Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, October 14, 2021

chaebol

[ je-buhl ]

noun

a South Korean conglomerate, usually owned by a single family, based on authoritarian management and centralized decision-making.

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What is the origin of chaebol?

Chaebol “a South Korean conglomerate” is a direct borrowing from Korean and is composed of chae “wealth, property” and pŏl “clique, faction.” However, while chaebol is a Korean term, its origins lie across the Sea of Japan; chaebol reflects the Korean pronunciation of the kanji characters that are used in Japanese to spell the word zaibatsu “a large industrial or financial conglomerate of Japan,” making chaebol the Korean loan translation of zaibatsu. Both chaebol and zaibatsu originated as borrowings from Middle Chinese dzoi “wealth” and bjot “powerful family” (compare Mandarin Chinese cái and ). Chinese is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and though neither Japanese nor Korean belongs to this family, earlier versions of the Chinese language were once heavily influential on the non-Sinitic languages of East Asia. Chaebol was first recorded in English in the 1970s.

how is chaebol used?

South Korea’s family-run conglomerates are facing calls for a shakeup in their governance .… The conglomerates known as chaebol have come under the reform buzz saw before, only to emerge bigger and stronger than ever. The country’s four biggest chaebol groups account for around half the stock market’s value, according to the Korea Stock Exchange.

Hyunjoo Jin, Se Young Lee, and Nichola Saminather, “Chaebol reform at forefront of South Korea presidential campaign—again,” Reuters, March 27, 2017

Officials worry that as firms such as Naver, which began life as a search engine, and Kakao have expanded into anything from ride-hailing to personal finance, they have picked up the bad habits of the chaebol. These sprawling conglomerates were instrumental in making South Korea rich and continue to dominate its economy. But they are notorious for murky governance structures, oligopolistic business practices and close ties with the political elite.

"South Korea’s government sees tech firms as the new chaebol," Economist, September 18, 2021

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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

empyrean

[ em-puh-ree-uhn, -pahy-, em-pir-ee-uhn, -pahy-ree- ]

noun

the highest heaven, supposed by the ancients to contain the pure element of fire.

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What is the origin of empyrean?

Empyrean “the highest heaven” ultimately derives via Late Latin from Ancient Greek empýrios “fiery,” from pŷr “fire,” which is the source of words such as pyre, pyrite, and pyro- and is distantly related to English fire. The Ancient Greeks believed that the world around them comprised five elements—fire, water, air, earth, and ether—and although ether was considered a distinct airlike element found in the upper atmosphere, there was some overlap with fire; ether (Ancient Greek aithḗr) was related to the verb aíthein “to burn” and was considered together with fire to constitute the heavens and emit light and heat. Empyrean was first recorded in English in the early 1600s.

how is empyrean used?

It was the belief of Europe during the Middle Ages, that our globe was the centre of the universe. The earth, itself fixed and immovable, was encompassed by ten heavens successively encircling one another, and all of these except the highest in constant rotation about their centre. This highest and immovable heaven, enveloping all the others and constituting the boundary between created things and the void, infinite space beyond, is the Empyrean, the heaven of fire…

Viktor Rydberg, The Magic of the Middle Ages, translated by August Hjalmar Edgren, 1879

Makeda, rumor has it, is skilled in the sinister arts of voodoo. But what she’s channeling here is a spirit of pure divinity. And as Ms. Foy rides the bucking rhythms of Makeda’s journey through the past, present and future of African-Americans, she achieves an exaltation that lifts her and the audience into the empyrean.

Ben Brantley, "Review: In a New Orleans ‘House,’ Wealthy Women Are Haunted by Slavery’s Ghosts," New York Times, July 30, 2018

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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

hex

[ heks ]

verb (used with object)

to bewitch; practice witchcraft on.

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What is the origin of hex?

Hex “to bewitch” is a borrowing via Pennsylvania Dutch from German hexen, related to the noun Hexe “witch.” Hexe is a cognate of the English word hag “witch, sorceress; ugly old woman,” and the two are shortened from Old High German hagazussa and Old English hægtesse, respectively. Though hex and hag have long had negative connotations in English because of their magical associations, theories about their origin are far less biased; the haga-/hæg- element may derive from a root meaning “able, skilled” or could be connected to hawthorn, hay, and hedge, thereby reflecting a historical link between plants and sorcery. The -zussa/-tesse element, in turn, may be related to a variety of words in the Indo-European language family with meanings such as “fairy,” “ghost,” and “demon.” Hex was first recorded in English in the 1820s.

how is hex used?

“[The villagers] thought she had the evil eye, they thought she was hexing their cows. They didn’t want to waste their bullets so they used stones. Stones and clubs .… But she knew it was going to happen, she was a clairvoyant. She handed me over to a friend she had, in another village, the night before. That’s what saved me.”

Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride, 1993

I remember all manner of morality tales and fables about boys who stole pie and were hexed, vexed, and haunted, so many and so often that I came to believe that pie thievery must have been a very common thing back then. I would not do it again—it would be unseemly. But sometimes I pass a pie in a bakery, and I wonder. It would probably just taste like pie. But how will I ever know unless…

Rick Bragg, "Sometimes the Pie Just Calls Your Name," Paris Review, April 24, 2018

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