Word of the Day

Sunday, December 02, 2018

candelabrum

[ kan-dl-ah-bruhm, -ab-ruhm ]

noun

an ornamental branched holder for more than one candle.

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What is the origin of candelabrum?

Candelabrum comes straight from Latin candēlābrum, formed from the noun candēla “a candle, taper” (from the verb candēre “to shine, gleam”) and -brum, a variant of -bulum, a suffix for forming neuter nouns for tools or places. English candle (Old English candel, condel) had already been in Old English long enough to become part of its poetic vocabulary, e.g., Glād ofer grundas / Godes condel beorht “God’s bright candle glided over the grounds” in the magnificent poem “The Battle of Brunanburh” recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 955). Candelabrum entered English in the 19th century.

how is candelabrum used?

The menorah is an eight-branched candelabrum that is symbolic of the celebration of Hanukkah.

José Antonio Burciaga, "An Anglo, Jewish, Mexican Christmas," Weedee Peepo, 1988

… I bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room … to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which stood by the head of my bed–and to throw open far and wide the fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Oval Portrait," Graham's Magazine, April 1842
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Saturday, December 01, 2018

shrievalty

[ shree-vuhl-tee ]

noun

the office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff.

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What is the origin of shrievalty?

Shrievalty, “the office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff,” is a rare word. Shrieve is one of many, many spelling variants of the Late Middle English compound noun shire-reeve. A shire is “the office of administration, jurisdiction of an office or county,” and a reeve is “a high official in charge of an administrative district.” Sheriff is an ordinary outcome of shire-reeve. The suffix -alty is taken from such political and legal terms as mayoralty (from mayoral and the suffix -ty, from Old French -tet, ultimately from Latin -tās, a suffix for forming abstract nouns from adjectives). The equally rare but more transparent noun sheriffalty was also formed from sheriff and -alty. Shrievalty entered English in the 16th century.

how is shrievalty used?

You must give up your shrievalty immediately and I will get the Shire Court to appoint a caretaker sheriff in your place until the will of the King is known.

Bernard Knight, Witch Hunter, 2004

Judges, small magistrates, officers large and small, the shrievalty, the water office, the tax office, all were to come within its purview.

Theodore Dreiser, The Titan, 1914
Friday, November 30, 2018

modish

[ moh-dish ]

adjective

in the current fashion; stylish.

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What is the origin of modish?

The adjective modish is formed from the noun mode “fashion, current fashion” and the suffix -ish. Modish, very common in the 17th and 18th centuries, entered English in the 17th century.

how is modish used?

It’s a work both modish and antique, apparently postmodern in emphasis but fed by the exploratory energies of the Renaissance.

James Wood, "'Flights,' A Novel That Never Settles Down," The New Yorker, October 1, 2018

Describing hairstyles is not my forte, I lack the vocabulary, but there was something of the fifties film star to it, what my mother would call ‘a do’, yet it was modish and contemporary too.

David Nicholls, Us, 2014

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