Word of the Day

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter egg

[ ee-ster eg ]

noun

a hidden message, as a cryptic reference, iconic image, or inside joke, that fans are intended to discover in a television show or movie.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of Easter egg?

Easter egg, in the sense “a hidden message, reference, or inside joke that fans are intended to discover in a piece of software, television show, or movie,” is meant to invoke the traditional Easter egg hunt and dates from the mid-1980s. The original sense of Easter egg dates from the 16th century.

how is Easter egg used?

Peele, who also wrote the film, also packed his film with funny, bizarre, and meaningful Easter eggs and references.

Yohana Desta, "5 Chilling Things You Didn't Notice About Get Out the First Time Around," Vanity Fair, March 6, 2017

Wade is one of the many, likely millions, who take part in a new game for earnest stakes: a competition to find three Easter eggs, or embedded tricks, in a virtual game.

Richard Brody, "Steven Spielberg's Oblivious, Chilling Pop-Culture Nostalgia in 'Ready Player One'," The New Yorker, April 2, 2018

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Saturday, April 20, 2019

exodus

[ ek-suh-duhs ]

noun

a going out; a departure or emigration, usually of a large number of people: the summer exodus to the country and shore.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of exodus?

Exodus dates from Old English times: the English abbot and scholar Aelfric Grammaticus (“Aelfric the Grammarian,” c955–c1020) writes the sentence sēo ōther bōc is Exodus gehāten “The second book (of the Bible) is called Exodus.” The Old English noun comes straight from Latin Latin exodus, a direct borrowing of Greek éxodos “a going out, a march, military expedition.” Éxodos is the Greek title, not a translation, of the opening words of the Hebrew text, wě ʾēlleh shěmōth “And these (are) the names.”

how is exodus used?

The California exodus has been far more significant in the more lightly populated states of the West, where people born in California now represent a huge share of the population.

Nate Cohn, "The California Exodus," New York Times, August 14, 2014

Signs point to an exodus. A study published earlier this month suggests that senior civil servants leave in droves during the first year of a new administration.

Andrew McGill, "The Coming Exodus of Career Civil Servants," The Atlantic, December 28, 2016
Friday, April 19, 2019

yealing

[ yee-lin ]

noun

Scot.

a person of the same age as oneself.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of yealing?

Yealing “a contemporary, a coeval” is a word of uncertain etymology, used by only three Scottish poets: Allan Ramsay (1686–1758), Robert Burns (1759–1796), and Robert Couper (1750–1818). Yealing entered English in the 18th century.

how is yealing used?

Oh ye, my dear-remember’d ancient yealings, / Were ye but here to share my wounded feelings!

Robert Burns, "The Brigs of Ayr," Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Edinburgh Edition, 1787

His bonny, various, yeelin‘ frien’s / Cam a’ in bourrochs there ….

Robert Couper, "Macguldrochiana," Poetry Chiefly in the Scottish Language, 1804
Thursday, April 18, 2019

facultative

[ fak-uhl-tey-tiv ]

adjective

left to one's option or choice; optional: The last questions in the examination were facultative.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of facultative?

The adjective facultative comes via the French adjective facultatif (masculine), facultative (feminine) “conveying or granting a right or power,” from the noun faculté “knowledge, learning, physical or moral capacity.” French faculté is ultimately from Latin facultāt-, the stem of facultās “ability, power, capacity” (originally a doublet of the noun facilitās “ease, ease of performance or completion, facility”). The French adjective suffix –atif, –ative comes from the Latin suffix –ātivus; the English suffix –ative comes from both French and Latin. Facultative entered English in the 19th century.

how is facultative used?

I cannot but be conscious, when this toast of “Science and Literature” is given, that in what tends to become the popular view it is Sir William Grove and Science who are obligatory; it is I and Literature who are facultative.

Matthew Arnold, "Banquet at the Royal Academy," The Times, May 2, 1881

From the facultative point of view, Poe thinks of poetry as a rhythmic and musical use of language which is the province of Taste alone, and which aspires to Beauty.

Richard Wilbur, "Terror Wasn't His Only Talent," New York Times, September 9, 1984
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

lese majesty

[ leez maj-uh-stee, lez ]

noun

an attack on any custom, institution, belief, etc., held sacred or revered by numbers of people: Her speech against Mother's Day was criticized as lese majesty.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of lese majesty?

It is not very often that there is a transparent connection between French (and English) and Latin, but lese majesty is such a term. In modern French the term is lèsemajesté, from Middle French laise majeste “a crime against the king, treason.” The French forms derive from Latin laesa mājestās “injured majesty (of the sovereign people, state, or emperor).” Laesa is the past participle of the verb laedere “to hurt, harm” (of uncertain etymology); mājestās is a derivative of the comparative adjective major “greater, larger, bigger.” Lese majesty entered English in the 15th century.

how is lese majesty used?

At the risk of lese-majesty, it [Windsor Castle] reminded me of a toy castle, part Disney, part Austrian schloss.

Nick Glass, "St. George's Chapel: The historic venue where Harry and Meghan are getting married," CNN, May 3, 2018

… his father was in jail for lese majesty—what you call speaking the truth about the Emperor.

Jack London, The Iron Heel, 1907
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

umami

[ oo-mah-mee ]

noun

a strong meaty taste, often considered to be one of the basic taste sensations along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, imparted by glutamate and certain other amino acids.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of umami?

Umami comes unchanged from Japanese umami “savory taste, delicious taste.” Umami comes from umi-, the inflectional stem of umai “(to be) delicious” and –mi, a suffix forming abstract nouns from adjectives. Umami entered English in the 20th century.

how is umami used?

Complex, creamy and very comforting, its intense umami character was exactly what Ms. Nguyen tried to capture in this garlicky noodle recipe … .

Melissa Clark, "These Generously Buttered Noodles Have Loads of Umami," New York Times, March 15, 2019

Glutamate also occurs naturally in all the foods that we associate with umami: aged hard cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, dried and fermented fish and fish sauces, and savory condiments like Marmite and Worcestershire sauce.

Helen Rosner, "An MSG Convert Visits the High Church of Umami," The New Yorker, April 27, 2018
Monday, April 15, 2019

gabelle

[ guh-bel ]

noun

a tax; excise.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of gabelle?

The rare noun gabelle “a tax on salt” comes from Anglo-French (the variety of French used in England after the Norman Conquest) and other Romance languages and dialects from Late and Medieval Latin gabella “tax, salt tax.” Gabella derives ultimately from Arabic qabāla “tax, duty, impost.” There is an understandable confusion in form and meaning between gabelle “a tax on salt,” and gavel “feudal rent, tribute to a superior.” Gavel comes from Old English gafol, a noun that dates from about 725, occurs only in Old English, and derives from the same Germanic root as the verb giveGabelle entered English in the 15th century.

how is gabelle used?

In 1355, the successor of Philip of Valois, John II of France, imposed a gabelle on salt, and again doubled the tax, so that it then rose to eight deniers upon the pound.

Henry Morley, Palissy the Potter: The Life of Bernard Palissy, of Saintes, 1853

They paid a gabelle in order to wear a forbidden ornament and did their best to interfere with the enforcement of the law.

Susan Mosher Stuard, Gilding the Market, 2006

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.