Word of the Day

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

haimish

[ hey-mish ]

adjective

homey; cozy and unpretentious.

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What is the origin of haimish?

The Yiddish adjective haimish (also spelled heimish) means “cozy, comfortable, unpretentious,” pretty much the same as English homey. Heimish comes from the Middle High German adjective heimisch (German heimisch), a compound of the Middle High German noun heim “home,” from Proto-Germanic haimaz, the same source as Old English hām (English home). The adjective suffix –ish comes from Proto-Germanic –iska-, source of English –ish. The Proto-Germanic suffix is related to the Greek suffix –iskos, used to form diminutive nouns such as neanískos “youth,” a diminutive of neanías “young man.” Heimish entered English in the mid-1950s.

how is haimish used?

Here, the antique and modern furniture you see spotlighted in pricey Manhattan store windows doesn’t look special; it just looks right, and comfortable — not to mention somehow new when combined this way. Call it haimish modern.

Pilar Viladas, "Drawn From Memory," New York Times Magazine, August 11, 2002

It’s irresistibly haimish, with exposed-brick walls and, behind the oak-and-tile bar, an eighteenth-century map of Rome. Everybody knows everybody, by sight or by name—diners, waiters, staff.

Sarah Larson, "A Neighborhood Restaurant's Last Night, For Now," The New Yorker, March 30, 2020

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Monday, March 15, 2021

lickety-split

[ lik-i-tee-split ]

adverb

at great speed; rapidly.

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What is the origin of lickety-split?

The adverb lickety-split, “at great speed; rapidly,” was originally and remains mostly a colloquialism. The origin of lickety is fanciful—an extension of lick “to move quickly, run at full speed.” And split means “fraction,” as in split second. Lickety-split entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is lickety-split used?

Well, pretty soon, after we had got down to level country and were making the speedometer earn its board, I happened to look around and, good night, there was an automobile coming along lickety-split, about a quarter of a mile behind us.

Percy Keese Fitzhugh, Roy Blakeley's Silver Fox Patrol, 1920

You will pay very little, and your coffee, pancakes or waffles will arrive lickety-split on your red-checked tablecloth. At the next table may be a tug crew, a film company or even the First Lady.

Jeannete Belliveau, "Outer Storm, Inner Harbor," Washington Post, July 20, 1994

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

flummoxed

[ fluhm-uhkst ]

adjective

utterly bewildered, confused, or puzzled.

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What is the origin of flummoxed?

Flummoxed, “utterly bewildered or confused,” ought to leave you flummoxed. The word is a colloquialism, the past participle or adjective of the verb flummox, where the trail turns cold. Flummox has no firm etymology, but it may come from or be akin to British dialect (Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cheshire, all of which border on Wales) flummox, flummocks “to hack, to mangle,” or the noun flummock “a sloven,” or the verb flummock “to confuse, bewilder.” The verb, spelled flummux’d, first appears in 1833 in England with the meaning “backed down, backed out of a promise, disappointed.”

how is flummoxed used?

The lost hour of morning light meant they had to rush to get their crops to market. Dairy farmers were particularly flummoxed: Cows adjust to schedule shifts rather poorly, apparently.

Rachel Feltman, "5 myths about daylight saving time," Washington Post, March 6, 2015

But scientists here are flummoxed. While they presume green turtle numbers are declining, they have no idea how quickly, or where, or how best to protect them.

Craig Welch, "Searching for Elusive Green Sea Turtles in the Persian Gulf," National Geographic, June 16, 2018

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