• Word of the day
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    Thursday, January 17, 2019

    gadabout

    noun [gad-uh-bout]
    a person who moves about restlessly or aimlessly, especially from one social activity to another.
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    What is the origin of gadabout?

    Gadabout is a noun use of the verb phrase (to) gad about “to move restlessly or aimlessly from place to place.” The Middle English verb gad, gadden is likely a back formation from the Old English noun gædeling “companion in arms, kinsman, fellow” and in the 16th century, “vagabond, wanderer”). Gadabout entered English in the 18th century.

    How is gadabout used?

    My mother-in-law calls me ... a gadabout? accuses me of going to unheard-of places, and thinks it ought to be joy enough for me to sit at home and count over my ancestors on my fingers. Henry James, The American, 1877

    Oh Dapple, Dapple, you wild gadabout, how footloose you have become! Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    akimbo

    adjective, adverb [uh-kim-boh]
    with hand on hip and elbow bent outward: to stand with arms akimbo.
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    What is the origin of akimbo?

    The origin of English akimbo is disputed. The various Middle English spellings include in kenebowe, a kenbow, on kenbow, a canne-bow.... The Middle English forms look like a prepositional phrase composed of in or on (reduced to a) and another word (or other words) of uncertain origin and meaning. Some authorities consider the rest of the phrase to be native English words meaning “(a) sharp angle,” with keen in the sense of “sharp” and bow in the sense of “angle, bow” (as in elbow). Others consider the source to be Old Norse í keng boginn “bent in a bow or curve,” but the sense “with hand on hip and elbow bent outward” does not occur in Old Norse or Icelandic; yet others go to Old French chane, kane, quenne “pitcher, jug, flagon” and English bow “handle.” Akimbo entered English in the 15th century.

    How is akimbo used?

    when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd ... and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul ... Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, 1819

    Placed on top was a primitive wooden statue of the general himself, left arm akimbo and eyes fixed on uptown. , "Arch of Pride," New York Times, June 1, 1991

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    ratiocinate

    verb [rash-ee-os-uh-neyt, -oh-suh-, rat-ee-]
    to reason; carry on a process of reasoning.
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    What is the origin of ratiocinate?

    English ratiocinate comes straight from Latin ratiōcinātus, the past participle of the verb ratiōcinārī “to reckon, calculate, reason.” The Latin noun ratio “reckoning, act of reckoning, calculation” is a derivative of the verb rērī “to hold a belief or opinion, believe, think,” from the root rē-, rēi- “to reason, count, reckon,” a very complicated and problematic root that is also the source of English read and rede (from Old English rǣdan “to read, give counsel”) and riddle (from Old English rǣdels, rǣdelse “counsel, opinion, imagination, riddle”). The Latin combining form -cinārī is a verb suffix formed from nouns to denote a specific activity; its further etymology is unknown. Ratiocinate entered English in the 17th century.

    How is ratiocinate used?

    Scholars, and such that love to ratiocinate, will have more and better matter to exercise their wits upon. Sir William Petty, Letter to Samuel Hartlib, January 8, 1647–8

    It also authorized the Senate's Revenue Laws Study Committee to (ahem) "study" the concept through this year, then study it some more next year, and, we presume, gradually ratiocinate the complexities of the question into the sunset. Matthew Lasar, “Municipal broadband haters in NC dealt a blow,” Ars Technica, July 12, 2010

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, January 14, 2019

    phatic

    adjective [fat-ik]
    denoting speech used to express or create an atmosphere of shared feelings, goodwill, or sociability rather than to impart information: phatic communion.
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    What is the origin of phatic?

    Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942), the Polish-born US anthropologist, coined phatic in 1923. Phatic applies to speech expressive of goodwill and sociability, as at a bar or a cookout. Phatic is composed of the Greek participle phatós “spoken, (that) may be spoken, famous” and the adjective suffix -ic. Phatós comes from the Greek verb phánai “to speak,” from the common Proto-Indo-European root bhā- “to speak.” The root bhā- is the source of Latin fārī “to speak” with its many derivatives, e.g., fāma “fame.” Fārī is also the source of infant, from Latin īnfant-, stem of īnfāns “unspeaking,” formed from the negative prefix in- (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-) and fāns, the present participle of fārī. The same root is the source of English boon “benefit, blessing” via Old Norse bón “prayer, request.”

    How is phatic used?

    ... everyday conversation is filled with little pauses and filler words, the “phatic” spackle of social interactions. That’s why Alexa says things like “Sorry, I’m not sure about that,” or Siri says “OK, here’s what I found ...” Clive Thompson, "Stop the Chitchat. Bots Don't Need to Sound Like Us," Wired, November 16, 2017

    At conferences, phatic greetings including the endless discussion of the weather where one lives. “Does it get hot there in the summer?” “I bet the winters are cold.” Jeff Rice, "Phatic Academics," Inside Higher Ed, May 5, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 13, 2019

    carom

    verb [kar-uhm]
    to strike and rebound.
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    What is the origin of carom?

    English carom is a shortening and alteration of carambole, as if carambole were in fact carom ball. Carambole is a French word borrowed from Spanish carambola “the red ball in billiards.” Further etymology is fanciful, as might be expected from idle gentlemen idly playing a gentlemanly game of billiards. One suggestion is that Spanish carambola comes from Portuguese carambola, the name of a Southeast Asian ornamental tree and its edible fruit (yellowish green, not red; elliptical, not round). The Portuguese word derives from Marathi karambal (Marathi is spoken in south India in Bombay). Carom entered English in the 18th century.

    How is carom used?

    Over the span of its short life, the company has caromed from self-description to self-description. Franklin Foer, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, 2017

    Her life often caromed like one of the billiard balls clicking in the gaslit parlor below her on the mezzanine of the Bardolph. John Griesemer, Signal & Noise, 2004

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, January 12, 2019

    iceblink

    noun [ahys-blingk]
    a yellowish luminosity near the horizon or on the underside of a cloud, caused by the reflection of light from sea ice.
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    What is the origin of iceblink?

    The English noun iceblink is formed from West and North Germanic languages: Dutch and German (West Germanic) have isblink and Eisblink, respectively; Swedish and Danish (North Germanic) have isblink. Iceblink entered English in the 18th century.

    How is iceblink used?

    Above us the clouds were heavy and leaky, and ahead every depression of the dark mountains and the underside of the black cloud canopy above them was lit with the pale, cold glare of the "ice-blink." Robert E. Peary, Northward Over the "Great Ice," 1898

    In a clear sky, it appeared, ice-blink was to be seen as a luminous yellow haze; on an overcast sky it was more of a whitish glare. J. R. L. Anderson, Reckoning in Ice, 1971

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, January 11, 2019

    terraform

    verb [ter-uh-fawrm]
    to alter the environment of (a celestial body) in order to make capable of supporting terrestrial lifeforms.
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    What is the origin of terraform?

    Readers of science fiction already know that terraform means to transform a hostile planet to one suitable for supporting terrestrial life. The Latin noun terra “earth, land, dry land” comes from an unattested noun tersā, from the Proto-Indo-European root ters- “dry,” source of Germanic (English) thirst. Latin forma looks somehow related to Greek morphḗ “form, shape, figure” and is possibly a borrowing from Greek through Etruscan. Morphḗ and forma are the sole representatives of an otherwise isolated root merph- “form,” Latin forma showing metathesis of m and ph (ph becoming f in Latin). Terraform entered English in the mid-20th century.

    How is terraform used?

    ... Dr. Shara said he strongly suspected that we will terraform Mars. “It goes with the human propensity for expansionism, colonization, the need to be real estate developers.” Dennis Overbye, "Oh, the Places We Could Go," New York Times, November 14, 2011

    ... the Old Race became able to terraform planets that had previously been beyond their powers. John Brunner, The Psionic Menace, 1963

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