Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, September 24, 2021

butte

[ byoot ]

noun

an isolated hill or mountain rising abruptly above the surrounding land.

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What is the origin of butte?

Butte “an isolated hill or mountain rising abruptly above the surrounding land” is a borrowing from French, in which it means “small hill, mound.” ​​In Old French, butte referred specifically to a mound or structure used for archery practice and also to the target itself, which is why modern French but means “aim, goal.” Despite its enduring place in the French language, butte was originally a borrowing from a Germanic source such as Frankish or Old Norse, in which the word meant something like “piece” or “end part.” Butte was first recorded in English in the mid-1600s.

how is butte used?

Bears are a common thread among the Indigenous tribal stories about the origins of this iconic butte, and most Indigenous names for the tower reference bears. A Kiowa legend tells of seven girls who were attacked by bears. One of the girls prayed to the rock for help, and the rock began to grow, pushing the girls out of the bears’ reach. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they fell to the ground, scratching the rock and creating the deep grooves you see in the butte.

Amber Share, Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors, 2021

You need a map to find Paris’s Butte aux Cailles, but that’s one of the best things about it….Incidentally, at an elevation of about 190 feet, it’s not much of a butte—just high enough up to feel better off than the rest of this rapidly changing part of Paris.

Deborah Baldwin, "Oui Oui, Hon: Baltimore in Paris," Washington Post, Sunday, July 13, 1997

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Word of the day

Thursday, September 23, 2021

trident

[ trahyd-nt ]

noun

a three-pronged instrument or weapon.

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What is the origin of trident?

Trident “a three-pronged instrument or weapon” derives from the Latin adjective tridēns “having/with three teeth” and is often associated with Neptune, known to the Greeks as Poseidon, the god of the sea and earthquakes. A similar symbol is the bident, a spear with two prongs, which was associated with Pluto, known to the Greeks as Hades, the god of the underworld. Trident’s two Latin sources, trēs and dēns (stem dent-), are cognates of their respective English translations three and tooth. A common trend in the Indo-European language family is for t in Latin to correspond to th in native English words, and this pattern is also visible when comparing Latin frāter, māter, and pater to English brother, mother, and father. Trident was first recorded in English in the late 1500s.

how is trident used?

As king, Aquaman wields the trident of Poseidon, granted to the Atlanteans by the sea god. More than simply an emblem of power, the trident can manipulate water as well as create storms and floods. It shoots bolts of energy, extends the wielder’s powers of telepathy with sea animals, and can even transform into a sword.

Christopher Wood, Heroes Masked and Mythic: Echoes of Ancient Archetypes in Comic Book Characters, 2020 

So that’s what has kept The Times chaste all these years: Mombudsmen! We like the idea of Sam Sifton sitting at his desk with his mother looking stern in angel robes on one shoulder and the rest of us dressed in red prodding him with a trident on the other.

Eric Randall, "What Keeps The New York Times Curse-Free? Editors' Moms," The Atlantic, June 14, 2012

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Word of the day

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

muliebrity

[ myoo-lee-eb-ri-tee ]

noun

womanly nature or qualities.

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What is the origin of muliebrity?

Muliebrity “womanly nature or qualities” derives from Late Latin muliēbritās “womanhood,” from mulier “woman.” Mulier is of uncertain origin, though the most common theory connects the noun to the comparative adjective mollior “softer,” from mollis “soft, calm, gentle,” the source of the English verb mollify “to soften in feeling or temper.” Mulier was one of four primary Latin words that evolved into the terms for “woman,” “lady,” or “wife” in modern Romance languages; while mulier became Portuguese mulher and Spanish mujer, Latin fēmina “woman” became French femme and Spanish hembra, Latin domina “lady, mistress (of a household)” became French dame and Spanish doña, and Latin senior “older” became Portuguese senhora and Spanish señora. Muliebrity was first recorded in English in the late 1500s.

how is muliebrity used?

She is so much a woman that I forget there are tomorrows. She is a poem, an epic of muliebrity, in those satin slippers and light gowns, and rustling dresses, and with jewels in her ears ….. And when she wears them, I can’t think at all.

Audrey Borenstein, “The Natural History of a Friendship,” Evanescence, 2010

Unlike, say, Harry Styles or Billy Porter, both of whom have been known to flaunt gender ambivalence in their style choices, Bryan offers something more… suburban: machismo up top and muliebrity from the waist down.

Evan Ross Katz, "Can You Walk a Mile in Mark Bryan’s Louboutins?" Interview, March 2, 2021

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