Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, August 07, 2020

axiomatic

[ ak-see-uh-mat-ik ]

adjective

self-evident; obvious.

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What is the origin of axiomatic?

Axiomatic ultimately comes from the Greek adjective axiōmatikós, which originally meant “dignified (of persons or literary style); worthy, high in rank”; as a technical term, axiōmatikós in Stoic philosophy meant “employing logical propositions” (not a cocktail party term!); its adverb axiōmatikôs meant “self-evidently.” Axiōmatikós is a derivative of the noun axíōma, literally “something worthy of someone,” hence “esteem, honor, reputation, rank.” As a scientific term, axíōma meant “something assumed as the basis of a demonstration, a self-evident principle” (Aristotle), and in geometry, “axiom.” Some people may remember axiom from high school geometry (Euclidean), e.g., “If A is equal to B, and B is equal to C, then A is equal to C.” Axíōma is a derivative of the adjective áxios “of like value, worth as much as, worthy,” literally “counterbalancing.” Áxios in its turn derives from the verb ágein, one of whose dozens of meanings is “to weigh on a scale, weigh.” Axiomatic entered English in the late 18th century.

how is axiomatic used?

It’s axiomatic: Reporters run to the story. They don’t sit it out.

John Otis, "The Journalism Students Helping The Times Cover California," New York Times, June 3, 2020

Psychiatry, and society in general, had been subverted by the almost axiomatic belief that “hearing voices” spelled madness and never occurred except in the context of severe mental disturbance.

Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations, 2012

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Word of the day

Thursday, August 06, 2020

faux pas

[ foh pah ]

noun

a slip or blunder in etiquette, manners, or conduct; an embarrassing social blunder or indiscretion.

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What is the origin of faux pas?

Faux pas, from French and still unnaturalized in English, literally means “false step,” nowadays referring to a breach in good manners, a social blunder. French faux comes from Old French fals, faus, from Latin falsus, past participle of the verb fallere “to deceive, mislead.” The French noun pas, source of English pace, comes from the Latin noun passus “a step, stride, pace,” a derivative of the verb pandere “to spread (legs, arms, wings), spread out, open.” Faux pas entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is faux pas used?

I sat for almost half an hour as they finished preparing, acutely aware of my social faux pas.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, "The Problem With Obama's Faith in White America," The Atlantic, December 13, 2016

I accidentally exposed to them my entire desktop, which felt like a big faux pas despite the fact that there was nothing embarrassing on there at that moment.

Jeannie Suk Gersen, "Finding Real Life in Teaching Law Online," The New Yorker, April 23, 2020

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Word of the day

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

esurient

[ ih-soor-ee-uhnt ]

adjective

hungry; greedy.

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What is the origin of esurient?

Esurient, “hungry, greedily hungry, greedy,” comes from Latin ēsuriēns (stem esurient-), the present participle of the verb ēsurīre “to feel hunger, suffer from hunger,” formed from ēs(us), past participle of edere “to eat” and the desiderative suffix -urīre (of unknown origin); thus ēsurīre literally means “to desire to eat.” Esurient may be familiar to those who like Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which contains the verse Ēsurientēs implēvit bonīs et dīvitēs dīmīsit inānēs, “He [God] hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.” Esurient entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is esurient used?

The whole business of bribing, so far as it is carried on, will fall into disreputable hands, those of untrustworthy, esurient, broken attorneys, who will sell their clients very often …

"The Corrupt Practices Bill", The Spectator, January 15, 1881

However, this esurient eye for detail can, on rare occasions, cloud the larger picture.

Gordon Marino, "The Natural," New York Times, September 30, 2010

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