Word of the Day

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

caducous

[ kuh-doo-kuhs, -dyoo- ]

adjective

dropping off very early, as leaves.

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What is the origin of caducous?

The adjective caducous “(of leaves) falling early or too early” comes straight from Latin cadūcus “tending to fall, tottery, unsteady; transitory,” a derivative of the verb cadere “to fall, fall over, collapse.” Cadere is also the source of the Latin compound verb dēcidere “to fall down, fall over,” which forms the derivative adjective dēciduus “falling, tending to fall or be dropped” (English deciduous). The botanical difference between caducous and deciduous is that caducous leaves fall too easily or too early, and deciduous leaves fall at the end of the growing season. Caducous entered English in the 18th century.

how is caducous used?

After the flowering period, the ground under the oak, poplar, and other trees, is strewn with their male catkins; these are caducous, falling off soon after they have shed their pollen …

Alex S. Wilson, "Wind Fertilized Flowers," Scientific American, October 12, 1895

So is it with this calamity: it does not touch me: something which I fancied was a part of me, which could not be torn away without tearing me, nor enlarged without enriching me, falls off from me, and leaves no scar. It was caducous.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Experience," Essays: Second Series, 1844

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Monday, September 21, 2020

yare

[ yair or yahr ]

adjective

quick; agile; lively.

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What is the origin of yare?

Yare is an uncommon adjective meaning “ready, prepared.” As is usual for short words, Middle English shows more than two dozen spellings; Old English is more restrained, gearu and gearo being the most common (before the inflections are added). The Old English forms derive from the verb gearwian “to prepare, equip.” Gearwian is the Old English development of the Germanic verb garwian “to prepare, equip, make.” The noun garwi– “equipment, adornment,” a derivative of garwian, is the source for the Old Norse noun gervi, gørvi “apparel, equipment,” source of English gear. The English noun garb comes via Middle French garbe “grace, graceful figure, elegance,” from Italian garbo “form, grace, elegance (of dress),” a derivative of the verb garbare “to be pleasant,” from Old High German garawi “dress, equipment,” ultimately from Germanic garwian.

how is yare used?

dismount thy tuck, be yare in thy preparation; for thy assailant is quick, skilfull, and deadly.

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, 1623

Bear up, gentle laddie, for we must be yare, Or of Bruin the bear else we may be ware.

Frank Horridge, "The Baron of Egisheim," Ballades of Olde France, Alsace, and Olde Holland, 1919

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

alimentation

[ al-uh-men-tey-shuhn ]

noun

nourishment; nutrition.

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What is the origin of alimentation?

Alimentation, “nourishment, food,” comes via Medieval Latin alimentātiō (inflectional stem alimentātiōn-), ultimately a derivative of the Latin verb alere “to nourish.” The many English derivatives from alere include alumnus and alumna “nursling, foster son, foster daughter,” aliment (from alimentum “food, nourishment, provisions”), alimentary (from alimentārius “pertaining to nutrition;” the alimentary canal runs from the mouth to the anus), alimony (from alimōnia “food, support, nourishment”), and alma māter, literally “nourishing mother” (from the adjective almus “nourishing”). Latin alere comes from the Proto-Indo-European root al– “to grow, make grow, nourish,” source of Old Irish alim “I nourish,” Welsh al “litter (of animals),” Gothic alan “to grow up,” Old Norse ala “to nourish, raise.” Finally, the suffixed Proto-Indo-European form alto– “grown, grown up” becomes ald– in Germanic, the source of English old; the Germanic compound noun wer-ald, literally “man age, life on earth,” becomes weorold in Old English, world in English. Alimentation entered English in the late 16th century.

how is alimentation used?

In mid-March, in the tense week before the British government announced its belated coronavirus-induced lockdown, certain everyday products became extraordinarily hard to find. Panicked buyers swept up fundamentals of alimentation and elimination: yeast, flour, bathroom tissue.

Rebecca Mead, "The Therapeutic Power of Gardening," The New Yorker, August 17, 2020

The effect and value of alimentation was a question for the philosopher as well as for the physiologist, and the gourmand gave utterance to a truism when he said that the destiny of nations depended upon the manner in which they were fed.

"Alimentation in Its Relation to National Prosperity," New York Times, November 13, 1873

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Saturday, September 19, 2020

probity

[ proh-bi-tee, prob-i- ]

noun

integrity and uprightness; honesty.

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What is the origin of probity?

Probity, “integrity and uprightness, honesty,” comes via Old French probité from Latin probitās (inflectional stem probitāt-) “moral integrity, uprightness, honesty; sexual purity,” a derivative of the adjective probus. Probus is composed of pro– “forward” and –bhwo– “growing,” the entire word meaning “going forward, growing well.” The element –bhwo– comes from the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root bheuə-, bheu-, bhou-, bhwo-, bhū– (with still more variants) “to be, exist, become, grow.” The root appears in Latin fuisse “to have been,” futūrus “what is going to be, future,” and fīerī “to become,” English be and been, Lithuanian bū́ti “to be,” Greek phýesthai “to grow, arise, become,” and its derivatives phýsis “nature” and physikós “pertaining to nature, natural.” Probity entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is probity used?

For an instant he had been tempted to accept the carriage as a gift, but probity never deserted him for very long, not to mention an unrelenting awareness of the importance of the appearance of things.

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

Coolidge ended up serving twice as long as Harding in the White House, sanitizing the place with his dignified, even endearing probity.

Thomas Mallon, "How the Promise of Normalcy Won the 1920 Election," The New Yorker, September 14, 2020

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Friday, September 18, 2020

mellifluous

[ muh-lif-loo-uhs ]

adjective

flowing with honey; sweetened with or as if with honey.

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What is the origin of mellifluous?

Mellifluous comes from Late Latin mellifluus “flowing with honey, (of a taste or scent) sweetened with or as if with honey,” and by extension “eloquent, persuasive.” Mellifluus is a compound of mel (inflectional stem mell-) “honey” and –fluus “flowing,” a derivative of fluere “to flow.” Mel is the Latin result of the Proto-Indo-European melit “honey,” which in Greek appears as méli (inflectional stem mélit-). Melit– corresponds exactly with Hittite milit (from melit), Old Irish mil (also from melit). In the Germanic languages, an expanded form, melitom, yields Gothic milith “honey,” Old English mildēaw, meledēaw “honey dew, nectar” (in English, the mil– of mildew, which was thought to be distilled or condensed from air like dew). Mellifluous entered English in the 14th century.

how is mellifluous used?

As the bee flies from flower to flower, taking nectar from each blossom in order to make its mysterious, mellifluous conversion, so the poet should, according to Seneca, “blend those several flavors into one delicious compound …”

Susan Bridgen, Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest, 2012

He is Mr. A. I. Kaplan, whose power to aid art came through his efficient conduct in the molasses business, about which mellifluous substance he knows more than anyone else in the world.

"Sixty-Six," The New Yorker, November 14, 1925

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

festinate

[ fes-tuh-neyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to hurry; hasten.

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What is the origin of festinate?

Festinate, a verb meaning “to hurry, hasten,” comes from Latin festīnātus, the past participle of the verb festīnāre “to make haste, hasten, hurry.” One of the emperor Augustus’s homely sayings was festīnā lentē “make haste slowly.” Festīnāre comes from the Latin root festi-, from an unrecorded Italic root ferst-, from the uncommon Proto-Indo-European root bheres-, bhers– “quick,” source of Irish bras and Welsh brys, both meaning “quick.” In Slavic, bhers– appears in the Polish adverb bardzo “very,” Czech brzo, brzý “early, soon,” and Russian borzóĭ “quick, swift,” also the name of a Russian breed of wolfhound. Festinate entered English as an adverb at the end of the 16th century, and as a verb in the mid-17th.

how is festinate used?

A bagatelle, ailing notes of a typochondriac, something to festinate the coming of spring or to take your mind off The Four Horsemen. Allons!

Joe Morehead, "U. S. Government Documents: A Mazeway Miscellany," Reference Quarterly, Spring 1970

That night he had had the firm belief that he would never need to eat again as long as he lived, and he wandered around in the dark, keeping his legs moving in a desperate attempt to festinate digestion …

Tibor Fischer, Under the Frog, 1992

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

quondam

[ kwon-duhm, -dam ]

adjective

former; onetime: his quondam partner.

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What is the origin of quondam?

The Latin adverb quondam, “formerly, anciently, once (upon a time),” has been used in English as a noun, “the former holder of an office,” as an adverb meaning “formerly, at one time,” and, currently and solely, as an adjective meaning “former, onetime.” All three usages in English occur close together in the first half of the 16th century. Quondam breaks down to the adverbial conjunction cum or quom “at the time that, when.” The particle –dam, however, is of uncertain origin.

how is quondam used?

A few hundred pages after faintly praising me as “a nice enough fellow and I’m sure a very smart guy for a hack,” the book’s narrator (a quondam critic with nothing nice to say about Charlie Kaufman) challenges me to a barroom argument about cinema.

A. O. Scott, "'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' Review: Where to Begin?" New York Times, September 1, 2020

So much has been written of late years about Wordsworth and Shelley, while their quondam rival has been treated with much contumelious silence, that the disdainers of Byron had begun to feel that the ground was entirely their own; and the faithful few, who in secret handed down the old Byron cult, must have fallen into desperation …

Paul Elmore More, "The Wholesome Revival of Byron," The Atlantic, December 1898

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