Word of the Day

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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Word of the day

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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Word of the day

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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