Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, December 31, 2021

golem

[ goh-luhm, -lem ]

noun

a figure artificially constructed in the form of a human being and endowed with life.

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What is the origin of golem?

Golem “a figure constructed in the form of a human and endowed with life” is a borrowing by way of Yiddish goylem from Hebrew gōlem “embryo, larva, cocoon.” This Hebrew noun is a derivative of the verb l’galēm “to embody,” from the Semitic root glm “to cut, separate.” In Jewish folklore, a golem is a humanlike being created from raw material such as clay and brought to life to perform a specific duty or task. Golem was first recorded in English in the late 1890s.

how is golem used?

First mentioned in ancient Jewish texts, a golem is an artificial being made from mud or other inanimate material that’s brought to life through the power of Hebrew letters. It became popular and known outside Judaism in a famous story about the sixteenth-century Rabbi Judah Loew who is said to have created a golem out of clay in the hope it would help protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. However, the golem has a dark side, too. It often spins out of control and its superhuman powers can become a threat to the one who created it.

Kristen Grieshaber, “Berlin’s Jewish Museum opens show on mystic golem creature,” AP News, September 22, 2016

The most famous legend of the golem was of the one created in Prague by rabbi and kabbalist Judah Loew (1525–1609) …. The Golem of Prague directly inspired Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein.” While the specifics of the settings and characters may differ, the stories share points of similarity …. Hal 9000, the sen­tient supercomputer in “2001,” is the ulti­mate golem. Like the Golem of Prague and Frankenstein, HAL gains inde­pen­dence from his cre­ators…

Nathan Abrams, "Why Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001’ is the ultimate golem story," Forward, July 7, 2020
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Word of the day

Thursday, December 30, 2021

wynd

[ wahynd ]

noun

a narrow street or alley.

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What is the origin of wynd?

Wynd “a narrow street or alley” is a Scots dialectal term derived from Old English gewind “winding path.” This Old English noun is related to the verbs wandrian, wendan, and windan (the sources of wander, wend, and wind in the sense “to proceed circuitously”). While the further etymology of these verbs is uncertain, hypotheses include a connection to the Proto-Indo-European root wei- “to turn, twist,” as explored further in the etymology for the recent Word of the Day iridescent. Wynd was first recorded in English around the turn of the 15th century.

how is wynd used?

With a chuckle, quickly suppressed, lest it should bring in Kitty Wilkie, who ought to have been watching her instead of wandering down the wynd to see who was to have salt-fish for supper, the child clutched the letter triumphantly, and, toddling to the door, slipped out of the house.

J. M. Barrie, When a Man's Single, 1888

Strolling amongst the cobbled streets and steep wynds of Edinburgh, unless you’re looking out from atop Arthur’s Seat, it’s easy to forget that the Scottish capital is also home to breathtaking stretches of silvery sands and dramatic coastal views which can give travelers a completely new perspective on the city.

Rachel Davies, "The best beaches near Edinburgh for hiking, birding and wild camping," Lonely Planet. September 15, 2021
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Word of the day

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

diasporic

[ dahy-uh-spawr-ik, ‐spor-ik ]

adjective

of, being, or relating to any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland, either involuntarily or by migration.

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What is the origin of diasporic?

Diasporic “of or relating to any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland” is formed from the Ancient Greek noun diasporá “scattering, dispersion,” from the preposition diá “through, across” and the noun sporá “sowing, seed,” the latter from the verb speírein “to sow.” This verb comes from the Proto-Indo-European root sper- “to strew,” which is also the source of English spread, spritz, and sprout as well as Ancient Greek spérma “seed” (compare sperm) and sporás “strewn, scattered” (compare sporadic). Another possible cognate of diasporic is Latin spargere “to scatter,” the source of words such as aspersion, disperse, and sparse. Diasporic was first recorded in English in the early 1800s.

how is diasporic used?

During the early days of Cahokia, around 1050, emissaries from the city traveled north to sites in what is now Wisconsin, spurring the local creation of platform mounds and sculpted landscapes similar to those in the Cahokian heartland .… In each place where Cahokians remade themselves, they contended with local communities, as well as their individual memories of their homeland. Cahokian migrants made houses that mimicked those at home; they built according to celestial alignments from home; and in diasporic settings, they made iconographic designs honoring mythic heroes from their homeland.

Jayur Mehta, “Cahokian culture spread across eastern North America 1,000 years ago in an early example of diaspora,” Conversation, October 30, 2020

Stepping in its modern form draws from African, African-American and Caribbean traditional moves and group dances. Often attributed to a way of unspoken communication in diasporic communities, it most notably evolved into a celebratory practice choreographed by Pan-Hellenic greek organizations. From college campuses nationwide, stepping was used as a way for fraternities and sororities to show solidarity, and quite frankly, show off their synchronized dance skills.

Danielle Kwateng-Clark, "These Images of Black Sororities and Fraternities Stepping Show The True Beauty of the Artform," Essence, October 26, 2020
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