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[ er-zahts, -sahts ] [ ˈɛr zɑts, -sɑts ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial.

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More about ersatz

Ersatz “serving as a substitute” is a borrowing of the German noun Ersatz “a substitute,” from the verb ersetzen “to replace.” Ersetzen is a compound of the Old High German elements ir- “out” and sezzan “to set.” Ir-, a variant of ur-, is related to English about, but, out, utmost, and utter as well as to German Urheimat and Ursprache, plus the recent Word of the Day carouse. Sezzan is closely related to English nest, saddle, seat, set, settle, sit, and soot, and to borrowings originally from other Indo-European languages including the recent Words of the Day assiduity, chaise longue, and sídh. Ersatz was first recorded in English in the early 1870s.

how is ersatz used?

Unable to print the real thing, Zimbabwe’s central bank recently announced that it would introduce a kind of ersatz American money for citizens to use in its place.

Norimitsu Onishi, “Will Ersatz Dollars Satisfy Cash-Starved Zimbabweans?” The New York Times, June 23, 2016

Christman says it’s possible to induce ersatz left-handedness by moving the eyes from side to side, which gets both sides of the brain going.

JR Minkel, “Lefties May Possess Superior Memory for Events,” Scientific American, October 23, 2001
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[ dou-tee ] [ ˈdaʊ ti ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


steadfastly courageous and resolute; valiant.

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More about doughty

Doughty “steadfastly courageous,” despite spelling and pronunciation, is not related to doubt, doughy, or dowdy. Instead, it comes from Old English dohtig “worthy,” which is equivalent to modern English dow “to be able” or “to thrive, prosper” plus two suffixes: -th, which indicates a noun of action (as in birth) or quality (as in warmth), and -y “characterized by, inclined to” (as in dreamy and juicy). In this way, doughty literally translates from Old English as “worthiness-y,” which is an awkward mouthful. Doughty was first recorded in English before 1000 a.d.

how is doughty used?

A doughty branch of the early human family, Neanderthals were big-brained and thick-boned hunters who once ranged from Spain to Siberia.

Dan Vergano, “Neanderthals Died Out 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought, With Help From Modern Humans,” National Geographic, August 20, 2014

He was a doughty defender of his grandfather’s legacy and even though many of those subjected to the estate’s strictures in relation to permissions and fees actively resented them, Stephen was acting, as he saw it, to uphold his grandfather’s heritage.

Danica Kirka, “Grandson of author James Joyce dies in France,” AP News, February 8, 2020
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[ floh-jis-ton, -tuhn ] [ floʊˈdʒɪs tɒn, -tən ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a nonexistent chemical that, prior to the discovery of oxygen, was thought to be released during combustion.

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More about phlogiston

Phlogiston “a chemical once thought to be released during combustion” is the neuter form of Ancient Greek phlogistós “inflammable, burnt up,” from the verb phlogízein “to set on fire.” Relatives of phlogízein in English include phlegm (from phlégma “flame”) and phlox (from phlóx “a flame-colored plant”). All these words ultimately come from a Proto-Indo-European root roughly meaning “to burn, flash, shine” that appears today in English words containing bl-, fl-, ful-, or phl-, depending on the language of origin. For more descendants in English from this rather productive root, check out our recent Words of the Day effulgent, Phlegethon, and trailblaze. Phlogiston was first recorded in English circa 1730.

how is phlogiston used?

The theory of phlogiston was not debunked until the 1770s, when Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier showed that combustion is a reaction with a gas—oxygen. More than a century after that, it became possible to transmute one metal into another—but using a nuclear reactor rather than a philosopher’s stone.

Petr Kilian, “Phosphorus: 350 years after its discovery, this vital element is running out,” The Conversation, January 9, 2019
[S]cience is not advanced by polling. If it were, we would still be releasing phlogiston to burn logs and navigating the sky with geocentric maps.

Edward O. Wilson, “Evolution and Our Inner Conflict,” The New York Times, June 24, 2012
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