Word of the Day

Monday, January 20, 2020

beacon

[ bee-kuhn ]

noun

a person or thing that illuminates or inspires: The Bible has been our beacon during this trouble.

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What is the origin of beacon?

Beacon comes from Old English bēacen, bēcen, bēcn “a sign, portent; a standard, banner; a signal, signal fire, signal hill or tower, watchtower; lighthouse.” (Most of these senses appear in Beowulf.) Bēacen comes from Germanic baukna– “beacon, signal,” the source of Old Frisian bāken, Old Saxon bōkan, Old High German bouhhan. The derivative Germanic verb bauknjan “to make a sign, signal” becomes bēcnan in Old English and beckon in English.

how is beacon used?

As is often the case with those who die young, Martin Luther King Jr. has become more symbol than man: pacifist, beacon of nonviolent racial reform.

, "Remembering Martin Luther King Jr." New York Times, January 20, 2019

At first sight we had not rated the American town favorably, but now it seemed a beacon of civilization.

James A. Michener, Texas, 1985
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Sunday, January 19, 2020

langlauf

[ lahng-louf ]

noun

the sport of cross-country skiing.

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What is the origin of langlauf?

Langlauf, “cross-country skiing, cross-country skiing race,” is a German compound noun formed from the adjective lang, cognate with English long, and the noun Lauf “run,” related to English leap (from the Old English noun hlȳp) and lope. Langlauf entered English in the 1920s.

how is langlauf used?

“Haven’t you got a boat that’ll cut through the ice?” … “It’s too thick to get through. Langlauf is the easiest way by far.”

Michael Smith, No Man Dies Twice, 2018

Pontresina, a picture-book village tucked just around the mountain from imperious St. Moritz, turns out to be one of the best places in the world to do cross-country skiing—or langlauf as it’s known.

Allison Pearson, "Skiing in Switzerland: Allison Pearson learns to cross-country ski in Pontresina," Telegraph, March 2, 2012
Saturday, January 18, 2020

synonymous

[ si-non-uh-muhs ]

adjective

equivalent in meaning; expressing or implying the same idea; having the character of synonyms or a synonym.

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What is the origin of synonymous?

Synonymous comes from the Medieval Latin adjective synōnymus, from Greek synṓnymos “having the same name and nature and definition,” a term that Aristotle uses in his logical system. Synṓnymos is a compound of the preposition and prefix syn, syn– “with, together with” and the noun ónyma, ónoma “name, word, noun.” The English metaphysical poet John Donne is the first writer credited with using synonymous in English in 1610.

how is synonymous used?

But for a while there, Netflix was on its way to being like Kleenex or Coke—a brand name that becomes synonymous with an entire product (in this case, streaming video).

Katey Rich, "30 Rock Leaving Netflix Is Truly the End of an Era," Vanity Fair, September 15, 2017

Over time, Instagram became synonymous with artfully posed, aspirational photos of everyday life.

Casey Newton, "Instagram's new stories are a near-perfect copy of Snapchat stories," The Verge, August 2, 2016

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