Word of the Day

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

dégringolade

[ dey-gran-gaw-lad ]

noun

a quick deterioration or breakdown, as of a situation or circumstance.

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What is the origin of dégringolade?

The rare noun dégringolade “a quick deterioration or breakdown,” comes unchanged from French. The French noun is a derivative of the verb dégringoler (earlier désgringoler) “to tumble down.” The prefix – (dés-) comes from the Latin prefix dis– “apart, asunder.” The French noun suffix –ade ultimately comes from the Latin past participle suffix –ātus (-āta, –ātum). The verb gringoler may be a borrowing of Middle Dutch crinkelen ”to curl, meander.” Dégringolade entered English by the second half of the 19th century.

how is dégringolade used?

The economically combatant nation entrenched themselves behind tariffs, played each other tricks with loans, repudiations, sudden inflations and deflations, and no power in the world seemed able to bring them into any concerted action to arrest and stop their common degringolade.

H. G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, 1933

What’s more, they believe that things cannot go on as they are: That the trajectory we’re on will end in crisis, disaster, dégringolade.

Ross Douthat, "Pope Francis' Call to Action Goes Beyond the Environment," New York Times, June 20, 2015
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Monday, July 29, 2019

nisus

[ nahy-suhs ]

noun

an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse.

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What is the origin of nisus?

The rare noun nisus, a technical word used in various branches of philosophy and theology, comes directly from Latin nīsus, a derivative of the verb nītī and meaning “a resting of one’s weight on the ground, planting one’s feet firmly, a strong muscular effort, pressure (of forces), an endeavor, strong effort.” Nisus in the sense “effort” first appears at the end of the 17th century in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In later usage nisus simply means “impulse.”

how is nisus used?

The accumulation of wealth into a few hands is the nisus of all bad governments …

"Ireland in 1832," The Metropolitan, Vol. 5, No. 18, October 1832

… in Aristotle’s teleological universe, every human being … has a kind of inner nisus toward a life of at least civic virtue …

Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, 1985
Sunday, July 28, 2019

fulgurant

[ fuhl-gyer-uhnt ]

adjective

flashing like lightning.

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What is the origin of fulgurant?

Fulgurant comes straight from Latin fulgurant-, the inflectional stem of fulgurāns, the present participle of the verb fulgurāre, originally an impersonal and intransitive verb meaning “it lightens,” then becoming personal and applied to Jupiter or the sky, and finally being applied generally (such as to orators) and meaning “to shine, glitter.” There are many Latin words for lightning, e.g., the noun fulmen (from an unrecorded fulgmen), which has its own derivative verb fulmināre (like fulgurāre, originally an impersonal and intransitive verb), whose past participle fulminātus is the source of the English verb fulminate. And its present participle fulmināns (inflectional stem fulminant-) is the source of the uncommon adjective fulminant, which has largely been replaced by fulminating. Fulgurant entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is fulgurant used?

To the left the draw-bridge slowly raised its broken span, the soft edges illumined by fulgurant lights of red and green.

Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

The comedy has to arise from the daily disparities in which the playwright made her nest, from the way an irreverent mutter or a fulgurant non sequitur rends the conventional fabric of existence with a lightninglike tear.

John Simon, "Pathetic and Peripatetic," New York, August 16, 1993

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