Word of the Day

Thursday, May 20, 2021

hapax legomenon

[ hap-aks li-gom-uh-non, hey-paks ]

noun

a word or phrase that appears only once in a manuscript, document, or particular area of literature.

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What is the origin of hapax legomenon?

The phrase hapax legomenon, “a word or phrase appearing only once in literature,” comes from Greek hápax legomenon, composed of the adverb hápax “once, one time” and the neuter singular present passive participle legómenon “(being) said,” from the verb légein “to say.” (Hapax is also used by itself in English as a noun; the plural of hapax legomenon is hapax legomena.) One famous hapax—as far as these things go—is the adjective epioúsion in the phrase ártonepioúsion in the clause “(Give us this day our) daily bread,” in the Lord’s Prayer in the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. The Greek noun ártos means “wheat bread, bread (in general)” and presents no problem. Epioúsion may mean “(enough) for today, today’s, next day’s, necessary, sufficient.” Epioúsion is variously translated in Latin: one of them, quotīdiānum “daily,” is an inadequate, even wrong translation of epioúsion, but it was used in Tyndale’s translation of the Bible (1534) and the King James Bible (1611), and it is used today in most modern English translations. Hapax legomenon entered English in the late 17th century.

how is hapax legomenon used?

I have no such grand designs in this essay, nor could I possibly discuss all of the hapax legomena in just The Lord of the Rings, not even in the most cursory fashion because there are more than five thousand of them.

Jason Fisher, "Some Contributions to Middle-earth Lexicography: Hapax Legomena in The Lord of the Rings," The Year's Word in Medievalism, 2012

The adjective φολκός is an absolute hapax legomenon in the Greek language: it occurs only here and in some ancient scholia, lexica, and commentaries on this very passage.

Steve Reece, Homer's Winged Words, 2009

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

moonshot

[ moon-shot ]

noun

a very challenging and innovative project or undertaking.

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What is the origin of moonshot?

Moonshot, “a launching of a spacecraft to the moon,” a transparent compound of moon and shot, entered English in 1949, near the beginning of large-scale rocket development in the U.S. Moonshot in its extended sense “a challenging and innovative project” first appears in 1967.

how is moonshot used?

Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, called the U.S. plan to tackle climate change “our generation’s moonshot.”

Lisa Friedman and , "Biden and World Leaders Focus on Innovation for 'Clean Energy Future'," New York Times, May 9, 2021

Moonshots don’t begin with brainstorming clever answers. They start with the hard work of finding the right questions.

Derek Thompson, "Google X and the Science of Radical Creativity," The Atlantic, November 2017

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

judder

[ juhd-er ]

verb (used without object)

to vibrate violently.

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What is the origin of judder?

Judder as a verb means “to vibrate or shake violently,” and as a noun, “violent shaking.” It is first recorded in 1926 and refers to the shaking of automobiles (or their parts); it was later applied to aircraft. Judder has no precise etymology: it may be a combination of jolt or jerk and shudder, or it may be a variant pronunciation of shudder.

how is judder used?

Huw stalks through both sets of automatic doors, which judder and groan.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, The Rapture of the Nerds, 2012

Other times, the vehicle’s robotic brain appeared confused, lingering at an all-way stop and juddering when a group of pedestrians crossed in front.

Ian Duncan, "Autonomous shuttles in Northern Virginia suburb show why the future of robot cars might be slow," Washington Post, October 12, 2019

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