Word of the Day

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

ghoulish

[ goo-lish ]

adjective

strangely diabolical or cruel; monstrous: a ghoulish and questionable sense of humor.

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What is the origin of ghoulish?

Ghoulish literally means “of, relating to, or like a ghoul.” If you know your folklore (and word origins), you won’t be surprised to learn why ghoulish evolved to mean “strangely diabolical or cruel; monstrous.” Recorded in the late 1700s, English ghoul is borrowed from the Arabic ghūl (based on a verb meaning “to seize”), a desert-dwelling demon in Arabic legend that robbed graves and preyed on human corpses. A ghūl was also believed to be able to change its shape—except for its telltale feet, which always took the form of donkey’s hooves. A “monstrous” creature, indeed. Ghoulish entered English in the 1800s.

how is ghoulish used?

… her dark humor and ghoulish sensibility are not for everyone.

Heller McAlpin, "'Rest And Relaxation' Is As Sharp As Its Heroine Is Bleary," NPR, July 10, 2018

… much of the story’s ghoulish humor derives from his habit of visualizing and communicating with murder victims, their ghosts intervening to help him solve each crime in trial-and-error fashion.

Justin Chang, "Cannes Film Review: 'Blind Detective'," Variety, May 20, 2013
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

requiescat

[ rek-wee-es-kaht, -kat ]

noun

a wish or prayer for the repose of the dead.

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What is the origin of requiescat?

Requiescat, as any high school Latin student can tell you, is the third person singular present subjunctive active of the Latin verb requiēscere “to rest, be at rest, rest in death” and means “May he/she/it rest.” If the kid wants to show off, they may volunteer that requiescat is an optative subjunctive, that is, a subjunctive that expresses a wish, as opposed to a hortatory subjunctive, a subjunctive that exhorts, as in requiēscāmus “Let’s take a rest,” or a jussive subjunctive, which expresses a command, as in requiescant “Let them rest!” (Requiēscant can also be an optative subjunctive, “May they rest.”) Requiescat usually appears in the phrase Requiescat In Pace (abbreviated R.I.P.) “May he/she/it rest in peace,” seen on tombstones. Requiescat entered English in the second half of the 1700s.

how is requiescat used?

In delivering its eulogy, perhaps I can beg a requiescat from its enemies as well.

Francesco De Sanctis, "The Ideal," From Kant to Croce: Modern Philosophy in Italy, 1800–1950, translated by Brian Copenhaver and Rebecca Copenhaver, 2012

That emotion. I bury it here by the sea … And a heart’s requiescat I write on that grave.

Robert Bulwer-Lytton, Lucile, 1860
Monday, October 28, 2019

macabre

[ muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber ]

adjective

gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible.

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What is the origin of macabre?

The history of the adjective macabre is confusing. The word is Middle French and first occurs (in French) in 1376, Je fis de Macabré la dance “I made the Dance of Death.” In late Middle English Macabrees daunce meant “Dance of Death.” French Macabré may be an alteration of Macabé “Maccabaeus”; if so, Macabré la dance may be the same as the medieval ritual or procession chorēa Machabaeōrum “dance of the Maccabees,” honoring the martyrdom of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers (II Maccabees). Macabre entered English in the 15th century.

how is macabre used?

Their macabre task is swabbing dead animals they find by the side of the road to get hold of their microbiomes—the communities of microorganisms that inhabit these mammals.

Jamie Durrani, "Roadkill Animals Are Surprising Sources of Drug Discovery," Scientific American, January 4, 2017

Vincent (1982) combines Burton’s burgeoning visual aesthetic with his lifelong love of the macabre and interest in stop-motion animation.

Aja Romano, "Tim Burton has built his career around an iconic visual aesthetic. Here's how it evolved." Vox, April 17, 2019

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