Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

doldrums

[ dohl-druhmz, dol-, dawl- ]

noun

(used with a plural verb)

a state of inactivity or stagnation, as in business or art.

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What is the origin of doldrums?

Doldrums is the plural of doldrum, which had two very early meanings: the plural doldrums meant “a state or period of inactivity or stagnation” (1811), the singular doldrum “a dullard, a slow, stupid person” (1812). The later, sailing sense of doldrum, “a becalmed ship,” dates to 1823, and “a region in which ships are likely to become becalmed” dates to 1855. The etymology of doldrum(s) is difficult: it seems to have originated as a slang term (and slang terms are notoriously difficult to etymologize), possibly from dold “stupid,” originally a past participle of Middle English dollen, dullen “to dull,” or possibly from the adjective dull. The second syllable, –drum, is probably the same as in tantrum, which, unfortunately, has no satisfactory etymology. Doldrum and doldrums entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is doldrums used?

countries in economic doldrums may exit the pandemic more reliant on Chinese capital and markets rather than less so.

Richard Fontaine, "China Has Squandered Its First Great Opportunity," The Atlantic, July 30, 2020

A decade later, amid the doldrums of the 1970s, politicians were starting to worry about the financial implications of government regulations.

Adam Rogers, "How Much Is a Human Life Actually Worth?" Wired, May 11, 2020

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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

scunner

[ skuhn-er ]

noun

an irrational dislike; loathing.

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What is the origin of scunner?

Those who are addicted to the late, great, dearly missed Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series of novels (41 of them!), particularly The Wee Free Men (2003) and its sequels, will be familiar with the Wee Free Men’s constant use of scunner, a term hard to define past “dislike, aversion, or a source of dislike or aversion” (as indefinable as Huck Finn’s fantods). The Wee Free Men are not talking gibberish or nonsense; they are speaking Scots. The verb scunner (also scurnen, skurne) “to shrink back in disgust or fear, quail, hesitate” is first recorded about 1425. Its further history is unknown, but some authorities think it is related to scornen “to despise, be contemptuous, hold in disdain.” Scunner entered English in the 14th century.

how is scunner used?

Many are in search of a copy of A Moveable Feast. This is not always on offer because, for some reason which I can’t remember, Whitman took a scunner to Hemingway.

Alan Massie, "Shakespeare and Company: the bookshop where you could read in bed," Telegraph, December 15, 2011

Ever since my school days I’ve always taken a scunner to businessmen. They’ll do anything for money.

Sōseki Natsume, I Am a Cat, translated by Aiko Ito & Graeme Wilson, 1972

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Word of the day

Monday, October 12, 2020

Indigenous

[ in-dij-uh-nuhs ]

adjective

relating to or being a people who are the original, earliest known inhabitants of a region, or are their descendants.

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What is the origin of Indigenous?

When used in reference to people (the sense we are highlighting today), Indigenous may be capitalized as a sign of respect. A quick glance at indigenous and endogenous shows close relationship in their formation and meaning. Both adjectives mean something like “internally produced, developing from within.” The first element, Latin indi- and Greek endo-, comes from Proto-Indo-European endo, endon “inside, indoors,” perhaps originally “in the house” (Greek éndon, Hittite anda, andan “within”). In Latin, endo, later indu, is an archaic preposition equivalent to the preposition and adverb in, in– “in, into, inside.” The Latin adjectival suffix –genus “born of” is a derivative of the verb gignere “to beget, bring into being, create” (indigena means “a native inhabitant”). Latin –genus is close kin to the Greek suffix –genḗs “born,” from the verb gígnesthai “to become, be born” (endogenḗs means “born in the house”).

how is Indigenous used?

One shelf contained nonfiction, mostly medical reference books and biographies of great Indigenous people.

Darcie Little Badger, Elatsoe, 2020

For Indigenous authors, writing themselves into sci-fi and fantasy narratives isn’t just about gaining visibility within popular genres. It is part of a broader effort to overcome centuries of cultural misrepresentation.

Alexandra Alter,

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