Word of the Day

Saturday, April 11, 2020

cosset

[ kos-it ]

verb (used with object)

to treat as a pet; pamper; coddle.

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What is the origin of cosset?

The verb cosset “to treat as a pet, pamper, coddle” is a derivative verb use of the noun cosset “a lamb raised as a pet.” The noun cosset has no certain etymology, but it has been suggested that it comes from Middle English cot-sēte “cottage dweller, cottager,” from Old English cot-sǣta. Cot-sēte, a rare enough word, is last recorded about 1400. Modern cosset (in the sense “pet lamb”) first appears in English in The Shepheardes Calender (1579) by Edmund Spenser, who uses words and spellings that were already archaic in his time.

how is cosset used?

It occurred to me, as I took my bag over, that it might be airline policy to comfort those who were going home for reasons such as mine with an upgrade, to cosset them through the night with quiet sympathy and an extra blanket or something.

Colm Tóibín, "One Minus One," The New Yorker, April 30, 2007

We cosset and succor its every sniffle with enormous devotion, even as we more or less ignore the increasingly urgent fever that the globe is now running.

Bill McKibben, "Money? Happiness. QED." Mother Jones, March–April 2007

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Friday, April 10, 2020

hero

[ heer-oh ]

noun

a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.

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Why we chose hero

Heroes are everywhere right now, and we’re teaming up with Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans to say thank you. Share your message of gratitude with #EveryoneKnowsAHero and @RocketMortgage. Watch below to learn more.

What is the origin of hero?

The English singular noun hero is formed from the plural heroes, which comes from Latin hērōes, the plural of hērōs “(mythical) hero.” Hērōs comes from Greek hḗrōs (plural hḗrōes) “hero,” a very ancient word that meant many things to the Greeks. A compound noun trisērohei, literally “Thrice Hero,” possibly the name of a deity “Clan Ancestor (?),” appears on a Linear B tablet from Pylos, dating to the 13th century b.c. In the Iliad, hḗrōs means “warrior,” and often little more than “man,” and not a semidivine being. In later Greek, hḗrōs was a semidivine being with his own cult, usually local, the only exception being Hercules (Heracles). (Greek Hērākléēs, also spelled Hērāklês, means “Glory of Hera.” Hḗrā is the Greek feminine form of hḗrōs; she is a daughter of Cronus and sister and wife of Zeus. Her name occurs next to the name of Zeus on the same Mycenaean Greek text, which makes likely the assumption that Hera was already honored as the consort of Zeus.) Unfortunately, hḗrōs and its derivative noun Hḗrā, like 60 percent of Greek vocabulary, have no satisfactory etymology. The various etymologies proposed suffer from various degrees of improbability. Hero entered English in the 16th century.

how is hero used?

Amid all the bleak news about the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to remember that there are so many heroes in America right now.

Lisa Lerer, "The Other Front-Line Workers," New York Times, April 2, 2020

Every crisis has its heroes, every disaster its displays of selflessness and sacrifice. … And now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, our health-care workers, doctors, nurses, EMTs and support staff who risk becoming infected themselves—who risk infecting their own families—are making extraordinary sacrifices to care for the rest of us.

Ruth Marcus, "These are the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic," Washington Post, March 27, 2020

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hero

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Thursday, April 09, 2020

force majeure

[ French fawrs ma-zhœr ]

noun

Law.

an unexpected and disruptive event that may operate to excuse a party from a contract.

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What is the origin of force majeure?

Force majeure, “superior force,” is a legal term in commercial and contract law for an unexpected, disruptive event that may excuse one party or both parties from a contract. The force majeure may be limited to what some jurisdictions term “acts of God,” such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. The force majeure may also be broader in scope, including manmade events such as strikes, riots, crime, or other social unrest. Force majeure is unnaturalized in English; even the pronunciation of majeure is at least partly Frenchified. Force comes from Old French force, from Vulgar Latin fortia, a singular feminine noun use of the neuter plural adjective fortia “strong, robust (things),” from the adjective fortis, forte. Many Latin neuter plural nouns and adjectives, which end in –a, become in the Romance languages feminine collective singular nouns, also ending in –a: for instance, the Latin neuter plural gaudia “joys, delights” (singular gaudium) becomes joie in French and gioia in Italian, both feminine singular nouns. Majeure is the normal French development of Latin major– (the inflectional stem of major, majus “greater”). Force majeure first appears in print in A digest of the civil laws now in force in the territory of Orleans…. (1803)–all of the texts, however, are in French. The first appearance of force majeure in English is in Questions and answers on law: Alphabetically arranged, with references to the most approved authorities, Volume 2 (1841).

how is force majeure used?

What’s more, decisions about whether coronavirus qualifies as a force majeure event will affect entire supply chains, causing a ripple-down effect—one broken obligation, or invocation of the clause, can domino into many others down the line.

Talib Visram, "What is 'force majeure'? The legal term you'll be hearing a lot during the coronavirus crisis," Fast Company, March 30, 2020

All tickets have a force majeure clause, which might get organizers off the hook of paying refunds if the coronavirus is deemed to be “beyond Tokyo 2020’s reasonable control.”

Stephen Wade, "Tokyo's delayed Olympics: Who pays bills for another year?" Associated Press, March 25, 2020

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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

chyron

[ kahy-ron ]

noun

a text-based graphic overlay displayed at the bottom of a television screen or film frame, as closed captioning or the crawl of a newscast.

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What is the origin of chyron?

Chyron is an altered spelling of earlier Chiron, the name of an electronic graphics platform developed by Systems Resource Corporation, later known as Chyron Corporation. In Greek mythology, Chiron is the name of a wise and beneficent centaur and teacher of Achilles, Asclepius, and others. Chyron entered English in the second half of the 20th century.

how is chyron used?

A good chyron demonstrates sound judgment, clarity, and wit. But the best chyrons are those that accompany segments that demonstrate the same things.

Emily Tamkin, "CNN public editor: No, it hasn't," Columbia Journalism Review, November 14, 2019

On television, scientists, journalists and chyrons keep warning us that the most important, civic-minded thing to do in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic is to stay away from other people.

Elahe Izadi , "Our TVs are full of characters spreading germs and now we can never unsee it," Washington Post, March 24, 2020

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

perigee

[ per-i-jee ]

noun

Astronomy.

the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon, or of an artificial satellite at which it is nearest to the earth.

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What is the origin of perigee?

Perigee, “the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon or an artificial satellite, at which it is nearest to the earth,” comes via French périgée from the New Latin noun perigēum, perigaeum, from the Greek adjective perígeios, a term in Stoic philosophy meaning “surrounding the earth,” and as an astronomical term, “near the earth (e.g., the moon).” The noun plus adjective phrase perígeion semeîon (“sign, signal”) means “the perigee”; the phrase is also shortened to perígeion, a noun use of the neuter adjective. The Greek preposition and prefix perí, peri– means “around, surrounding”; the combining form  –geios is a derivative of the noun “earth.” Perigee entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is perigee used?

The phenomenon, in which a full moon appears at its closest point in its orbit around the Earth, known as perigee, is colloquially called a “supermoon.”

, "Images of a Supermoon Spectacle," New York Times, November 15, 2016

The moon’s distance varies within its orbit. At its apogee, it is 252,088 miles (405,696 km) from Earth. At its perigee, it is a closer 225,623 miles (363,104 kilometers).

David Grossman, "The Moon: An Explainer," Popular Mechanics, July 25, 2019

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Monday, April 06, 2020

Jabberwocky

[ jab-er-wok-ee ]

noun,

an example of writing or speech consisting of or containing meaningless words.

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What is the origin of Jabberwocky?

Jabberwocky, “speech consisting of or containing meaningless words,” is a derivative of the name Jabberwock, a monster generally depicted as a dragon in a nonsense poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1871). Concerning the etymology of Jabberwocky, Carroll himself wrote in a letter to students at Girls’ Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts (now Boston Latin Academy), “The Anglo-Saxon word wocer or wocor signifies ‘offspring or fruit.’ Taking jabber in its ordinary acceptation of ‘excited and voluble discussion,’ this would give the meaning of ‘the result of much excited and voluble discussion.’”

how is Jabberwocky used?

his face melts into a mask of sadness and despair, then sparkles with wit as he tells in a stream of jabberwocky the loopy story of a fop named Pongo Twistleton …

Rex Reed, "John Lithgow's 'Stories by Heart' Breathes New Life Into the One-Man Show," Observer, January 16, 2018

Of course all the White House’s latest jabberwocky about “benchmarks” and “milestones” and “timetables'”…  is nothing more than an election-year P.R. strategy …

Frank Rich, "Dying to Save the G.O.P. Congress," New York Times, October 29, 2006

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Sunday, April 05, 2020

erstwhile

[ urst-hwahyl, -wahyl ]

adjective

former; of times past: erstwhile friends.

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What is the origin of erstwhile?

Erstwhile is a compound of the Middle English adjective and adverb erest “first in time, rank, order, excellence, etc.,” from the similar Old English adjective and adverb ǣrest “first, at first.” (The –est ending indicates that Old English ǣrest is the superlative degree of ǣr “early,” which functions as an adjective, adverb, preposition, and conjunction.) While comes from the Old English noun hwīl “a space of time, a while, an indefinite space of time,” which in Middle English develops senses as an adverb and conjunction. Erstwhile as an adverb entered English in the second half of the 16th century, and as an adjective, in the early 20th.

how is erstwhile used?

Many of Biden’s erstwhile opponents have found roles for themselves.

Eric Lach, "What's Joe Biden's Role in the Response to the Coronavirus Crisis?" The New Yorker, March 27, 2020

When the the 75-year-old ruler … refused to step down, some of his erstwhile allies from the military and security forces pushed him out.

Mohammed Alamin, "Why Sudan's Pain Endures After a Brutal Leader's Ouster," Washington Post, June 11, 2019

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