• Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 01, 2019

    extenuate

    verb (used with object) [ik-sten-yoo-eyt]
    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
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    Monday, September 30, 2019

    emporium

    noun [em-pawr-ee-uhm, -pohr-]
    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 por-eyo- 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
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    Sunday, September 29, 2019

    spitzenburg

    noun [spit-suhn-burg]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 28, 2019

    maugre

    preposition [maw-ger] Archaic.
    in spite of; notwithstanding.
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    What is the origin of maugre?

    The archaic preposition maugre “in spite of; notwithstanding” shows its origin in some of its other Middle English spellings, e.g., malgrie, malgre, from Old French maugré, malgré, mal gré, malgreit. The open compound mal gré shows the etymology of maugre: the Old French adjective mal “bad, wrongful” (from Latin malus “bad, unpleasant, evil”) and the noun gré, gred, gret “pleasure, goodwill, favor” (from Latin grātum “(something) pleasing,” a noun use of the neuter of the adjective grātus). Old French gré is the source of Middle English gre “goodwill, favor,” from which English has the archaic noun gree in the same sense. Maugre entered English at the end of the 13th century.

    How is maugre used?

    He had his faults; but maugre them all, I loved him. Willis Gaylord Clark, "Everard Graham," Atkinson's Casket, July 1831

    In his only tender moment, [Shakespeare's] Aaron promises: " This before all the world do I prefer, This maugre all the world will I keep safe. " Mary Wiltenburg, "Acting with conviction," Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 2001

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, September 27, 2019

    viridity

    noun [vuh-rid-i-tee]
    youth; innocence; inexperience.
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    What is the origin of viridity?

    English viridity “greenness (as of vegetation); youth and inexperience,” comes via Old French viridité “greenness,” from Latin viriditās (stem viriditāt-) “greenness (as of vegetation); youth and inexperience” (a sense lacking in the French), a derivative of the adjective viridis “green, abounding in vegetation, unripe (vegetables and cereals), clear, fresh (of the air after rain).” Viridity entered English in the 15th century.

    How is viridity used?

    What intellectual viridity that exemplary creature possesses! Theodore Edward Hook, "Passion and Principle," Sayings and Doings, Vol. 2, 1825

    I preface the incident thus abruptly, from a desire to extenuate in some measure at the outset my dear parent's viridity and trustfulness in the matter .... "Watching the Clock," Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts, February 13, 1858

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, September 26, 2019

    simper

    verb (used without object) [sim-per]
    to smile in a silly, self-conscious way.
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    What is the origin of simper?

    The verb simper has an uncertain etymology. It may be related to the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Swiss dialect adjective semper “affected, coy,” German zimpfer “dainty, affected,” and to Middle Dutch zimperlijk “affected, coy.” Further etymology is unknown. Simper entered English in the 16th century.

    How is simper used?

    But still she kept on singing, with twisted lips that strove to simper .... Ottilie A. Liljencrantz, The Ward of King Canute, 1903

    I attended private parties in sumptuous evening dress, simpered and aired my graces like a born beau, and polked and schottisched with a step peculiar to myself—and the kangaroo. Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 25, 2019

    isobar

    noun [ahy-suh-bahr]
    a line drawn on a weather map or chart that connects points at which the barometric pressure is the same.
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    What is the origin of isobar?

    You may see an isobar on your TV screen or hear the word on your local weather channel and already know or deduce that an isobar is "a line drawn on a weather map connecting points where the barometric pressure is the same." The prefix iso- is from the Greek combining form iso- “equal,” from the adjective ísos “equal (in number, size, weight, stature, etc.).” It is used mostly in technical terms, as in another meteorological term isotherm “a line on a weather map connecting points having equal temperature,” or in the geometric term isosceles, “(of a triangle) having two sides equal.” The suffix -bar is interesting: it is a derivative of the Greek noun báros, “weight, heavy weight, heaviness, oppressiveness.” Báros is related to the adjective barýs “heavy (in weight), low (in tone),” as in English baritone. Isobar entered English in the 19th century.

    How is isobar used?

    These are lines of equal pressure known as isobars, which reveal wind speed and direction and allow forecasters to spot features such as highs, lows, troughs and ridges that are associated with particular types of weather. Kirsty McCabe, "Weather charts, fronts and isobars," Weather.com, June 5, 2014

    The isobars (lines of equal pressure) of a weather chart are much like the contour lines of a topo map. Bill Biewenga, "An Onboard Forecaster's Bag of Tricks," Cruising World, November 1995

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