Word of the Day

Saturday, July 03, 2021

girandole

[ jir-uhn-dohl ]

noun

a rotating and radiating firework.

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What is the origin of girandole?

Girandole, “a firework that rotates and spreads out,” comes via French girandole from Italian girandola, a diminutive of giranda “a revolving jet.” Giranda is a derivative of girare “to turn in a circle, revolve,” from Late Latin gyrāre “to turn in a circle, wheel around.” Gyrāre comes from the noun gyrus “a circular track (for horses); circular movement; celestial orbit.” Gyrus in turn comes from Greek gŷros “ring, circle, circular trench.” Gŷros also appears in gyroscope, an instrument typically used in navigation; in modern Greek gýros “a turn” is also the name of the Greek dish made of meat roasted on a vertical rotisserie, our gyro. Girandole entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is girandole used?

I used to like the Fourth of July okay because of the fireworks. I’d go down by the East River and watch them flare up from the tugboats. The girandoles looked like fiery lace in the sky.

Cristina García, Dreaming in Cuban, 1992

There were solemn mountains of opalescent fire which burst and faded into flaming colonnades, and in an enchanting turquoise effervescence became starry spears and scimiters and sparkling shields, and finally the whole mass would reunite and evaporate into brilliant violet auroras or seven-tailed, vermilion-coloured comets. … Consumed by anxiety for Mila’s safety, he wished that these soundless girandoles, this apocalypse of architectural fire and weaving flame, would end.

James Huneker, "The Spiral Road," Visionaries, 1905

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Friday, July 02, 2021

lilt

[ lilt ]

noun

rhythmic swing or cadence.

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What is the origin of lilt?

Lilt, “a rhythmic swing or cadence; a light and merry song or song or tune,” comes from the Middle English verb lilten, lulten “to sound an alarm; lift up (one’s voice).” Lilten seems to be related to the Middle English verb lulle(n), lullien, loulen “to induce a baby to sleep by rocking or singing; lull.” All of these words are possibly related to Dutch and Low German lul “pipe,” lullen “to lull,” and Norwegian lilla “to sing,” and are likely to be imitative in origin. Lilt entered English in the 14th century.

how is lilt used?

No one knows what this thing is, or which neurons fire in the heads of the people who flock in droves to old Bob Ross videos on YouTube to bask in the unflappable lilt of his folksy patter and the calm, sure sound of his palette knife as it flicks and scrapes pigment onto the canvas.

Alexandra Schwarz, "Performers on Lockdown Turn to Their Smartphones," The New Yorker, March 30, 2020

My professor, Linda Heywood, was slight and bespectacled, spoke with a high Trinidadian lilt that she employed like a hammer against young students like me who confused agitprop with hard study.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 2015

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

stalwart

[ stawl-wert ]

adjective

firm, steadfast, or uncompromising.

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What is the origin of stalwart?

Stalwart “strong and brave; valiant” or “firm, steadfast, or uncompromising” is in origin a Scots form of Middle English stalworth “strong, sturdy, serviceable.” Stalworth has many variant spellings in Middle English because its second syllable was confused with the adjective worth “having monetary value.” In fact, stalworth comes from Old English stǣlwirthe “able to stand a person in good stead; serviceable (of ships).” Stǣl is probably a contraction of stathol “base, support, bottom (of a haystack)”; the Old English adjective suffix –wirthe, with the variants –wierðe, –wyrðe, –weorðe “good, worthy,” survives in modern English worth. Stalwart in the sense “serviceable” entered English before 900; the other senses date from the late 12th century.

how is stalwart used?

Martha was envious, but she was a stalwart friend, and mordantly funny about women’s plight.

Dorothy Wickenden, "The Pre-Civil War Fight Against White Supremacy," The New Yorker, January 18, 2021

It would have needed a very stalwart young woman in 1828 to disregard all those snubs and chidings and promises of prizes. One must have been something of a firebrand to say to oneself, Oh, but they can’t buy literature too. Literature is open to everybody.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

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