Word of the Day

Sunday, January 03, 2021

frazil

[ frey-zuhl, fraz-uhl, fruh-zeel, -zil ]

noun

ice crystals formed in turbulent water, as in swift streams or rough seas.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of frazil?

The relatively uncommon noun frazil “ice crystals formed in turbulent water, as in swift streams or rough seas,” comes from Canadian French frasil (also frazil, fraisil), an extension of French fraisil “coal cinders, coal dust.” French fraisil is an alteration of Vulgar Latin adjective facilis “pertaining to a torch or firebrand,” a derivative of the Latin noun fax (inflectional stem fac-) “torch, light.” It is unsurprising that frazil first appeared in the Montreal Gazette in the winter of 1888.

how is frazil used?

Sea ice begins as tiny, needle-shaped crystals, about a tenth of an inch long, known as frazil.

Jon Gertner, "Does the Disappearance of Sea Ice Matter?" New York Times, July 29, 2016

First the wind churns up the surface, and the spray and droplets freeze into frazil. Murphy describes this as a collection of “spicules,” or needle-shaped pieces.

Tom Spears, "Frazzle ice has frazzled Ottawa since 1910," Ottawa Citizen, May 13, 2016

Listen to the word of the day

frazil

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, January 02, 2021

handsel

[ han-suhl ]

noun

a gift or token for good luck or as an expression of good wishes, as at the beginning of the new year or when entering upon a new situation or enterprise.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of handsel?

The noun handsel “a token given at New Year’s for good luck; a payment or reward,” is used mostly in Scotland, Ireland, and Northern England. Handsel comes via Middle English hansel(l)e, hancel, handsell (and several other variant spellings). The Middle English forms come from Old English handselen “manumission,” which literally means “hand-gift” (the Old English noun selen “gift” is akin to the verb sell). The Middle English forms were influenced by Old Norse handsal “handshake, handclasp (for sealing a purchase or a promise).” Handsel entered English before 1000.

how is handsel used?

A handsel is a gift made to celebrate a new beginning, as a coin might be placed in the pocket of a freshly-tailored coat.

Brian Stableford, "Chanterelle," Black Heart, Ivory Bones, 2000

It was the principal day of the whole year for making trials and forecasts of the future. Every visitor to the house received a “handsel,” i.e. a gift.

W. W. Tullock, D. D., "The Celtic Year," The Living Age, January–March, 1907

Listen to the word of the day

handsel

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Friday, January 01, 2021

carpe diem

[ kahr-pe -dee-em; English kahr-pey -dee-uhm ]

seize the day; enjoy the present, as opposed to placing all hope in the future.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of carpe diem?

The Latin sentence carpe diem is usually translated “seize the day,” which is a concise but inadequate translation. The sentence comes from the 1st-century b.c. Roman poet Horace in the first book of his Odes, published in 23 b.c. Carpe is the 2nd person singular present imperative of the verb carpere “to pluck, gather, pull (fruit, flowers, etc.); diem “day,” is the accusative singular of diēs, and the direct object of carpe. A more accurate but tedious translation is “pluck the fruit of the day (while it is still ripe),” which completely demolishes Horace’s conciseness. Carpere comes from the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root (s)kerp-, (s)karp– (and other variants) “to cut, pluck,” the source also of Greek karpós “(cut or plucked) fruit.” The Germanic noun harbistaz, from the Proto-Indo-European superlative adjective karp-ist-os “best suited for plucking or reaping,” yields hærfest “autumn” in Old English (English harvest) and Herbst “autumn” in German. Diēs comes from the very, very widespread Proto-Indo-European root dyeu-, dyu-, diw– “to shine,” and by extension “sky, heaven, god,” source of Latin Juppiter “Jupiter,” actually an old vocative formula meaning “Father Jove,” and the exact equivalent to Greek Zeû páter “Father Zeus,” and Sanskrit dyā́uṣpitā́ “Father Heaven.” Carpe diem entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is carpe diem used?

I asked the now-66-year-old Valerie Carpenter what she would say to the 18-year-old Valerie Glines. “Carpe diem,” she said. “Seize the day. Don’t mess around. Follow your heart.”

John Kelly, "They Dated in High School, Broke Up, Lost Touch: A Valentine's Day Love Story," Washington Post, February 13, 2019

More than anything, the pandemic has shown how quickly things can change if they must. Carpe diem.

Timothy Egan, "After the Pandemic, the Big Reset," New York Times, April 10, 2020

Listen to the word of the day

carpe diem

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, December 31, 2020

sayonara

[ sahy-uh-nahr-uh; Japanese sah-yaw-nah-rah ]

interjection, noun

farewell; goodbye.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of sayonara?

Sayonara comes from Japanese sayōnara, a shortening of sayōnaraba, which means literally “if it be so (that the time for parting has come).” Sayonara consists of sayō “thus” and naraba “if it be.” Sayonara entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is sayonara used?

First of all, Joey is terrible at Nintendo. As little brothers go, he’s probably the worst. If he gets to play Zelda, you can say sayonara to your rupees.

Benjamin Flores, "On the Peaceful Transfer of the Nintendo Controller," The New Yorker, October 23, 2020

Turchin published one final monograph … then broke the news to his UConn colleagues that he would be saying a permanent sayonara to the field, although he would continue to draw a salary as a tenured professor in their department.

Graeme Wood, "The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse," The Atlantic, December 2020

Listen to the word of the day

sayonara

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, December 30, 2020

bonbonnière

[ bon-buh-neer, -nyair; French bawn-baw-nyer ]

noun

a box or dish for candies.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of bonbonnière?

A bonbonnière is a person or store that sells candies, or a box or tray for serving candies. Bonbonnière, a French noun, has been in English for more than 200 years, but it is still completely unnaturalized. Bonbonnière is a derivative of the noun bon-bon, literally “good-good,” French baby talk for “candy” (especially chocolate candy). Bonbonnière entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is bonbonnière used?

He drew from his pocket a marvellous bonbonnière, formed out of a single emerald, and closed by a golden lid, which unscrewed and gave passage to a small ball of a greenish colour, and about the size of a pea.

Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte-Cristo, translated from French in 1846

At Sotheby’s the Rivers collection includes a gold and enamel cigarette case with pink rosettes, a carved nephrite gold and enamel bonbonnière, whose lid has Cupid riding an eagle on a cloud, and several elephants in bowenite, obsidian and aventurine.

Wendy Moonan, "An Easter Feast Of Rare Fabergé," New York Times, April 13, 2001

Listen to the word of the day

bonbonnière

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, December 29, 2020

eidetic

[ ahy-det-ik ]

adjective

of, relating to, or constituting visual imagery vividly experienced and readily reproducible with great accuracy and in great detail.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of eidetic?

Eidetic “pertaining to visual images vividly experienced and readily reproducible” is a technical term used in psychology. It comes via German eidetisch from the equally technical Greek adjective eidētikós, whose senses include “constituting an image; (of a number) capable of being represented by a mathematical figure; formal (cause).” Eidētikós is a derivative of eídēsis, one of the several Greek nouns meaning “knowledge.” Eidetic entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is eidetic used?

His eidetic memory went to work, conjuring an image of a large-scale map he had once studied. Closing his eyes he laid off the exact distance, latitude and longitude, individual islands.

Poul Anderson, "The Sensitive Man," Fantastic Universe, January 1954

Dr. Matsuzawa said the ability reminded him of the phenomenon called eidetic imagery, in which a person memorizes details of a complex scene at a glance.

Henry Fountain, "Chimps Exhibit Superior Memory, Outshining Humans," New York Times, December 4, 2007

Listen to the word of the day

eidetic

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, December 28, 2020

amity

[ am-i-tee ]

noun

friendship; peaceful harmony.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of amity?

Amity “friendship; peaceful harmony; peaceful harmony between states” comes via Middle English amite, amitie, amiste from Old French amistié, amisté, amistet “friendship, affection,” from the unrecorded Vulgar Latin noun amīcitāt-, the inflectional stem of amīcitās, equivalent to Latin amīcitia “friendship.” (The same Vulgar Latin noun becomes amistad in Spanish, which may be familiar to Americans from the Steven Spielberg movie Amistad, 1997.) Amīcitia is a derivative of the noun amīcus “friend, lover,” which in its turn is a derivative of the verb amāre “to love, be in love, fall in love with,” which has no further etymology. Amity entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is amity used?

Felix held out his hand as a token of amity, which the other took.

Richard Jefferies, After London, 1885

She did not care for. Mrs. Markey … but John and Joe Markey were congenial and went in together on the commuting train every morning, so the two women kept up an elaborate pretence of warm amity.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Baby Party," Hearst's International Cosmopolitan, February 1925

Listen to the word of the day

amity

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.