Word of the Day

Monday, March 02, 2020
Today's Word of the Day was selected by NASA

astronaut

[ as-truh-nawt, -not ]

noun

a person engaged in or trained for spaceflight.

learn about the english language

Why NASA chose astronaut

Calling all astrophiles! Today, March 2, NASA begins accepting applications for their next class of astronauts. Do you have what it takes to become a "star sailor"? Watch this video to find out!

What is the origin of astronaut?

Astronaut entered the orbit of English speakers in the late 1800s from the realm of science fiction. The first recorded instance comes from an 1880 novel by Percy Greg called Across the Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record, in which Astronaut is the name of the narrator’s spacecraft. The sense under discussion today, “a person engaged in or trained for spaceflight,” emerged in the 1920s, decades before the launch of Sputnik (1957) marked the beginning of the Space Age. Astronaut is a compound of astro– “pertaining to stars or celestial bodies or to activities, as spaceflight, taking place outside the earth’s atmosphere,” from Greek ástron “star, constellation,” and –naut a combining form meaning “traveler,” from Greek naútēs “sailor.” 

how is astronaut used?

In the latter part of the twentieth century, those fantasies [of conquering space] were replaced by actual vehicles which could venture into space and a daring new breed of hero—the astronaut.

Colin Burgess, Selecting the Mercury Seven: The Search for America's First Astronauts, 2011

From the very beginning this “astronaut” business was just an unbelievable good deal. It was such a good deal that it seemed like tempting fate for an astronaut to call himself an astronaut, even though that was the official job description.

Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, 1979

Listen to the word of the day

astronaut

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ
Put your wits to the test! New quizzes added weekly.
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sunday, March 01, 2020

habitué

[ huh-bich-oo-ey, -bich-oo-ey; French a-bee-twey ]

noun

a frequent or habitual visitor to a place: a habitué of art galleries.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of habitué?

Habitué, “a frequent or habitual visitor,” still feels very French in its spelling and pronunciation. Habitué is often used for someone who frequents places of recreation or amusement, such as poolrooms, bars, or used bookstores. French habitué is a noun use of the masculine past participle of the verb habituer “to frequent,” from Late Latin habituāre, a derivative of the Latin noun habitus “state, state of being, condition.” Habitué entered English in the 19th century.

how is habitué used?

[He was] a jaded habitué of nightclubs, an expert poker player, deceitful and polite, who trimmed his nails carefully every morning.

Victor Serge (1890–1947), The Birth of Our Power, translated by Richard Greeman, 2014

Mr. Zegen is a hunter and gatherer of no mean talent, a gift he said he inherited from his mother, a habitué of garage, estate and yard sales, who scored the red-and-black rug on the floor in the living room.

Joanne Kaufman, "Mr. Maisel's Memorabilia," New York Times, November 27, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

habitué

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, February 29, 2020

intercalary

[ in-tur-kuh-ler-ee, in-ter-kal-uh-ree ]

adjective

inserted or interpolated in the calendar, as an extra day or month.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of intercalary?

February 29 presents the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the word intercalary, as this extra “leap” day, intended to reconcile the solar calendar with the seasons, is itself just that. The adjective intercalary, “inserted or interpolated in the calendar, as an extra day or month,” comes straight from Latin intercalārius, intercalāris, interkalāris of the same meaning. It is a derivative of the verb intercalāre, interkalāre “to intercalate, delay, postpone,” a compound formed of the familiar preposition and prefix inter, inter– “between, among” and the simple verb calāre, kalāre “to announce, proclaim, summon.” The Latin noun kalendae, calendae means “the calends, the first day of the month, the day on which were proclaimed the nones (the ninth day before the ides) and the ides (the fifteenth or thirteenth day of the month).” Intercalary entered English in the early 17th century.

how is intercalary used?

Today, you see, is a leap day, the intercalary anomaly that allows “leaplings” in their 80s to pretend they’re in their 20s ….

Simon Usborne, "Enjoy today—there won't be another one for four years," Independent, February 29, 2012

It closely follows the present calendar, but becomes perpetual by readjustment of the length of some months, equalization of the quarters and insertion of intercalary days.

Geoffrey Vincent, "For Tidier Time," New York Times, January 12, 1964
Friday, February 28, 2020

echelon

[ esh-uh-lon ]

noun

a level of command, authority, or rank: After years of service, she is now in the upper echelon of city officials.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of echelon?

In English, echelon originally had a military sense, “military forces advancing in a steplike formation.” Around 1950, echelon acquired the originally American sense “grade or rank in any administration or profession.” Echelon comes from French echelon, originally “rung of a ladder,” from Old French eschelon, formed from the noun eschele, eschiele “ladder” (from Latin scāla) and the augmentative suffix –on (an augmentative suffix, when added to a noun, denotes increased size or intensity). Echelon entered English in the late 18th century.

how is echelon used?

… if they fall out of favor with the top echelon of the party, their business empires could come crashing down.

David Barboza and Michael Forsythe, "With Choice at Tiananmen, Student Took Road to Riches," New York Times, June 3, 2014

The film features interviews with former members of the controversial organization who describe widespread abuse and intimidation from the upper echelons of the Church’s power structure.

"See the First Trailer for Scathing Scientology Documentary Going Clear," Time, February 20, 2015
Thursday, February 27, 2020

vug

[ vuhg, voog ]

noun

Geology.

a small cavity in a rock or vein, often lined with crystals.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of vug?

While you may have not heard of the word vug before, you have probably encountered a beautiful specimen of what this uncommon term names. In geology, vug refers to a small cavity in a rock or vein, often lined with crystals. Cavity is the key word, as vug comes from Cornish vooga “cave” (compare Cornish gogow “cave, cavity” and gwag “cave,” Welsh ogof “cave,” Latin fovea “pit”). Vug is also spelled vugg and vugh, and its adjective form is the delightful vuggy. Cornish was a Celtic language of southwest England that went extinct around 1800, but was notably revived in the 20th century. Borrowed from Cornish mining, vug entered English in the early 1800s.

how is vug used?

And this little hole—see, this little hole? There were once quartz crystals here too but they eroded away. This little hole is called a vug.

James Landis, The Last Day, 2009

One such quartz vein contained minute particles of free gold, in a vug.

Mineral Resources of the Pasayten Wilderness Area, Washington, 1971

Listen to the word of the day

vug

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

corrigible

[ kawr-i-juh-buhl, kor- ]

adjective

subject to being revised, improved, or made more accurate: a corrigible theory.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of corrigible?

It is curious that corrigible “subject to being revised, improved, or made more accurate” is much less common than its opposite, incorrigible. Corrigible ultimately comes from Medieval Latin corrigiblis, a derivative of Latin corrigere “to correct, amend, improve, rectify.” Corrigibilis does not occur in classical Latin, but incorrigibilis occurs in Seneca, the first-century a.d. Roman philosopher and man of letters. Corrigible entered English in the 15th century.

how is corrigible used?

First, policy decisions demand closure, conclusiveness, and certainty. By contrast, science is by its nature cautious, contingent, and corrigible.

David Murray, Joel Schwartz, and S. Robert Lichter, "How Science Is Handled in the News," "Consumers' Research Magazine, July 2001

He cautioned against a colonizing mindset that too readily collapses the distance between one’s self and another; empathy, in Stein’s definition, is “corrigible, always something to be learned.”

Rowan Williams, "I Have No Idea How You Feel," Harvard Magazine, April 15, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

krewe

[ kroo ]

noun

a private social club that sponsors balls, parades, etc., as part of the Mardi Gras festivities, especially in New Orleans.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of krewe?

Krewe is a fanciful or archaized spelling of crew “a group of people engaged in a particular kind of work.” Crew comes from Middle French creue “increase” from Old French creu, past participle of the verb creistre “to grow.” Old French creistre develops from the Latin verb crēscere, the ultimate source of the words crescent and croissant. Krewe is first attested in English in 1857.

how is krewe used?

On the morning of Shrove Tuesday, families lined up on St. Charles Ave. to watch the main event of the Carnival—the parade of Rex, the second-oldest parading krewe.

Calvin Trillin, "New Orleans Unmasked," The New Yorker, January 26, 1998

Davis lovingly previewed the ritual of revelry: on the Friday before Fat Tuesday he and his krewe—some 500 strong—will gather for lunch and ribald jokes.

Evan Thomas, "Taken by Storm," Newsweek, December 25, 2005

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.