• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 30, 2019

    bootstrap

    verb [boot-strap]
    to help (oneself) without the aid of others: She spent years bootstrapping herself through college.
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    What is the origin of bootstrap?

    Bootstrap, originally spelled boot-strap, entered English in its literal sense in the second half of the 19th century. By about 1900 the idiom “to pull (oneself) up by (one's) bootstraps” was used to exemplify an impossible task, i.e., “Why can’t a man stand up by pulling on his bootstraps?”. By 1916 the idiom had also acquired the meaning “to better oneself by rigorous, unaided effort.” In the mid-20th century, bootstrap acquired the technical meaning "a fixed sequence of instructions for loading the operating system of a computer," i.e., the program loaded first would pull itself (and the others) up by the bootstrap, from a somewhat earlier usage in the mid-1940s in reference to electrical circuits.

    How is bootstrap used?

    From very humble beginnings, he bootstrapped himself into becoming an excellent trial lawyer. Karl Friedman, The Professor, 2000

    He bootstrapped himself during and after the war from woodworker at the bench to foreman, work superintendent, dispatcher, planner, and head of several technical bureaus at Sevuraltyazhstroi. Timothy J. Colton, Yeltsin: A Life, 2008

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    synecdoche

    noun [si-nek-duh-kee]
    Rhetoric. a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man.
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    What is the origin of synecdoche?

    Synecdoche, “a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special,” comes via Latin synecdochē, from Greek synekdochḗ “understanding one thing through another.” The funny thing is that the word first appears in the works of the great, commonsensical Roman rhetorician Quintilian (c35-c95 a.d.). The formation of synecdoche is simple enough: the Greek preposition and prefix syn, syn- is well known in English; the noun ekdochḗ “receiving from another in succession” later acquires the meaning “interpretation.” Synecdoche first appears in English in the 15th century.

    How is synecdoche used?

    ... our current cultural circumstance, for which the internet stands as synecdoche, makes us belatedly ache with a longing for a lost coherence. Michael Joyce, "The Persistence of the Ordinary," Moral Tales and Meditations, 2001

    In this way, the trumpet is a kind of synecdoche for Chance’s ramplike gift: in the course of a verse, a song, or, here, the ecstatic whole of an album, he always seems to be stretching toward something new, something else. Vinson Cunningham, "The Sound of Hope: Chance the Rapper," The New Yorker, May 24, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, January 28, 2019

    plexus

    noun [plek-suhs]
    any complex structure containing an intricate network of parts: the plexus of international relations.
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    What is the origin of plexus?

    Plexus is a straightforward borrowing of Latin plexus “twining, braid, plaiting,” a very rare noun that appears first (and only) in the Roman poet and astrologer Marcus Manilius (1st century a.d.), who wrote a long, tedious poem on astronomy. Plexus is a derivative of the verb plectere “to twine, plait,” from the Proto-Indo-European root plek, plok- “to braid, plait,” from which Greek derives plékein “to twine, plait” and plokḗ “a twining, twisting.” The root plek-, plok- regularly becomes fleh-, flah- in Germanic, which, with the addition of the suffix -s, becomes fleax in Old English (English flax). Plexus entered English in the 17th century.

    How is plexus used?

    ... as he thrust his bold hand into the plexus of the money-market, he was delightedly unaware of how he shook the pillars of existence ... Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, The Wrecker, 1891

    ... wearing jeans and a loose flannel shirt revealing a dark plexus of tattoos on his chest and arms, Rosenberg intently fielded questions about “Confessions of the Fox.” Peter Haldeman, "The Coming of Age in Transgender Literature," New York Times, October 24, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 27, 2019

    sashay

    verb [sa-shey]
    Informal. to glide, move, or proceed easily or nonchalantly: She just sashayed in as if she owned the place.
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    What is the origin of sashay?

    Nobody, but nobody, could sashay, “walk nonchalantly,” like Jack Benny across the front of a stage. Sashay is an Americanism, a metathetic variant (or mispronunciation if one prefers) of chassé, the French term for a gliding step performed in a quadrille or square dancing. (Chassé is the past participle of chasser “to chase.”) Sashay entered English in the 19th century.

    How is sashay used?

    ... the barman had been of the opinion that the whole karaoke evening was going to be an utter bust; but then the little old man had sashayed into the room ... Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys, 2005

    She too had endured some hard times and she too could sashay in a housecoat. Alan Cumming, "Introduction," to Goodbye to Berlin, 2012

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 27, 2019

    oillionaire

    noun [oil-yuh-nair]
    Canadian Informal. a millionaire whose wealth is derived from the petroleum industry.
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    What is the origin of oillionaire?

    It is no surprise that oillionaire, “a millionaire whose wealth is derived from the petroleum industry,” was originally an Americanism, the U.S. having so much petroleum, the U.K. none. The formation of oillionaire is obvious, a blend of oil and millionaire. Oillionaire entered English in the 1920s.

    How is oillionaire used?

    Robert Q. Lewis wonders if everyone has heard about the Texas oillionaire who put in well-to-well carpeting. Hal Boyle, "Mailman Rescues Writer Again," Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 5, 1957

    The oil and gas men’s day at the fair this year was an immense success from every viewpoint. It drew everything from the “rough neck” to the “oillionaire,” and it has come as an annual attraction. , “Oil and Gas Men Had Day at Louisiana Fair,” The Oil Weekly, November 13, 1920

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, January 25, 2019

    lipogram

    noun [lip-uh-gram, lahy-puh-]
    a written work composed of words chosen so as to avoid the use of one or more specific alphabetic characters.
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    What is the origin of lipogram?

    Lipogram looks as if it means “weighing or measuring of fat in grams or kilograms,” i.e., a medical procedure performed after a liposuction. Wrong, wrong wrong! The lipo- in liposuction comes from the Greek noun lípos “(animal) fat, lard,” from the Proto-Indo-European root leip-, lip- “fat; to stick,” from which English derives liver (the organ). A lipogram really is a kind of literary composition (usually a poem) in which the author deliberately avoids using a sound, a letter, or a digraph, e.g., s, r, or th. Lipogram comes from the Greek adjective lipográmmatos “missing a letter,” from the Greek root leip-, loip-, lip- “to leave, leave behind.” Greek leip-, loip-, lip- is the regular development of the Proto-Indo-European root leikw-, loikw-, likw-, which appears with a nasal infix (-n-) in Latin linquere, relinquere “to leave, quit, depart.” The combining form -grámmatos is a derivative of gráphein “to write” from the Proto-Indo-European root gerbh- “to scratch,” the source of English carve. Lipogram entered English in the 18th century.

    How is lipogram used?

    He was translating into English the brilliant novel by Georges Perec, “La Disparition” – a lipogram written entirely without the letter “e.” Andy Martin, "The Treachery of Translators," New York Times, January 28, 2013

    We received some short autobiographies and there was an oddly large number of lipograms about pirates. , "Contestant Lipograms: the Best of the Best," NPR, June 29, 2012

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, January 24, 2019

    buzzwig

    noun [buhz-wig]
    a person of consequence.
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    What is the origin of buzzwig?

    A buzzwig “bigwig, big shot” is someone who wears a large, bushy wig. The first syllable, buzz, may be a shortening of busby, the very large fur hat worn by hussars on parade. Buzzwig entered English in the 19th century.

    How is buzzwig used?

    ... all was suddenly upset by two witnesses ... whom the old Spanish buzwigs doated on as models of all that could be looked for in the best. Thomas De Quincey, "The Spanish Nun," Narrative and Miscellaneous Papers, Volume I, 1853

    who, as Porson's brother-in-law, and a man of admirable sense and wit, had a no profound veneration for the buzzwig doctor. Mary Russell Mitford, "Letter to Miss Barrett, July 23, 1842," The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, 1870

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