Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, December 20, 2021


[ ih-klip-tik ]


the great circle formed by the intersection of the plane of the earth's orbit with the celestial sphere; the apparent annual path of the sun in the heavens.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of ecliptic?

Ecliptic “the circle formed by the intersection of the plane of the earth’s orbit with the celestial sphere” comes by way of Middle English and Medieval Latin from Ancient Greek ekleiptikós “of an eclipse,” from the verb ekleípein “to leave out, “to fail to appear, to forsake one’s place.” These latter senses of ekleípein inform the definition of eclipse, an event in which the sun or moon refuses to appear. Ekleípein comes from the Proto-Indo-European root leikw- “to leave” and is related to the English numbers eleven and twelve, from Old English endleofan and twelfe, literally “one left over” and “two left over” (after counting to ten). An additional relative is the Latin verb linquere “to forsake, leave, quit” (as in delinquent, derelict, and relinquish). Ecliptic was first recorded in English in the late 1300s.

how is ecliptic used?

The reason all of the planets and our moon pretty much take the same ecliptic path among the stars is that they, along with our Earth, all orbit the sun in the nearly [sic] the same geometric plane. They also move along the ecliptic at different speeds. The planets close to the sun, like Venus and Mercury are on a celestial caffeine high, and they zip along the ecliptic because they whip around the sun much faster than outer planets like Uranus and Neptune, that really take their sweet time completing the ecliptic circuit. Consider the ecliptic the long and winding road in the stars.

Mike Lynch, “Starwatch: Planets travel the superhighway of the heavens,” AP News, May 6, 2017

The planets in our solar system mostly orbit around the Sun in a disk known as the ecliptic. Mercury and Pluto are the outliers, but the others only vary by a few degrees from this plane. This happens around other stars as well. However, the ecliptics of other stars are not necessarily lined up with our point of view. The farther off the ecliptic we are, the less likely we are to see a transit …. Distance factors in here, as well. The closer a planet is to its star, the farther off the ecliptic we can be and still see a transit. For planets farther away from their star, we need to be viewing the system from close to edge-on.

Scott Sutherland, "Astronomers may have spotted signs of an alien planet in a distant galaxy," Weather Network, October 26, 2021
quiz icon
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
arrows pointing up and down
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

Sunday, December 19, 2021


[ mah-chuh ]


a finely ground powder made from small green tea leaves that have been steamed briefly, then dried, used to make tea and as a flavoring in desserts.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of matcha?

Matcha “a finely ground powder made from small green tea leaves” is a borrowing from Japanese and can also be transliterated as maccha and mattya. The term is a compound of the Japanese verb matsu “to rub, grind” and the noun cha “tea.” Cha is a distant relative of tea; the Japanese and English words both derive from Middle Chinese and have a long and complicated history. As a Wanderwort, a word that has spread as a loanword across a long chain of unrelated languages, tea derives by way of Dutch and Malay from dialectal Chinese (Xiamen) t’e; compare Mandarin chá, which was borrowed via Russian and Turkish into English as chai. From there, te likely derives from a word for “leaf” in Proto-Sino-Tibetan, the reconstructed language ancestral to Burmese, Chinese, and Tibetan. Matcha was first recorded in English in the 15th century.

how is matcha used?

[B]ecause matcha is ground, the entire leaf is consumed in powdered form. This makes matcha tea a highly concentrated version of regular green tea, and only a teaspoon or less of powder is needed to make a bowl …. The leaves are mostly hand-picked, then steamed, air-dried and de-stemmed. They are stored in that dry state for up to a year until the next harvest. Then they are stone-ground.

Laurel Dalrymple, “Tea Tuesdays: Matcha-maker, Matcha-maker, Make Me Some Tea,” NPR, May 12, 2015

In the foyer of a Japanese vegetarian restaurant on East 39th Street, around the corner from several nail salons and the House of Lasagna, a Japanese tea ceremony was unfolding. Kato Riichiro, the manager of Ippodo Tea, had before him a whisk, a sieve, a wooden spoon and, most important, a bowl of vivid green powder. This is matcha, a very particular kind of Japanese tea that is not easy to come across even in such a caffeinated city.

Jackie Snow, "Where Starbucks Meets Matcha: Ippodo Tea in Murray Hill," New York Times, December 12, 2014
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

Saturday, December 18, 2021


[ suhm-er-sawlt ]


an acrobatic movement, either forward or backward, in which the body rolls end over end, making a complete revolution.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of somersault?

Somersault derives from Middle French sombresaut, a nasalized variant of sobresault, which is a borrowing from Old Provençal. Provençal is both a dialect of and another name for Occitan, a Romance language that is still spoken today in the south of France. Sobresault is a compound of sobre “over” and saut “a leap,” from Latin super and saltus, of the same meanings. Super is also the source of sovereign, superior, and supreme and is distantly related to English over, German über, and Ancient Greek hypér. Saltus, from the verb salīre “to leap,” is also the source of assault, result, salacious, salient, and recent Word of the Day selection saltigrade. Somersault was first recorded in English in the 1520s.

how is somersault used?

Usain Bolt was ramping into warp speed when suddenly, stunningly, the sprint turned into a somersault. Fifteen steps into the final homestretch of his final race, something gave in his left hamstring. The World’s Fastest Man skittered to a stop — hopping, skipping, jumping, then finally dropping to the ground and tumbling forward before coming to a rest …. He was certainly every bit as stunned as any of the 60,000-plus who packed the stadium Saturday, or the millions watching one of the world’s most entertaining showmen make his final curtain call in the 4×100-meter relay at world championships.

Eddie Pells, “Bolt takes a tumble and can’t complete final race at worlds,” AP News, August 12, 2017

In a statement, Goodall’s family said they were extremely grateful to all those who were involved in the rescue. ‘It was with a heavy heart Susie left DHL Starlight to fend for herself, before she fills with water and rests on the Pacific Ocean floor. DHL Starlight has been her home for the past few years; a faithful friend who stood up valiantly to all the elements, a guardian until their last moments together …. When she was younger, Susie loved doing somersaults on trampolines. We just never thought she’d do one in a boat…’

Katy Stickland, "Golden Globe Race: Susie Goodall rescued," Yachting Monthly, December 9, 2018
Word of the Day Calendar

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day in your inbox every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Word of the Day Calendar