Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, January 10, 2021

guileless

[ gahyl-lis ]

adjective

sincere; honest; straightforward; frank.

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What is the origin of guileless?

Guileless means “without guile, sincere, honest, frank.” Guile comes from Middle English gile, guile “a crafty or fraudulent trick, double-dealing,” from Old French guile “lie, trick, deception,” most likely from a Germanic source. The problem is: Which Germanic language or languages? From the point of view of phonetics, Old French guile could very well come from Germanic wīl, but sources are lacking: Old English wīl “device, trick” may itself be a borrowing from Old French. Old Norse vél “artifice, device, trick” is wrong for phonetic reasons. Guileless entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is guileless used?

Looking at them is an exercise in nostalgia not only for the languid California of the early seventies, or the looseness offered by working in a medium that had little respect from the art world and therefore no money, but for a moment when, even if only in the world of these images, the encounter between self and stranger could be guileless.

Emma Cline, "Mike Mandel's Selfies from the Seventies," The New Yorker, October 12, 2020

Guileless? Guess again, sister. There is nothing remotely guileless about this guy, and nowhere is that more evident than in his land deals.

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man, 2002

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Saturday, January 09, 2021

whithersoever

[ hwith-er-soh-ev-er, with- ]

conjunction

to whatever place.

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What is the origin of whithersoever?

Whithersoever, now archaic, meaning “to whatever place,” comes from Middle English whider-so-evere, whidersere, whidursever, an adverb phrase that could be spelled as two or three words; the one-word spelling first appears in the first half of the 17th century. Etymologists break down whithersoever in several ways: whitherso (by itself meaning “whithersoever”) + ever; whither + so + ever; whider + so-ever; and whiderso + ever. Old English has the adverb phrase swā hwider swā, which means the same thing as the Middle English forms but is not their direct ancestor. Whithersoever entered English in the first half of the 13th century.

how is whithersoever used?

Though you may cross vast spaces of sea … your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c4 b.c.–a.d. 65), "On Travel as a Cure for Discontent," Seneca: Ad Lucilium epistulae morales, translated by Richard M. Gummere, 1917

From wheresoever they come and whithersoever they afterward go, all ships that use the canal will pass through the Caribbean.

Alfred Thayer Mahan, "The United States Looking Outward," The Atlantic, December 1890

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Friday, January 08, 2021

bel-esprit

[ bel-es-pree ]

noun

a person of great wit or intellect.

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What is the origin of bel-esprit?

Bel-esprit “a person of great wit or intellect” is a French term. It means literally “beautiful mind, fine mind, wit,” and by extension “person of wit and intelligence.” Bel is the regular French development of Latin bellus “nice, pretty, handsome, charming,” a diminutive adjective formed from bonus “good, good at (something), morally good.” The French noun esprit “spirit, mind” comes from Latin spiritus “breath, breathing, vital principle, soul.” Bel-esprit entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is bel-esprit used?

She was a bel esprit, and a dreadful Radical for those days.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1847–48

Though I would prefer to be dubbed an aristophren, someone of superior intelligence, or a bel-esprit, a person of refined intellect and graceful wit, the proper term for me is lexiphanes (lek-SIF-uh-neez), a showoff with words.

Charles Harrington Elster, "Naming Names," New York Times, August 4, 1996

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