straddle aria and recitative.

Anthony Tommasini, “Rehabilitating Puccini,” The Atlantic, November 6, 2018
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