Word of the Day

Saturday, October 31, 2020

eldritch

[ el-drich ]

adjective

eerie; weird; spooky.

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What is the origin of eldritch?

If the word is weird, eerie, and uncanny, it’s likely to be Scots, and eldritch is all of them. Most etymologists see a connection between eldritch and elf, as the early spelling variant elphrish suggests. The second syllable is likely to be Middle English riche “kingdom, realm” (from Old English rīce); the d is an excrescent or intrusive consonant between the l and the r, like chimbley for chimney in Oliver Twist: “they damped the straw afore they lit it in the chimbley.” This “Elf Kingdom” used to be exclusively Scots; the first “non-Scots” author to use the word was Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Scarlet Letter (1850). Eldritch entered English in the early 16th century.

how is eldritch used?

In this anthology podcast, the mountains of central Appalachia are haunted by the sort of sanity-draining eldritch monsters found in a Stephen King novel, or in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”

Phoebe Lett, "4 Podcasts That Go Bump in the Night," The New York Times, October 10, 2020

Despite the eldritch horrors of Toni’s princess cake, her competitors’ renditions were, somehow, even more atrocious.

Helen Rosner, "The Joys of Netflix's "Nailed It!," the Baking Competition That Celebrates Kitchen Disaster," The New Yorker, June 1, 2018

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Friday, October 30, 2020

gloaming

[ gloh-ming ]

noun

twilight; dusk.

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What is the origin of gloaming?

Gloaming, “twilight, dusk,” ultimately comes from Old English glōmung, which occurs once as a translation of Latin crepusculum “dusk, twilight.” Glōmung is a derivative of glōm “twilight, darkness,” from the same root as the verb glōwan “to glow like a coal or fire” (gloaming being the glow of sunrise or sunset). It is tempting to include gloom and its variant glum in this group, but the philological evidence is against it. Gloaming entered English before 1000.

how is gloaming used?

During the workweek, when we are earning the money to pay for all those expensive gardening implements, it’s not possible to do much outside until dusk. Then, with the fireflies, we emerge into the gloaming armed with an arsenal of rakes, pitchforks and spades, like some medieval rabble on its way to battle.

Nancy deWolf Smith, "A Garden of Curses," Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2000

Fortunately, at certain times and places Mercury is more removed from this all-obliterating influence than he is at others, and at such times he may be very distinctly seen, shortly after sunset, twinkling through the gloaming in the west.

Percival Lowell, "Mercury in the Light of Recent Discoveries," The Atlantic, April 1897

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

extramundane

[ ek-struh-muhn-deyn, -muhn-deyn ]

adjective

beyond our world or the material universe.

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What is the origin of extramundane?

Extramundane, “beyond the physical universe,” comes from Late Latin extrāmundānus “beyond, outside the world,” a compound of the preposition and combining form extra, extra– “outside, beyond” and the adjective mundānus “pertaining to the world, the physical universe” and also “inhabiting the world, cosmopolite,” a step beyond urbane, so to speak, and also quite different from the current sense of mundane: “common, ordinary.” Cicero even has Socrates claiming cīvitātemmundānum “world citizenship.” Mundānus is a derivative of the noun mundus “the heavens, sky, firmament; the universe; the earth, the world, our world,” a loan translation of Greek kósmos. Extramundane entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is extramundane used?

One of the subordinate bodies or bureaus or the British Astronomical Association, a company of learned and industrious men who find more pleasure and profit in the investigation of extramundane affairs than in the study of politics or art or other trivial earthly things, is devoted exclusively to the observation of Mars.

"Mars and Saturn," New York Times, January 23, 1916

I know that there are extramundane occurrences, and I’ve had my share of experiences that can only be explained as ‘supernatural,’ but they have always been the exception.

Brian Lumley, The Burrowers Beneath, 1974

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