Word of the Day

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

behemoth

[ bih-hee-muhth, bee-uh- ]

noun

any creature or thing of monstrous size or power: The army's new tank is a behemoth. The cartel is a behemoth that small business owners fear.

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What is the origin of behemoth?

The traditional etymology of the Hebrew noun behemoth is that it is an augmentative or intensive plural of bəhēmāh “beast,” a derivative of the West Semitic root bhm “to be dumb.” It is also possible that Hebrew bəhēmāh is an adaptation to Hebrew phonology of Egyptian p-ehe-mau “hippopotamus” (literally “ox of the water”). Behemoth entered English in the 14th century.

how is behemoth used?

… in a play for the ideological high ground, Mr. de Blasio has cast Uber as a corporate behemoth with a singular goal.

Matt Flegenheimer, "City Hall, in a Counterattack, Casts Uber as a Corporate Behemoth," New York Times, July 20, 2015

Power – this one word sums up the rise in concerns on the left about tech behemoth Facebook.

Tim Mak, "Congress May Soon Impose New Regulations on Facebook," All Things Considered, NPR, January 15, 2019
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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

mare

[ mahr-ey, mair-ee ]

noun

Astronomy. any of the several large, dark plains on the moon and Mars: Galileo believed that the lunar features were seas when he first saw them through a telescope.

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What is the origin of mare?

Latin mare “sea” is obviously but irregularly derived from Proto-Indo-European mori- “body of water, lake.” The Latin word “ought” to be more (the a is unexplained). The Proto-Indo-European mori- becomes Old Church Slavonic morje “sea, ocean,” Lithuanian marė “lagoon, bay,” and, in the Germanic languages, English mere (i.e., a lake or a pond), German Meer “sea, ocean,” Gothic marei “sea.” Latin mare used to describe the lunar feature first appears in Michael van Langren’s map of the moon (1645). Mare first entered English in the 19th century.

how is mare used?

The wheels were large and open, and absorbed the unevenness of the mare; Malenfant felt as if he were riding across the Moon in a soap bubble.

Stephen Baxter, Manifold: Space, 2000

The craft will attempt to retrieve up to 2 kilograms of soil and rock from the Oceanus Procellarum, a vast lunar mare on the near side that has yet to be visited by any spacecraft.

Dennis Normile, "Chinese spacecraft successfully lands on moon's far saide and sends pictures back home," Science, January 3, 2019
Monday, February 18, 2019

fourscore

[ fawr-skawr, fohr-skohr ]

adjective

four times twenty; eighty.

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What is the origin of fourscore?

Americans will recognize the phrase “Fourscore and seven years ago” from the Gettysburg Address (whether they will know what a score of years amounts to is another question). Most Americans will recognize the line from Psalm 90, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten” and will probably guess 70. The noun score comes from Old English scoru “a tally of 20,” from Old Norse skoru “a notch, scratch, tally of 20.” Score is one of the developments from the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root sker-, ker- “to cut.” In Latin the suffixed form ker-sna appears in cēna “dinner,” literally “a slice.” Old Latin also has the form cesnas; Oscan (an Italic language spoken in southern Italy) has the very conservative form kersnu “dinner.” Sker-, ker- in Germanic (English) appears in shear “to cut” and shears “scissors,” shard, shirt (from Old English scyrte), and skirt (from Old Norse skyrta). Fourscore entered English at the end of the 13th century.

how is fourscore used?

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

President Abraham Lincoln, "The Gettysburg Address," November 19, 1863

Of the fish, I need say nothing in this hot weather, but that it comes sixty, seventy, fourscore, and a hundred miles by land-carriage …

Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771

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