Word of the Day

Sunday, July 15, 2018

coeval

[ koh-ee-vuhl ]

adjective

of the same age, date, or duration; equally old: Analysis has proved that this manuscript is coeval with that one.

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What is the origin of coeval?

The English adjective coeval comes from the Late Latin coaevus “of the same age.” The common Latin prefix co- is a variant of the prefix con-, from the preposition cum “with.” The noun aevum “age, the past, history” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root aiw-, ayu- “life force, long life, vitality,” from which Gothic derives awis “time, eternity,” German ewig “eternal, everlasting,” Old English ā “ever, always,” and Old Norse ei “ever,” the source of English ay (also aye). Coeval entered English in the 17th century.

how is coeval used?

An old woman, who seemed coeval with the building … received us at the gate …

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

… the Serpent mentioned that very jest, and called it the First Chestnut, and said it was coeval with the creation.

Mark Twain, The Private Life of Adam and Eve, 1906
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Saturday, July 14, 2018

amour-propre

[ a-moor-praw-pruh ]

noun

French. self-esteem; self-respect.

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What is the origin of amour-propre?

The French compound noun amour-propre, literally “self-love, self-regard,” is associated especially with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), but the phrase is found earlier in the works of Blaise Pascal (1623-62) and François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-80). For Rousseau amour-propre is self-love or self-esteem dependent upon the good opinion of others, as opposed to amour de soi, which also means “self-love” but is directed solely toward one’s own well-being and is not dependent upon the good opinion of others. The English lexicographer Henry W. Fowler (1858-1933), in his A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), acidly comments about amour-propre, “Vanity usually gives the meaning as well, &, if as well, then better.” Amour-propre entered English in the 18th century.

how is amour-propre used?

From the faces round him there fell that glamour by which the amour propre is held captive in large assemblies, where the amour propre is flattered.

Edward Bulwar-Lytton, What Will He Do with It?, 1858

Whatever might be the urgings of his amour propre, in his opinion he had a professional duty to tell the client his findings.

Louis Begley, Matters of Honor, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2018

vitiate

[ vish-ee-eyt ]

verb

to impair or weaken the effectiveness of.

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What is the origin of vitiate?

The English verb vitiate comes directly from the Latin past participle vitiātus “spoiled, impaired,” from the verb vitiāre, which is a derivative of the noun vitium “defect, fault,” a word of uncertain etymology. Vitium is the source of Old French vice, English vice. Vitiate entered English in the 15th century.

how is vitiate used?

… some infinitesimal excess or deficiency, some minute accession of heat or cold, some chance adulteration in this or that ingredient, can vitiate a whole course of inquiry, requiring the labour of weeks to be all begun again …

Charles Lever, One of Them, 1861

In his mad odyssey through the dark side — waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis — Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later.

Maureen Dowd, "The Spies Who Didn't Love Her," New York Times, March 11, 2014

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