Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, October 08, 2020

idiolect

[ id-ee-uh-lekt ]

noun

Linguistics.

a person's individual speech pattern.

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What is the origin of idiolect?

An individual person’s own pattern of speech is called an idiolect, formed from the Greek adjective ídios “private, one’s own, peculiar.” (The English noun idiot comes ultimately from Greek idiṓtēs “private person, a citizen who does not participate in public affairs,” a term of abuse and contempt in Periclean Athens). The combining form –lect, extracted from dialect (from Greek diálektos “speech, language, discourse, accent, manner of speech,” and later “the language of a country or district”), has been promoted to a full word, lect, which in linguistics means “a distinct variety of a language, such as a standard variety or a nonstandard regional dialect.” Idiolect entered English in the mid-20th century.

how is idiolect used?

Vollmann’s idiolect is obsessive, punctilious, twitchy, hyperobservational, and proudly amateurish.

Nathaniel Rich, "The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet," The Atlantic, October 2018

There is debate, for example, over whether we each have an “idiolect,” or unique linguistic fingerprint. And if we do, how consistent is it in academic essays or love letters as opposed to, say, e-mails and text messages? Betcha its not!! :-)

Frances Stead Sellers, "Should texts, e-mail, tweets and Facebook posts be the new fingerprints in court?" Washington Post, February 27, 2015

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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

zinger

[ zing-er ]

noun

Informal.

a quick, witty, or pointed remark or retort.

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What is the origin of zinger?

Zinger, “a quick, witty, pointed remark or answer,” is a derivative of the verb and noun zing, “(to make) a sharp whizzing noise.” It is, unsurprisingly, an American slang term that dates to about 1950.

how is zinger used?

He delivered his zingers with a sly twinkle in his eye, a deadpan expression, and a laugh so big he’d pull out a handkerchief to wipe the tears from his eyes.

Jennifer Ludden, "Johnny Carson, 30-Year 'Tonight' Host, Dies at 79," All Things Considered, NPR, January 23, 2005

Pope Francis often sprinkles his writings or public speeches with pungent zingers on issues like inequality and environmental destruction.

Jim Yardley, "In Speech, Francis Skips Over Line With Political Punch," New York Times, September 24, 2015

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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

capacious

[ kuh-pey-shuhs ]

adjective

capable of holding much; spacious or roomy.

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What is the origin of capacious?

The English adjective capacious comes straight from Latin capāc-, the stem of the adjective capax “able to take, take in, contain,” a derivative of the verb capere “to take, catch, seize.” The Latin suffix –ax (stem –āc-) is not very common; it forms adjectives denoting ability or behavior from verbs and some nouns, such as mendax (stem mendāc-) “untruthful, lying” (English mendacious), formed from the noun mendum “blemish, fault, error.” The English element –ious is a variant of the adjective suffix –ous, which comes via Middle English and Old French from the Latin adjective suffix –ōsus. Capacious entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is capacious used?

With its high ceiling and muted lighting, the capacious lobby of the Hotel Okura’s main building seemed like a huge, stylish cave.

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, 2011

this is a vision of a 21st-century city remade with public health in mind, achieving the neat trick of being both more populated and more capacious.

Derek Thompson, "Great Ready for the Great Urban Comeback," The Atlantic, October 2020

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