Word of the Day

Sunday, March 01, 2020


[ huh-bich-oo-ey, -bich-oo-ey; French a-bee-twey ]


a frequent or habitual visitor to a place: a habitué of art galleries.

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What is the origin of habitué?

Habitué, “a frequent or habitual visitor,” still feels very French in its spelling and pronunciation. Habitué is often used for someone who frequents places of recreation or amusement, such as poolrooms, bars, or used bookstores. French habitué is a noun use of the masculine past participle of the verb habituer “to frequent,” from Late Latin habituāre, a derivative of the Latin noun habitus “state, state of being, condition.” Habitué entered English in the 19th century.

how is habitué used?

[He was] a jaded habitué of nightclubs, an expert poker player, deceitful and polite, who trimmed his nails carefully every morning.

Victor Serge (1890–1947), The Birth of Our Power, translated by Richard Greeman, 2014

Mr. Zegen is a hunter and gatherer of no mean talent, a gift he said he inherited from his mother, a habitué of garage, estate and yard sales, who scored the red-and-black rug on the floor in the living room.

Joanne Kaufman, "Mr. Maisel's Memorabilia," New York Times, November 27, 2018

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Saturday, February 29, 2020


[ in-tur-kuh-ler-ee, in-ter-kal-uh-ree ]


inserted or interpolated in the calendar, as an extra day or month.

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What is the origin of intercalary?

February 29 presents the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the word intercalary, as this extra “leap” day, intended to reconcile the solar calendar with the seasons, is itself just that. The adjective intercalary, “inserted or interpolated in the calendar, as an extra day or month,” comes straight from Latin intercalārius, intercalāris, interkalāris of the same meaning. It is a derivative of the verb intercalāre, interkalāre “to intercalate, delay, postpone,” a compound formed of the familiar preposition and prefix inter, inter– “between, among” and the simple verb calāre, kalāre “to announce, proclaim, summon.” The Latin noun kalendae, calendae means “the calends, the first day of the month, the day on which were proclaimed the nones (the ninth day before the ides) and the ides (the fifteenth or thirteenth day of the month).” Intercalary entered English in the early 17th century.

how is intercalary used?

Today, you see, is a leap day, the intercalary anomaly that allows “leaplings” in their 80s to pretend they’re in their 20s ….

Simon Usborne, "Enjoy today—there won't be another one for four years," Independent, February 29, 2012

It closely follows the present calendar, but becomes perpetual by readjustment of the length of some months, equalization of the quarters and insertion of intercalary days.

Geoffrey Vincent, "For Tidier Time," New York Times, January 12, 1964
Friday, February 28, 2020


[ esh-uh-lon ]


a level of command, authority, or rank: After years of service, she is now in the upper echelon of city officials.

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What is the origin of echelon?

In English, echelon originally had a military sense, “military forces advancing in a steplike formation.” Around 1950, echelon acquired the originally American sense “grade or rank in any administration or profession.” Echelon comes from French echelon, originally “rung of a ladder,” from Old French eschelon, formed from the noun eschele, eschiele “ladder” (from Latin scāla) and the augmentative suffix –on (an augmentative suffix, when added to a noun, denotes increased size or intensity). Echelon entered English in the late 18th century.

how is echelon used?

… if they fall out of favor with the top echelon of the party, their business empires could come crashing down.

David Barboza and Michael Forsythe, "With Choice at Tiananmen, Student Took Road to Riches," New York Times, June 3, 2014

The film features interviews with former members of the controversial organization who describe widespread abuse and intimidation from the upper echelons of the Church’s power structure.

"See the First Trailer for Scathing Scientology Documentary Going Clear," Time, February 20, 2015
Thursday, February 27, 2020


[ vuhg, voog ]



a small cavity in a rock or vein, often lined with crystals.

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What is the origin of vug?

While you may have not heard of the word vug before, you have probably encountered a beautiful specimen of what this uncommon term names. In geology, vug refers to a small cavity in a rock or vein, often lined with crystals. Cavity is the key word, as vug comes from Cornish vooga “cave” (compare Cornish gogow “cave, cavity” and gwag “cave,” Welsh ogof “cave,” Latin fovea “pit”). Vug is also spelled vugg and vugh, and its adjective form is the delightful vuggy. Cornish was a Celtic language of southwest England that went extinct around 1800, but was notably revived in the 20th century. Borrowed from Cornish mining, vug entered English in the early 1800s.

how is vug used?

And this little hole—see, this little hole? There were once quartz crystals here too but they eroded away. This little hole is called a vug.

James Landis, The Last Day, 2009

One such quartz vein contained minute particles of free gold, in a vug.

Mineral Resources of the Pasayten Wilderness Area, Washington, 1971

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020


[ kawr-i-juh-buhl, kor- ]


subject to being revised, improved, or made more accurate: a corrigible theory.

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What is the origin of corrigible?

It is curious that corrigible “subject to being revised, improved, or made more accurate” is much less common than its opposite, incorrigible. Corrigible ultimately comes from Medieval Latin corrigiblis, a derivative of Latin corrigere “to correct, amend, improve, rectify.” Corrigibilis does not occur in classical Latin, but incorrigibilis occurs in Seneca, the first-century a.d. Roman philosopher and man of letters. Corrigible entered English in the 15th century.

how is corrigible used?

First, policy decisions demand closure, conclusiveness, and certainty. By contrast, science is by its nature cautious, contingent, and corrigible.

David Murray, Joel Schwartz, and S. Robert Lichter, "How Science Is Handled in the News," "Consumers' Research Magazine, July 2001

He cautioned against a colonizing mindset that too readily collapses the distance between one’s self and another; empathy, in Stein’s definition, is “corrigible, always something to be learned.”

Rowan Williams, "I Have No Idea How You Feel," Harvard Magazine, April 15, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2020


[ kroo ]


a private social club that sponsors balls, parades, etc., as part of the Mardi Gras festivities, especially in New Orleans.

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What is the origin of krewe?

Krewe is a fanciful or archaized spelling of crew “a group of people engaged in a particular kind of work.” Crew comes from Middle French creue “increase” from Old French creu, past participle of the verb creistre “to grow.” Old French creistre develops from the Latin verb crēscere, the ultimate source of the words crescent and croissant. Krewe is first attested in English in 1857.

how is krewe used?

On the morning of Shrove Tuesday, families lined up on St. Charles Ave. to watch the main event of the Carnival—the parade of Rex, the second-oldest parading krewe.

Calvin Trillin, "New Orleans Unmasked," The New Yorker, January 26, 1998

Davis lovingly previewed the ritual of revelry: on the Friday before Fat Tuesday he and his krewe—some 500 strong—will gather for lunch and ribald jokes.

Evan Thomas, "Taken by Storm," Newsweek, December 25, 2005
Monday, February 24, 2020


[ rey-ahl-poh-li-teek, ree- ]


political realism or practical politics, especially policy based on power rather than on ideals.

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What is the origin of realpolitik?

Realpolitik still feels like a German word. It was coined by Ludwig von Rochau, a 19th-century German politician and journalist, in his Grundsätze der Realpolitik “Principles of Practical Politics” (1853). Real in German means “realistic, practical, objective,” and Realpolitik means “realistic politics, practical politics,” that is, politics based primarily on power, national interests, and material factors and not on explicit ideological or moral or ethical premises. Realpolitik entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is realpolitik used?

Throughout, Ms. Warren has kept one eye trained on policy and the other on realpolitik: protecting her aspirational brand of liberalism and robbing Republicans (and her Democratic rivals) of a potent talking point about middle-class taxes.

Shane Goldmacher, Sarah Kliff, and Thomas Kaplan, "How Elizabeth Warren Got to 'Yes' on Medicare for All," New York Times, November 17, 2019

… the cynic also had not counted on how ruthless the man could be in attaching himself to cold realpolitik after building his entire campaign—nay, his entire political career—on a notion of political transcendence.

Charles P. Pierce, "The Cynic and President Obama," Esquire, November 1, 2012

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