Word of the Day

Sunday, March 14, 2021

flummoxed

[ fluhm-uhkst ]

adjective

utterly bewildered, confused, or puzzled.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of flummoxed?

Flummoxed, “utterly bewildered or confused,” ought to leave you flummoxed. The word is a colloquialism, the past participle or adjective of the verb flummox, where the trail turns cold. Flummox has no firm etymology, but it may come from or be akin to British dialect (Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cheshire, all of which border on Wales) flummox, flummocks “to hack, to mangle,” or the noun flummock “a sloven,” or the verb flummock “to confuse, bewilder.” The verb, spelled flummux’d, first appears in 1833 in England with the meaning “backed down, backed out of a promise, disappointed.”

how is flummoxed used?

The lost hour of morning light meant they had to rush to get their crops to market. Dairy farmers were particularly flummoxed: Cows adjust to schedule shifts rather poorly, apparently.

Rachel Feltman, "5 myths about daylight saving time," Washington Post, March 6, 2015

But scientists here are flummoxed. While they presume green turtle numbers are declining, they have no idea how quickly, or where, or how best to protect them.

Craig Welch, "Searching for Elusive Green Sea Turtles in the Persian Gulf," National Geographic, June 16, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

flummoxed

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Saturday, March 13, 2021

foible

[ foi-buhl ]

noun

a minor weakness or failing of character; slight flaw or defect.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of foible?

Foible, “a minor weakness of character, a slight flaw or defect,” comes from the noun use of the obsolete French adjective foible “the weak point of the blade of a sword” (the strong point of a sword blade is the forte). Foible is first recorded in Old French about 1175; it derives from Vulgar Latin febilis, from Latin flēbilis “lamentable, worthy of tears, causing tears,” a derivative of the verb flēre “to weep, cry, lament.” In French, foible was replaced by faible, another derivative of febilis, and the source of English feeble. Foible, in the sense “the weak point of the blade of a sword,” entered English in the first half of the 17th century; the sense “defect in character” arose in the second half of the 17th century.

how is foible used?

Though it has its darker moments, no Bergman venture has ever been so warm, so understanding, so forgiving of human foibles.

Kenneth Turan, "Critics Choice: Rare screening of five-hour 'Fanny and Alexander' at the Wilder," Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2018

I thought of it as just evidence of a very familiar human foible. Most of us can’t later account for why our egos sometimes get the best of us.

Ken Auletta, "Brian William's Mistake," The New Yorker, February 6, 2015

Listen to the word of the day

foible

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Friday, March 12, 2021

avant-garde

[ uh-vahnt-gahrd, uh-vant-, av-ahnt-, ah-vahnt- ]

adjective

of or relating to the experimental treatment of artistic, musical, or literary material.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of avant-garde?

Avant-garde originally meant the “advance guard” of an army or other major military force in the field (that sense is now replaced by vanguard, a shortened form of avant-garde). Avant-garde used in its military sense died out a little after 1800. Its current sense “the advance group in any field, especially in the visual, literary, or musical arts,” first appears in 1910. Avant-garde, spelled aduant garde, entered English in the second half of the 15th century.

how is avant-garde used?

He co-founded a futurist group that sought to transform Poland … through avant-garde literature.

Pasha Malla, "'I Burn Paris' and the Temptation of Newly Topical Fiction," The New Yorker, October 30, 2020

Henson’s lesser-known works are tiny avant-garde masterpieces that are infused with the same humor, character, and vision as his enduring legacy.

Alison Nastasi, "Before the Muppets:10 Surreal and Experimental Works by Jim Henson," The Atlantic, November 23, 2011

Listen to the word of the day

avant-garde

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.