Word of the Day

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

circumferential

[ ser-kuhm-fuh-ren-shuh l ]

adjective

surrounding; lying along the outskirts; of, at, or near the circumference.

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What is the origin of circumferential?

Circumferential nowadays means only “surrounding, on the outskirts or periphery of.” In the late 17th century circumferential had the additional meaning “indirect, roundabout.” Circumferential entered English in the early 17th century.

how is circumferential used?

Now bees, as may be clearly seen by examining the edge of a growing comb, do make a rough, circumferential wall or rim all round the comb …

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859

Far away in the circumferential wall a little doorway looked like Heaven, and he set off in a wild rush for it.

H. G. Wells, "The Country of the Blind," The Strand Magazine, April 1904
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

busticate

[ buhs-ti-keyt ]

verb

Northern U.S. to break into pieces.

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What is the origin of busticate?

Busticate is a facetious Northern US formation from bust “to burst” and -icate, on the model of the regularly formed rusticate “to go to the country.”

how is busticate used?

I’ll have a sipe more of coffee, but if I eat another bite, I’ll busticate.

Ivan Doig, This House of Sky, 1978

“Elephants really busticate trees,” said Brendan Washington-Jones.

Lawrence Anthony, The Last Rhinos, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2018

paseo

[ pah-sey-oh; Spanish pah-se-aw ]

noun

a slow, idle, or leisurely walk or stroll.

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What is the origin of paseo?

The Spanish noun paseo “a stroll” is a derivative of the verb pasear “take a walk,” itself a derivative of pasar “to come past, go past.” Pasar comes from an assumed Vulgar Latin verb passāre “to pass, go on, extend,” which is formed from Latin passus, the past participle of pandere “to unfold, extend, spread out.” The Latin noun passus “a step, pace,” also derived from pandere, is the ultimate source of pace, i.e., “a step,” and the verb pass. Paseo entered English in the 19th century.

how is paseo used?

… the theme of every evening’s conversation at the different houses, and in our afternoon’s paseo upon the beach, was the ship …

Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast, 1840

For the last two days in Ibarra, the foreigner has enjoyed easygoing Latina hospitality: a tour of the market where Celia’s mother has a stall; a paseo to a small village hosting a bullfight, even the funeral of a family friend.

Kelley Aitken, "Eating Cuy," Love in a Warm Climate, 1998
Sunday, March 11, 2018

behindhand

[ bih-hahynd-hand ]

adverb, adjective

late; tardy.

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What is the origin of behindhand?

The adverb behindhand is formed on the analogy of the much earlier beforehand, which dates from the 13th century. Behindhand is especially but not exclusively concerned with monetary transactions, but from early in its history had the sense “out of date, behind the times.” Behindhand entered English in the 16th century.

how is behindhand used?

“Hum!” cried the old gentleman, consulting a watch he carried. “I think we are twenty minutes behindhand.”

Horatio Alger, Randy of the River, 1906

I was going to pop in to see if Miss Harner was O.K., but I was a bit behindhand after collecting some flowerpots and a bucket and that what had been blown into our hedge.

Miss Read, Gossip from Thrush Green, 1981
Saturday, March 10, 2018

krummholz

[ kroom-hohlts ]

noun

a forest of stunted trees near the timber line on a mountain.

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What is the origin of krummholz?

The German noun Krummholz, literally “crooked wood,” means “a forest of stunted trees near the timber line; elfinwood.” The German adjective krumm “bent, crooked, warped, stooping, devious” is related to British dialectal words crump “bent, crooked” and crumpback (also crump-back) “hunchback.” The German noun Holz “wood” is related to English holt and Old Norse holt. The Germanic nouns derive from Proto-Germanic hulto-, from keld-, an extended form of the Proto-Indo-European root kel- “to cut, hit.” Keld- is the source of Greek kládos “twig, branch, shoot” (and the English taxonomic term clade), and Slavic (Polish) kłoda “log.” Krummholz entered English in the early 20th century.

how is krummholz used?

A few miles away bare scree-covered slopes protruded from the gnarled krummholz, marking the trail’s maximum height.

Annie Proulx, "Testimony of the Donkey," Fine Just the Way It Is, 2008

I should point out that nowhere are the wabi and sabi palettes of time acting on nature more visible than in the krummholz–the “elfin timber,” gnarled and twisted little trees at treeline that might be a thousand years old …

Dan Simmons, “Introduction to ‘Looking for Kelly Dahl,’” Worlds Enough & Time, 2002
Friday, March 09, 2018

demonym

[ dem-uh-nim ]

noun

the name used for the people who live in a particular country, state, or other locality: Two demonyms for the residents of Michigan are Michigander and Michiganian.

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What is the origin of demonym?

The noun demonym is clearly from Greek dêmos “people, common people, common soldiery (as opposed to officers), popular government, democracy, district, country, land.” The second part of the word comes from Greek dialect (Doric, Aeolic) ónyma, a variant of ónoma “name” (the Attic and Ionic dialectal form) and is very common in compounds like antonym and pseudonym. Demonym entered English in the late 20th century.

how is demonym used?

The word “Hoosier,” which today is the demonym used to describe people from the state of Indiana, is a mystery nearing its second century. It is one of the best-known irregular demonyms for American states, along with “Yankee,” referring to someone from New York (and sometimes expanded from that into the entire Northeast), and “Buckeye,” which refers to someone from Ohio.

Dan Nosowitz, "The Unsolvable Mystery of the Word 'Hoosier'," Atlas Obscura, August 22, 2017

Shafik turns his thoughts back to the archaic demonym, Shawam, singular Shami, which is what the native Egyptians called people from a certain part of the Fertile Crescent.

Alain Farah, "Life of the Father," Granta, 141: Canada, November 9, 2017
Thursday, March 08, 2018

Minerva

[ mi-nur-vuh ]

noun

a woman of great wisdom.

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What is the origin of Minerva?

The Roman goddess Minerva is so completely identified with the Greek goddess Athena that it is difficult to discern what is “native” to Minerva. Minerva (earlier Latin spelling Menerva) was a native Italian goddess of handicrafts (hence easily identified with Athena in that respect). The name Minerva (Menerva) may be of Indo-European origin, from the root men- “to think, bear in mind,” source of English mind, Latin meminī “I remember,” and Greek Méntōr, a proper name meaning “adviser.” The original Latin name will have been Meneswā “intelligent, wise (woman),” related to Sanskrit manasvin “wise” and Manasvinī, the name of the mother of the moon. Alternatively, Meneswā may mean “woman who measures (the phases of the moon),” from the Proto-Indo-European root mē- “to measure,” source of English meal (a Germanic word), as in piecemeal, measure (from Latin), and Greek metron “measure,” the source of the English suffix -meter, among other words. Minerva as the name of the goddess entered English in the Old English period; the sense “wise woman” dates from the late 18th century.

how is Minerva used?

God, it seems like I’ll always have a Minerva by my side being a better person than I am.

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies, 1994

The notion of such a Minerva as this, whom I saw in public places now and then, surrounded by swarms of needy abbés and schoolmasters, who flattered her, frightened me for some time, and I had not the least desire to make her acquaintance.

William Makepeace Thackeray, "The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century," Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Volume XXX, July to December, 1844

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