Word of the Day

Friday, August 03, 2018

arctophile

[ ahrk-tuh-fahyl ]

noun

a person who is very fond of and is usually a collector of teddy bears.

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What is the origin of arctophile?

Arctophile means just “bear loving, bear lover,” but in modern English specifically a lover of teddy bears, not grizzlies. The suffix -phile “lover of, enthusiast for” is completely naturalized in English, as in cinephile, audiophile. The element arcto- comes from Greek árktos “bear,” the Greek result of a very widespread (and complicated in its development) Proto-Indo-European noun ṛ́tko- (earlier H₂ṛ́tko-) “bear” (the H₂ was possibly pronounced as in German Bach). Greek transposed the -tk- to -kt-. In Hittite the original H₂ṛ́tkos (spelled ḫartaggaš in the clumsy Hittite cuneiform) was probably pronounced hartkas, which is very close to the hypothetical form but is of uncertain meaning: the name of a predatory animal (?), a cult official (?). In the Indo-Iranian languages, Sanskrit ṛkṣa- and Avestan arša- are regular developments from ṛ́tko-. Italic (Latin) ursus has two problems: u- instead of o-, and the exact source of the first s. Celtic artos becomes art in Middle Irish, and arth in Welsh (Arthur in Welsh means “bear man”). Arctophile entered English in the 20th century.

how is arctophile used?

Unless you’re an arctophile, which is just a fancy way of saying a teddy bear devotee, the name likely doesn’t mean much, but it means a lot to collectors.

John J. Lamb, The Crafty Teddy, 2007

I am a past president of the American Society of Teddy Bear Collectors and have contributed dozens of articles to Teddy Bear Review and other arctophile journals.

Clifford Chase, Winkie, 2006
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Thursday, August 02, 2018

nubilous

[ noo-buh-luhs, nyoo- ]

adjective

cloudy or foggy.

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What is the origin of nubilous?

The English adjective nubilous comes straight from Latin nūbilus, a derivative of nūbēs “cloud.” The uncommon Proto-Indo-European root sneudh- “fog, mist, cloud” lies behind the Latin words and appears as well in several Iranian languages, e.g., Avestan snaodha- “clouds” and Baluchi nōd “light clouds, fog”; Greek nythós “dark, dumb,” and Welsh nudd “mist, fog.” Nubilous entered English in the 16th century.

how is nubilous used?

… it seemed, in their arbitrary disposition of the world’s affairs, the Fates had ordained that Peyton’s sky should always be nubilous

Montgomery G. Preston, "An Eventful Evening," Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine," February 1876

Her azure eyes are nubilous.

Antoinette van Heugten, Saving Max, 2010
Wednesday, August 01, 2018

improbity

[ im-proh-bi-tee ]

noun

lack of honesty or moral scruples.

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What is the origin of improbity?

The English noun improbity comes from Latin improbitās (stem improbitāt-) “dishonesty, unscrupulousness,” a derivative of improbus “inferior, improper.” The parts of improbus break down fairly easily: the prefix im- is a variant of the Latin negative prefix in- used before labial consonants (e.g., b, p) from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Germanic (English) un-, Greek a-, an-, and Sanskrit a-, an-. The element pro- is from the very common (and complicated) Proto-Indo-European prefix and preposition per “forward, through, in front of, early, first.” The -bus is the same ending as in the Latin adjective superbus “proud, haughty” (the ultimate source of English superb) from the Proto-Indo-European root bheu- “to be, exist, grow,” source of Germanic (English) be, Latin fuï “I was, have been” (the perfect of esse “to be”), and Slavic (Polish) być “to be.” The original sense of probus would be “going well, growing well,” and improbus “not going well.” Improbity entered English in the late 16th century.

how is improbity used?

But apart from these hurtful factors, the Ring itself radiated improbity. It had but recently been said by Henry Ward Beecher that perhaps the government of the City of New York did more harm to its people than all the churches together did good.

Edgar Fawcett, A New York Family, 1891

“Beelzebub” had been floundering in the sea of improbity, holding by a slender life-line to the respectable world that had cast him overboard.

O. Henry, "The Remnants of the Code," Cabbages and Kings, 1904

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