Word of the Day

Friday, January 24, 2020

hobnob

[ hob-nob ]

verb (used without object)

to associate on very friendly terms (usually followed by with): She often hobnobs with royalty.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of hobnob?

The verb hobnob, originally meaning “to drink together, toast one another in turn,” is a rhyming phrase (like willy-nilly). Hobnob is an alteration of hab nab, hab or nab “whether or not, haphazardly,” literally “(whether) I/you/he/she have or not have,” formed from habbe and nabbe, the present subjunctive of the Middle English verbs haven, habben and nabben (Old English habban, nabban) “to have, not to have.” Hobnob was used as a toast when clinking goblets. Willy-nilly comes from will I/you/he/she, nill I/you/he/she “(whether) I/you/he/she want to or not.” Hobnob in the sense “to drink together, toast one another” entered English in the second half of the 18th century; the sense “to associate on friendly terms” entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is hobnob used?

… they were to hobnob with nobility and hold friendly converse with kings and princes, grand moguls, and the anointed lords of mighty empires!

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869

Didn’t I want to get out there, hobnob, curry favor, court support, mix it up, do battle, become a gladiator? I did not.

Jill Lepore, "The Lingering of Loss," The New Yorker, July 1, 2019
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.
Thursday, January 23, 2020

autodidact

[ aw-toh-dahy-dakt, -dahy-dakt ]

noun

a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of autodidact?

Leonardo da Vinci was an autodidact; so were Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison. Autodidact ultimately comes from the Greek adjective autodídaktos “self-taught,” a clear compound of the combining form auto– “self, same” (as in autograph), from the Greek pronoun and adjective autós “self, same,” and the adjective didaktikós “good at teaching, instructive.” Autodidact entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is autodidact used?

[He] started reading in the barracks for his own edification, becoming an autodidact with thousands of books in storage over a lifetime.

Kenneth Lincoln, Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles, 2009

He’s had a rich life as a blogger, and one of the ways he’s learned—he’s not shy about noting he’s an autodidact—has been through his many followers.

Jennifer Senior, "Through the Lens of the Obama Years, Ta-Nehisi Coates Reckons with Race, Identity and Trump," New York Times, October 1, 2017
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

caprice

[ kuh-prees ]

noun

a sudden, unpredictable change, as of one's mind or the weather.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of caprice?

Caprice is capricious. It certainly comes from French, from Italian capriccio; the problem is where does Italian capriccio come from? In Italian, capriccio originally meant “sudden startle, shiver,” now “whim, fancy, fad.” The Italian word may come from an unattested Vulgar Latin capriceus “goat,” the image being of a kid skipping or frisking. Capriccio may also derive from the Italian noun capo “head, leader” (from Vulgar Latin capum, from Latin caput) and riccio (from Latin ēricius “hedgehog”), which as an adjective means “curly, frizzy” and as a noun means “hedgehog,” the image now being of the hair standing on end in fright. Caprice entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is caprice used?

This is only a caprice—and it would be the worst thing in the world to give in to her.

Rachel Crothers, He and She, 1920

The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

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.