Word of the Day

Sunday, October 14, 2018

brightwork

[ brahyt-wurk ]

noun

polished metal parts, as on a ship or automobile.

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What is the origin of brightwork?

Brightwork is an Americanism dating back to 1835–45.

how is brightwork used?

One other mode of passing time while in port was cleaning and polishing your bright-work; for it must be known that, in men-of-war, every sailor has some brass or steel of one kind or other to keep in high order …

Herman Melville, White Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War, 1850

Under the unblinking gaze of the sun, windshields blazed and brightwork gleamed.

Dean Koontz, The Husband, 2006
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Saturday, October 13, 2018

postern

[ poh-stern, pos-tern ]

noun

a back door or gate.

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What is the origin of postern?

English postern comes from Old French posterne, originally “a concealed exit from a fort, a sally port,” later “a small door, a back door.” Posterne is an alteration of Old French posterle “a back door, back way,” from Late Latin posterula “a small back door or gate; back way, byway,” a diminutive noun formed from the adjective posterus “(coming or being) after or in the future” and -ula, the feminine form of the common diminutive noun suffix -ulus. The -n- in posterne is likely due to the influence of the Old French adjectives interne (from Latin internus) and externe (from Latin externus). Postern entered English in the early 14th century.

how is postern used?

It was the second gate, a postern in the north wall, that accounted for the most noticeable change.

James A. Michener, The Source, 1965

A practicable postern was ajar on the yellow wood of the studded gates.

Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, Romance, 1903
Friday, October 12, 2018

sennachie

[ sen-uh-kee ]

noun

Chiefly Scot., Irish. a professional storyteller of family genealogy, history, and legend.

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What is the origin of sennachie?

There are several English spellings, e.g., shanachie, seannachie, for the exotic Irish and Scottish noun meaning “storyteller, oral historian, genealogist.” The word in Scots Gaelic is seanachaidh (seanachaidhe in Irish) meaning “historian, antiquarian, chronicler,” from sen “old, ancient” and cūis “matter, affair.” Sen is from Proto-Indo-European sen(o)- “old,” most obvious in Latin senex “old man,” senātus “senate,” and senectūs “old age.” Senos appears in Greek in the noun hénos “year,” and the adjective hénos “last year’s”; and in Baltic (Lithuanian) as sẽnas “old,” and sẽnis “old man.” Sennachie entered English in the 16th century.

how is sennachie used?

… I do not think he could falsify a folk-tale if he tried. At the most he would change it as a few years’ passing from sennachie to sennachie must do perforce.

William Butler Yeats, "Irish Folk Tales," The National Observer, 1891

My schoolfellows like my stories well enough-better at least, on most occasions, than they did the lessons of the master; but, beyond the common ground of enjoyment which these ex-tempore compositions furnished to both the “sennachie” and his auditors, our tracts of amusement lay widely apart.

Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters; or, The Story of My Education, 1854

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