Word of the Day

Saturday, October 31, 2020

eldritch

[ el-drich ]

adjective

eerie; weird; spooky.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

eldritch

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.
Friday, October 30, 2020

gloaming

[ gloh-ming ]

noun

twilight; dusk.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

gloaming

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, October 29, 2020

extramundane

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

adjective

beyond our world or the material universe.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

extramundane

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

prescient

[ presh-uhnt, ‐ee-uhnt pree-shuhnt, ‐shee-uhnt ]

adjective

having knowledge of things or events before they exist or happen; having foresight.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of prescient?

Prescient comes from Old French from Late Latin praescient-, the present participle stem of the verb praescīre, “to know beforehand, know in advance.” The verb is used mostly by the Latin church fathers (Tertullian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine) to refer to God’s foreknowledge. Praescīre is a derivative of Latin praesciscere, “to get to know beforehand,” a relatively rare compound verb made up of the inceptive verb sciscere “to get to know” (an inceptive verb is one that shows the beginning of an action), formed from the simple verb scīre “to know” and the inceptive infix –sc-; prae– is the Latin preposition and prefix prae, prae– “in front, ahead, before.” Prescient entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is prescient used?

He was known to have had prescient visions that were accurate, penetrating, and defied four-dimensional explanation.

Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965

Seen now, “The Social Network,” about the founding of Facebook and the lawsuits that followed, feels grimly prescient and perhaps representative of how the past few years since the movie premiered—and the past few months of the pandemic—have changed our relationship to social media and each other.

Maya Phillips, "'The Social Network' 10 Years Later: A Grim Online Life Foretold," New York Times, October 5, 2020

Listen to the word of the day

prescient

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

mal du pays

[ mal dy pey-ee ]

noun

French.

homesickness.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of mal du pays?

Mal du pays is French for “homesickness,” formed from the noun mal, “evil, hurt, harm,” from the Latin adjective and noun malus “bad, wicked,” and pays, “country, land, region.” Pays comes from Vulgar Latin pāgēnsis, pāgēsis, “inhabitant of a region,” equivalent to Latin pāgānus, which has two meanings: “pertaining to a pāgus” (“rural community”), and “civilian, civil, citizen,” a military usage, but used by reputable authors (Tacitus, Suetonius). Roman military slang influenced Latin Christianity: Tabernāculum meant “pup tent, shelter half” (English tabernacle, for both Jewish and Christian usage); sacrāmentum, “the oath of loyalty that a soldier swore annually to his commanding general” (English sacrament), and pāgānus “civilian,” meant “non-Christian, non-Jewish,” English pagan. Mal du pays entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is mal du pays used?

It is the most gentle, depressed-looking creature I ever saw; it seems to have the mal du pays ….

Maria Edgeworth, "Maria Edgeworth to Ludy Edgeworth, January 12, 1822," in A Memoir of Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 2, 1867

For all of its aural joy and ebullience, though, one can still hear Mr. Nabay’s mal du pays.

Andy Beta, "Sounds Converge From All Corners," Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2012

Listen to the word of the day

mal du pays

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, October 26, 2020

autoschediasm

[ aw-toh-skee-dee-az-uhm ]

noun

something that is improvised or extemporized.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of autoschediasm?

If there is any one word that fully displays the amazing plasticity of Greek, that word is autoschediasm “improvisation,” a borrowing from the Greek noun autoschedíasma. Autoschedíasma is a derivative of autoschediázein, “to speak offhand, improvise,” a verb formed from the adjective of autoschédios “hand-to-hand (fighting), rough and ready, improvised (speaking),” a derivative of the adverb autoschedón “near at hand, on the spot.” Autoschedón breaks down into the familiar naturalized combining form auto– “self, same, right (here, there),” used here as an intensifier of the adverb schedón “close by, near.” The last element, –(as)ma, is a neuter noun suffix that shows the result of an action: for example, prâgma “something done, an act (concrete),” versus the active noun suffix –sis, as in prâxis “a doing, transacting.” Autoschediasm entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is autoschediasm used?

The first thing is to collect the material. This must comprise the whole range of ancient literature, always carefully weighing the nature of the evidence, so as to reject mere autoschediasms.

Ernst Riess, "On Ancient Superstition," Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 26, 1895

He was a little over-conscious of his command of English, for it was not without an obvious sense of enjoyment that he described his recent refusal of a certain professorial post as “a mere exhibition of autoschediasm.”

Alleyne Ireland, "The Clock Peddler," The Unpartizan Review, No. 29, Vol. 15, 1921

Listen to the word of the day

autoschediasm

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Sunday, October 25, 2020

wherewithal

[ hwair-with-awl, -with-, wair- ]

noun

that with which to do something; means or supplies for the purpose or need, especially money.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of wherewithal?

The noun wherewithal, “the means or supplies for a need, especially money,” is composed of the adverbs where and withal “with, by means of which.” The oblique sense “money” seems to be from a phrase such as “the X by means of which to do something,” the unexpressed X being money. Wherewithal entered English in the 16th century.

how is wherewithal used?

In Los Angeles and Oakland, it became a status symbol to have the wherewithal to take in roomers.

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, 2010

Most new nonprofits do not have the financial wherewithal to use direct mail, which is expensive, and thus rely on e-mail and other technology-based means of communication.

Stephanie Strom, "Answers to Questions on Philanthropy," New York Times, November 12, 2009

Listen to the word of the day

wherewithal

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.