Word of the Day

Sunday, October 07, 2018

brio

[ bree-oh ]

noun

vigor; vivacity.

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What is the origin of brio?

The Italian noun brio comes from Spanish brío “energy, determination,” ultimately from Celtic brīgos “strength” (compare Middle Welsh bri “honor, dignity,” Old Irish bríg “strength, power”). Celtic brīgos derives from Proto-Indo-European gwrīgos, a derivative of the very common and complicated Proto-Indo-European root gwer- “heavy,” which has many variations, including gwerə-, gwerəu-, and gwerī-. From gwerə- and its variants, English has “grave, gravid, gravity” from Latin; the prefixes baro- “heavy” and bary- “deep” from Greek; and guru from Sanskrit. From gwrīgos, the same source as Celtic brīgos, Germanic derives krīgaz “fight, strife,” German Krieg “war.” Brio entered English in the 18th century.

how is brio used?

Although Stopsack had probably never before directed such an undertaking, he performed his duties with brio, skillfully heaping verbal abuse on the manacled inmates …

James Morrow, Galápagos Regained, 2014

Her work rustles with the premonition that she was obsolete, that her splendor and style and ferocious brio had been demoted to a kind of sparkling irrelevance.

Tobi Haslett, "The Other Susan Sontag," The New Yorker, December 11, 2017
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Saturday, October 06, 2018

axilla

[ ak-sil-uh ]

noun

Anatomy. the armpit.

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What is the origin of axilla?

Axilla, the Latin word for “armpit,” is a diminutive of āla “wing (of a bird or insect), fin (of a fish), armpit, flank (of an army).” Āla comes from an earlier, unrecorded ags-lā (axla in Latin orthography), one of the Latin reflexes of Proto-Indo-European ages-, aks- “pivot, pivot point.” Another Proto-Indo-European derivative, aks-lo-s, becomes ahsulaz in Germanic, eaxl in Old English, and axle in English. A third derivative noun, aks-is, becomes Latin axis “axle, axletree, chariot, wagon,” assis in Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language), and in Polish. Axilla entered English in the 17th century.

how is axilla used?

There is a game of croquet set up on the lawn and my second cousin Sonsoles can be found there any hour of the afternoon, bent over, with a mallet in her hand, and looking out of the corner of her eye, between the arm and the axilla, which form a sort of arch for her thoughtful gaze, at the unwary masculine visitor who appears in the harsh afternoon light.

Carlos Fuentes, "La Desdichada," Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, translated by Thomas Christensen, 1990

He recoiled from one odor to another until, in resignation, he accepted and his nose pumped steadily at the single generalized odor that was a meld of everything from axilla to organic debris and smelled like clam soil.

Thomas McGuane, The Sporting Club, 1968
Friday, October 05, 2018

schadenfreude

[ shahd-n-froi-duh ]

noun

satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

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What is the origin of schadenfreude?

Schadenfreude is a direct borrowing from German. In German Schadenfreude is a compound noun made up of the nouns Schaden “harm, injury, damage” and Freude “joy.” Schaden is related to English scathe (via Old Norse). Freude is a derivative of the adjective froh “happy,” and is related to English frolic, which comes from Dutch vrolijk “cheerful, gay.” Schadenfreude entered English in the late 19th century.

how is schadenfreude used?

Social media exploded with gleeful Schadenfreude.

Naomi Fry, "Searching for Meaning in the Leftover Merchandise of Fyre Festival," The New Yorker, May 24, 2018

It also let Peggy see the sagging flesh under Blanche’s chin. Since her own jawline was still pretty good, she soaked up some Schadenfreude on that score.

Harry Turtledove, The Big Switch, 2011
Thursday, October 04, 2018

tump

[ tuhmp ]

noun

British Dialect. a small mound, hill, or rise of ground.

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What is the origin of tump?

The noun tump has an obscure etymology. It is a dialect word used mostly in the British West Country (Somerset, Cornwall) and the West Midlands (around Birmingham). Tump may come from the Welsh noun twmp “round mass, hillock,” unless the Welsh word comes from English. Tump entered English in the 16th century.

how is tump used?

Despite the fine afternoon sunlight all around, the tump itself seemed steeped in perpetual shadow, brooding and ominous.

Stephen R. Lawhead, The Spirit Well, 2012

They buried the coffin in their garden. No cross marked it, just a brown tump in the bleak landscape.

Willy Peter Reese, A Stranger to Myself, translated by Michael Hofmann, 2005
Wednesday, October 03, 2018

notionate

[ noh-shuh-nit ]

adjective

Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. strong-willed or stubborn.

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What is the origin of notionate?

Notionate, an adjective from the noun notion and the adjective suffix -ate, is a dialect word used mostly used in the Midland and Southern U.S., Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Notionate entered English in the 19th century.

how is notionate used?

He wouldn’t let me give a direction. He’s fussy sometimes and notionate.

George Madden Martin, The House of Fulfilment, 1904

In Saturday’s stretch run, Alysheba turned rank, or sour, refusing to run in a straight line, his head twisted in the manner of notionate colts, and he came out to sideswipe second-place Cryptoclearance.

Shirley Povich, "Belmont Unfolding Proves Alysheba Is Only Equine," Washington Post, June 8, 1987
Tuesday, October 02, 2018

rewild

[ ree-wahyld ]

verb

to return (land) to a more natural state: rewilding an unpopulated island for use as an animal preserve.

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What is the origin of rewild?

Rewild combines the word wild with the prefix re-, used to indicate withdrawal or a motion backwards toward another point. Rewild was first recorded in 1980–85.

how is rewild used?

“A big effort was made to rewild a huge swath of the Great Plains to its original flora, fauna and animal life,” Fallows says.

Gary Stoller, "Author of 'Our Towns' Best Seller Finds Ideal Vacation Spots While Seeing America Reinvent Itself," Forbes, August 21, 2018

I argue that the three r’s of the climate-catastrophe generation – reduce, reuse, recycle – need a serious upgrade. In their place I propose resist, revolt, rewild.

Mark Boyle, "My advice after a year without tech: rewild yourself," The Guardian, March 19, 2018
Monday, October 01, 2018

nugacity

[ noo-gas-i-tee, nyoo- ]

noun

triviality; insignificance.

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What is the origin of nugacity?

Nugacity is a direct borrowing from the Late Latin noun nūgācitās (stem nūgācitāt-), which first appears in the letters of St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430 a.d.). Nūgācitās means “worthlessness, frivolity” and is a derivative of the Latin adjective nūgāx (stem nūgāc-) “bungling, incompetent,” itself a derivative of the plural noun nūgae “absurdities, nonsense, frivolities, trifles” (its further etymology is unknown). Nugacity entered English in the 16th century.

how is nugacity used?

For this play that appears to address itself to a serious intellectual problem has almost nothing to say on the subject, and proceeds to disguise its nugacity by resorting to any number of modish–or, rather, outmoded–strategies.

John Simon, "All's Well That Ends 'Good'," New York, October 25, 1982

Somehow before I leave town I should find a graceful way to assure Jason that when I first met him I had had no inkling of that particular Aggrandizement report … even if the disclaimer obliges me to reveal the nugacity of my financial wardrobe.

Jonathan Bayliss, Gloucesterbook, 1992

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