Word of the Day

Thursday, May 30, 2019

foment

[ foh-ment ]

verb

to instigate or foster (discord, rebellion, etc.).

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What is the origin of foment?

English foment ultimately comes from the Latin noun fōmentum “a soothing dressing or compress (hot or cold), a remedy, alleviation.” Fōmentum is a contraction of an earlier, unrecorded fovimentum or fovementum, a derivative of the verb fovēre “to keep warm, protect from the cold, refresh, ease.” The Latin neuter suffix –mentum is used to form concrete nouns from verbs, such as armāmentum “sailing gear, tackle,” from armāre “to fit out with equipment or weapons.” Foment entered English in the 15th century.

how is foment used?

Russian attempts to influence American voters—including ad purchases on social media intended to foment racial division—coexisted with and benefitted from domestic attempts to discourage people from casting a vote.

Jelani Cobb, "The House Takes On America's Voting-Rights Problem," The New Yorker, February 10, 2019

The coordinated attacks, which took place in three Sri Lankan cities and killed more than 300 people, were designed to foment religious strife in a country that has been slowly recovering from a quarter-century-long civil war.

Noam Cohen, "Like Guns, Social Media Is a Weapon That Should Be Regulated," Wired, April 23, 2019
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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

equity

[ ek-wi-tee ]

noun

the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality.

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What is the origin of equity?

Equity comes via Old French equité from Latin aequitāt-, stem of aequitās “evenness, uniformity, justice, fairness, impartiality.” Aequitās is a noun derivative of the adjective aequus “even, level, flat, just, impartial, reasonable,” of unknown origin. Aequus is the ultimate source of many other familiar English words, including equal, equality, equable, equitable, equation, and equator, as well as the combining form equi-, as in equipoise. Latin also used aequus in compounds, ultimately yielding such English words as equanimity, literally “even mind,” equilateral “having equal sides,” equilibrium “equal weight,” equinox “equal (day and) night,” and equivalent “having equal power.” Equity entered English by the early 14th century.

how is equity used?

In general, the female candidates who won foregrounded fundamental issues of equity and access for all Americans, especially regarding health care and education.

Margaret Talbot, "How Women Won Big in the Midterms," The New Yorker, November 7, 2018

But it [universal basic income] should work in tandem with targeted aid motivated by equity over blind equality.

Jathan Sadowski, "Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income," The Guardian, June 22, 2016
Tuesday, May 28, 2019

otiose

[ oh-shee-ohs, oh-tee- ]

adjective

being at leisure; idle; indolent.

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What is the origin of otiose?

The many meanings of the English adjective otiose are pretty much the same as the Latin original, ōtiōsus. Ōtiōsus means “not busy with business or politics, leisurely, avoiding work or action, ineffectual, useless, peaceable, tranquil, vacant (land or public office).” Ōtiōsus is a derivative of the noun ōtium “spare time, leisure time, time off (from work or the army), inactivity, idleness, holiday, vacation, ease, rest, peace and tranquility.” Otiose entered English in the late 18th century.

how is otiose used?

He was habitually otiose. Lounging in his relax-a-chair was his favorite occupation.

Ellie Grossman, "The Grammar Guru: Some words are too big for their britches," The Blade, September 27, 2001

There is nothing more idle than ten-best or ten-worst lists, and it would be utterly rash and otiose to pick the most overrated playwrights of the American thirties; the real trick would be to find a single underrated one.

John Simon, "Raggle-Taggle Rundown," New York, March 19, 1984

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