Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

deipnosophist

[ dahyp-nos-uh-fist ]

noun

a person who is an adept conversationalist at a meal.

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What is the origin of deipnosophist?

No dinner party is complete without a deipnosophist “a person who is an adept conversationalist at a meal.” This is the type of person who, at least as dictionary editors hope, regales fellow feasters with the origin of such an intriguing word as deipnosophist. Deipnosophist is based on Deipnosophistaí, the title of a literary work by Athenaeus, a Greek philosopher and rhetorician writing in Naucratis, Egypt, in the late 200s a.d. Deipnosophistaí is the plural of deipnosophistḗs, literally “an expert in the affairs of the kitchen,” and the work features a banquet where learned men discuss food and a wide range of other topics. Deipnosophistḗs is formed on Greek deîpnon “meal, dinner” and sophistḗs “expert, wise person.” Sophistḗs is the source of English sophist, which historically refers to a type of professional teacher in ancient Greece and later, a person who argues cleverly but speciously. Sophistḗs is related to Greek sophía “skill, wisdom,” source of the –sophy in philosophy. Deipnosophist is recorded in English by the 1600s.

how is deipnosophist used?

Mr. MacPherson, a self-described “deipnosophist” (a fancy word for an adept dinner conversationalist), said the hearth is a good place to start for putting guests at ease.

Rima Suqi, "Tending the Hearth," New York Times, March 18, 2009

Its author, one Upton Uxbridge Underwood (1881—1937), was a deipnosophist, clubman, and literary miscellanist with a special interest in tonsorial subjects.

Gilbert Alter-Gilbert, Commentary on Poets Ranked by Beard Weight: The Commemorative Edition, 2011
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Word of the day

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

tintinnabulation

[ tin-ti-nab-yuh-ley-shuhn ]

noun

the ringing or sound of bells.

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What is the origin of tintinnabulation?

Tintinnabulation is a fittingly tuneful term meaning “the ringing or sound of bells.” This noun was notably sounded by Edgar Allan Poe in his 1849 poem “The Bells”: “Keeping time … / To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells / From the bells, bells, bells, bells …” English tintinnabulation is formed on Latin tintinnābulum “bell.” Tintinnābulum is composed of –bulum, a suffix that indicates agency, and tintinnāre “to ring,” a verb that apparently imitates the sound of jingling bells. And, if you can’t get rid of that ringing in your ears? You may have what medicine calls tinnitus “a ringing or similar sensation of sound in the ears.” Tinnitus is ultimately from a Latin verb related to tintinnāre: tinnīre “to ring, tinkle.” Tintinnabulation entered English in the early 1800s.

how is tintinnabulation used?

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells / From the bells, bells, bells, bells / bells, bells, bells— / From the jingling and tinkling of the bells.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Bells," Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art, November 1849

I walked as fast as possible on one shoe toward the far-off tintinnabulation of the bells.

Jim Harrison, Dalva, 1988

Word of the day

Monday, December 16, 2019

welter

[ wel-ter ]

noun

a confused mass; a jumble or muddle: a welter of anxious faces.

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What is the origin of welter?

The noun welter “confused mass; a jumble or muddle” develops from the verb welter “to roll, toss; writhe, tumble about.” Found in English by the 1300s, the verb welter is a form of Middle English welten, Old English weltan “to roll,” cognate with Middle Dutch welteren and Low German weltern “to roll.” The specific form welter is known as a frequentative, which is a verb that expresses repetitive action, indicated by the suffix –er, as seen in such other verbs as flicker or shudder. Welter, then, has the meaning of rolling over again and again, as waves heaving in the sea or pigs wallowing in the mud, which gave rise to its noun senses, such as “confused mass.” The noun welter is first recorded in English in the late 1500s.

how is welter used?

What traitors books can be! … Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 1953
[The pilot] would be expected to know what to do within seconds if a system he didn’t know existed set off a welter of cockpit alerts and forced the plane downward.

Alec MacGillis, "The Case Against Boeing," The New Yorker, November 11, 2019

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