Word of the Day

Saturday, December 14, 2019


[ es-kyuh-luhnt ]


suitable for use as food; edible.

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What is the origin of esculent?

People of a certain age may remember the old TV commercial from around 1957 or 1958 for Nucoa oleomargarine, “The new ubiquitous comestible is Nucoa, over all,” written by the great Stan Freberg. Esculent is right up there with comestible in the obscure word category. Both words mean exactly the same thing, “edible, something edible,” and both words derive from the Latin verb esse “to eat,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ed– “to eat” (preliterary Latin edsi “to eat” becomes esse in Latin). A suffixed noun form of ed-, edeska, becomes Latin esca “food,” from which the adjective esculentus is derived. Comestible comes from Late Latin comestibilis “eatable, edible,” from the Latin compound verb comesse (also comedere) “to eat up, finish eating,” formed from the intensive prefix com– and the simple verb esse. Esculent entered English in the first half of the 17th century (comestible in the late 15th century).

how is esculent used?

We have a surplus of rice, tobacco, furs, peltry, potash, lamp oils, timber, which France wants; she has a surplus of wines, brandies, esculent oils, fruits, manufactures of all kinds, which we want.

Thomas Jefferson to Comte de Montmorin, July 23, 1787, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 11, 1955

Kala had moved slowly along an elephant track toward the east, and was busily engaged in turning over rotted limbs and logs in search of esculent bugs and fungi …

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, 1912
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Friday, December 13, 2019


[ fes-tl ]


pertaining to or befitting a feast, festival, holiday, or gala occasion.

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What is the origin of festal?

The adjective festal comes via Old French festal, festel from the Latin neuter singular noun festum “holiday,” a noun use of the adjective festus “relating to or befitting a feast or holiday.” (The French and English suffix –al derives from Latin –ālis.) Festa, the plural of festum, becomes a singular feminine noun in Vulgar Latin and the Romance languages, yielding feste in Old French (fête in French), festa in Provençal, Catalan, Portuguese, and Italian, and fiesta in Spanish (Castilian). Festus forms the Latin adjective festīvus “festal, jovial, festive.” Festal entered English in the second half of the 15th century.

how is festal used?

In honour of this glad day, we shall drink the best wine and sup on the finest festal dishes.

Stephen R. Lawhead, The Bone House, 2011

Into this festal season of the year—as it already was, and continued to be during the greater part of two centuries—the Puritans compressed whatever mirth and public joy they deemed allowable to human infirmity …

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 1850
Thursday, December 12, 2019


[ brob-ding-nag-ee-uhn ]


of huge size; gigantic; tremendous.

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What is the origin of Brobdingnagian?

The adjective Brobdingnagian, “enormous in size, immense, gigantic,” derives from the noun Brobdingnag, the land of the giants, the second of the exotic lands that Lemuel Gulliver visited as recorded in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Just as Lilliput and Lilliputian sound small and cute, so Brobdingnag and Brobdingnagian sound clumsy and heavy. Brobdingnagian entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is Brobdingnagian used?

… the entire space will be given over to a single Brobdingnagian sculpture—“Reverse Curve,” back-to-back plates that form an S-shape and wind, riverlike, for 99 feet.

Deborah Solomon, "Richard Serra Is Carrying the Weight of the World," New York Times, August 28, 2019

Since the launch of the Kepler telescope, scientists have discovered that the boiling, Brobdingnagian planets are in fact rarities and are just simpler to spot than cold, rocky planets.

Elizabeth Barber, "Milky Way may be brimming with Earth-sized, possibly habitable planets," Christian Science Monitor, November 5, 2013
Wednesday, December 11, 2019


[ fawr-bahy ]

preposition, adverb

Chiefly Scot.


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What is the origin of forby?

All the senses of the adverb forby are archaic, obsolete, or Scottish. Middle English forbi, meaning “past in space, past in time,” is formed from the adverbs and prepositions for—better, fore—“before” and by “nearby, close at hand.” German has the closely related adverb vorbei “past, gone, over (with).” Forby entered English in the 13th century.

how is forby used?

Forby, he had a bashfu’ spirit / That sham’d to tell / His worth or wants ….

Robert Tannahill, "Will MacNeil's Elegy," The Poetical Works of Robert Tannahill, 1825

Ither laddies a’ oot playin’ at something, an’ forby it’s no healthy to sit too lang aye readin’.

James C. Welsh, The Underworld, 1920
Tuesday, December 10, 2019


[ kon-suh-neyt ]

verb (used with object)

to arrange or blend together skillfully, as parts or elements; put together in a harmonious, precisely appropriate, or elegant manner.

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What is the origin of concinnate?

The very rare verb concinnate,” to put together harmoniously, appropriately, or elegantly,” comes straight from the Latin past participle concinnātus “made ready, prepared, repaired, touched up,” from the verb concinnāre “to repair, set in order,” which has no known etymology. Concinnate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is concinnate used?

But first an explanation to concinnate my narrative.

Eugene Field, "Lute Baker and His Wife 'Em," The Holy Cross and Other Tales, 1893

I am glad you are trying to concinnate your nomenclature.

William Whewell to C. Lyell, January 31, 1831, William Whewell: An Account of His Writings, Vol. 2, 1876
Monday, December 09, 2019


[ tin-suhl-ree ]


cheap and pretentious display.

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What is the origin of tinselry?

Tinselry, “cheap and pretentious display,” is an obvious combination of the noun tinsel and the noun suffix –ry (a form of –ery). Tinsel, though, is an interesting word. It is a shortening of Middle French estincelle “spangle, spark” (source of the English noun stencil), from Old French estencele, estincele “a spark, flash,” from an unrecorded Vulgar Latin stincilla, a transposed variant of Latin scintilla. By the 14th and 15th centuries, French had lost the pronunciation of the s in es-, and estincelle developed into modern French étincelle. In Anglo-French the initial e– also disappeared, giving tencel, tincel. The earliest Middle English examples show tinsel, tinselle used as an adjective in tinselle satin, satin made to sparkle or glitter by brocading with or interweaving gold or silver thread, or by overlaying the satin with a thin coating of gold or silver. Tinselry entered English in the 19th century.

how is tinselry used?

Hence neither romance nor whim should be allowed to remove one useful feature, and substitute for it the gaudy and useless tinselry of false taste.

W. H. Barnes, "A Homily on Homes," The Ladies' Repository, Vol. 16, January 1856

But if it be true that the Emperor William, having the substance of power, could afford to dispense with some of its tinselry, and was personally of simple tastes, it is still true only in a sense which it is important to remember.

Herbert Tuttle, "The Emperor William," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1888
Sunday, December 08, 2019


[ ol-uh-jee ]


Informal or Facetious.

any science or branch of knowledge.

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What is the origin of ology?

The only people who would object to the formation of the colloquial noun ology, “any science or field of knowledge,” are those cranky, old-fangled philologists who insist on writing with a quill pen. Admittedly ology is a malformation—perversion if you like—for the correct (but meaningless) logy, but ology is easily extracted from common nouns like biology, geology, or theology, in which the –o– is a connecting vowel between the two halves of the word and not part of the combining form –logy. Ology entered English in the early 19th century.

how is ology used?

You learnt a great deal, Louisa, and so did your brother. Ologies of all kinds from morning to night.

Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1854

This home was in a large town, and my uncle a professor of philosophy, chemistry, geology, mineralogy, and many other ologies.

Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth, translated in 1871

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