Word of the Day

Monday, November 09, 2020

duplicitous

[ doo-plis-i-tuhs, dyoo- ]

adjective

marked or characterized by deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of duplicitous?

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another” (Iliad, book 9) is one man’s reaction to duplicity. That man is Achilles, and he is talking about his lord Agamemnon, but Achilles is addressing Odysseus, who himself knows a trick or two about cunning speech. Duplicitous “deceitful in word or deed, as by behaving in different ways with different people about the same affair” is a derivative of the noun duplicity, ultimately from a noun of Latin origin, duplicitās (stem duplicitāt-), formed from the adjective duplex (stem duplic-) “twofold, double, folded double; deceitful.” Duplex is a compound of duo “two” and the Latin adjective suffix –plex (stem –plic-), which has the same function (and same Proto-Indo-European origin) as the English suffix –fold (as in twofold). The first recorded meaning of duplicitous in English is in U.S. law: “including two or more offenses in one count, or charge, as part of an indictment, thus violating the requirement that each count contain only a single offense”; the more common meaning “deceitful” occurs in the late 1950s. Duplicitous entered English in the early 1890s.

how is duplicitous used?

Cambridge Analytica obtained user data through duplicitous means, but similar data sets are widely and legally available; micro-targeting is commonplace on nearly all political campaigns.

Brian Barth, "Big Tech's Big Defector," The New Yorker, November 25, 2019

Rather, like his own duplicitous identity, Twain’s texts are double-voiced, both in form and in their equivocal stances toward freedom.

Lawrence Howe, "Catching Mark Twain's Drift," Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority, 1998

Listen to the word of the day

duplicitous

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
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.
Sunday, November 08, 2020

satisfice

[ sat-is-fahys ]

verb (used without object)

to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option that one comes across.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of satisfice?

It is easiest to take the verb satisfice, “to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option, select or pursue the minimum satisfactory result” as a blend of satis(fy) and (suf)fice. Satisfice contrasts with optimize, “to make as effective or useful as possible; make the best of.” A quote from the International New York Times shows this usage well: “Big business executives don’t really try to maximize profits but ‘satisfice’—that is, they try to make enough profit to keep stockholders and boards of directors happy without bringing the wrath of government regulators, consumer groups or business competitors down on them.” Satisfice, originally a northern English colloquialism, entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is satisfice used?

In the real world, neither people nor firms maximize utility. … What firms do instead is “satisfice,” to use Simon’s term: they content themselves with results that are “good enough.”

Christopher Caldwell, "Select All," The New Yorker, February 23, 2004

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. A person can maximize when it comes to some decisions and satisfice on others.

Elizabeth Bernstein, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2014

Listen to the word of the day

satisfice

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, November 07, 2020

ex libris

[ eks -lee-bris, lahy- ]

an inscription in or on a book, to indicate the owner; bookplate.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of ex libris?

Ex libris is a Latin prepositional phrase meaning “out of, from the books (of).” The phrase is composed of the preposition ex “out, out of” (it governs the ablative case), and librīs, the ablative plural of liber (stem libr-) “book,” whose original Latin meaning was and always remained “inner bark of a tree, rind, bast.” Liber comes from an unrecorded Latin luber or lubros, from lubh-, one of the variants of the Proto-Indo-European root leubh-, loubh– (also leub-, leup-) “to peel, peel off.” Leubh– regularly becomes laub– in the Germanic languages, as in Gothic laufs, Old English lēaf “leaf” (from Germanic laufaz). Loubh– forms Lithuanian lubà “board” and lúobas “bark,” and Albanian labë “rind, cork.” The Latin preposition ex comes from Proto-Indo-European eghs “out, out of,” becoming Greek ex, Old Irish ess-, ass-, Welsh eh-, Gaulish ex– (Gaulish is an extinct Celtic language of ancient Gaul), and Old Prussian es(teinu) “from (now on).” Ex libris entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is ex libris used?

[Bookstores] do sell objects imbued with history: a former owner’s ex libris, an inscribed dedication from an unknown well-wisher, an occasional sales receipt used as a bookmark.

Michael Williams, "Like Baseball Cards, but for Funerals," The Atlantic, February 4, 2016

What interested me wasn’t the title or the author but the ex-libris pasted to the inside cover. It incorporated a coat of arms, a motto … and a name engraved beneath in a heavy Gothic script: Anton Schwarz von Steiner.

Ross King, Ex Libris, 1998

Listen to the word of the day

ex libris

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Friday, November 06, 2020

garboil

[ gahr-boil ]

noun

Archaic.

confusion.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of garboil?

Garboil is the perfect word: it sounds exactly like its meaning, “confusion.” Garboil comes via Middle French garbouille (16th century) “confused mess,” whose further etymology is uncertain. Italian has garbuglio, charbuglio (15th century) “confused mess,” but etymologists are not convinced. Past that lies confusion: garboil has been associated with garble “to confuse, jumble”; no one is happy with that, either. Garboil entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is garboil used?

Assuring your grace, that being this country in such garboil as it is, I would be loath to adventure to go to my Lord of Angus with any conduct that he would appoint me, unless the king’s pleasure be that I shall so do.

Sir Ralph Sadler, Sir Ralph Sadler to Lord of Suffolk, November 29, 1543, in Letters and Negotiations of Sir Ralph Sadler, 1720

The trolley officials of the Auburn & Syracuse Electric R. R. and the motormen and the conductors are still in a garboil over the final settlement of a wage increase demand despite the fact that several conferences have been held between them but each with little success …

"Officials and Carmen Still Clinch," The Cayuga Chief, April 23, 1920

Listen to the word of the day

garboil

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, November 05, 2020

perfervid

[ per-fur-vid ]

adjective

very fervent; extremely ardent; impassioned.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of perfervid?

The English adjective perfervid comes from New Latin perfervidus. Perfervidus does not in fact occur in earlier Latin even though it is formed perfectly properly: The usual Latin adjective, not common, is praefervidus. The root word of perfervidus (and praefervidus) is the adjective fervidus, which by itself already means “scalding hot, burning” even without a prefix. Fervidus is a derivative of the verb fervēre “to boil,” a Latin derivative of the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root bh(e)reu-, bh(e)ru “to boil, bubble.” This root also has a reduced form bher– that is extended by a w-suffix, thus bherw-, the exact source of fervēre. The variant bherw– is also the source of Middle Irish berbaim “I cook, boil,” Welsh berwi “to seethe, simmer.” The prefixes prae– and per– are frequently used as intensifiers of adjectives and verbs: Latin has percārus “very dear,” performāre “to form thoroughly,” and praeclārus “very famous.” Greek offers the spectacular example in the proper name Periklês “very famous,” from the preposition, adverb, and intensive prefix peri, and –klês, from –kléēs, from –kléwēs, a derivative of the noun kléos, also kléwos “glory.” Perfervid entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is perfervid used?

The fate of The Thorn Birds will certainly not hang on literary merit. With the broadest strokes and the most perfervid prose, the novel traces three generations of the Cleary family ….

Paul Gray, "Shaking the Money Tree," Time, May 9, 1977

But you have to watch Eileen. She sees things through the haze of a rather perfervid imagination. She sees this house, I’m sure, as it ought to be and Mrs. Wardell as a sort of Gainsborough duchess. She won’t see the show-off. The bad proportions of the hall. The excess of. glass in the chandelier.

Louis Auchincloss, The Great World and Timothy Colt, 1956

Listen to the word of the day

perfervid

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, November 04, 2020

tarriance

[ tar-ee-uhns ]

noun

Archaic.

delay.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of tarriance?

Tarriance “delay,” a derivative of the fairly common verb tarry and the familiar noun suffix –ance, first appears in Middle English in the first half of the 15th century. In case you were longing for the Middle Ages, when everything was slow, easy, and laid-back, one of the first citations of tarriance comes from the Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls (1430) and reads “William shall paye to..Robt..without tariance..x li,” i.e., ten pounds, a very considerable sum. Tarriance in the sense of “temporary stay, sojourn” does not appear till the first half of the 16th century.

how is tarriance used?

Come, answer not, but to it presently; I am impatient of my tarriance.

William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1623

After much tarriance, much debate, / The good gods leave them to their fate.

Susan Coolidge, "The Legend of Kintu," Verses, 1880

Listen to the word of the day

tarriance

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, November 03, 2020

public-spirited

[ puhb-lik-spir-i-tid ]

adjective

having or showing an unselfish interest in the public welfare.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of public-spirited?

Public-spirited first appears about 1646, right in the middle of the first (of three) English Civil Wars. The term has been used by many esteemed writers including Edmund Burke, Charles Dickens, and the admirable Jane Addams, who founded Hull House in Chicago (1899) and won the Nobel Peace Prize (1931).

how is public-spirited used?

Through the efforts of public-spirited citizens a medical clinic and a Psychopathic Institute have become associated with the Juvenile Court of Chicago ….

Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House, 1910

The hopes of the decade that had begun with John Kennedy’s call for a mix of public-spirited idealism and Cold War realism unraveled as the year wore on.

Jon Meacham, "What the Tumultuous Year 1968 Can Teach Us About Today," New York Times, October 24, 2020

Listen to the word of the day

public-spirited

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

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.