Word of the Day

Friday, May 11, 2018

cordillera

[ kawr-dl-yair-uh, -air-uh, kawr-dil-er-uh ]

noun

a chain of mountains, usually the principal mountain system or mountain axis of a large landmass.

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What is the origin of cordillera?

The English noun cordillera is a borrowing of Spanish cordillera “chain or ridge of mountains.” The Spanish noun is a diminutive of cuerda “rope, string,” from Latin chorda “chord, cord, intestine (as food)” itself a borrowing of Greek chordḗ “guts, sausage, string (of rope or of a lyre).” Cordillera originally applied to the Andes Mountains and later to the same mountain chain in Central America and Mexico. Cordillera entered English in the early 18th century.

how is cordillera used?

In the Western Hemisphere, the term Cordillera was first applied to the Cordillera de los Andes or Andes Mountains, which form a compact and continuous bundle of ranges along the western side of South America.

Philip Burke King, Evolution of North America, 1959

The dawn breaks high behind the towering and serrated wall of the Cordillera, a clear-cut vision of dark peaks rearing their steep slopes on a lofty pedestal of forest rising from the very edge of the shore.

Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, 1904
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

hypocorism

[ hahy-pok-uh-riz-uhm, hi- ]

noun

a pet name.

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What is the origin of hypocorism?

The very rare English noun hypocorism comes from the equally rare Latin noun hypocorisma “a diminutive (word),” a direct borrowing of Greek hypokórisma “pet name, endearing name; diminutive (word),” a derivative of the verb hypokorízesthai “to play the child, call by an endearing name.” Hypokorízesthai is a compound formed from the prefix hypo-, here meaning “slightly, somewhat,” and korízesthai “to caress, fondle.” The root of korízesthai is the noun kórē “girl, maiden” or kóros “boy, youth.” The Greek nouns are from the same Proto-Indo-European root ker- “to grow” as the Latin Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, and its derivative adjective cereālis “pertaining to Ceres,” the source of English cereal. Hypocorism entered English in the 19th century.

how is hypocorism used?

Powsoddy, a now obsolete name for a pudding, was also used as a hypocorism in the late sixteenth century, paralleling the affectionate use of the word pudding itself in our own century, though lovers usually alter the pronunciation to puddin.

Mark Morton, The Lover's Tongue, 2003

The addition of diminutive or familiar prefixes and suffixes to the name of a saint to produce a ‘pet name’ or hypocorism, is common in the Celtic areas …

Karen Jankulak, The Medieval Cult of St Petroc, 2000
Wednesday, May 09, 2018

suborn

[ suh-bawrn ]

verb

to bribe or induce (someone) unlawfully or secretly to perform some misdeed or to commit a crime.

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What is the origin of suborn?

The Latin verb subornāre, the ultimate source of English suborn, is composed of the prefix sub- “under, subordinate, near to, partially, secretly” and the verb ornāre “to prepare, equip, arrange.” Ornāre is from an assumed ordnāre, a derivative of the noun ordō (stem ordin-) “line, row, rank, grade.” Subornāre has several meanings: when the sense of the verb ornāre predominates, the compound means “to supply, furnish; to dress up (in costume or disguise); when the sense of the prefix sub-, meaning “secretly, covertly,” predominates, the compound means “to instigate secretly or underhandedly, prepare clandestinely.” An extension of this last sense, “to induce someone to commit a crime or perjury,” from suborner in Old and Middle French, is its current sense in English. Suborn entered English in the 16th century.

how is suborn used?

… he had been concerned “because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.”

Elizabeth Olson, "Former C.I.A. Chief John Brennan to Become a Fellow at Fordham," New York Times, September 4, 2017

… I had been brought in as a spy, to help in betraying him, and Joyce had suborned him to the act of treachery.

Bram Stoker, The Snake's Pass, 1890

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