Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, January 10, 2022

cantillate

[ kan-tl-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to chant; intone.

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What is the origin of cantillate?

Cantillate “to chant” derives from Late Latin cantillāre “to sing low, hum,” a verb formed from the stem cant- “sing” and the diminutive element -ill-. Cant- ultimately derives from the verb canere “to sing” and is the source of many words related to song, pronunciation, persuasion, and even light magic. While cant- is preserved in words such as cantor, in many stems, Latin a- often becomes e- after a prefix is added; this is how cant- becomes the cent- element in accent (from Latin accentus “speaking tone”) and in incentive (from Latin incentīvus “setting the tune”). Because Latin ca- often becomes cha- in French, the Latin stem cant- is visible today in the French-derived word enchant. Cantillate was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is cantillate used?

Shmuly’s voice, in contrast to his father’s, was high pitched and extraterrestrially sweet, as if the hormonal shakedown had not quite taken. You leaned forward with your elbows planted on the balcony railing, … your brow resting against the steeple of your fingers pointed heavenward as he melodically cantillated the tropes he had so perceptively deconstructed the night before.

Tova Reich, Mother India, 2018

Perhaps unique among international teams, the … group … face to the west and sing the national anthem with a gusto that threatens to require a second warm-up. Before that though comes another ritual, an emotional chant known as the Inifresi, a pledge to their motherland in Chamorro. Standing in a tight circle the entire playing, coaching and support staff cantillate the words as if coming from the depths of their soul, a paean to their forebears.

Scott McIntyre, "Guam: the tiny US territory that just won its first ever World Cup match," The Guardian, June 12, 2015

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Sunday, January 09, 2022

tchotchke

[ chahch-kuh ]

noun

an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament.

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What is the origin of tchotchke?

Tchotchke “an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament” is a borrowing of Yiddish tshatshke, from obsolete Polish czaczko “toy, trinket” (modern Polish cacko), which is cognate with Czech čačka and Russian cacka, of the same general meaning. These Slavic terms are all most likely of imitative origin; with the addition of the diminutive suffix -ka or -ko, the original forms (Czech čača and both Polish and Russian caca) appear to be reduplicated syllables that are typical of baby talk. In case you thought it was a little strange that a word for “toy” or “trinket” would derive from a doubled syllable, bear in mind that English contains the similarly reduplicated term knickknack. Tchotchke was first recorded in English in the late 1960s.

how is tchotchke used?

For a reminder-through-association to work well it needs to be distinctive—something out of place that will catch the eye. To remind yourself to mail a stack of bills in the morning, for example, you might put a tennis ball on top of them …. And to remind employees to fill out the sign-up sheet for the holiday party, place it next to the brand new large snow globe on the receptionist’s desk and let people know to sign-up when they see the distinctive new tchotchke.

Todd Rogers and Katy Milkman, “A New Way to Remember: The Power of Quirky Memory Jogs,” Scientific American, February 7, 2017

Michael Zegen, a star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” is an unabashed hunter and gatherer. It runs in the family …. He says that tchotchkes make him feel good. “From the time I was a kid I’ve been into knickknacks,” said Mr. Zegen, whose collectibles include an orange Snoopy and a robot.

Tony Cenicola, "The Feel-Good Power of Tchotchkes," New York Times, November 27, 2018

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Saturday, January 08, 2022

Bildungsroman

[ bil-doongz-roh-mahn ]

noun

a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist.

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What is the origin of Bildungsroman?

Bildungsroman “a novel concerned with the maturing of a young protagonist” is a direct borrowing from German. The word comprises two nouns: Bildung “formation, education” and Roman “novel.” Despite its “formation” sense, Bildung is not related to English building; rather, it derives from German Bild “image, picture,” which is cognate to Old English bilithe “image,” a term with no descendants in modern English. Roman derives via a long chain of semantic shifts from Latin Rōmānus “of or relating to Rome.” Rōmānus yielded the adjective Rōmānicus “in the Roman style or pattern,” and this became Old French romanz “story in the vernacular language” and then French roman “novel,” which German borrowed as Roman. English Roman preserves the original meaning of Rōmānus. Bildungsroman was first recorded in English in the first decade of the 1900s.

how is Bildungsroman used?

“The Chiffon Trenches” has been sold as a juicy tell-all…; revenge … in written form. It is that, kind of. But it is also a bildungsroman about an African-American boy from the Jim Crow South who made it to the front row of the Parisian fashion world by way of Interview, WWD, Ebony, Vanity Fair and, above all, Vogue.

Vanessa Friedman, “André Leon Talley’s Tales From the Dark Side,” New York Times, May 14, 2020

Today, Latinx writers are writing their own versions of the bildungsroman, but with a twist. In novels like Angie Cruz’s Dominicana and Ernesto Quiñonez’s Taína, protagonists are educated not once, but twice: first, in mostly Spanish-speaking families and neighborhoods; and later, in the English-speaking society outside the home.

Lyn Di Iorio, "Writing the Latinx Bildungsroman," Public Books, March 10, 2020

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