Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, January 16, 2022

circumstellar

[ sur-kuhm-stel-er ]

adjective

surrounding a star.

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What is the origin of circumstellar?

Circumstellar “surrounding a star” is a compound of the element circum- “around” and the adjective stellar “of or relating to the stars.” Circum- comes from Latin circus “circle,” which is the source of English terms such as circa, circle, circular, circumference, circus, and the recent Word of the Day circadian. Latin has two words meaning “star”—sīdus (stem sīder-) and stella. Sīdus largely died out except in technical terms such as sidereal “determined by the stars,” while stella is the source of stellar, constellation, interstellar, and modern Romance words for “star,” such as French étoile and Spanish estrella. Circumstellar was first recorded in English in the early 1950s.

how is circumstellar used?

When stars are still very young (only a few million years old), their circumstellar disks are relatively huge, often with about 1 to 10 percent of the mass of the central star in a typical system. For a star like the sun, that amounts to a disk with roughly 100 times the mass of Jupiter.

Meredith A. MacGregor, “Astronomers Watch as Planets Are Born,” Scientific American, June 1, 2020

In the circumstellar shells, which are shells of gas now surrounding the star, you can have dust particles form because the temperature and density are perfect for making dust. This dust then gets kicked back out into the interstellar medium along with gas and that is what the next generation of stars will form from.

Ylva Pihlström, as quoted in, "UNM Physics and Astronomy professor researches mass loss in dying stars," UNM Newsroom, December 14, 2021

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

violescent

[ vahy-uh-les-uhnt ]

adjective

tending to a violet color.

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What is the origin of violescent?

Violescent “tending to a violet color” derives from the Latin noun viola “violet” and the inchoative suffix -escent “becoming, starting to be,” as we learned about from the recent Word of the Day evanesce. Viola is of uncertain origin but appears to have a cognate in Ancient Greek: íon “violet.” Ancient Greek once had a letter called wau or digamma, which made the “w” sound and looked like the Roman letter F, but eventually lost the letter entirely; this is how earlier wíon became íon while the “w” was preserved as “v” in Latin viola. A similar phenomenon happened with Ancient Greek oînos (earlier woînos) and Latin vīnum “wine” as well as Ancient Greek elaíā (earlier elaíwā) and Latin olīva “olive.” Violescent was first recorded in English in the 1840s.

how is violescent used?

Fashion Week in New York started on Thursday with designer runways shrouded in gray …. Occasional breaks in the overcast tones on the catwalks brought flashes of burgundy and teal, although the go-to color of the day was purple. Violescent dresses, skirts and shirts were paired with black-and-white coordinating pieces by Richard Chai Love. The designer cut lavender damask into dresses, coats and suits. Nicholas K, meanwhile, showed a handful of smoky mauve fashions, including a luscious knitted wrap and a luminescent jacket.

Barbara Goldberg, “Smoke, coal, mercury on the runway at New York’s Fashion Week,” Reuters, February 7, 2013

The sudden alternations of warm light and cold shade made him shiver. In front of the Palazzo di Venezia, and in front of the Gesu, it had seemed to him as if all the night of ancient times were falling icily upon his shoulders; but at each fresh square, each broadening of the new thoroughfares, there came a return to light, to the pleasant warmth and gaiety of life. The yellow sunflashes, in falling from the house fronts, sharply outlined the violescent shadows. Strips of sky, very blue and very benign, could be perceived between the roofs.

Émile Zola (1840–1902), Rome, of The Three Cities, translated by Ernest A. Vizetelly, 2009

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Friday, January 14, 2022

trailblaze

[ treyl-bleyz ]

verb (used with object)

to be a pioneer in (a particular subject, technique, etc.).

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What is the origin of trailblaze?

Trailblaze “​​to be a pioneer in something” is a back formation from the noun trailblazer. Back formations are words formed from other, slightly longer words by dropping what appears to be a suffix; in English, this frequently results in verbs formed from nouns, such as edit from editor, or—as we learned from the recent Word of the Day fomites—singular nouns formed from plurals. Trailblazer is a compound of trail “path across a wild region” and blaze “a mark made on a tree.” An earlier meaning of blaze, however, was “a white area on an animal’s face,” and the definition has since expanded to refer to similarly noticeable spots elsewhere. Blaze in the sense of “fire, torch” is related to blaze in the sense “white area,” albeit more distantly; in the Indo-European language family, words for both light and dark colors often derive from roots meaning “fire,” “shine,” or “burn.” Trailblaze was first recorded in English in the early 1900s.

how is trailblaze used?

While they were not-so-friendly rivals, in certain ways Janet [Jackson] and Madonna helped trailblaze similar terrain. Both were strong, intelligent, fiercely ambitious artists. Neither expressed any reticence about their desire for mass commercial success. Both were engaged in similar struggles for respect, empowerment and agency in an industry dominated by men and male expectations. Both also faced serious pushback from music critics.

Joseph Vogel, “The Nation That Janet Jackson Built,” The Atlantic, September 15, 2014

The forest was in the middle stages of rebirth. Parts of it had been consumed by a blaze in the eighties, and adolescent trees stood calf-like among the charred carcasses of their forefathers. That’s the machine of the world, how past meshes with future: dig deep enough or wait long enough and you’ll find the bones of a dead thing. Kids consume the legacies of their parents. People found cities over unmarked graves. Civilizations rise up from the ruins of those that trailblazed before them. Whole histories are built on the leftovers of older worlds.

D. W. Wilson, Ballistics, 2013

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