Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, October 10, 2019

biomorph

[ bahy-oh-mawrf ]

noun

a painted, drawn, or sculptured free form or design suggestive in shape of a living organism, especially an ameba or protozoan: The paintings of Joan Miró are often notable for their playful, bright-colored biomorphs.

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What is the origin of biomorph?

Biomorph is easily broken down to the combining forms bio– and –morph, both Greek in origin and both thoroughly naturalized in English. Bio– comes from Greek bíos “life, mode of life, the world we live in” (bíos does not mean “animal life,” which is zōḗ). The combining form –morph comes from the Greek combining form –morphós, a derivative of the noun morphḗ “form, shape, beauty.” Morphḗ may perhaps be related to Latin forma, perhaps via Etruscan (the usual suspect). Biomorph entered English at the end of the 19th century.

how is biomorph used?

She painted biomorphs and wonky grids within the defined parameters of the picture plane ….

Tess Thackara, "The Brief, Transformative Career of Eva Hesse," Artsy, September 3, 2019

There is nothing bitter or sweet about this antsy, unnamable biomorph; refusing to stay put in its own painterly space, it reels … into ours — willfully rude and buoyantly playful, a jolt of unalloyed energy.

Thomas Micchelli, "Elizabeth Murray, Force of Nature," Hyperallergic, January 14, 2017
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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

lambent

[ lam-buhnt ]

adjective

dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly playful: lambent wit.

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What is the origin of lambent?

Lambent comes straight from Latin lambent-, the inflectional stem of the present participle lambēns, from the verb lambere “to lick, (of food or liquid) lick up, suck up, absorb.” Lambere has the transferred senses “(of fire) to play upon, lick,” “(of water) to wash, bathe,” and “(of creeping plants) to surround, wreathe.” The only English sense deriving from the Latin is “running or moving lightly over a surface”; the other senses, including “dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject,” developed within English. Lambent entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is lambent used?

There is the lightning wit that flashes of a short sentence or an apt reply, and there is the lambent wit that sparkles either by description or dialogue.

Walter Sydney Sichel, "The Wit and Humour of Lord Beaconsfield," Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. 44, May–October 1881

He goes to Oxford, where his lambent gift of tongues is recognized and encouraged, and then to war, where everything he values is laid waste.

Anthony Lane, "Why Make Movies About Writers," The New Yorker, May 10, 2019
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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

expiate

[ ek-spee-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to atone for; make amends or reparation for.

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What is the origin of expiate?

The verb expiate, “to atone for, make amends for, make reparation for,” comes from Latin expiātus, the past participle of expiāre “to make atonement to the gods for, appease, propitiate (deities, spirits),” a compound formed by the intensive prefix ex– and the simple verb piāre “to propitiate (a deity, spirit),” a derivative of the very important Roman adjective pius “dutiful, faithful (to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred, and friends).” Aeneas is called pius Aeneas 20 times in the Aeneid. Expiate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is expiate used?

Ridding oneself of guilt is often easier than overcoming shame, in part because our society offers many ways to expiate guilt-inducing offenses, including apologizing, paying fines, and serving jail time.

Annette Kämmerer, "The Scientific Underpinnings and Impacts of Shame," Scientific American, August 9, 2019

Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins.

Andy Newman, "If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?" New York Times, June 3, 2019
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