Word of the Day

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

hebetude

[ heb-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

the state of being dull; lethargy.

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What is the origin of hebetude?

Hebetude comes straight from the Late Latin noun hebetūdō, a derivative of the adjective hebes (inflectional stem hebet-) “blunt, dull (physical or mental), obtuse (angle or person).” Hebetūdō first appears in the Commentary on the “Dream of Scipio” (ca. a.d. 430) by the pagan author Macrobius. Macrobius’ Commentary was so popular and influential in late antiquity and the Middle Ages and so important and invaluable a source for Neoplatonic philosophy that its numerous manuscripts cannot be sorted into families. Hebes has no known etymology; scholars cannot even blame hebes on the Etruscans (their usual go-to for strange Latin words). Hebetude entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is hebetude used?

Why did I take up Latin at this late age? I did so not only to fight off hebetude but also to avoid becoming my mother.

Ann Patty, Living with a Dead Language, 2016

Urban hebetude, he discovers, can be cured at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Richard B. Woodward, "Armchair Traveler," New York Times, October 31, 2008

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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

beneficence

[ buh-nef-uh-suhns ]

noun

the doing of good; active goodness or kindness; charity.

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What is the origin of beneficence?

Beneficence “active goodness or kindness; charity,” comes via French bénéficence from Latin beneficentia “kindness, kind treatment of others,” a derivative of the adjective beneficus “generous, liberal, kind.” Beneficus is a compound composed of the adverb and prefix bene, bene– “well,” a derivative of the adjective bonus “good” (and completely naturalized in English), and the combining form –ficus (English –fic) “making, producing” (as in honorific, pacific) a derivative of the all-purpose, overworked verb facere “to do, make, construct.” Beneficence entered English in the early 15th century.

how is beneficence used?

My general misery was alleviated by what felt like a measure of Victorian beneficence: I had the run of the house’s library.

Thomas Mallon, "Frenemies," The New Yorker, May 25, 2015

Better still would be the inculcation into all our moral considerations of beneficence as an internal good rather than an ethical calculation. Be good for goodness’ sake.

Michael Shermer, "Does the Philosophy of 'the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number' Have Any Merit?" Scientific American, May 1, 2018

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Monday, November 30, 2020

consequential

[ kon-si-kwen-shuhl ]

adjective

having important effects or results.

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Why we chose consequential

What is the origin of consequential?

Consequential “following as an effect or result; having important effects or results; self-important, pompous” is a derivation of consequence, from Latin consequentia “succession, sequence (of events), logical or necessary sequence,” ultimately a derivative of the verb consequī “to come or go after, follow, attend,” a compound of the prefix con-, a variant of com– “together, with,” and the simple verb sequī “to follow.” The sense “self-important, pompous” does not exist in Latin; it developed within English in the mid-18th century. Consequential entered English in the first half of the 17th century. Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year for 2020 is a consequential word for a consequential year. Think you know what it is? Find out!

how is consequential used?

The world is changed forever: No matter how deeply affected you are—medically, financially, emotionally, or otherwise—there is no going back. But the decisions we make about how to proceed now are extremely consequential, and the potential outcomes before us are vastly different.

James Hamblin, "Social Distance: Three Scenarios for How This Ends," The Atlantic, March 31, 2020

But in the middle of a pandemic, the most consequential of disaster decisions become complicated by fears of contagion.

Patricia Mazzei, "What Happens If a Hurricane Hits During the Pandemic?" New York Times, May 24, 2020

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