Word of the Day

Friday, August 16, 2019

beadledom

[ beed-l-duhm ]

noun

a gratuitous or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of beadledom?

Beadledom, “a gratuitous or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials,” is a compound of beadle and the noun suffix –dom. In Old English a býdel meant “a herald, proclaimer, preacher,” from an original Germanic budilaz “a herald,” akin to Old High German butyl and German Büttel “bailiff, beadle.” The Germanic word was adopted into Romance, becoming bidello in Italian, bedel in Spanish and Old French, and bidellus or bedellus in Medieval Latin.

Nowadays a beadle is a minor officer in a parish who acts as an usher and maintains order during services, a sense the word has had since the late 16th century. The Middle English forms, such as budel, beodel, bidell (deriving from Old English býdel), were gradually replaced by French bedel beginning in the early 14th century; the modern spelling beadle dates from the early 17th century.

The abstract noun suffix –dom, indicating a state or condition, as in wisdóm “wisdom” and cyningdóm “kingdom,” is akin to Old English and Old Saxon –dóm, German –tum (as in Heiligtum “sanctuary, shrine, relic”), and was originally an independent noun meaning “putting, position, stature, judgment,” a derivative of the verb do. Beadledom entered English in the 1840s.

how is beadledom used?

… I shall endeavor to limit the occupation of the Beadle of Golden Square to pure beadledom, by prohibiting him from waiting at the evening parties of the trustees, and beating the door-mats of the inhabitants.

Editors, "Punch for Parliament," Punch, Vol. 13, 1847

The music of beadledom has an attire uniformly officious, sublimely unmeaning.

, "The Decadence of Church Music," The Musical Standard, No. 428, Vol. 3, October 12, 1872
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
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.
Thursday, August 15, 2019

golden

[ gohl-duhn ]

adjective

indicating the fiftieth event of a series: a golden wedding anniversary.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of golden?

The adjective golden is obviously a compound of the noun gold and the suffix –en, which is used to form adjectives of source or material from nouns. The odd thing about golden is that it is first recorded only about 1300. Golden is a Middle English re-formation of gold and –en that replaced earlier Middle English gulden, gilden, gelden, gylden “made of or consisting of gold,” from Old English gylden, gilden “golden.”

Golden age occurs in The Works and Days of the Greek didactic poet Hesiod (c700 b.c.) and has persisted throughout Western literature. Golden mean “the perfect moderate course or position that avoids extremes” entered English in the 1540s. Golden mean was also formerly called the golden mediocrity, a literal translation of Horace’s aurea mediocritās (Odes 2.10). The golden mean as an ethical principle is usually associated with Aristotelian ethics, it being a virtue, the midpoint between two opposite extremes, as, for example, the virtue of courage being the golden mean between the two opposite vices of cowardice and foolhardiness.

The Americanism golden handcuffs “a series of raises, bonuses, etc., given at intervals or tied to length of employment in order to keep an executive from leaving the company,” dates to the mid-1960s; golden handshake “a special incentive, such as generous severance pay, given to an older employee as an inducement to elect early retirement,” dates to the late 1950s; and golden parachute “an employment contract guaranteeing an executive of a company substantial severance pay and other perquisites in the event of job loss caused by the company’s being sold or merged,” dates to the early 1980s.

how is golden used?

Museums and towns across the country geared up for their own golden anniversary celebrations, including Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong’s hometown that was serving up “cinnamoon pancakes” and “buckeye on the moon sundaes.”

Marcia Dunn, "Apollo 11 Astronauts Reunite on 50th Anniversary of Moonshot," Associated Press, July 19, 2019

Kurt and Verena Kuster will be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

Fleur Jaeggy, Last Vanities, translated by Tim Parks, 1998
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

plebeian

[ pli-bee-uhn ]

adjective

common, commonplace, or vulgar: a plebeian joke.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of plebeian?

English plebeian, adjective and noun, ultimately derives from the Latin adjective and noun plēbēius “pertaining to the common people, a commoner.” The adjective also meant “common, ordinary, everyday” and was usually disparaging. Plēbēius derives from the noun plebs (also plēbēs, stem plēb-) “the general citizenry (as opposed to the patricians).” Plebs (plēbēs) is akin to Greek plêthos “great number, multitude, the majority of people, the commons”; the Latin and Greek nouns derive from a Proto-Indo-European plēdhwo-, ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root pele-, plē– “to fill.” Plebeian entered English in the 16th century.

how is plebeian used?

It outfitted all the high-touch areas of the penthouse (like the bannister on the staircase) in an antimicrobial coating, so you don’t have to deal with such plebeian concerns as germs.

Elizabeth Segran, "This $26 million penthouse is the Goop of luxury real estate," Fast Company, July 17, 2019

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, dons bifocals when she appears before the House of Commons, as if to advertise her sympathetic connection to the plebeian indignities of embodiment.

Katy Waldman, "Kyrsten Sinema and Statement Glasses in the Senate," The New Yorker, November 15, 2018

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.