Word of the Day

Saturday, June 01, 2019

disinvent

[ dis-in-vent ]

verb (used with object)

to undo the invention of; to reverse the existence of.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of disinvent?

Disinvent is an obvious compound of the prefix dis-, here having a reversing force, and the verb invent. It is quite rare, first appearing in the second half of the 19th century (for the “disinventing” of the telegraph). In the 20th century disinvent has been applied to the impossibility of “disinventing” nuclear or chemical weapons.

how is disinvent used?

However alarmed we are by those weapons, we cannot disinvent them. The world cannot cancel the knowledge of how to make them. It is an irreversible fact.

Margaret Thatcher, "Disarmament with Security: Towards Peace with Freedom," speech to UN General Assembly, June 23, 1982

A number of science fiction movies have actually had to “disinvent” existing technologies in order to retell the myth of how rebels against “the system” help preserve free and open societies.

Mark Hagerott and Daniel Sarewitz, "A Future in Denial," Slate, July 30, 2013
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Friday, May 31, 2019

persiflage

[ pur-suh-flahzh, pair- ]

noun

light, bantering talk or writing.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of persiflage?

The origin of persiflage all comes down to sound. English persiflage is borrowed from French persiflage, derived from persifler “to banter” and -age, a noun-forming suffix. Persifler combines per-, an intensive prefix meaning “thoroughly,” and siffler “to whistle, hiss.” Siffler in turn comes from Late Latin sīfilāre, from Latin sībilāre, also “to whistle, hiss.” This perfectly expressive verb yields English sibilate “to hiss” and sibilant “hissing,” which, in phonetics, characterizes such sounds as the –s– and –zh– in persiflage. We can well imagine how the teasing repartee, for example, of two sweethearts in a romantic comedy, sizzles with sibilant sounds, but for all the “hissing” of persiflage, its raillery is light and good-natured. Persiflage entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is persiflage used?

He was not an Italian, still less a Frenchman, in whose blood there runs the very spirit of persiflage and of gracious repartee.

E. M. Forster, Howards End, 1910

… when persons of unrestrained wit devote their attention to airy persiflage, much may be included in their points of view.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Head of the House of Coombe, 1922
Thursday, May 30, 2019

foment

[ foh-ment ]

verb

to instigate or foster (discord, rebellion, etc.).

learn about the english language

What is the origin of foment?

English foment ultimately comes from the Latin noun fōmentum “a soothing dressing or compress (hot or cold), a remedy, alleviation.” Fōmentum is a contraction of an earlier, unrecorded fovimentum or fovementum, a derivative of the verb fovēre “to keep warm, protect from the cold, refresh, ease.” The Latin neuter suffix –mentum is used to form concrete nouns from verbs, such as armāmentum “sailing gear, tackle,” from armāre “to fit out with equipment or weapons.” Foment entered English in the 15th century.

how is foment used?

Russian attempts to influence American voters—including ad purchases on social media intended to foment racial division—coexisted with and benefitted from domestic attempts to discourage people from casting a vote.

Jelani Cobb, "The House Takes On America's Voting-Rights Problem," The New Yorker, February 10, 2019

The coordinated attacks, which took place in three Sri Lankan cities and killed more than 300 people, were designed to foment religious strife in a country that has been slowly recovering from a quarter-century-long civil war.

Noam Cohen, "Like Guns, Social Media Is a Weapon That Should Be Regulated," Wired, April 23, 2019

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.