Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, November 18, 2021

circadian

[ sur-key-dee-uhn ]

adjective

noting or pertaining to rhythmic biological cycles recurring at approximately 24-hour intervals.

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What is the origin of circadian?

Circadian “pertaining to 24-hour biological cycles” is a coinage based on two Latin terms: the preposition circā “about, around” and diēs “day.” English has also adapted circā directly (as circa) when providing estimates of dates. If you were wondering why circā resembled circle and circus, it is because all three words descend from Ancient Greek kírkos “ring, circle.” Latin diēs is also the source of day-related words such as diary, diet, and meridian; the term also has an adjective form, diurnus “daily,” which is the source of words such as diurnal and journal, as we learned about in the etymology for the recent Word of the Day selection toujours perdrix. Circadian was first recorded in English in the late 1950s.

how is circadian used?

Think of every cell and system in your body as having a tiny clock. And each of these tiny clocks is on approximately a 24-hour cycle, so a master clock in your brain coordinates and makes sure those tiny clocks work together. This “circadian system” essentially signals to your body what time of day it is and what time of year it is and helps match your behavior with your environment.

Kavitha Cardoza and Andee Tagle, “‘Tis the Season: Coping With SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder,” NPR, October 29, 2020

Sleep seems to remove us from the general tyranny of the advancing clock. When you wake, 20 minutes could have passed as easily as three hours. But sleep defines time, dividing day and night. Humans discover circadian rhythm through the urge to sleep. That urge is, of course, cyclic, endless: always more sleep to be had.

Siobhan Phillips, "Sleep as Resistance," Poetry Foundation, March 25, 2014

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Word of the day

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

avgolemono

[ ahv-goh-lem-uh-noh ]

noun

a soup or sauce made with beaten eggs, lemon juice, and usually chicken broth.

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What is the origin of avgolemono?

Avgolemono “a soup made with beaten eggs, lemon juice, and chicken broth” is a loanword from Modern Greek augolémono, literally meaning “egg lemon.” Through a series of regular yet dramatic sound changes, Modern Greek augó derives from classical Greek ōión “egg,” which is the source of the combining form oo- (as in oocyte “immature egg cell”) and is distantly related to English egg and Latin ovum (as in ovary and, via Spanish, in huevos rancheros). Modern Greek lemóni, bucking the common trend of Greek words exported to the Italian peninsula, is a borrowing from Italian limone and ultimately derives from Persian līmū; from here, the word may have traveled through India and originated in Southeast Asia, perhaps in the Austronesian language family. Avgolemono was first recorded in English in the early 1960s.

how is avgolemono used?

Avgolemono is the most famous Greek sauce, named for its indispensable ingredients, avgo (egg) and lemoni (lemon). Light in color and of the prized lemony flavor, it is prepared with or without a roux base. But egg, lemon juice, and hot stock or broth from the dish for which it is being prepared are necessities .… Some Greek villagers, when adding the avgolemono to soup or dish, make a kissing sound, a magical trick to keep the egg from curdling.

Vilma Chantiles, Food of Greece: Cooking, Folkways, and Travel in the Mainland and Islands of Greece, 1975

“How do you like the avgolemono?” Mrs. Redbone asks Wakefield. “They say it was first served at the table of Aristophanes after he wrote a play about the meeting of a chicken and a lemon.” “That’s lovely,” interjects Persephone. “I thought it was first served at the Greek diner on Twenty-third Street where I first had it.” Avgolemono is a lovely soup, light, pale as the crest of a wave, filled with sun, the rice like grains of sand on the beach at Kios. I must be getting soft, thinks Wakefield: I’m making soup metaphors. I’ve got to toughen up.

Andrei Codrescu, Wakefield, 2004

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Word of the day

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

ostracize

[ os-truh-sahyz ]

verb (used with object)

to exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc.

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What is the origin of ostracize?

Ostracize “to exclude from society” derives from Ancient Greek ostrakízein “to banish,” from óstrakon “potsherd, tile, ballot” and the verbal suffix -izein “-ize.” The original sense of ostrakízein involved banishing a person by voting that was conducted by using potsherds as ballots, hence the verb’s derivation. Though ostracize resembles ostrich, the flightless bird, in spelling and pronunciation, the two words are unrelated; instead, ostracize descends from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “bone” that is also found in osteoporosis, a common bone disease; oyster, because of the hardness of the shell; and, from Latin, the adjective osseous “bony.” Ostracize was first recorded in English in the 1640s.

how is ostracize used?

Frida was confined to her bed for nine months—an eternity for an active six-year-old. Her father tended to her with care, and when she was finally given the go-ahead to return to school, Guillermo prescribed sports. Frida excelled in soccer, swimming, roller-skating, and boxing. She grew stronger, but her right leg remained puny and withered. She was ostracized at school for her “peg leg.” To help compensate for her loneliness, her father, who believed her to be the most like him of all his daughters … gave her books from his library and taught her how to take and develop photographs.

Karen Karbo, “The inconvenient spectacle of Frida Kahlo,” National Geographic, January 4, 2019

The ballot is the scepter of power in the hand of every citizen. Woman can never have an equal chance with man in the struggle of life until she too wields this power. So long as women have no voice in the Government under which they live they will be an ostracised [sic] class, and invidious distinctions will be made against them in the world of work. Thrown on their own resources they have all the hardships that men have to encounter in earning their daily bread, with the added disabilities which grow out of disfranchisement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Self-Government the Best Means of Self-Development,” 1884, as quoted in The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 4, 1902

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