Word of the Day

Sunday, June 24, 2018

edentate

[ ee-den-teyt ]

adjective

toothless.

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What is the origin of edentate?

Edentate means “lacking teeth, toothless,” a neutral term; it is also used in taxonomic names for an order of mammals lacking front teeth, e.g. sloths, armadillos, another neutral sense. The origin of edentate is the Latin adjective ēdentātus, the past participle of the verb ēdentāre “to knock (someone’s) teeth out,” definitely not a neutral sense. Edentate entered English in the 19th century.

how is edentate used?

As would have been the case a million years ago, a typical colonist can expect to be edentate by the time he or she is thirty years old, having suffered many skull-cracking toothaches on the way.

Kurt Vonnegut, Galápagos, 1985

Anyway, an edentate man led a bloated, mouth-foaming goat down a road webbed with knee-deep gullies.

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project, 2008
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Saturday, June 23, 2018

backstairs

[ bak-stairz ]

adjective

secret, underhanded, or scandalous: backstairs gossip.

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What is the origin of backstairs?

Backstairs was first recorded in 1635-45. It’s the adjectival extension of the noun back stairs.

how is backstairs used?

I say to Lord Hartington before you all, not by any backstairs intrigue and not by any secret negotiations, but in the face of this great meeting held in this great town and before all of England … “Come over and help us!”

Herbert Maxwell, "Lord Randolph Churchill," The National Review, Vol. XXV, March to August 1895

He would never believe it–it was a nasty piece of backstairs gossip!

Upton Sinclair, The Metropolis, 1908
Friday, June 22, 2018

pellucid

[ puh-loo-sid ]

adjective

clear in meaning, expression, or style: a pellucid way of writing.

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What is the origin of pellucid?

English pellucid comes from the Latin adjective pellūcidus (the usual Latin spelling is perlūcidus) “very clear, transparent.” The Latin adjective lūcidus is thoroughly naturalized in English lucid, but the Latin prefix and preposition per- is worth explanation. In Latin per- is used to intensify adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, e.g., perbonus “very good, excellent,” perbrevis “very short,” perbene “very well,” perbellē “very charmingly,” and percelebrāre “to make thoroughly known.” The Greek prefix and preposition perí- serves the same purpose, as in Periklês (c495-429 b.c.), the Athenian statesman, from the adjective perikleês “very famous.” Pellucid entered English in the 17th century.

how is pellucid used?

His art is highly complex, but its expression is so pellucid, so simple, that we can see only its body, never the mechanism of its body.

Edward Garnett, "Introduction," The Novels of Ivan Turgenev, 1906

Trump’s ramblings about Vladi­mir Putin were positively pellucid in their clarity compared with his March 29 comments on the U.S.-South Korea trade deal …

Max Boot, "What on earth is Trump saying?" Washington Post, April 11, 2018

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