Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

hex

[ heks ]

verb (used with object)

to bewitch; practice witchcraft on.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of hex?

Hex “to bewitch” is a borrowing via Pennsylvania Dutch from German hexen, related to the noun Hexe “witch.” Hexe is a cognate of the English word hag “witch, sorceress; ugly old woman,” and the two are shortened from Old High German hagazussa and Old English hægtesse, respectively. Though hex and hag have long had negative connotations in English because of their magical associations, theories about their origin are far less biased; the haga-/hæg- element may derive from a root meaning “able, skilled” or could be connected to hawthorn, hay, and hedge, thereby reflecting a historical link between plants and sorcery. The -zussa/-tesse element, in turn, may be related to a variety of words in the Indo-European language family with meanings such as “fairy,” “ghost,” and “demon.” Hex was first recorded in English in the 1820s.

how is hex used?

“[The villagers] thought she had the evil eye, they thought she was hexing their cows. They didn’t want to waste their bullets so they used stones. Stones and clubs .… But she knew it was going to happen, she was a clairvoyant. She handed me over to a friend she had, in another village, the night before. That’s what saved me.”

Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride, 1993

I remember all manner of morality tales and fables about boys who stole pie and were hexed, vexed, and haunted, so many and so often that I came to believe that pie thievery must have been a very common thing back then. I would not do it again—it would be unseemly. But sometimes I pass a pie in a bakery, and I wonder. It would probably just taste like pie. But how will I ever know unless…

Rick Bragg, "Sometimes the Pie Just Calls Your Name," Paris Review, April 24, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

hex

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.

Word of the day

Monday, October 11, 2021

fartlek

[ fahrt-lek ]

noun

a training technique, used especially among runners, consisting of bursts of intense effort loosely alternating with less strenuous activity.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of fartlek?

Fartlek “a training technique consisting of bursts of intense effort” is a direct borrowing from Swedish and comprises the elements fart “speed” and lek “play.” Fart is cognate with the English verb fare “to go, travel,” as found in the nouns warfare, wayfarer, and welfare, from a Proto-Indo-European root per- “to pass over.” Other derivatives from this root include port, portable, and portal (via Latin porta “door, gate” and portāre “to carry”) and pore and emporium (via Ancient Greek póros “passage”). Lek may be related to English lark “a carefree adventure; to have fun” but has a far more popular relative: LEGO, the name of a brand of interlocking plastic bricks, from Danish leg godt “to play well.” Fartlek was first recorded in English in the 1950s.

how is fartlek used?

Fartlek running is racing then recovering and so on. It became harder to race at a certain distance, and then slow to recover, then race again. At the moment his training was racing for half a mile then recovering for the next quarter. It was damned tough, but if he could get below three hours it would be worth every ounce of sweat and tears.

P. A. McAllister, In The Long Run, 2013

We head back and Sam puts me through another kind of torture, this time a Swedish interval training technique called ‘Fartlek‘—a word I’d find funny if the training weren’t so exhausting—where I have to sprint then jog alternately between the lampposts that all too frequently for my liking line the promenade.

Matt Dunn, The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook, 2006

Listen to the word of the day

fartlek

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Word of the day

Sunday, October 10, 2021

toujours perdrix

[ too-zhoor per-dree ]

too much of a good thing.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of toujours perdrix?

Toujours perdrix “too much of a good thing” is a direct borrowing of two French words: toujours “always” and perdrix “partridge.” Toujours derives from an Old French phrase meaning “all days” and is equivalent to Modern French tous jours. Tous (masculine singular tout) comes from Latin tōtus “whole, entire,” which is also the source of total and the Italian flavor tutti frutti “all fruits,” while jours (singular jour) comes from Latin diurnus “daily, of the day,” derivatives of which include diurnal and journal. The phrase toujours perdrix is allegedly connected to King Henri IV of France, whose spiritual adviser loved to eat partridge but, upon being served partridge for every meal, grew tired, frustrated, and spiteful of the dish. Toujours perdrix was first recorded in English in the early 1800s.

how is toujours perdrix used?

His new landlady’s ideas on the subject of cooking were of the most limited character. She gave him weak tea and bacon for breakfast without any apparent consciousness of the fact that such luxuries pall upon the taste by constant repetition, and that a diet of toujours perdrix wearies the meekest soul.

Margaret Oliphant Wilson, The Three Brothers, 1870

Quitting Auxerre, we passed a large stone cistern, with a cross on the top; several loaded donkeys were drinking here, and some women washing clothes; it was altogether a picturesque group, and singular to an English eye. Vineyards, vineyards, vineyards! toujours perdrix! I was quite tired of them at last.

Marianne Baillie, First Impressions on a Tour Upon the Continent in the Summer of 1818, 1819

Listen to the word of the day

toujours perdrix

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.