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

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