Word of the Day

Thursday, January 16, 2020

flinty

[ flin-tee ]

adjective

unyielding; unmerciful; obdurate: a flinty heart.

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What is the origin of flinty?

Flinty is an obvious combination of the noun flint “a hard stone, a type of silica” and the adjective suffix –y, from Old English –ig, cognate with German –ig, and related to Greek –ikos and Latin –icus. One odd element here is that the derived, metaphorical sense “unyielding, unmerciful, obdurate” appears in the first half of the 16th century, about 75 years before the literal sense “consisting of flint stone” (in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 1). A second oddity is that the noun flint, which comes from Old English flint, has impeccable cognates with other Germanic languages (Middle Dutch vlint, Old High German flins, Danish flint, Swedish flinta), from a Proto-Indo-European root (s)plei– “to split, splice.” But flint may be related to Greek plínthos “brick, air-dried brick, squared building stone,” except that a non-Greek language is the usual source of Greek terms associated with building and architecture and nouns with the suffix –inthos, such as asáminthos “bathtub,” terébinthos “terebinth tree, turpentine tree”—the ultimate source of English turpentine. Flinty entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is flinty used?

The section’s editor, Seymour Peck, a flinty New Yorker, had me write columns on movies, theatre, rock music, and television as well as on art, extending my capacities, while cracking down on my flakiness.

Peter Schjeldahl, "The Art of Dying," The New Yorker, December 16, 2019

I opened my mouth to deny it, and he forestalled me with one lifted finger, his gaze flinty.

Jacqueline Carey, "You, and You Alone," Songs of Love and Death, 2010
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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

trangam

[ trang-guhm ]

noun

Archaic.

an odd gadget; gewgaw; trinket.

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What is the origin of trangam?

Trangam, also spelled trangame, trangram, and trankum, is a rare noun with no obvious etymology. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) helped revive trangam in The Abbot (1820), one of the earlier Waverley Novels. Trangam entered English in the 17th century.

how is trangam used?

And meet time it was, when yon usher, vinegar-faced rogue that he is, began to enquire what popish trangam you were wearing …

Sir Walter Scott, The Abbot, 1820

Go, go your ways, get you gone, and finefy your Knacks and Tranghams

Aphra Behn, Sir Patient Fancy, 1678
Tuesday, January 14, 2020

mythomane

[ mith-uh-meyn ]

noun

a person with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating.

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What is the origin of mythomane?

The noun and adjective mythomane is a relatively recent word, dating from only the 1950s, and is a synonym for the noun and adjective mythomaniac, which is almost a century older (1857). Mythomaniac originally meant someone passionate about or obsessed with myths, its etymological meaning. By the early 1920s mythomaniac had acquired its current sense “someone with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating.” The Greek noun mŷthos means “word, discourse, conversation, story, tale, saga, myth”; it does not mean “lie.” The curious thing is that the source word mythomania “lying or exaggerating to an abnormal degree” dates from only 1909.

how is mythomane used?

Lawrence himself was a mythomane and, after the first world war, took particular pains to project an image of himself to the public that was as much a construct as anything worked up by the PR team of a film star or celebrity of today.

William Boyd, "Lawrence of Arabia: a man in flight from himself," The Guardian, April 29, 2016

… he is a flat-out mythomane, dedicated to the Sublime, the Enormous and the Ultra-German; a marvelous artist at his best and at his worst a Black Forest ham.

Robert Hughes, "Mocker of All Styles," Time, May 27, 1999

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