Word of the Day

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

epigrammatic

[ ep-i-gruh-mat-ik ]

adjective

terse and ingenious in expression; of or like an epigram.

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What is the origin of epigrammatic?

In Greek epígramma means “inscription, commemorative or memorial inscription, short poem, written estimate of or demand for damages.” Probably the most famous epigram is that attributed to Simonides of Ceos (c566 b.c.–c468 b.c.) for the Spartans who fell at Thermoplylae (480 b.c.): “Stranger, report to the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their orders,” which is spartan in its terseness. Epigrammatic entered English in the early 18th century.

how is epigrammatic used?

… the dialogue is sanded and sharpened to an epigrammatic elegance …

Richard Brody, "'Phantom Thread': Paul Thomas Anderson's Furious Fusion of Art and Love," The New Yorker, December 27, 2017

His is the sort of epigrammatic utterance to which there can be no rejoinder, the clean hit and quick-killing witticism: once over lightly and leave.

Nicholas Delbanco, The Lost Suitcase, 2000
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

thewless

[ thyoo-lis ]

adjective

lacking in mental or moral vigor; weak, spiritless, or timid.

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What is the origin of thewless?

First recorded in 1300-50, thewless is from the Middle English word theweles.

how is thewless used?

For indeed they were but thewless creatures, pallid with the damp caves of the moors, and so starved that they seemed to have eaten grass like Nebuchadnezzar.

S. R. Crockett, The Cherry Ribband, 1905

Here I stand amid my clan / Spoiled of my fame a thewless man.

J. Stuart Blackie, "Is the Gaelic Ossian a Translation from the English?" The Celtic Magazine, July 1876
Monday, February 19, 2018

bossdom

[ baws-duh m, bos- ]

noun

the status, influence, or power of a boss, especially a political boss.

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What is the origin of bossdom?

Bossdom has a crude, graceless sound. It is originally an Americanism referring to the bosses of political machines at the municipal and state level. Bossdom first entered English in the late 19th century.

how is bossdom used?

Señor So-and-so is the most powerful boss in the province of Tarragona, and even at that there are those who dispute his bossdom.

Pío Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, translated by Louis How, 1919

This was Lepke’s first bid for bossdom. He was ready to try his theories.

Meyer Berger, "Lepke," Life, February 28, 1944

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