Word of the Day

Friday, October 30, 2020

gloaming

[ gloh-ming ]

noun

twilight; dusk.

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What is the origin of gloaming?

Gloaming, “twilight, dusk,” ultimately comes from Old English glōmung, which occurs once as a translation of Latin crepusculum “dusk, twilight.” Glōmung is a derivative of glōm “twilight, darkness,” from the same root as the verb glōwan “to glow like a coal or fire” (gloaming being the glow of sunrise or sunset). It is tempting to include gloom and its variant glum in this group, but the philological evidence is against it. Gloaming entered English before 1000.

how is gloaming used?

During the workweek, when we are earning the money to pay for all those expensive gardening implements, it’s not possible to do much outside until dusk. Then, with the fireflies, we emerge into the gloaming armed with an arsenal of rakes, pitchforks and spades, like some medieval rabble on its way to battle.

Nancy deWolf Smith, "A Garden of Curses," Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2000

Fortunately, at certain times and places Mercury is more removed from this all-obliterating influence than he is at others, and at such times he may be very distinctly seen, shortly after sunset, twinkling through the gloaming in the west.

Percival Lowell, "Mercury in the Light of Recent Discoveries," The Atlantic, April 1897

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

extramundane

[ ek-struh-muhn-deyn, -muhn-deyn ]

adjective

beyond our world or the material universe.

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What is the origin of extramundane?

Extramundane, “beyond the physical universe,” comes from Late Latin extrāmundānus “beyond, outside the world,” a compound of the preposition and combining form extra, extra– “outside, beyond” and the adjective mundānus “pertaining to the world, the physical universe” and also “inhabiting the world, cosmopolite,” a step beyond urbane, so to speak, and also quite different from the current sense of mundane: “common, ordinary.” Cicero even has Socrates claiming cīvitātemmundānum “world citizenship.” Mundānus is a derivative of the noun mundus “the heavens, sky, firmament; the universe; the earth, the world, our world,” a loan translation of Greek kósmos. Extramundane entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is extramundane used?

One of the subordinate bodies or bureaus or the British Astronomical Association, a company of learned and industrious men who find more pleasure and profit in the investigation of extramundane affairs than in the study of politics or art or other trivial earthly things, is devoted exclusively to the observation of Mars.

"Mars and Saturn," New York Times, January 23, 1916

I know that there are extramundane occurrences, and I’ve had my share of experiences that can only be explained as ‘supernatural,’ but they have always been the exception.

Brian Lumley, The Burrowers Beneath, 1974

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

prescient

[ presh-uhnt, ‐ee-uhnt pree-shuhnt, ‐shee-uhnt ]

adjective

having knowledge of things or events before they exist or happen; having foresight.

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What is the origin of prescient?

Prescient comes from Old French from Late Latin praescient-, the present participle stem of the verb praescīre, “to know beforehand, know in advance.” The verb is used mostly by the Latin church fathers (Tertullian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine) to refer to God’s foreknowledge. Praescīre is a derivative of Latin praesciscere, “to get to know beforehand,” a relatively rare compound verb made up of the inceptive verb sciscere “to get to know” (an inceptive verb is one that shows the beginning of an action), formed from the simple verb scīre “to know” and the inceptive infix –sc-; prae– is the Latin preposition and prefix prae, prae– “in front, ahead, before.” Prescient entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is prescient used?

He was known to have had prescient visions that were accurate, penetrating, and defied four-dimensional explanation.

Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965

Seen now, “The Social Network,” about the founding of Facebook and the lawsuits that followed, feels grimly prescient and perhaps representative of how the past few years since the movie premiered—and the past few months of the pandemic—have changed our relationship to social media and each other.

Maya Phillips, "'The Social Network' 10 Years Later: A Grim Online Life Foretold," New York Times, October 5, 2020

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