Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, September 16, 2021

azure

[ azh-er ]

adjective

of or having a light, purplish shade of blue, like that of a clear and unclouded sky.

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What is the origin of azure?

Azure derives via Old French from Arabic al-lāzuward, with the initial l- in lāzuward disappearing because of confusion between Arabic and French grammar: a widespread assumption arose that this initial l- was part of the Arabic definite article al- “the” or that it was a Romance definite article such as le in French, il in Italian, or el in Spanish. Either way, Romance language speakers chopped that l- off accordingly, and the new spelling stuck. This process is called metanalysis in linguistics, and a similar misdivision happened in English; because of confusion with the definite articles a and an, words such as apron and umpire lost their initial n-, while words such as newt and nickname gained an initial n- when they originally had none. Lāzuward is a borrowing of Persian lāzhuward “lapis lazuli,” a dark blue stone, after the area in Central Asia where it was mined, perhaps corresponding to a location in Badakhshan, a region split among modern-day Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. Azure entered English in the late 1200s or early 1300s.

how is azure used?

Neighbors recall promises that the eerie azure lake known as “Little Blue” would be made into a recreational jewel, complete with swimming, bike trails, and sailboats. But the sprawling pond, its blue somewhat faded in recent years, delivered more blight than benefits to its rural surroundings near the West Virginia border in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Rachel Cernansky, “Largest U.S. Coal Ash Pond to Close, But Future Rules Still Undecided,” National Geographic, August 10, 2012

After twenty miles or so Bill had a spectacular view clear across the Moray Firth to the Grampians. The mountains pushed apart land, sea and sky with nonchalant grandeur; their peaks stark white, their flanks hazed white and blue and azure.

Will Self, "Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys," Paris Review, Spring 1998

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Word of the day

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

repentance

[ ri-pen-tns, -pen-tuhns ]

noun

deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.

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What is the origin of repentance?

Repentance ultimately derives via Old French from Latin paenitēre “to regret, be sorry.” Other derivatives of paenitēre include penance, penitence, and penitentiary. Although paenitēre is of uncertain origin, it was frequently confused with the similar-sounding noun poena “punishment, penalty,” a borrowing from Ancient Greek poinḗ. Poena is the source of numerous words related to crime and its consequences, such as subpoena, penalty, punish, punitive, and even pain; while these words are likely unrelated to repentance, they all share a p-vowel-n root and refer to the aftermath of a mistake or unfortunate choice. Repentance first appeared in English in the early 1300s.

how is repentance used?

And if only fate would have sent him repentance—burning repentance that would have torn his heart and robbed him of sleep…! Oh, he would have been glad of it! Tears and agonies would at least have been life. But he did not repent of his crime.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, 1866

There is no greater opportunity for a pop star than repentance—the chance to rise again after a self-inflicted downfall. Much of Kanye West’s genius, for instance, lies in his ability to withstand his own occasional demise and to orchestrate a subsequent triumph.

Carrie Battan, "Redemption Song," The New Yorker, November 22, 2015

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Word of the day

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

camion

[ kam-ee-uhn ]

noun

a truck, as for military supplies.

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What is the origin of camion?

Camion is a borrowing from French, but its ultimate origin is obscure. Hypotheses include a connection to Late Latin chamulcus “chariot, cart, machine” (from Ancient Greek) or to French chemin “way” (via Vulgar Latin cammīnus from Gaulish). While we normally associate Celtic languages with the British Isles, Gaulish is a long-extinct Celtic language once spoken in what is now France that proved heavily influential to Late Latin and Vulgar Latin, the ancestor of all Romance languages. Camion entered English in the late 1800s.

how is camion used?

When the police inspector approached the camion, he accused the driver of off-loading the extra passengers who were now walking ahead of the camion. But the driver vehemently denied the allegation, and the subinspector, who could see the passengers walking ahead but had not seen them getting off the camion, could not technically substantiate the accusation that they had been off-loaded from the camion.

Suresh Kanekar, Of Mangoes and Monsoons, 2009

There was space left about big enough for a baby carriage to squeeze by, and “dauntless Harry,” seeing an opening, tried to see if his truck would fit said opening. It didn’t, and the first thing we knew the camion had crashed through the railing and the front wheels were dangling in space. The drop wasn’t a great distance, but if we had taken the fall no doubt we would have been found with the camion resting on the back of our necks.

Kirkland Hart Day, Camion Cartoons, 1919

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