Word of the Day

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

hebetude

[ heb-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

the state of being dull; lethargy.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

hebetude

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Tuesday, December 01, 2020

beneficence

[ buh-nef-uh-suhns ]

noun

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

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

beneficence

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, November 30, 2020

consequential

[ kon-si-kwen-shuhl ]

adjective

having important effects or results.

learn about the english language

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

Listen to the word of the day

consequential

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Sunday, November 29, 2020

immemorial

[ im-uh-mawr-ee-uhl, -mohr- ]

adjective

extending back beyond memory, record, or knowledge.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of immemorial?

Immemorial “extending back beyond memory or knowledge” ultimately comes from the Medieval Latin adjective immemoriālis, equivalent to the Latin negative or privative prefix im-, a variant of –in, and (liber) memoriālis “record (book).” Immemorial entered English in the early 17th century.

how is immemorial used?

Practical foresters contend and can demonstrate that from time immemorial fire has been the salvation and preservation of our California sugar and white pine forests.

George L. Hoxie, "How Fire Helps Forestry," Sunset, August 1910

Perhaps the most esoteric of the European minority nations is the nation of Wales, Cymru in Welsh, which lives in the flank of England cherishing its own immemorial culture, squabbling and demanding more independence from the United Kingdom.

Jan Morris, "Druids for a Day, Bards Forever," Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2013

Listen to the word of the day

immemorial

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, November 28, 2020

fussbudget

[ fuhs-buhj-it ]

noun

a fussy or needlessly fault-finding person.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of fussbudget?

Fussbudget “one who is fussy or needlessly faultfinding” is a transparent compound of the nouns fuss “bustle, commotion” and budget “itemized list of funds or expenses.” The word entered English in the early 20th century; it became associated with the character Lucy Van Pelt in the comic strip Peanuts in the 1960s.

how is fussbudget used?

He was a fussbudget. His interest in ideas didn’t match his interest in small, and often silly, facts. Much of the time he saw neither the forest nor the trees but only a bit of the undergrowth.

Richard Rovere, "The Magnificent Fussbudget," Harper's, June 1975

“Friends,” the ever-popular television comedy, has already directed the action away from Chandler, the fussbudget, and Ross, the whiny paleontologist, to Joey of the big biceps and unambiguous urges.

Ginia Bellafante, "Seeing a New Man Calling the Tune, Fashion Gets in Step," New York Times, January 22, 2002

Listen to the word of the day

fussbudget

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Friday, November 27, 2020

lagom

[ lo-gawm ]

noun

the principle of living a balanced, moderately paced, low-fuss life.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of lagom?

The uncommon English noun lagom “the principle of living a balanced, moderate life” comes from Swedish lagom, a fossil noun form in the dative plural used as an adverb meaning “just right, just the thing,” literally “according to custom or common sense.” Lagom comes from an unattested Old Norse plural neuter noun lagu “what is laid down,” which in Old Icelandic becomes lǫg “law, laws.” The Old Norse neuter plural noun lagu was taken into late Old English as a feminine singular noun lagu by the year 1000, becoming lawe in Middle English, and law in English. Lagom entered English in the mid-1930s.

how is lagom used?

In the bigger picture, the balance of lagom goes way beyond emotional wellbeing and interior design to become all about belonging and shared responsibility—not just fitting in, but being part of a greater entity.

Linnea Dunne, Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living, 2017

Many of the rituals, recipes and decoration ideas that filled out last year’s mountain of hygge books would fall outside the lagom threshold. To Swedes, they’d seem fussy, a bit much.

Richard Orange, "Calm down trendspotters—'lagom' is not the new hygge," The Guardian, February 6, 2017

Listen to the word of the day

lagom

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, November 26, 2020

bounteous

[ boun-tee-uhs ]

adjective

freely bestowed; plentiful; abundant.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of bounteous?

Bounteous comes from Middle English bountevous, bounteuous, bontivous (and other variant spellings) “good, worthy, virtuous; knightly, valiant; generous, liberal,” from Old French bontieus, bontif (masculine), bontive (feminine) “benevolent, full of goodness, from Old French bonté, bontet (source of Middle English bounte, English bounty “generosity, generous gift”), from Latin bonitās (stem bonitāt-) “goodness, excellence.” The spelling bounteous arose in the early 15th century as if the etymology were bounte plus the adjective suffix –ousBounteous entered English in the second half of the 14th century.

how is bounteous used?

Let’s not give up on pies. Usually, there’s a lush and sweet array—a loud hurrah to end the bounteous feast.

Ethel G. Hofman, "A downsized Thanksgiving still means turkey and pie," Jewish News Syndicate, November 9, 2020

Mesmerized by the bounteous displays of freshly harvested produce, artisanal breads, and locally raised meats, I salivated with greedy glee, thinking of the market-inspired menus I could prepare if I moved here.

Katie Robbins, "San Fran's Weekly Food Cart Fest," The Atlantic, February 8, 2010

Listen to the word of the day

bounteous

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.