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    Thursday, September 06, 2018

    cyclopean

    adjective [sahy-kluh-pee-uhn, sahy-klop-ee-uhn]
    gigantic; vast.
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    What is the origin of cyclopean?

    English cyclopean comes from the Latin adjective Cyclōpēus, a borrowing of Greek Kyklṓpeios, a derivative of the common noun, proper noun, and name Kýklōps, which the Greeks interpreted to mean “round eye” (a compound of kýklos “wheel” and ōps “eye, face”). The most famous Cyclops is Polyphemus, a crude, solitary shepherd living on an island whom Odysseus blinded in Homer’s Odyssey. Hesiod (ca. 8th century b.c.) in his Theogony names three Cyclopes; they are craftsmen who make Zeus’s thunderbolts, and whom the Greeks often credited with building the walls of ancient Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos, and the acropolis of Athens, all constructed with massive limestone blocks roughly fitted together without mortar. Cyclopean entered English in the 17th century.

    How is cyclopean used?

    ... large ships’ vents hang from the two-story-high ceiling, like Cyclopean worms poking their heads in to check out the space. Colin Stokes, "The Ship," The New Yorker, May 16, 2016

    And ahead, the great cyclopean edifice reared like a giant's curse against the darkness: too dense a black, too severe. Storm Constantine, The Way of Light, 2002

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 05, 2018

    claddagh

    noun [klah-duh]
    a ring in the form of two hands clasping a crowned heart, given in friendship or love.
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    What is the origin of claddagh?

    The claddagh ring is Irish in name and origin. Claddagh in Irish means “shore” and is also the name of a fishing village on the western edge of Galway City, on the west coast of Ireland. The rings, with the design of two hands (friendship) clasping a heart (love), surmounted by a crown (loyalty), symbolized betrothal or marriage and were used at least as early as 1700. Claddagh entered English in the 19th century.

    How is claddagh used?

    One of the rings was becoming visible thanks to the bright light. "Are those hands?" "It's a claddagh." C. J. Lyons, Devil Smoke, 2016

    Taking note of the thick band of sterling silver, I saw alternating squares of intricately engraved pictures: one was a Scottish thistle, one a Celtic knot, one a raven and the last I recognized because of my studies: a Claddagh: two hands clasping a heart together. Sharon Ricklin Jones, Ravenswynd Legends, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, September 04, 2018

    scry

    verb [skrahy]
    to use divination to discover hidden knowledge or future events, especially by means of a crystal ball.
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    What is the origin of scry?

    Aphesis is the loss of an unstressed vowel or syllable from the beginning of a word, as descry becoming scry. The adjective formed from aphesis is aphetic. Descry means "to see something unclear or distant by looking carefully"; scry has a narrower meaning, “to use divination to learn hidden events or the future, especially by gazing into a crystal ball or water." Scry was obsolete by the 16th century, but it was revived in the 19th century by Andrew Lang (1844–1912), the Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, anthropologist, and collector of folk and fairy tales.

    How is scry used?

    Merlin could scry in any clear or shiny surface. Even now he had a basin of water ready at this elbow for watching his boy king. Phyllis Ann Karr, "Merlin's Dark Mirror," The Merlin Chronicles, 1995

    And my lord had a great mirror where he wanted me to scry--to see the future. Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers, 2011

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, September 03, 2018

    nepenthe

    noun [ni-pen-thee]
    anything inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, especially of sorrow or trouble.
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    What is the origin of nepenthe?

    In Greek and English nepenthe and pathos are opposites. Greek nēpenthḗs is an adjective meaning “banishing pain, without sorrow.” Nēpenthḗs breaks down to the (unusual) negative prefix nē- (ultimately from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-), the stem penth- of the noun pénthos “pain,” and the adjective suffix -ḗs, -és. The Greek nouns pénthos and páthos “sensation, suffering” are derivatives of the complicated verb páschein, all three words showing variants of the Greek root penth-, ponth-, path- “to suffer, experience.” Nepenthe entered English in the 16th century.

    How is nepenthe used?

    There must have been in him a remarkable capacity for forgetfulness; he might seem to have drunk every morning a nepenthe that drowned in oblivion all his yesterdays. Walter Noble Burns, The Saga of Billy the Kid, 1925

    Of course, he was feverish and in great pain, despite the draughts of nepenthe he was given ... Steven Saylor, The House of Vestals, 1992

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, September 02, 2018

    plage

    noun [plahzh]
    a sandy bathing beach at a seashore resort.
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    What is the origin of plage?

    English plage keeps its French pronunciation (more or less), which shows that plage is still not naturalized. French plage is a borrowing of Italian piaggia, which comes from Late Latin plagia “shore, coast.” Latin plagia is a feminine singular noun, a direct borrowing of Greek plágia, a neuter plural noun meaning “sides (of a mountain), flanks (of an army),” from the adjective plágios “oblique, sloping, sideways.” The Latin and Italian nouns refer particularly to Magna Graecia (those areas of southern Italy and Sicily that were colonized by the Greeks from the 8th to the 4th century b.c.), where there were many seacoast resort towns (with beaches). Plage entered English in the 19th century.

    How is plage used?

    The place and the people were all a picture together, a picture that, when they went down to the wide sands, shimmered in a thousand tints, with the pretty organisation of the plage, with the gaiety of spectators and bathers, with that of the language and the weather, and above all with that of our young lady's unprecedented situation. Henry James, What Maisie Knew, 1897

    Sore and breathless, I sat down on one of the benches along the plage. Janice Law, The Prisoner of the Riviera, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 01, 2018

    ultradian

    adjective [uhl-trey-dee-uhn]
    of or relating to a biorhythm having a period of less than 24 hours.
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    What is the origin of ultradian?

    The English adjectives ultradian and circadian are close contemporaries—1961 for ultradian, 1959 for circadian. Both adjectives refer to biological or physiological cycles, ultradian meaning “recurring with a period shorter than a day,” and circadian “recurring with a period of approximately 24 hours.” Both adjectives have similar formations: the Latin prefix ultra- meaning “beyond, on the far side of” and circa meaning “around, about.” The element -dian is formed from the Latin noun diēs “day” and the English adjective suffix -an, from Latin -ānus.

    How is ultradian used?

    Reindeer also ignore the absence of a light-dark cycle during the summer months. Instead, their sleep cycles are governed by ultradian rhythm, which means they sleep whenever they need to digest food. Kimberly Hickok, "How Does the Summer Solstice Affect Animals?" Live Science, June 21, 2018

    They collected records from databases, research articles, field guides and encyclopedias about the behavior of these species, and determined whether their behavior fit into one of five patterns: nocturnal (active at night); diurnal (active in the day); cathemeral (active during both day and night); crepuscular (active only at twilight, around sunrise and sunset); and ultradian (active in cycles of a few hours at a time). Amina Khan, "If you enjoy sleeping at night instead of the day, thank the dinosaurs for going extinct," Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, August 31, 2018

    copse

    noun [kops]
    a thicket of small trees or bushes; a small wood.
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    What is the origin of copse?

    The noun copse, “thicket of small trees grown for periodic felling,” is a shortening of coppice (with the same meaning). Coppice comes from Old French colpeïz, copeïiz, coupeïz "woodland cleared of trees, a cutover," a derivative from an assumed Vulgar Latin verb colpāre "to cut, chop," ultimately from Latin colaphus "a punch (with the fist)," from Greek kólaphos "a slap, blow." Copse entered English in the 16th century.

    How is copse used?

    In the tops of the dark pines at the corner of the copse, could the glance sustain itself to see them, there are finches warming themselves in the sunbeams. Richard Jefferies, "Vignettes from Nature," The Hills and the Vale, 1909

    Between moonrise and sunset I was stumbling through the braken of the little copse that was like a tuft of hair on the brow of the great white quarry. Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, Romance, 1903

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