• Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    hocus-pocus

    noun [hoh-kuhs-poh-kuhs]
    unnecessarily mysterious or elaborate activity or talk to cover up a deception, magnify a simple purpose, etc.
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    What is the origin of hocus-pocus?

    Hocus-pocus is a pseudo-Latin rhyming formula used by jugglers and magicians. It was first recorded in 1615–25.

    How is hocus-pocus used?

    Maybe the English are right: [writer's] block is just a hocus-pocus covering life’s regular, humbling facts. "Blocked," The New Yorker, June 14, 2004

    How, exactly, does the president's budget propose to use the surplus to "save" Social Security? With accounting hocus-pocus. Allan Sloan, "Reading Between the Budget Lines," Washington Post, February 10, 1998

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 29, 2018

    diablerie

    noun [dee-ah-bluh-ree]
    diabolic magic or art; sorcery; witchcraft.
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    What is the origin of diablerie?

    English diablerie is a borrowing from French diablerie “mischief,” from Old French diablerie, deablerie “an act inspired by the devil, sorcery.” French diable comes from Late Latin diabolus “the devil” (in the Vulgate and church fathers), from Greek diábolos “slanderer; enemy, Satan” (in the Septuagint), “the Devil” (in the Gospels). Diablerie entered English in the 17th century.

    How is diablerie used?

    This tragedy, which, considering the wild times wherein it was placed, might have some foundation in truth, was larded with many legends of superstition and diablerie, so that most of the peasants of the neighbourhood, if benighted, would rather have chosen to make a considerable circuit, than pass these haunted walls. Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering, 1815

    He was, to one friend, "cometlike from some other world of diablerie, burning himself out upon our skies." David Bourdon, "Beardsley back in bloom again," Life, February 24, 1967

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 28, 2018

    ossature

    noun [os-uh-cher, -choor]
    the arrangement of bones in the skeleton or a body part.
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    What is the origin of ossature?

    Ossature is a borrowing from French ossature, probably modeled on French musculature. The base of ossature is the Latin noun os (stem oss-) “bone,” which comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ost- “bone.” Greek derives from the same root ostéon “bone” (as in osteology), óstrakon “potsherd” (as in ostracize), and óstreon “oyster” (the English noun comes from Greek via Old French and Latin). Ossature entered English in the 19th century.

    How is ossature used?

    The ossature of its wings had been like the exquisite work of some Japanese cabinet-maker ... James Hopper, "On the Back of the Dragon," Everybody's Magazine, July 1910

    ... thus the whole vault was furnished with an ossature or skeleton of ribs which was clothed upon by filling in with with arched masonry the triangular spaces or panels between rib and rib. T. G. Jackson, Reason of Architecture, 1906

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 27, 2018

    necropolis

    noun [nuh-krop-uh-lis, ne-]
    a cemetery, especially one of large size and usually of an ancient city.
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    What is the origin of necropolis?

    Necropolis, Greek for “city of the dead, corpse city,” first appears in the works of the Greek historian and geographer Strabo (c 63 b.c.-c 21a.d.). It was originally the name of the cemetery district in Alexandria, Egypt (founded by Alexander the Great in 323 b.c.). Greek nekrós means “corpse” (its plural nekrói means “the dead”); its combining form necro- forms the first half of necromancy (divination through communication with the dead, one of the blackest of the black arts). Nekrós comes from the Proto-Indo-European root nek- “death,” with a variant nok- “to kill.” From the same root Latin has the noun nex (stem nec-) “murder, violent death” (as in internecine, whose original English meaning was “deadly”). From the variant nok- Latin derives the verb nocēre “to harm” (source of nocent and innocent) and the adjective noxius “guilty, delinquent, harmful, injurious.” Greek pólis “city," more properly "citadel, fortified high place,” is related to Sanskrit pū́r, puram “city,” as in Singapore “Lion City,” ultimately from Sanskrit siṁha- “lion” and pū́r, puram. Necropolis entered English in the 19th century.

    How is necropolis used?

    The column of mourners moved under the archway into the necropolis, progressing slowly up the hill towards a spot where Fidelma could see several other torches burning. Peter Tremayne, Behold a Pale Horse, 2011

    Just beyond an island of hemlocks the road divides into the cluttered plain of the necropolis, grey and white as an overexposed snapshot. Marge Piercy, Braided Lives, 1982

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 26, 2018

    timorous

    adjective [tim-er-uhs]
    full of fear; fearful: The noise made them timorous.
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    What is the origin of timorous?

    Timorous, “fearful,” has several spellings in Middle English, e.g., tymerous, timerous, temerous, which all come via Old French temeros, timoureus from the Medieval Latin adjective timōrōsus “fearful,” a derivative of the Latin noun timor “fear,” itself a derivative of the verb timēre “to fear, be afraid.” (There is no further reliable etymology for the Latin.) The English and French spellings tim- and tem- betray a confusion going back to at least the 14th century between derivations of the Latin verb timēre “to fear” and adverb temere “rashly, recklessly” (the source of the English noun temerity). From the English variant spelling timerous (“fearful”), English forms the uncommon noun temerity “fearfulness, timidity,” which is also spelled timerite and temerity, the latter spelling continuing that confusion. Timorous entered English in the 15th century.

    How is timorous used?

    Besides these fearful things, he was expected to do what terrified him into the very core of his somewhat timorous heart. L. T. Meade, A Little Mother to the Others, 1896

    Though the fellow is far from being timorous in cases that are not supposed preternatural, he could not stand the sight of this apparition, but ran into the kitchen, with his hair standing on end, staring wildly, and deprived of utterance. Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 25, 2018

    dirigible

    noun [dir-i-juh-buh l, dih-rij-uh-]
    an airship.
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    What is the origin of dirigible?

    Dirigible is a shortening of “dirigible balloon,” a translation of the French ballon dirigeable “steerable balloon.” Dirigible and dirigeable are derivatives of the Latin verb dīrigere “to guide, align, straighten” and the common suffix -ible “capable of, fit for.” Dirigible in its literal sense “capable of being directed” dates from the late 16th century; the sense referring to the balloon or airship dates from the late 19th century.

    How is dirigible used?

    With gas cells collapsing, framework breaking up, and controls out of order, the great dirigible had reared and plunged and finally had fallen 3,000 feet into the Pacific. Edwin Teale, "Does Latest Disaster Spell Doom for the Dirigible?" Popular Science Monthly, May 1935

    Being up in that tower was like being in a dirigible above the clouds. Umberto Eco, "The Gorge," The New Yorker, March 7, 2005

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 24, 2018

    moonstruck

    adjective [moon-struhk]
    dreamily romantic or bemused.
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    What is the origin of moonstruck?

    The original sense of moonstruck, “mentally deranged, insane,” first appears in Paradise Lost (1667) by John Milton (1608–74). Milton was astonishingly learned: he wrote poetry in Latin, Greek, and Italian; he translated Psalm 114 from Hebrew into Greek verse; he was a polemicist (or propagandist) for the English general, Puritan statesman, and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Moonstruck is probably Milton’s own creation, a translation from Greek selēnóblētos “moonstruck, epileptic,” a compound of selḗnē “moon” and blētós “stricken, stricken with palsy,” a past participle of bállein ”to throw, hit (with a missile).” The sense of “dreamily romantic” dates from the mid-19th century.

    How is moonstruck used?

    He wanted to see her ... Otherwise he wouldn't have waited for nearly an hour like some moonstruck schoolboy and worried all the while about the reception he would receive. Matt Braun, Indian Territory, 1985

    The sonata was originally given the name that's on your music. But an author renamed it the Moonlight Sonata. I like that name very much. ... Because it's music for a moonstruck man. Herbjørg Wassmo, Dina's Book, translated by Nadia M. Christensen, 1994

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