Word of the Day

Sunday, February 21, 2021

decussate

[ verb dih-kuhs-eyt, dek-uh-seyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to cross in the form of an X; intersect.

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What is the origin of decussate?

The verb decussate “to cross in the form of an X; intersect,” comes from Latin decussāt-, the inflectional stem of decussātus, the past participle of the verb decussāre “to mark with a cross or an X.” Decussāre is a derivative of the noun decussis “a bronze ten-piece coin; the number ten, a decade; an X-shaped mark” (X was the Latin symbol for 10). Decussis is a reduced form of decem “ten” and as (also assis) “a copper coin or monetary unit; a penny.” Decussate entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is decussate used?

So if you decide you want to move your right arm, or your right leg, the signal would leave the motor cortex of the left hemisphere, travel down towards your brainstem, and then at the level of the medulla, it would decussate, or cross over to the right side of the brainstem, and then continue into your spinal cord.

Jason G. Goldman, "Ask a Scienceblogger: Sensation and Perception Basics," Scientific American, June 30, 2010

the leaf-stalks of the second pair decussate with those of the first, and are just so much longer as to bring up that pair nearly, or quite, to a level with the first …

Sir John Lubbock, "On Leaves," Popular Science Monthly, July 1885

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

pharaonic

[ fair-ey-on-ik, far- ]

adjective

impressively or overwhelmingly large, luxurious, etc.

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What is the origin of pharaonic?

The adjective pharaonic, “pertaining to or like a Pharaoh; impressively or overwhelmingly large,” is a derivative of the noun Pharaoh. Pharaoh comes via Late Latin Pharaō (inflectional stem Pharaōn-) from Greek Pharaṓ (inflectional stem Pharaōn-), from Hebrew parʿō, from Egyptian prʿʾ (probably pronounced like the Hebrew parʿō) “great house” (the order is the noun pr-, then the adjective ʿʾ). In Egyptian pr-ʿʾ was not the name of a Pharaoh, but the name of a Pharaoh’s (palatial) residence, very like our own “The White House.” Pharaonic entered English toward the end of the 18th century.

how is pharaonic used?

He retired in 2017 to devote himself to new projects, notably raising funds for a somewhat pharaonic museum dedicated to East Africa’s ecology and its status as a birthplace of prehistoric man.

Jon Lee Anderson, "A Kenyan Ecologist's Crusade to Save Her Country's Wildlife," The New Yorker, January 25, 2021

A teapot bunker retails for just shy of $40,000; a more pharaonic model, complete with swimming pool and hot tub, bowling alley, and home theater, goes for $8 million.

Annie Lowrey, "The Bunker Magnates Hate to Say They Told You So," The Atlantic, September 15, 2020

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Friday, February 19, 2021

snollygoster

[ snol-ee-gos-ter ]

noun

a clever, unscrupulous person.

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What is the origin of snollygoster?

Snollygoster “a clever, unscrupulous person,” is an American slang term that first appears in print in 1845 in Marion County, Indiana. As with many, if not most slang terms, there is no reliable etymology for the word. Some authorities have suggested that snollygoster is a variant of snallygaster, a mythical monster that preys on poultry and children and is supposedly found in Maryland, but the earliest citation for snallygaster is 1940, nearly a century after snollygoster.

how is snollygoster used?

But the people will awaken, and all that will be left of the snollygoster will be an unsavory blotch on the history of American politics.

Fred L. Carr, "College Record," North Carolina University Magazine, November 1893

President Reagan has done for succotash what President Truman did for snollygoster: put the spotlight of pitiless publicity on an obscure Americanism.

William Safire, "The Meaning of Depression," New York Times, April 11, 1982

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