Word of the Day

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

donnybrook

[ don-ee-brook ]

noun

(often initial capital letter)

an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all.

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What is the origin of donnybrook?

Donnybrook is the English spelling of the English pronunciation of Irish Domhnach Broc “Church of (St.) Broc.” Domhnach also means “Sunday” in Irish and comes from Latin (Diēs) Dominica “Lord’s (Day).” Little is known of St. Broc, who founded a church in the 8th century at the location of Donnybrook Cemetery in Dublin, Ireland.

In 1204 the English King John (“famous” for the Magna Carta) granted a charter for an annual fair, at first like an American county fair, featuring livestock and produce, but later developing into a carnival, a medieval Irish Coney Island, beset with drunks and brawlers. During the 1790s campaigns against the fair began; prominent citizens purchased the royal charter, and they had the fair shut down in 1866. The Donnybrook Fair grounds are now the Donnybrook Rugby Ground.

Donnybrook entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is donnybrook used?

Now the New York hotel and restaurant workers’ local is threatening a “donnybrook” if it doesn’t get a contract at the Portman.

, "Portman's New Headache," New York, March 22, 1982

On Monday, when the panel conducted a hearing about the Mueller report, there was a partisan donnybrook.

Jeffrey Toobin, "The House Judiciary Committee Considers Antitrust Law, the Tech Giants, and the Future of News," The New Yorker, June 14, 2019
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Monday, August 12, 2019

subitize

[ soo-bi-tahyz ]

verb (used without object)

Psychology.

to make an immediate and accurate reckoning of the number of items in a group or sample without needing to pause and actually count them.

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What is the origin of subitize?

Subitize is a useful word in psychology regardless of the awkwardness of its formation. The first part of the word, subit-, comes from the Late Latin verb subitāre “to come suddenly and unexpectedly upon” (a derivative of the adjective subitus “sudden, abrupt”). The familiar, completely naturalized suffix –ize (“to render, make; convert into; subject to; etc.”) comes via Late Latin –izāre from Greek –ízein.

how is subitize used?

Below five, we’re able to subitize, or rapidly judge numbers of items without counting.

Steph Yin, "Do You Know What Lightning Really Looks Like?" New York Times, June 11, 2018

Getting the computer model to subitize the way humans and animals did was possible, he found, only if he built in “number neurons” tuned to fire with maximum intensity in response to a specific number of objects.

Jim Holt, "Numbers Guy," The New Yorker, February 24, 2008
Sunday, August 11, 2019

utopian

[ yoo-toh-pee-uhn ]

adjective

founded upon or involving idealized perfection.

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What is the origin of utopian?

The English adjective and noun utopian comes from New Latin Ūtopiānus, an adjective derived from the noun Ūtopia, a quasi-Greek noun meaning “no place,” formed from the negative adverb and particle ou “not” (“quasi-Greek” because in Greek ou cannot be used as a prefix for nouns), top-, the stem of the noun tópos “a place,” and the noun suffix –ia (the adjective suffix –ānus is purely Latin). Ūtopia is a coinage of Sir Thomas More’s in his 1516 satire Dē optimō reīpublicae statū dēque novā insulā Ūtopiā (“Concerning the Best State of a Republic [Commonwealth] and Concerning the New Island Utopia”). In English, but not in other languages, the first syllable of Ūtopia rhymes with the prefix eu– (as in Euclid or Eucharist); thus in English there is a confusion between Ūtopia “no place” and Eutopia “good place, a place of happiness and felicity.”

how is utopian used?

For its proponents, it offered a utopian vision of an art world in which color and class barriers were finally dismantled.

Holland Cotter, "Beyond Multiculturalism, Freedom?" New York Times, July 29, 2001

At a time of such social, political and ecological upheaval, it’s natural to dream of a utopian world in which these problems are no more—in fact, people have been doing it for centuries.

Heather Alberro, "Utopia isn't just idealistic fantasy—it inspires people to change the world," The Conversation, June 21, 2019

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