Word of the Day

Monday, March 08, 2021

honcho

[ hon-choh ]

noun

a leader, especially an assertive leader.

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What is the origin of honcho?

Honcho is mostly an American term, entering the language in 1945, toward the end of World War II. It comes from Japanese hanchō “squad leader, group leader” and was picked up by American prisoners of war in the POW camps.

how is honcho used?

As head honcho of the nation’s most prestigious newspaper, all eyes will be on her, especially considering her status as the paper’s first female executive editor in its 160-year history. 

John Hudson, "Jill Abramson's Day-One Challenges," The Atlantic, September 6, 2011

You know, I know she’s the head honcho, and no one is calling her that. She deserves to be called that, doesn’t she?

Ira Flatow, in conversation with Kip Thorne, "Century-Long Search Leads to Landmark Gravitational Wave Discovery," Science Friday, February 12, 2016

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

sweven

[ swev-uhn ]

noun

a vision; dream.

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What is the origin of sweven?

Sweven means “a vision; a dream.” It comes from Middle English sweven (with nearly 20 variant spellings) “a dream in sleep, a dream-vision or supernatural vision appearing while one is awake,” all of which occurred in Old English swefen, swefn (in Old English especially as regards revelatory or premonitory dreams in the Bible). Sweven is related to Old Norse svefn, Sanskrit svápna-, Old Church Slavonic sŭnŭ, Greek hýpnos, Latin somnus, Old Irish suan, Welsh hun, all meaning “sleep and/or dream.” All of the “daughter” forms derive from the Proto-Indo-European root swep-, swop-, sup– “to sleep.”

how is sweven used?

She wakened Earl Harold out of his sweven, to don his harness on …

Charles Kingsley, "The Weird Lady," Poems, 1889

The King with the Hundred Knights mette a wonder dream two nights afore the battle …. All that heard of the sweven said it was a token of great battle.

Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur, Vol. 1, edited by Janet Cowen, 1970, first published, 1485

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Saturday, March 06, 2021

proceleusmatic

[ pros-uh-loos-mat-ik, proh-suh- ]

adjective

inciting, animating, or inspiring.

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What is the origin of proceleusmatic?

Unless you like studying ancient Greek metrics, you are not likely ever to see proceleusmatic. The term entered English in the early 18th century as a noun referring to a metrical foot consisting of four short syllables (and also more reasonably called a tetrabrach, literally “four shorts”). Proceleusmatic comes via Latin proceleu(s)maticus from Greek prokeleusmatikós (also prokeleumatikós) the name of the foot, a derivative of the verb (pro)keleúein “to give orders.” One of the derivatives of keleúein, the agent noun keleustḗs, means “coxswain, one who beats time for the rowers,” referring specifically to the very quick rhythm to incite rowers of triremes (light, fast warships) charging into battle to ram enemy ships. Four shorts constantly beating would do the trick.

how is proceleusmatic used?

The strokes of the sickle were timed by the modulation of the harvest-song, in which all their voices were united. … The ancient proceleusmatic song, by which the rowers of galleys were animated, may be supposed to have been of this kind.

Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, 1775

Boss had replied that Clinton’s tenure as governor of his state had been “proceleusmatic,” whatever that meant, but he didn’t have any presidential aspirations himself…

Donald Harington, Thirteen Albatrosses, 2002

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