Word of the Day

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

esurient

[ ih-soor-ee-uhnt ]

adjective

hungry; greedy.

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What is the origin of esurient?

Esurient, “hungry, greedily hungry, greedy,” comes from Latin ēsuriēns (stem esurient-), the present participle of the verb ēsurīre “to feel hunger, suffer from hunger,” formed from ēs(us), past participle of edere “to eat” and the desiderative suffix -urīre (of unknown origin); thus ēsurīre literally means “to desire to eat.” Esurient may be familiar to those who like Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which contains the verse Ēsurientēs implēvit bonīs et dīvitēs dīmīsit inānēs, “He [God] hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.” Esurient entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is esurient used?

The whole business of bribing, so far as it is carried on, will fall into disreputable hands, those of untrustworthy, esurient, broken attorneys, who will sell their clients very often …

"The Corrupt Practices Bill", The Spectator, January 15, 1881

However, this esurient eye for detail can, on rare occasions, cloud the larger picture.

Gordon Marino, "The Natural," New York Times, September 30, 2010

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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

simulacrum

[ sim-yuh-ley-kruhm ]

noun

an effigy, image, or representation: a simulacrum of Aphrodite.

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What is the origin of simulacrum?

Simulacrum, “a likeness, an image,” comes straight from Latin simulācrum “a resemblance in sight or sound, an image, a statue (of a god).” Simulācrum is a derivative of the verb simulā(re) “to simulate, pretend” and -crum, a variant of -culum, a suffix denoting tools or instruments. Simulāre in its turn is a derivative of the adjective similis “like, similar,” which through Medieval Latin similāris and Old French similaire becomes English similar. Simulacrum entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is simulacrum used?

Except for flakes of plaster in its streets, the little city is entirely undamaged. The simulacrum now more whole than the original.

Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See, 2014

A gallery of thumbnail-size co-workers on a laptop screen is a diminished simulacrum of the conference-table gatherings that drive so much of corporate life.

Cal Newport, "Why Remote Work Is So Hard—And How It Can Be Fixed," The New Yorker, May 26, 2020

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Monday, August 03, 2020

vacillate

[ vas-uh-leyt ]

verb (used without object)

to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute: His tendency to vacillate makes him a poor leader.

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What is the origin of vacillate?

The verb vacillate comes from Latin vacillāt(us), the past participle of the verb vacillāre “(of a person) to be unsteady on one’s feet, stagger, reel; to waver in mind or opinion; (of a thing) to rock, sway, be in an unsound or precarious condition,” which is also used of persons in regard to their financial condition (yet another demonstration that in some respects the ancients were quite modern). Vacillate entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is vacillate used?

Manfred, who has an unusual ability to vacillate between pugnacious and charming, cajoled owners, stressing the idea that the sport had to have a season.

Michael S. Schmidt, "How Rob Manfred Navigated A Summer of Peril for Baseball," New York Times, July 25, 2020

As state and local governments vacillate between easing and increasing restrictions, normal summer programs may be unavailable, or if open, may be operating at significantly reduced capacities.

Ashley T. Hirano, "DOL Issues Guidance on FFCRA and Summer School/Camp Closures," National Law Review, June 29, 2020

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