Word of the Day

Monday, April 23, 2018

Falstaffian

[ fawl-staf-ee-uhn ]

adjective

of, relating to, or having the qualities of Falstaff, especially his robust, bawdy humor, good-natured rascality, and brazen braggadocio: Falstaffian wit.

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What is the origin of Falstaffian?

The adjective Falstaffian derives from Falstaff, the family name of Sir John Falstaff, a fictional character in two of Shakespeare’s historical plays (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) and in the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. His death is briefly treated in Henry V. Falstaff as a character is fat, vain, boastful, cowardly, bibulous; he lives on stolen or borrowed money and consorts with petty criminals. He has always been a favorite character among playgoers. Falstaffian entered English in the early 19th century.

how is Falstaffian used?

You couldn’t see the top of the harvest table for all the dishes and wine bottles, but I could see Paul presiding at the far end: bawdy, Falstaffian.

Robert Hellenga, The Confessions of Frances Godwin, 2014

To it would his wholesome and happy mind revert, how often! to rest there for the space of a smile, at least, and sometimes long enough for a full, oceanic commotion of mirth, a perfected soul-delivery of Falstaffian laughter.

William MacDonald, "General Preface: A Discourse of Editions Past and Present," Essays of Elia, 1903
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Sunday, April 22, 2018

biophilia

[ bahy-oh-fil-ee-uh, -feel-yuh ]

noun

a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms.

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What is the origin of biophilia?

Biophilia is a New Latin word formed by two Greek combining forms widely used in English, bio- (from bíos “life”) and -philia “love (of).” Biophilia was coined by the German-born U.S. psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (1900-80) in The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil (1964) in the meaning “love for humanity and nature, and independence and freedom.” E. O. (Edward Osborne) Wilson, U.S. biologist, theorist, and author (born 1929) expanded the meaning to “the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms” in Biophilia (1984). The word biophilia entered English in 1964.

how is biophilia used?

Indeed, on a per-capita basis, New Zealand may be the most nature-loving nation on the planet. With a population of just four and a half million, the country has some four thousand conservation groups. But theirs is, to borrow E. O. Wilson’s term, a bloody, bloody biophilia.

Elizabeth Kolbert, "The Big Kill," The New Yorker, December 22 & 29, 2014

… that fourth kind of love in Perdita’s bundle–biophilia–isn’t it rather intriguing? … He thinks that all living things have an instinctive orientation toward one another. Biophilia is supposed to be deep in our biological makeup.

Hilary Scharper, Perdita, 2013
Saturday, April 21, 2018

panchreston

[ pan-kres-tuh n ]

noun

a proposed explanation intended to address a complex problem by trying to account for all possible contingencies but typically proving to be too broadly conceived and therefore oversimplified to be of any practical use.

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What is the origin of panchreston?

English panchreston comes via Latin panchrēstos “good for everything, universal.” In Latin, its usage is restricted to medicine or derived metaphors, e.g., Pliny the Elder (a.d. 23-79) uses panchrēstos stomaticē, a phrase of two Greek words with Greek inflections, meaning “universal remedy for ailments of the mouth”; Cicero (106-43 b.c.), in one of his forensic speeches, uses panchrēstō medicāmentō “universal cure” as a scornful periphrasis for “bribe.” The original Greek adjective (and noun) pánchrēstos has the same relatively restricted meaning, i.e., to describe widely useful tools or medications. Panchreston entered English in the 17th century.

how is panchreston used?

Bunnell … suggested that the term “fragmentation” has become a panchreston because it has become a catch-all phrase that means different things to different people.

David B. Lindenmayer and Joern Fischer, Habitat Fragmentation and Landscape Change, 2006

Unfortunately, this term has by now acquired so many definitions (at least 70 by recent count) that it has become a panchreston–a term that means so many different things that it means almost nothing.

Daniel Simberloff, Invasive Species: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2013

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