Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, March 09, 2018

demonym

[ dem-uh-nim ]

noun

the name used for the people who live in a particular country, state, or other locality: Two demonyms for the residents of Michigan are Michigander and Michiganian.

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What is the origin of demonym?

The noun demonym is clearly from Greek dêmos “people, common people, common soldiery (as opposed to officers), popular government, democracy, district, country, land.” The second part of the word comes from Greek dialect (Doric, Aeolic) ónyma, a variant of ónoma “name” (the Attic and Ionic dialectal form) and is very common in compounds like antonym and pseudonym. Demonym entered English in the late 20th century.

how is demonym used?

The word “Hoosier,” which today is the demonym used to describe people from the state of Indiana, is a mystery nearing its second century. It is one of the best-known irregular demonyms for American states, along with “Yankee,” referring to someone from New York (and sometimes expanded from that into the entire Northeast), and “Buckeye,” which refers to someone from Ohio.

Dan Nosowitz, "The Unsolvable Mystery of the Word 'Hoosier'," Atlas Obscura, August 22, 2017

Shafik turns his thoughts back to the archaic demonym, Shawam, singular Shami, which is what the native Egyptians called people from a certain part of the Fertile Crescent.

Alain Farah, "Life of the Father," Granta, 141: Canada, November 9, 2017
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Word of the day

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Minerva

[ mi-nur-vuh ]

noun

a woman of great wisdom.

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What is the origin of Minerva?

The Roman goddess Minerva is so completely identified with the Greek goddess Athena that it is difficult to discern what is “native” to Minerva. Minerva (earlier Latin spelling Menerva) was a native Italian goddess of handicrafts (hence easily identified with Athena in that respect). The name Minerva (Menerva) may be of Indo-European origin, from the root men- “to think, bear in mind,” source of English mind, Latin meminī “I remember,” and Greek Méntōr, a proper name meaning “adviser.” The original Latin name will have been Meneswā “intelligent, wise (woman),” related to Sanskrit manasvin “wise” and Manasvinī, the name of the mother of the moon. Alternatively, Meneswā may mean “woman who measures (the phases of the moon),” from the Proto-Indo-European root mē- “to measure,” source of English meal (a Germanic word), as in piecemeal, measure (from Latin), and Greek metron “measure,” the source of the English suffix -meter, among other words. Minerva as the name of the goddess entered English in the Old English period; the sense “wise woman” dates from the late 18th century.

how is Minerva used?

God, it seems like I’ll always have a Minerva by my side being a better person than I am.

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies, 1994

The notion of such a Minerva as this, whom I saw in public places now and then, surrounded by swarms of needy abbés and schoolmasters, who flattered her, frightened me for some time, and I had not the least desire to make her acquaintance.

William Makepeace Thackeray, "The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century," Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Volume XXX, July to December, 1844

Word of the day

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

benighted

[ bih-nahy-tid ]

adjective

intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened: benighted ages of barbarism and superstition.

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What is the origin of benighted?

Benighted originally meant, in the 16th century, “overtaken by darkness before one has reached home, lodging, or safety.” Its only modern sense, “intellectually or morally ignorant,” dates from the 17th century.

how is benighted used?

Beyond that, the continued association of pregnancy with sickness perpetuates the benighted notion of childbearing as a threat to ordinary human experience when many would argue that it is the singular manifestation of it.

Ginia Bellafante, "Paid Parental Leave, Except for Most Who Need It," New York Times, December 1, 2017

… it is difficult to have a reasonable conversation with someone who makes no secret about the fact that he thinks you are both benighted and stupid.

Bruce Franzese, "The Conversation," The Atlantic, November 2017

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