Word of the Day

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

glower

[ glou-er ]

verb (used without object)

to look or stare with sullen dislike, discontent, or anger.

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What is the origin of glower?

The verb glower, “to look or stare with sullen dislike,” comes from Middle English gloren, glouren “to shine, gleam, glow; stare, stare at fixedly.” The Middle English forms are mostly from the north (Yorkshire) and Scotland; the sense “to stare at fixedly” is Scottish. The source of gloren and glouren is obscure, but possibly Scandinavian, e.g., Icelandic glóra “to glow (like a cat’s eyes)” and Swedish and Norwegian dialect glora “to glow, stare.” The source of gloren, glouren may also be from Middle Low German glūren “to be overcast” or Dutch glueren “to leer, peep.” Glower entered English in the 15th century.

how is glower used?

Alfred glowered at us as if he never could, or would, forgive the injury of that night.

Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1853

Angela was dismayed: was she sure she knew the way back? Of course she knew it, Cecilia said, glowering. She wasn’t an idiot.

Tessa Hadley, "Cecilia Awakened," The New Yorker, September 10, 2018

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

ex-voto

[ eks-voh-toh ]

noun

a painting or other object left as an offering in fulfillment of a vow or in gratitude, as for recovery from an illness or injury.

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What is the origin of ex-voto?

Ex-voto, “out of a vow (fulfilled or undertaken),” refers to a painting or other artifact left as an offering in fulfillment of a vow or in gratitude, e.g., for recovery from an illness or injury. Ex-voto being a Latin phrase, such offerings are therefore associated with Western Christianity, especially with Mediterranean Catholicism (Italy, Iberia, former Spanish colonies abroad). (The Greek Orthodox Church has a similar custom; the offerings in the Greek Church are called támata, plural of táma “a vow, an ex-voto offering.”) The custom antedates Christianity by many hundreds of years: In the Iliad Hector says he will hang the weapons of his foe in the temple of Apollo; the poet Hesiod dedicated the tripod he won in a poetry contest in Chalcis to the Muses on Mount Helicon. Miltiades, the general of the Athenians and their Plataean allies at the Battle of Marathon (490 b.c.), dedicated his helmet in the temple of Zeus in Olympia (where his helmet is on display on the archaeological museum). Even the witty, urbane Horace refers to “the sacred wall with its votive tablet [tabulā… vōtīvā] shows where I have hung my sodden garments in gratitude to the god of the sea” (for escaping the surely destructive shipwreck of a love affair). Ex-voto entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is ex-voto used?

Amid the fear and uncertainty of wartime, ex-votos doubled as a means of communication and thanksgiving between a human and her god and saints.

Alexxa Gotthardt, "A Brief History of the Mexican Votive Paintings That Inspired Frida Kahlo," Artsy, November 1, 2016

The purpose of the ex-voto is not only to record the individual experiences of Messer Zaneto de Friza and his sons but also to proclaim their experiences to a public audience.

Mary Laven, "Recording Miracles in Renaissance Italy," Past & Present, Vol. 230, November 16, 2016

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Monday, June 01, 2020

spirituel

[ spir-i-choo-el; French spee-ree-tyel ]

adjective

showing or having a refined and graceful mind or wit.

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What is the origin of spirituel?

Spirituel is a French adjective meaning not only “spiritual” (as in English), but also “displaying a refined and graceful mind or wit.” In French spirituel is the masculine singular form, spirituelle the feminine singular, a distinction not usually observed in English. Most of the English citations of spirituel refer to women or to a particular woman’s liveliness and acuity. Spirituel entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is spirituel used?

It is a comedy in the sense that it is meant to make you laugh. The laughter is mostly spirituel: Cyrano is witty.

Anthony Burgess, "Why Edmond Rostand's 'Cyrano' Lives On," New York Times, November 18, 1984

They are more than witty, they are spirituel; and they have more than talent, they have taste.

Various, "Jules Janin and the Paris Feuilletonistes," The International Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 1, August 1851

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