Word of the Day

Friday, October 11, 2019


[ fi-lis-i-teyt ]

verb (used with object)

to compliment upon a happy event; congratulate.

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What is the origin of felicitate?

The verb felicitate comes from Late Latin fēlīcitātus, past participle of fēlīcitāre “to make happy,” a derivative of the Latin adjective fēlix (inflectional stem fēlīc-) “fruitful, fertile, rich, auspicious, wealthy, lucky, blessed.” Related Latin words include fēcundus “fertile, fruitful” (English fecund); fēlāre “to suckle”; fēmina “woman, female” (English feminine); and fīlius and fīlia “son, daughter” (from which English has filial). The Latin forms derive from the Proto-Indo-European root dhē-, dhēi-, dhi– “to suck, suckle.” From that root Sanskrit has dhāya– “nourishing,” dhātrī “wet nurse, mother,” and dhḗnā “milch cow.” Greek has thēlḗ “mother’s breast, nipple,” thḗnion “milk,” tithḗnē (also títhē) “wet nurse.” Among the Celtic languages, Old Irish has dīnu “lamb” and the verb dīth “(he) sucked”; Breton has denaff “(I) suck,” and Welsh dynu “(to) suck.” Felicitate entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is felicitate used?

Mrs. Smithers, you will also permit me to felicitate you upon this happy event.

John Kendrick Bangs, Coffee and Repartee, 1893

The novelists appear to felicitate themselves in all sincerity upon their success …

Thomas R. Lounsbury, "Differences in English and American Usage," Harper's Monthly Magazine, Vol. 127, June–November 1913
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Thursday, October 10, 2019


[ bahy-oh-mawrf ]


a painted, drawn, or sculptured free form or design suggestive in shape of a living organism, especially an ameba or protozoan: The paintings of Joan Miró are often notable for their playful, bright-colored biomorphs.

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What is the origin of biomorph?

Biomorph is easily broken down to the combining forms bio– and –morph, both Greek in origin and both thoroughly naturalized in English. Bio– comes from Greek bíos “life, mode of life, the world we live in” (bíos does not mean “animal life,” which is zōḗ). The combining form –morph comes from the Greek combining form –morphós, a derivative of the noun morphḗ “form, shape, beauty.” Morphḗ may perhaps be related to Latin forma, perhaps via Etruscan (the usual suspect). Biomorph entered English at the end of the 19th century.

how is biomorph used?

She painted biomorphs and wonky grids within the defined parameters of the picture plane ….

Tess Thackara, "The Brief, Transformative Career of Eva Hesse," Artsy, September 3, 2019

There is nothing bitter or sweet about this antsy, unnamable biomorph; refusing to stay put in its own painterly space, it reels … into ours — willfully rude and buoyantly playful, a jolt of unalloyed energy.

Thomas Micchelli, "Elizabeth Murray, Force of Nature," Hyperallergic, January 14, 2017
Wednesday, October 09, 2019


[ lam-buhnt ]


dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly playful: lambent wit.

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What is the origin of lambent?

Lambent comes straight from Latin lambent-, the inflectional stem of the present participle lambēns, from the verb lambere “to lick, (of food or liquid) lick up, suck up, absorb.” Lambere has the transferred senses “(of fire) to play upon, lick,” “(of water) to wash, bathe,” and “(of creeping plants) to surround, wreathe.” The only English sense deriving from the Latin is “running or moving lightly over a surface”; the other senses, including “dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject,” developed within English. Lambent entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is lambent used?

There is the lightning wit that flashes of a short sentence or an apt reply, and there is the lambent wit that sparkles either by description or dialogue.

Walter Sydney Sichel, "The Wit and Humour of Lord Beaconsfield," Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. 44, May–October 1881

He goes to Oxford, where his lambent gift of tongues is recognized and encouraged, and then to war, where everything he values is laid waste.

Anthony Lane, "Why Make Movies About Writers," The New Yorker, May 10, 2019
Tuesday, October 08, 2019


[ ek-spee-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to atone for; make amends or reparation for.

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What is the origin of expiate?

The verb expiate, “to atone for, make amends for, make reparation for,” comes from Latin expiātus, the past participle of expiāre “to make atonement to the gods for, appease, propitiate (deities, spirits),” a compound formed by the intensive prefix ex– and the simple verb piāre “to propitiate (a deity, spirit),” a derivative of the very important Roman adjective pius “dutiful, faithful (to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred, and friends).” Aeneas is called pius Aeneas 20 times in the Aeneid. Expiate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is expiate used?

Ridding oneself of guilt is often easier than overcoming shame, in part because our society offers many ways to expiate guilt-inducing offenses, including apologizing, paying fines, and serving jail time.

Annette Kämmerer, "The Scientific Underpinnings and Impacts of Shame," Scientific American, August 9, 2019

Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins.

Andy Newman, "If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?" New York Times, June 3, 2019
Monday, October 07, 2019


[ te-loor-ee-uhn ]


of or characteristic of the earth or its inhabitants; terrestrial.

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What is the origin of tellurian?

The adjective and noun tellurian ultimately derive from the Latin noun tellūs (inflectional stem tellūr-) “ground, dry land, earth, the earth.” In English the adjective tellurian, meaning pretty much the same as terrestrial, was a technical term used in astronomy. Tellurian used as a noun, “an inhabitant of earth, earthling,” appears in the first half of the 19th century. Throughout much of the 20th century, tellurian, adjective and noun, occurs especially in science fiction. Tellūs comes from a Proto-Indo-European root tel– “flat, level, floor, ground,” the root of Sanskrit tala– “flat surface, flat of the hand”; Old Irish talam “earth”; Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language) talus “floor (of a room)”; and Greek tēlía “board for rolling dice on, kitchen board.” Tellurian entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is tellurian used?

That … I should feel in touch with something that I am, or was, and yet seems to go beyond the rational either bespeaks the power of self-delusion in even those with trained minds, or reveals that tellurian force still present and available to us …

Catharine Savage Brosman, "Turn My Face Out to the West," The Shimmering Maya and Other Essays, 1994

Her [the moon’s] antiquity in preceding and surviving successive tellurian generations …

James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922
Sunday, October 06, 2019


[ flek-shoo-uhs ]


full of bends or curves; sinuous.

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What is the origin of flexuous?

Flexuous comes straight from Latin flexuōsus “full of bends or turns, winding,” an adjective derived from the noun flexus “an act of bending, turning, or swerving, or of turning a corner,” which in turn is a derivative of the verb flectere “to bend, curve, curl (the hair).” Further etymology of flectere is uncertain. Flexuous is not common in English; the word is used chiefly in zoology and botany. Flexuous entered English in the early 17th century.

how is flexuous used?

The searching stems are gently flexuous, belying their innate urge to reach up to the light.

Andy Byfield, "Ivy: the forgotten festive plant," The Guardian, December 31, 2013

… George Best corkscrewing his way past man after man on a flexuous run of perfect balance and improvised brilliance.

Paul Gardner, "Soccer, American Style," New York Times, May 4, 1975
Saturday, October 05, 2019


[ ree-ey-lee-uh, -al-ee-uh, rey-ah-lee-uh ]

plural noun

objects, as coins, tools, etc., used by a teacher to illustrate everyday living.

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What is the origin of realia?

Realia comes from the Late Latin adjective reālia “real things, facts,” the neuter plural of reālis used as a noun. Reālis is a derivative of the noun rēs “thing, matter, affair” (three of the word’s many, many meanings). The earliest English usage of realia referred to German culture and educational systems, specifically the Realschule, a secondary school specializing in practical subjects rather than the liberal arts. In the United States since the late 1890s, realia have meant ordinary, everyday objects used as teaching aids for children. This is nothing new: in the first century a.d., the Roman rhetorician Quintilian recommended using large letters carved of wood, easy for children to handle, to help them learn the alphabet. Realia entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is realia used?

For students to learn a new language in meaningful contexts, teachers must use every instructional strategy available to them, including the use of actual objects (realia), pictures, videos, and gestures to express meaning.

Anthony Jackson, "Immersion Teaching: Successful Approaches," Education Week, October 17, 2013

Many libraries contain realia, or real artifacts. School libraries may include various kinds of rock for the study of geology; cultural libraries may possess objects such as the toki ….

Ian H. Witten and David Bainbridge, How to Build a Digital Library, 2003

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