Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

extenuate

[ ik-sten-yoo-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to represent (a fault, offense, etc.) as less serious: to extenuate a crime.

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What is the origin of extenuate?

Extenuate comes from Latin extenuāt-, the past participle of the verb extenuāre “to make thin or narrow, whittle down, contract, reduce.” The only common English meaning of extenuate, “to represent a fault or offense as less serious,” is an extended meaning of one of the Latin senses “to diminish or lessen (in size, quantity, or degree).” The root underlying extenuāre is the Latin adjective tenuis “thin,” a derivative of the very common Proto-Indo-European root ten-, tend-, ton-, tṇ– (and other variants) “to stretch, extend, spin (cloth).” The root appears in Latin tenēre “to hold in the hand, grasp,” tendere “to stretch out, offer”; Sanskrit tanṓti “(he) stretches, spins,” tāna– “thread, tone”; Greek teínein “to stretch, pull tight,” and tónos “tension, sinew, cord, string, tension (in the voice), tone (of the voice).” The Germanic forms thunw– and thunni– yield the Old English verb thenian (also thennan) “to stretch, spread out, bend (a bow),” Old High German dennen “to extend, stretch” (German dehnen), the Old English adjective thynne “thin,” and German dünn “thin.” Extenuate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is extenuate used?

Revelation of embryonic activity in the sixties does not extenuate crimes of more recent vintage, but they will show us how pervasive and dangerous our unconcern has been.

William Safire, "Who Else Is Guilty," New York Times, January 2, 1975

This was what no reasoning, no appeal to the calmer judgment, could ever, in his inmost thoughts, undo or extenuate.

Edith Wharton, The Fruit of the Tree, 1907
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Word of the day

Monday, September 30, 2019

emporium

[ em-pawr-ee-uhm, -pohr- ]

noun

a large retail store, especially one selling a great variety of articles.

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What is the origin of emporium?

Emporium with its Latin ending –um still looks foreign. In Latin, emporium means “trade center, business district, market town.” The Latin word means something larger and more permanent than the Greek original empórion “trading station, trading post, entrepôt.” Empórion is a derivative of emporía “commerce, trade, business,” itself a derivative of émporos “passenger on a ship, traveler, merchant, trade.” The compound noun émporos breaks down into em-, a variant of en– “in, on,” and póros “way, passage, journey.” Póros derives from the Proto-Indo-European root per-, por-, pṛ– “to lead, pass, pass over.” Per– is the source of English firth and fjord (both from Old Norse fjǫrth, inflectional stem firth-, from Germanic ferthuz “ford”). The variant por– is the source of Old English faran “to go on a journey, get along” (English fare). The suffixed form poreyo– forms the causative Germanic verb farjan “to make go, lead,” which becomes ferian in Old English and ferry in English. The variant – forms the Latin nouns porta “door, gate,” portus “port, harbor,” and the verb portāre “to carry, transport.” Emporium entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is emporium used?

He sold everything in the emporium, from coffee to collar studs, camisoles to cuckoo clocks, candied sugar to collapsible top hats.

W. G. Sebald, The Emigrants, translated by Michael Hulse, 1996

Following a stint as a window dresser at Luisa Via Roma, Florence’s famous fashion emporium, she relocated to Paris, learning tailoring from the French designer Myrène de Prémonville ….

Jessamyn Hatcher, "The Ardent Followers of A Détacher," The New Yorker, August 7, 2017
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Word of the day

Sunday, September 29, 2019

spitzenburg

[ spit-suhn-burg ]

noun

any of several red or yellow varieties of apple that ripen in the autumn.

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What is the origin of spitzenburg?

A spitzenburg or spitzenberg is a variety of apple from Esopus, New York, a town on the west bank of the Hudson River about 100 miles north of New York City. The full name of the variety of apple is Esopus Spitzenberg, after Esopus, a Lenape (Delaware Indian) word meaning “high banks,” and Dutch spits “point” and berg “mountain” (a seedling was found on a hill near Esopus). This variety of apple was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who had several trees of the variety planted at Monticello. Spitzenburg entered English at the end of the 18th century.

how is spitzenburg used?

… the old gentleman turned in his tracks, looked at me severely, and said, “Young man, the Spitzenburg is the best apple God ever invented.”

Fred Lape, Apples & Man, 1979

Biting into a Spitzenburg produces an explosion of flavor; the yellow flesh is crisp, firm, tender, juicy with an extremely rich, aromatic flavor: the ultimate gourmet apple.

Peter J. Hatch, The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello, 1998
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