Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

distelfink

[ dis-tl-fingk ]

noun

a stylized bird motif traditional in Pennsylvania German art.

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What is the origin of distelfink?

Distelfink “a stylized bird motif traditional in Pennsylvania German art” is an adaptation of the Pennsylvania Dutch word dischdelfink “goldfinch,” a compound of dischdel “thistle” and fink “finch.” Although it contains the word Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch is in fact a dialect of German, which is why it is also known as Pennsylvania German. A common misconception is that Dutch appears in this dialect’s name as an anglicized form of the German word Deutsch “German,” but in fact, the use of Dutch here reflects an archaic definition in English: “continental Germanic.” Distelfink was first recorded in English in the 1930s.

how is distelfink used?

[T]he distelfink design is said to have evolved from the goldfinch. The Pennsylvania Dutch farmer saw the goldfinch birds on the thistle weeds in his field, pulling the down or fuzz from the thistle to line its nest and eating the seed. Notably, goldfinches usually wait to nest until the thistles are in bloom …. The bird became a recognized symbol of good fortune by eliminating the thistle as a weed in the fields, thus bringing the farmer better luck with his crops and more profit to his pocket.

Ivan E. Hoyt, Hex Signs: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Learning the Craft, 2008

Inside the house a few hornets bumped along the walls and went wobbling across the room. The house was clean and tidy, with a few well-used pieces of furniture, the best of which was a schrank, or wardrobe, made of figured walnut. On one wall hung a framed piece of fraktur art. This fraktur had no brightly colored distelfink, the thistle finch that foretold happiness and good fortune—a common motif, and the one that decorated a painting in the parlor of the house where Gideon had grown up.

Charles Fergus, Nighthawk's Wing: A Gideon Stoltz Mystery, 2021

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Tuesday, January 04, 2022

haphephobia

[ haf-uh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an extreme fear or dislike of touching or being touched.

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What is the origin of haphephobia?

Haphephobia “an extreme fear or dislike of touching or being touched” is a compound of the Ancient Greek noun haphḗ “a touch” and the combining form -phobia “fear,” from Ancient Greek phóbos. Haphḗ is a derivative of the verb háptein “to grasp, sense,” which is also the source of the adjective haptic “of or relating to touch.” Ancient Greek has two letters similar to English P: pi, which represents the “p” sound in spin, and phi, which represents the aspirated “p” sound in pin. Because pi and phi are pronounced similarly, many Greek verbs containing a “p” sound regularly alternate between pi and phi across tenses and forms, which is how the verb háptein, spelled with a pi, leads to the noun form haphḗ, spelled with a phi. Haphephobia was first recorded in English in the early 1890s.

how is haphephobia used?

[T]here was a period of marital sleeping known as staggered shifts …. the period of staggered shifts … in turn gave way to haphephobia … wherein one of the two of them did not want to be touched by the other (and these roles occasionally shifted) and would recoil if touching was introduced. Sometimes this would be the simplest physical interaction of all—in trying to arrange a pillow, one of them briefly made contact. The recoiling was immediate in the eyes of the one touched…

Rick Moody, Hotels of North America, 2015

Pilati, a powerful captain of industry who happens to have haphephobia and dreads being touched, has thrown his support behind Claudia’s campaign to become the town’s first woman mayor. Perhaps Roberto’s time might be better spent tweaking both his surveillance equipment and his home life, and not playing junior crime solver.

Scott Marks, "Netflix’s Security: obscure cameras for writer-director Peter Chelsom," San Diego Reader, June 24, 2021

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Monday, January 03, 2022

perilune

[ per-i-loon ]

noun

the point in a lunar orbit that is nearest to the moon.

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What is the origin of perilune?

Perilune “the point in a lunar orbit that is nearest to the moon” is a compound of the combining form peri- “about, around, near” and the element -lune “moon.” Peri-, from Ancient Greek perí “about, around,” is a common fixture in words related to closeness, such as perimeter and periphery, and in perilune, it is combined with -lune on the pattern of perigee “the point in an orbit that is nearest to the earth” (using Ancient Greek gaîa or “earth”). Unlike perigee, perilune features a Latin-origin element, -lune (from Latin lūna) to mean “moon”; if this element were derived instead from Ancient Greek selḗnē “moon” to better match perigee, we would be saying something like “periselene” instead! Perilune was first recorded in English in the late 1950s.

how is perilune used?

After being tracked for several days the spacecraft would be further slowed so that its perilune, or closest approach, would be reduced to about 28 miles above the lunar surface, which would be the primary altitude for photography. Originally the plan was to make the initial orbit circular at about 575 miles above the lunar surface; the slowing maneuver would put the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit with a perilune of 28 miles and an apolune, or maximum altitude, of 575 miles.

Ellis Levin, Donald D. Viele, and Lowell B. Eldrenkamp, “The Lunar Orbiter Missions to the Moon,” Scientific American, Vol. 218, 1968

Since arriving at the Moon on 4 April, Beresheet has slowly lowered its orbit with a series of engine burns. On Tuesday, it circularized its orbit to an altitude of just 200 kilometers, and following a burn Wednesday, Beresheet dropped the perilune, or low point of its orbit, to just 15 kilometers over its eventual landing site in Mare Serenitatis.

Jason Davis, "Beresheet is about to Land on the Moon," Planetary Society, April 10, 2019

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