Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, December 06, 2021

cockade

[ ko-keyd ]

noun

a rosette, knot of ribbon, etc., usually worn on the hat as part of a uniform, as a badge of office, or the like.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of cockade?

Cockade “a rosette worn on the hat as part of a uniform” is an alteration of the French term cocarde, which derives from the Middle French word cocquard “boastful, silly, cocky” (like the boastful behavior of a rooster). Cocquard is a compound of the noun coc “rooster, cock” and -ard, a noun-forming suffix. Coc derives from Late Latin coccus or a Germanic term akin to Old Norse kokkr and is of onomatopoeic origin; numerous languages worldwide independently developed similar-sounding words for “rooster” by imitating the sound of the rooster’s call. The suffix -ard is likely extracted from a Frankish element, -hart “strong, brave, hardy,” found in Germanic-origin personal names in French, such as Bernard and Richard, and in terms for people who regularly engage in a particular activity or are characterized in a certain way, such as drunkard and wizard. Cockade was first recorded in English in the 1650s.

how is cockade used?

During the immediate aftermath of the revolution and the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the Committee of Public Safety attempted to use the guillotine to shape what member Maximilien Robespierre dubbed “a republic of virtue.” … Offenses included dress: Infractions like displaying royalist insignia or colors (the fleur-­de-­lis, white, green or any indication of mourning), or refusal to sport the cockade, that symbolically ­loaded knot of tricolor ribbons, were, in some cases, enough to send someone to the tumbrils.

Alexander Fury, “When Fashion Becomes a Form of Protest,” New York Times Style Magazine, August 17, 2016

The men beside me seem so gored and emasculated by time that I look away. One has no gray in his hair, so I suppose he is rather young …. He opens his briefcase busily, but it contains nothing but a printed brochure. Will such a weary face be welcomed anywhere? The face seems incapable of any sensual provocation or response. But when it is time for him to leave he jauntily slaps on a sealskin hat with a bright feather cockade and braces his shoulders in his raincoat. He’s ready for the next round.

John Cheever, "From the Seventies and Early Eighties," The New Yorker, August 4, 1991

Listen to the podcast

cockade

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

Sunday, December 05, 2021

imp

[ imp ]

noun

a little devil or demon; an evil spirit.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of imp?

Imp “a little devil or demon” derives from Old English impa “shoot, graft,” via Latin impotus from Ancient Greek émphytos “planted, implanted.” This Ancient Greek source is related to the noun phytón “plant,” which is the source of the English combining forms phyto- (as in phytochemical, a compound found in plants) and -phyte (as in neophyte “a beginner or novice,” literally “a new plant”). The story of how a word for “plant” became a word for “little devil” is less complicated than one might think; from “plant,” the definition shifted to “offshoot of a plant,” and from there, it broadened to include any offspring, plant or animal. The phrase imp of the devil, meaning “offspring of the devil,” gave imp the additional sense of “demon,” which the word has preserved to the present day though it no longer appears in that phrase. Imp was first recorded in English before the 8th century.

how is imp used?

Experts can say that something is safe, but if we don’t feel that it’s safe, our inner voice can win out over reason. (Likewise, when experts say something is bad for us, we often dispose of that advice in favor of listening to the little imp on our shoulder telling us that it’s something we want to do, so it can’t be all that bad.) The best experts help us find the sweet spot between our gut and our brain by explaining processes, risks, and benefits in ways that we can understand.

Tom Nichols, “Following Your Gut Isn’t the Right Way to Go,” The Atlantic, March 22, 2021

The entire day passed, but Ivan kept on braiding the cord. Suddenly an imp jumped out of the water. “Hired man, what are you doing?” “Why, you can see for yourself. I’m braiding a rope.” “And what do you need the rope for?” “What for? I want to cinch up the lake and squeeze out you devils.”

A. N. Afanas’ev (1826-1871), "The Block-Headed Priest," The Complete Folktales of A. N. Anafas'ev, translated by Jack V. Haney, 2021

Listen to the podcast

imp

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

Saturday, December 04, 2021

ransack

[ ran-sak ]

verb (used with object)

to search through for plunder; pillage.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of ransack?

Ransack “to search thoroughly through” derives via Middle English from Old Norse rannsaka “to search, examine (a house for stolen goods), pillage,” a compound of rann “house” and saka “to search.” Rann is a close relative of the English word barn, which was originally a compound of bere “barley” and ern or ǣrn “house.” Saka, a variant of sœkja, is a cognate of the English verbs seek and beseech; in combination with rann, the resulting verb rannsaka originally entailed searching through a house. This definition broadened over time to refer to searching through any building and then shifted to include violence and theft. Ransack was first recorded in English in the early 1200s.

how is ransack used?

Regarded as a symbol of the power and aggression of church and monarchy, the building was ransacked during the French Revolution. The heads of the 28 statues in the Gallery of Kings on the main doorway were struck from their bodies, … Lead from the roof was pillaged for bullets. The bronze bells were melted down to make cannon. Only the enormous Emmanuel bell … was spared.

José Luís Corral Fuentes, “An 800-year history of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral,” National Geographic, April 15, 2019

A self-described Michigan “soccer mom” who had “every belonging” taken from her family in a 2014 drug raid has been cleared of all criminal charges, 19 months after heavily armed drug task force members ransacked her home and her business. But in many ways, her ordeal is only beginning.

Christopher Ingraham, "What life is like after police ransack your house and take ‘every belonging’—then the charges are dropped," Washington Post, March 30, 2016

Listen to the podcast

ransack

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Word of the Day Calendar

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day in your inbox every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Word of the Day Calendar