Word of the Day

Thursday, October 29, 2020

extramundane

[ ek-struh-muhn-deyn, -muhn-deyn ]

adjective

beyond our world or the material universe.

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What is the origin of extramundane?

Extramundane, “beyond the physical universe,” comes from Late Latin extrāmundānus “beyond, outside the world,” a compound of the preposition and combining form extra, extra– “outside, beyond” and the adjective mundānus “pertaining to the world, the physical universe” and also “inhabiting the world, cosmopolite,” a step beyond urbane, so to speak, and also quite different from the current sense of mundane: “common, ordinary.” Cicero even has Socrates claiming cīvitātemmundānum “world citizenship.” Mundānus is a derivative of the noun mundus “the heavens, sky, firmament; the universe; the earth, the world, our world,” a loan translation of Greek kósmos. Extramundane entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is extramundane used?

One of the subordinate bodies or bureaus or the British Astronomical Association, a company of learned and industrious men who find more pleasure and profit in the investigation of extramundane affairs than in the study of politics or art or other trivial earthly things, is devoted exclusively to the observation of Mars.

"Mars and Saturn," New York Times, January 23, 1916

I know that there are extramundane occurrences, and I’ve had my share of experiences that can only be explained as ‘supernatural,’ but they have always been the exception.

Brian Lumley, The Burrowers Beneath, 1974

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

prescient

[ presh-uhnt, ‐ee-uhnt pree-shuhnt, ‐shee-uhnt ]

adjective

having knowledge of things or events before they exist or happen; having foresight.

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What is the origin of prescient?

Prescient comes from Old French from Late Latin praescient-, the present participle stem of the verb praescīre, “to know beforehand, know in advance.” The verb is used mostly by the Latin church fathers (Tertullian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine) to refer to God’s foreknowledge. Praescīre is a derivative of Latin praesciscere, “to get to know beforehand,” a relatively rare compound verb made up of the inceptive verb sciscere “to get to know” (an inceptive verb is one that shows the beginning of an action), formed from the simple verb scīre “to know” and the inceptive infix –sc-; prae– is the Latin preposition and prefix prae, prae– “in front, ahead, before.” Prescient entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is prescient used?

He was known to have had prescient visions that were accurate, penetrating, and defied four-dimensional explanation.

Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965

Seen now, “The Social Network,” about the founding of Facebook and the lawsuits that followed, feels grimly prescient and perhaps representative of how the past few years since the movie premiered—and the past few months of the pandemic—have changed our relationship to social media and each other.

Maya Phillips, "'The Social Network' 10 Years Later: A Grim Online Life Foretold," New York Times, October 5, 2020

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

mal du pays

[ mal dy pey-ee ]

noun

French.

homesickness.

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What is the origin of mal du pays?

Mal du pays is French for “homesickness,” formed from the noun mal, “evil, hurt, harm,” from the Latin adjective and noun malus “bad, wicked,” and pays, “country, land, region.” Pays comes from Vulgar Latin pāgēnsis, pāgēsis, “inhabitant of a region,” equivalent to Latin pāgānus, which has two meanings: “pertaining to a pāgus” (“rural community”), and “civilian, civil, citizen,” a military usage, but used by reputable authors (Tacitus, Suetonius). Roman military slang influenced Latin Christianity: Tabernāculum meant “pup tent, shelter half” (English tabernacle, for both Jewish and Christian usage); sacrāmentum, “the oath of loyalty that a soldier swore annually to his commanding general” (English sacrament), and pāgānus “civilian,” meant “non-Christian, non-Jewish,” English pagan. Mal du pays entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is mal du pays used?

It is the most gentle, depressed-looking creature I ever saw; it seems to have the mal du pays ….

Maria Edgeworth, "Maria Edgeworth to Ludy Edgeworth, January 12, 1822," in A Memoir of Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 2, 1867

For all of its aural joy and ebullience, though, one can still hear Mr. Nabay’s mal du pays.

Andy Beta, "Sounds Converge From All Corners," Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2012

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Monday, October 26, 2020

autoschediasm

[ aw-toh-skee-dee-az-uhm ]

noun

something that is improvised or extemporized.

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What is the origin of autoschediasm?

If there is any one word that fully displays the amazing plasticity of Greek, that word is autoschediasm “improvisation,” a borrowing from the Greek noun autoschedíasma. Autoschedíasma is a derivative of autoschediázein, “to speak offhand, improvise,” a verb formed from the adjective of autoschédios “hand-to-hand (fighting), rough and ready, improvised (speaking),” a derivative of the adverb autoschedón “near at hand, on the spot.” Autoschedón breaks down into the familiar naturalized combining form auto– “self, same, right (here, there),” used here as an intensifier of the adverb schedón “close by, near.” The last element, –(as)ma, is a neuter noun suffix that shows the result of an action: for example, prâgma “something done, an act (concrete),” versus the active noun suffix –sis, as in prâxis “a doing, transacting.” Autoschediasm entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is autoschediasm used?

The first thing is to collect the material. This must comprise the whole range of ancient literature, always carefully weighing the nature of the evidence, so as to reject mere autoschediasms.

Ernst Riess, "On Ancient Superstition," Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 26, 1895

He was a little over-conscious of his command of English, for it was not without an obvious sense of enjoyment that he described his recent refusal of a certain professorial post as “a mere exhibition of autoschediasm.”

Alleyne Ireland, "The Clock Peddler," The Unpartizan Review, No. 29, Vol. 15, 1921

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

wherewithal

[ hwair-with-awl, -with-, wair- ]

noun

that with which to do something; means or supplies for the purpose or need, especially money.

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What is the origin of wherewithal?

The noun wherewithal, “the means or supplies for a need, especially money,” is composed of the adverbs where and withal “with, by means of which.” The oblique sense “money” seems to be from a phrase such as “the X by means of which to do something,” the unexpressed X being money. Wherewithal entered English in the 16th century.

how is wherewithal used?

In Los Angeles and Oakland, it became a status symbol to have the wherewithal to take in roomers.

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, 2010

Most new nonprofits do not have the financial wherewithal to use direct mail, which is expensive, and thus rely on e-mail and other technology-based means of communication.

Stephanie Strom, "Answers to Questions on Philanthropy," New York Times, November 12, 2009

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

indelible

[ in-del-uh-buhl ]

adjective

impossible to eliminate, forget, or change.

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What is the origin of indelible?

Most people probably learn the word indelible in grammar school (a.k.a. primary school, elementary school, lower school) specifically and only referring to permanent ink, which cannot be easily erased or removed. The modern spelling, indelible, arose in the second half of the 17th century, replacing the earlier, more etymologically correct indeleble. Indelible comes from Medieval Latin indēlibilis and is equivalent to Latin indēlēbilis “indestructible, imperishable.” Indēlēbilis is a compound of the Latin negative prefix in– (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-) and the adjective dēlēbilis “that can be defaced or obliterated,” a derivative of the verb dēlēre “to destroy, annihilate.” Cato the Elder fought in the Second Punic War as a private soldier, and many Americans will remember the sentence with which Cato ended every speech in the Senate: Carthāgō dēlenda est “Carthage must be destroyed.” Indeleble entered English in the second half of the 16th century, indelible in the second half of the 17th century.

how is indelible used?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made an indelible mark on the law as an advocate for gender equality long before she became an icon on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robert Iafolla, "Ginsburg championed gender equality before joining Supreme Court," Tampa Bay Times, September 19, 2020

There in a classroom, amid a cohort of presumed losers and layabouts, I took my lessons in the great sin of idleness. The venue at least felt appropriate: the classroom had always been the site of my most indelible failures and losses.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Notes from the First Year," We Were Eight Years in Power, 2017

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Friday, October 23, 2020

supercilious

[ soo-per-sil-ee-uhs ]

adjective

haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression.

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What is the origin of supercilious?

Supercilious comes from the Latin adjective superciliōsus, which has only one meaning, “full of stern or disapproving looks.” Superciliōsus is a derivative of the noun supercilium “eyebrow; the eyebrow and its underlying ridge; the eyebrow as used in expressing haughtiness, disapproval, sternness.” Supercilium is a compound of the preposition and prefix super, super– “above, beyond,” and cilium “eyelid” (unless cilium is a back formation from supercilium). At any rate, cilium is a derivative of the verb cēlāre “to hide,” that is, the eyelid hides the eye. Supercilious entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is supercilious used?

Culkin inhabits space with a squalid sort of entitlement, and he employs a supercilious side-eye as if twirling a mustache.

Troy Patterson, "'Success,' Reviewed: An Irresistible Family Power Struggle, Told Through Soap and Satire," The New Yorker, June 1, 2018

For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

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