Word of the Day

Sunday, July 05, 2020

hitherto

[ hith-er-too ]

adverb

up to this time; until now: a fact hitherto unknown.

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What is the origin of hitherto?

The adverb hitherto, “up to this time or place,” comes from Middle English hiderto; the modern spelling with th replacing d first appears in Wycliffe’s Bible (1382). Hitherto seems to have completely replaced hiderto by the time of Tyndale’s translation of the Bible in 1526. Hiderto first appears in English in the first half of the 13th century.

how is hitherto used?

The attention suddenly lavished on this hitherto obscure doctrine is surprising, but heartening, to anyone who has long labored in the civil-rights field …

Eric Schnurer, "Congress Is Going to Have to Repeal Qualified Immunity," The Atlantic, June 17, 2020

A team of archaeologists found “new evidence for hitherto unknown features or monumental structures” about two miles northeast of Stonehenge …

Becky Ferreira, "Scientists Found a Mysterious Structure of Deep Shafts Near Stonehenge," Vice, June 23, 2020

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Saturday, July 04, 2020

egalitarian

[ ih-gal-i-tair-ee-uhn ]

adjective

asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, especially in political, economic, or social life.

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What is the origin of egalitarian?

The English adjective and noun egalitarian “asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, especially in political, economic, or social life,“ comes from the French adjective and noun égalitaire of the same meaning. Égalitaire is a derivative of the noun égalité “equality,” but in English égalité is usually used in allusion to the French Revolutionary motto liberté, égalité, fraternité “liberty, equality, fraternity.” (Égalité first appears in English in 1794 in a letter written by vice president John Adams to his wife Abigail: “I hope my old Friend, will never meet the Fate of another Preacher of Égalité, who was I fear almost as sincere as himself.”) Égalité is a derivative of the adjective égal, from the Latin adjective aequālis “equal (in amount, size, duration, etc.), symmetrical, uniform, contemporary” (as a noun, aequālis means “a person of the same age as another, a contemporary, a person of equal rank or ability.” Egalitarian entered English in the late 19th century.

how is egalitarian used?

If we do not learn the lessons of history and choose a radically different path forward, we may lose our last chance at creating a truly inclusive, egalitarian democracy.

Michelle Alexander, "America, This Is Your Chance," New York Times, June 8, 2020

Our commitment to egalitarian ideals has been severely tested by everything from the untenable quality of the United States’s yawning wealth gap to the resurgence of an ethno-nationalism that has led to anti-humanitarian policies against Latinx migrants and Muslim families.

Robert L. Tsai, "What Is Inequality?" Los Angeles Review of Books, August 22, 2019

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Friday, July 03, 2020

vox populi

[ voks pop-yuh-lahy ]

noun

the voice of the people; popular opinion.

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What is the origin of vox populi?

The phrase vox populi comes straight from Latin vōx populī “voice of the people.” Vōx (inflectional stem vōc-) is the source of English vocal and vowel, via Old French vouel, from Latin (littera) vōcālis “sounding (letter).” Populī is the genitive singular of the noun populus, the collective name for the Roman citizen body, excluding women, children, foreigners, and slaves. The phrase vōx populī does not occur in Latin literature and only first appears in a letter that the great Anglo-Saxon scholar Alcuin wrote to Charlemagne in 798, not to pay heed to those who insist that vōx populī vōx Deī “the voice of the people is the voice of God” because the populace is too unstable–a sentiment the Romans would agree with entirely. In later English history (after Alcuin), vōx populī vōx Deī is favorable, a notable example being the title of a Whig tract entitled Vox Populi, Vox Dei: being true Maxims of Government (1710). The abbreviated phrase vox pop “the views of the majority of people, popular opinion” appears in the first half of the 18th century. Nowadays vox pop means “popular opinion as shown by comments made to the media by members of the public.” Vox populi entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is vox populi used?

In 1972, Democrats made their process more plebiscitary—more primaries, less influence for political professionals—to elicit and echo the vox populi.

George F. Will, "The lure of kamikaze candidates," Washington Post, February 7, 2020

But in this country, the process of language reform is complicated. It’s not exactly grassroots democracy; some voices count more than others, and people usually leave typographical niceties to the expert associations concerned with them. What vox populi retains is veto power.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, "The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black," The Atlantic, June 18, 2020

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