Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

crapulous

[ krap-yuh-luhs ]

adjective

given to or characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating.

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What is the origin of crapulous?

Crapulous “characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating” derives from Late Latin crāpulōsus “inclined to drunkenness,” from Latin crāpula “drunkenness,” either derived from or related to Ancient Greek kraipálē “drunkenness, hangover.” A common misconception is that crapulous is connected to a certain word for “excrement,” but the resemblance between these two words is a happy coincidence. While crapulous has a clear history, the more colorful term crap is in fact of uncertain origin—perhaps from Middle Dutch krappe “something cut off or separated,” perhaps via Old French from a Frankish cognate of English scrape, perhaps from Medieval Latin crappa “chaff,” or perhaps related to English crop. Crapulous was first recorded in English in the 1530s.

how is crapulous used?

Much wine was drunk and all pretenses of table manners were soon discarded. Leon and [Vivian] planted their elbows on the table and slurped the chicken from the bones with noisy, lustful abandon …. refilling one another’s wineglasses with increasing frequency throughout the meal, uncorking one bottle of wine after another, often uncorking another bottle even before the previous had been depleted of its contents .… Both of them ate and drank to bubbling crapulous excess.

Benjamin Hale, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, 2011

Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman, a man of education obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still young, and by a mere continuance of living had grown to be an adopted townsman …. His place in the parlour at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous, disreputable vices, were all things of course in Debenham.

Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Body-Snatcher,” Tales and Fantasies, 1905

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Word of the day

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

brasserie

[ bras-uh-ree ]

noun

an unpretentious restaurant, tavern, or the like, that serves drinks, especially beer, and simple or hearty food.

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What is the origin of brasserie?

Brasserie “an unpretentious restaurant or tavern” is a borrowing from French, in which the term means “brewery,” though it is not related to the English word brew. Brasserie comes from the Middle French verb brasser “to brew,” which likely derives via Gallo-Latin bracem from a word for a kind of grain used to make malt in Gaulish, an extinct Celtic language once spoken in France. Similar words for “malt” still exist today in modern Celtic languages, such as Irish Gaelic braich and Welsh brag. The French suffix -erie in brasserie indicates location and is also found in terms such as patisserie “pastry shop” and boulangerie “bread shop,” and the suffix’s English cognate, -ery, is present in bakery, distillery, fishery, and refinery. Brasserie was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is brasserie used?

Paris once had a thriving micro-brew culture, housed in the brasseries that migrants from the province of Alsace brought to the city in the late 19th century. Brasseries were raucous and informal and open longer hours than traditional restaurants; they changed how Paris ate—but with their fresh, individual, northern-style beers, they changed how the city drank too.

Maryn McKenna, “Can the City of Light Become the City of Beer?” National Geographic, June 17, 2014

France’s masses have long flocked to brasseries knowing they can order anything at any hour, and to enjoy the scene: the writers, painters, models, stockbrokers, retired gents and couples on first dates, and the ever-present tourists.

Steven Greenhouse, "A Restaurant Empire, Parisian Style," New York Times, February 29, 1988

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Monday, November 08, 2021

serein

[ suh-ran ]

noun

fine rain falling after sunset from a sky in which no clouds are visible.

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What is the origin of serein?

Serein “fine rain falling after sunset from a cloudless sky” is a borrowing from French, from Middle French serain “evening, nightfall.” If you listened to our recent Word of the Day podcast about serotinal “occurring in late summer,” the ultimate origin of serein should look familiar: the term derives from Latin sērum “a late hour,” from the adjective sērus “late.” A common misconception is that serein is related to serene “peaceful, clear, unclouded,” but while the words are similar in appearance and definition, they are likely unconnected. Serene instead derives from Latin serēnus “cheerful, tranquil; (of weather) clear, unclouded,” and a derivative noun, serēnum, means “fine weather.” Serein was first recorded in English in the late 1860s.

how is serein used?

They walked in silence through the twilight. There were no clouds in the sky, but a serein drizzled down, making the cobbles slick and giving the warmth emanating from the buildings around them a clammy feel. The rain meant the streets were emptier than they might have been, but Harper still felt exposed.

S. F. Burgess, Will, 2014

Serein, the cloudless night rain, is gently flecking the glass. The ballpoint prints his words, upright and stylish. The light dies away as he writes.

Seán Virgo, Selakhi, 1987

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