• Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Tuesday, July 09, 2019

    donnish

    adjective [don-ish]
    bookish; pedantic.
    Look it up

    Get to know dictionary.com

    Sign up for our Newsletter!
    Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    What is the origin of donnish?

    The adjective donnish “bookish, pedantic” is a derivative of the Oxbridge term don “a head, fellow, or tutor of a college.” The English noun comes from the Spanish title of respect Don prefixed to a man’s name, as Don Quixote. Spanish don, Portuguese dom ultimately come from Late Latin domnus, a shortening of Latin dominus “lord, master.” Domnus is also the source of Italian Donno, usually reduced to Don, a title of respect for a man, such as Don Corleone. Latin domina “mistress (of a household), lady (of the imperial family)” is the feminine of dominus, and the source of French and English dame, Spanish doña, Portuguese dona, and Italian donna “woman, lady of the house” and Madonna, literally “my lady,” not only a title of the Virgin Mary, but also a respectful form of address equivalent to French madame. In medieval Florence Madonna was shortened to Mona “Ma’am,” an informal but respectful title for a married woman, such as Mona Lisa. In the Neapolitan dialect (and other southern Italian dialects), intervocalic d becomes r, Madonna thereby becoming Maronna, the final a falling away, leaving the interjection Maronn’, a cry of exasperation. Donna has become a female given name in some parts of the United States with large Italian American populations. Donnish entered English in the early 19th century.

    How is donnish used?

    Sir Richard was not exactly donnish, but there was an element of the academic in what seemed otherwise to be a traditional, bird-slaughtering, upper-rank Englishman. John Malcolm, The Gwen John Sculpture, 1985

    ... [William Safire] founded our On Language column in February 1979 and proceeded to write tens of thousands of words about phrases (fashionable and not), usages (proper and not), roots (definitive and not) and his own donnish taste — not! ... Gerald Marzorati, "On Language with Ben Zimmer," New York Times, March 16, 2010

    Get to know dictionary.com

    Sign up for our Newsletter!
    Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Monday, July 08, 2019

    caducity

    noun [kuh-doo-si-tee, -dyoo-]
    frailty; transitoriness: the caducity of life.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of caducity?

    Caducity is an uncommon noun meaning “frailty, weakness of old age.” It comes from French caducité “obsolescence, cancellation,” a derivation of the adjective caduc “obsolete, deciduous,” from the Latin adjective cadūcus “fallen, falling, liable to fall, frail, fleeting.” Caducity entered English in the 17th century.

    How is caducity used?

    What remains, the point of the passion, is a fascination with caducity and the relationship of photography to it. Leslie Epstein, "Stories and Something Else," New York Times, February 14, 1982

    A man ... to whom, and to whose colleagues, amid the perishable caducity of human affairs, is largely due the pullulation of literary taste .... Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop, 1919

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Sunday, July 07, 2019

    everywhen

    adverb [ev-ree-hwen, -wen]
    all the time; always.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of everywhen?

    Everywhen “at all times, always” usually appears in the phrase “everywhere and everywhen.” The word dates from the mid-17th century, but it has never really caught on.

    How is everywhen used?

    ... the Doctor's time and space machine gives him limitless opportunities to travel everywhere and everywhen—a freedom most of us would love to possess. Kevin S. Decker, "The Ethics of the Last of the Time Lords," Doctor Who and Philosophy, 2010

    Time stood still (that moment was eternal) and it was placeless (ubiquitous, everywhere and everywhen). Roy Bhaskar, The Philosophy of MetaReality, 2002

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Saturday, July 06, 2019

    ansa

    noun [an-suh]
    either of the apparent extremities of the rings of Saturn or of other planets, especially when viewed from a distance under certain conditions, when they look like two handles.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of ansa?

    English ansa comes via French anse “handle” from Latin ānsa “handle (of a cup, a door), a loop, an opening, an opportunity.” As a term in art history or archaeology, ansa means “an incised, decorated handle of a vase.” The astronomical sense “one of the apparent extremities of the rings of Saturn or other celestial bodies” is a New Latin sense dating from the 17th century. Latin ānsa is akin to Old Prussian ansis “hook, kettle-hook” and Lithuanian ąsà “pot handle.”

    How is ansa used?

    A distinct dark patch, like a notch, visible near the middle of the ansa, broadest on the face of ring, and extending nearly from the inner to outer edge. Thomas Gwyn Elger, "Physical Observations of Saturn in 1888," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 48, 1888

    The moon Epimetheus can be seen near Saturn, just above the right ansa, or the portion of the ring that appears farthest away from the planet's disk in the image. Jeanna Bryner, "Spectacular Saturn Images by 'Amateurs' Will Make Your Jaw Drop," Space.comSeptember 18, 2017

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Friday, July 05, 2019

    thalassic

    adjective [thuh-las-ik]
    of or relating to seas and oceans.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of thalassic?

    Thalassic “pertaining to seas or oceans, growing or found in the sea” is a relatively rare technical term used in oceanography, usually applied to bodies of salt water such as gulfs or bays that are smaller than oceans. The adjective comes ultimately from the Greek noun thálassa, thálatta “sea, the sea, the Mediterranean Sea.” Thálassa has no reliable etymology but is from the same pre-Greek language that gave Greek an alternative form to thálassa, thálatta, namely, dalánkha, recorded only once, in a dictionary of the 5th century a.d. Early in “Telemachus,” the first chapter of Ulysses, the irrepressible Malachi “Buck” Mulligan tries to convert a sullen Stephen Dedalus from Catholicism to Hellenism: “Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks…. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta!” But Buck’s Hellenism is as shallow as everything else about him: he would have seen thalatta thalatta in his second or third semester of high school Greek in Book 4, Chapter 7 of the Anabasis of Xenophon, whose works were much read as school texts because of the simplicity of his style. The word thalassic entered English in the mid-18th century.

    How is thalassic used?

    I, recalling the crimson chamber in his castle, speculated upon his living arrangements in thalassic caverns I could scarcely conceive. Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun, 1987

    He was sure something would come from the deeps to attack the fleet. There were old thalassic Instrumentalities uglier than any revenants stirring ashore. Glen Cook, Lord of the Silent Kingdom, 2007

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Thursday, July 04, 2019

    John Hancock

    noun [jon han-kok]
    a person's signature: Put your John Hancock on this check.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of John Hancock?

    John Hancock (1737–93) was a prominent American patriot, statesman, and merchant, mostly unknown today except for his magnificent signature. Hancock served as president of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia when the Declaration of Independence was approved (not signed) on July 4, 1776. Hancock’s signature on the Declaration became an American colloquialism for a personal signature in the mid-19th century.

    How is John Hancock used?

    Let's sign the contract right now.… Put down your John Hancock, and begin to draw the ole salary from this minute, with a month's vacation pay! Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth, 1929

    "Handwriting can, does, and often will change due to moods, major life changes, and stress," McKnight says, adding that pregnancy can affect your John Hancock, too. Elizabeth Narins, "Did Pregnancy Change Meghan Markle's Signature?" Cosmopolitan, October 22, 2018

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Wednesday, July 03, 2019

    paradisiacal

    adjective [par-uh-di-sahy-uh-kuhl, -zahy-]
    of, like, or befitting paradise.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of paradisiacal?

    Paradisiacal comes from the Late Latin adjective paradīsiacus “pertaining to heaven, pertaining to the Garden of Eden,” a word appearing only in Christian authors. Paradīsiacus is a derivative of the noun paradīsus “a park,” and in Christian authors, “paradise.” Paradīsus is a borrowing of the Greek noun parádeisos, which first appears in the works of the Athenian historian and essayist Xenophon (c430-350 b.c.), meaning “enclosed park or pleasure ground with animals (for hunting),” and always referring to the grounds of Persian kings and nobles. In later authors parádeisos simply meant “garden, orchard.” By the time of the Septuagint (the oldest Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.c.), parádeisos referred to the Garden of Eden (as in Genesis 2:8). In the Gospels parádeisos means “the abode of the blessed, heaven.” Parádeisos is a Greek borrowing from Avestan pairidaēza “enclosure,” literally “walled around.” (Avestan is the ancient East Iranian language of the Zoroastrian scriptures.) Paradisiacal entered English in the 17th century.

    How is paradisiacal used?

    ... the proximity to the Tols, a range of inland mountains, created otherworldly climates which were sometimes paradisiacal, sometimes demoniacal, always one extreme or the other. Stephen Marche, Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, 2007

    Unlike our paradisiacal, blue-and-white Earth, the moon has no atmosphere and no real sky—just gray dust and black space, such that color photographs from moonwalks appear mostly black and white, as though someone colorized the American flags after the fact. Elisa Gabbert, "NASA's Overlooked Duty to Look Inward," The New Yorker, December 21, 2016

    Previous Day Load More
Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.