Word of the Day

Sunday, June 16, 2019

dada

[ dah-dah ]

noun

(sometimes initial capital letter)

the style and techniques of a group of artists, writers, etc., of the early 20th century who exploited accidental and incongruous effects in their work and who programmatically challenged established canons of art, thought, morality, etc.

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What is the origin of dada?

Despite how it sounds, Dada has nothing to do with dads or Father’s Day. It is a reduplication of the familiar, universal baby syllable da, a French reduplication, specifically, chosen as an arbitrary name for the French and German art movement founded in Zurich in 1916, in the middle of World War I, by a group of multinational and multilingual writers, artists, and composers. According to two of Dada’s founders, the word was chosen at random from dada, a headword in a French dictionary, meaning, in baby talk, “horse, hobbyhorse.” The founders were also attracted by the meaninglessness of the two syllables.

how is dada used?

In terms of art, Dada could be said to have had the most wide-ranging post-war impact, a fact which is paradoxical given Dada‘s anti-art inclinations.

David Hopkins, Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction, 2004

… Scramsfield had manufactured enough Dada poetry to fill up the rest of the magazine by copying out random sections of a boiler repair manual into irregular stanzas, knowing that this should be sufficiently confusing to satisfy his patron …

Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident, 2012
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Saturday, June 15, 2019

fruitlet

[ froot-lit ]

noun

Botany.

a small fruit, especially one of those forming an aggregate fruit, as the raspberry.

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What is the origin of fruitlet?

Fruitlet is a perfectly transparent word, used as a technical term in botany. The first syllable, fruit, comes from Old French fruit, a regular development from Latin frūctus “enjoyment, produce, results.” The diminutive suffix –let comes from Middle French –elet, from Latin –āle (the neuter of the adjective suffix –ālis), or from the Latin diminutive suffix –ellus and the Old French noun suffix –et (-ette). Fruitlet entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is fruitlet used?

… in the raspberry the separate fruitlets are all crowded close together into a single united mass, while in the strawberry they are scattered about loosely, and embedded in the soft flesh of the receptacle.

Grant Allen, The Evolutionist at Large, 1881

… the eyes, or diamond fruitlets, on the surface have soft or smooth tips.

Mimi Sheraton, "A Guide to Choosing a Ripe Pineapple," New York Times, April 21, 1982
Friday, June 14, 2019

undulate

[ uhn-juh-leyt, uhn-dyuh-, -duh- ]

verb (used without object)

to move with a sinuous or wavelike motion; display a smooth rising-and-falling or side-to-side alternation of movement: The flag undulates in the breeze.

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What is the origin of undulate?

Something that undulates, as a flag or rhythm, moves side to side or rises and falls like a wave. Indeed, its origin is Latin unda “wave,” via undulātus “waved, wavy,” composed of ula, a diminutive suffix, and –ātus, a past participle suffix. Unda also yields English abound, abundant, inundate, redound, redundant, and surround. Latin unda in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European root wed– “water, wet,” ultimate source of the names of two substances that may cause some to undulate, as it were, on their feet: vodka (via Russian) and whiskey (Irish or Scots Gaelic). Best to stay hydrated, another derivative of wed-, via Greek hýdōr “water.” Undulate entered English in the 1600s.

how is undulate used?

At the end, the national anthem is played, and our flag undulates all day on its very tall mast and unfurls as it ascends majestically.

José de la Luz Sáenz (1888–1953), The World War I Diary of José de la Luz Sáenz, translated by Emilio Zamora with Ben Maya, 2014

There is a strange, dull glow to the east, from the sea; it undulates softly, rotates, like a net that has captured nothing.

Lori Baker, The Glass Ocean, 2013

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