Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, January 14, 2021

discombobulate

[ dis-kuhm-bob-yuh-leyt ]

verb (used with object)

to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate.

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What is the origin of discombobulate?

Discombobulate “to confuse, upset, or frustrate” was originally a jocular American coinage from the North Midland U.S. (from Ohio west through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, to Nebraska). Discombobulate is a pseudo-Latinism like absquatulate and confusticate, and based on learned Latin words like disaffiliate or disaggregate, or humorous alterations of discompose or discomfort. The many variant spellings include discombobligate, discombobolate, discomboberate, discombooberate, and discumboblificate. Discombobulate entered English in 1825 in the spelling discomboberated.

how is discombobulate used?

The filmmaking theory seems to be that if you discombobulate viewers with random shifts of the camera perhaps they won’t notice that your U.F.O. show contains no hard evidence of U.F.O.’s.

Neil Genzlinger, "An Alien March Madness: Is There Life in Space?" New York Times, February 28, 2014

On how humankind will cope, I tend to take the long view: new transformative technologies have discombobulated us before and we’ve managed to adapt—to the invention of writing and printing, to living in cities, to the Industrial Revolution and instant communication and automobiles and nuclear technology.

Kurt Andersen, "Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence," Vanity Fair, November 26, 2014

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Word of the day

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

umbrageous

[ uhm-brey-juhs ]

adjective

apt to take offense.

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What is the origin of umbrageous?

Umbrageous has two main senses: “creating or providing shade, shady” and “apt or likely to take offense.” The word comes via French ombrageux “shady; inclined to take offense,” from Latin umbrāticus “(of a person or an activity) living or performed in the shade, secluded, devoted to quiet, impractical pursuits.” Umbrāticus, a derivative adjective and noun of umbra “shadow, shade, reflection, outline,” does not have the senses “shady, providing shade” or “apt or inclined to take offense,” which are senses that English borrowed from 17th-century French. Umbrageous entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is umbrageous used?

… he was quite umbrageous, and his personality lent itself to confrontation.

Chuck Pfarrer, Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country, 2016

Is it possible to spend time with friends whose company I do enjoy without incurring the wrath of the umbrageous?

"Miss Manners: Host needs specific dates for holiday guests," Washington Post, December 6, 2019

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Word of the day

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

bunkum

[ buhng-kuhm ]

noun

insincere talk; claptrap; humbug.

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What is the origin of bunkum?

Bunkum means “insincere talk by a politician” and is an alteration of Buncombe, a county in North Carolina. Bunkum is an all-American word that fittingly enough derives from a debate in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 16th United States Congress (1819-21) during the House debate about the admission of Missouri as a state into the Union. This so-called “Missouri Question” was extremely important, because it dealt with whether Missouri entered the Union as a Free State or Slave State. (Under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Maine was admitted as a Free State, Missouri as a Slave State.) Just before the vote was called, Felix Walker (1753-1828), U.S Representative from North Carolina, began a long, tedious, irrelevant, dull, and exasperating speech. His House colleagues tried to shout him down, but Walker persisted, saying that he was obliged to say something for the newspapers back home to prove that he was doing his job: “I shall not be speaking to the House, but to Buncombe.”

how is bunkum used?

It’s bunkum to suppose we can be touched by tragedies other than our own.

Beryl Bainbridge, Every Man for Himself, 1996

According to the Mail worldview of recent years, dignified British ways are under attack, mauled by vain liberal cosmopolitans, crafty foreigners, and fashionable bunkum.

Tom Rachman, "A Tabloid Changes Course—and Could Change Britain," The Atlantic, July 12, 2018

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