Word of the Day

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
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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
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