Word of the Day

Monday, November 11, 2019

devoir

[ duh-vwahr, dev-wahr; French duh-vwar ]

noun

something for which a person is responsible; duty.

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What is the origin of devoir?

Devoir “something for which a person is responsible; duty” is an archaic word commonly found in the construction to do one’s devoir, as in, “She did her devoir as queen to ensure peace in the kingdom.” While its spelling and pronunciation have varied since it was recorded in Middle English (by the 1300s), devoir is ultimately from Old French devoir, from Latin dēbēre “to owe,” source of English debt. Devoir also appeared in the Middle English phrase putten in devoir “to make an effort, assume responsibility.” This phrase produced the verb endeveren, which became endeavor.

how is devoir used?

Mightily he strove to do his devoir in the field, for the fairer service and honour of his lord.

Wace, Roman de Brut (1155), translated by Eugene Mason, 1912
[He] commanded the herald to stand forth and do his devoir.

Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, 1819
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Sunday, November 10, 2019

cucullate

[ kyoo-kuh-leyt, kyoo-kuhl-eyt ]

adjective

resembling a cowl or hood.

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What is the origin of cucullate?

While cucullate may sound like it refers to the call of some bird, it actually means “resembling a cowl or hood,” an adjective emerging in the late 1700s, used especially to describe the shape of petals, sepals, leaves, etc. Cucullate derives from Latin Latin cucullātus “having a hood,” based on cucullus “covering, hood, cowl.” Cowl, the hooded garment worn by monks, also ultimately comes from Latin cucullus.

how is cucullate used?

The proximal portion of such “cucullate” petals may be hood-shaped and then forms a chamber enclosing the anthers.

C. Bayer and K. Kubitzki, "Malvaceae," The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, Vol. 5, 2003

Transplantation experiments in Norway showed that when the normal form was moved to a quieter site it grew a new blade that was cucullate in form.

Colin Little and J. A. Kitching, The Biology of Rocky Shores, 1996
Saturday, November 09, 2019

strepitous

[ strep-i-tuhs ]

adjective

boisterous; noisy.

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What is the origin of strepitous?

Strepitous comes from Latin strepitus “noise,” from strepere “to make noise, rattle, clatter.” Strepere also yields (through the verb obstrepere “to make noise at”) the Latin adjective obstreperus “clamorous.” Obstreperus is the source of a more familiar synonym for strepitous: obstreperous. Strepitous entered English in the late 1600s.

how is strepitous used?

The New Orleans-based songwriter … leans into more explicitly gospel territory here, letting his strepitous guitar take a backseat to an upright-piano melody and choral harmonies.

Rachel Horn, "Songs We Love: Benjamin Booker, 'Witness (Feat. Mavis Staples)'," NPR, March 9, 2017

The fair in its last years degenerated into the usual thing we understand nowadays as a fair: … a gaudy and strepitous saturnalia of roundabouts and mountebanks.

Charles G. Harper, The Old Inns of Old England, Vol. 1, 1906

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