Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

imponderabilia

[ im-pon-der-uh-bil-ee-uh, -bil-yuh ]

plural noun

imponderables; things that cannot be precisely determined, measured, or evaluated: the imponderabilia surrounding human life.

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What is the origin of imponderabilia?

There are not very many seven-syllable words in English, which makes imponderabilia a really weighty word. It’s Latin for “imponderable things, imponderables.” It comes from New Latin imponderābilia, a noun use of the neuter plural of the Medieval Latin adjective imponderābilis “unable to be weighed or measured,” ultimately deriving from Latin ponderāre “to weigh.” Imponderabilia entered English in the early 20th century.

how is imponderabilia used?

… the imponderabilia,—those obscure but all-powerful factors like sentiment, public opinion, good will, affection, and so on. You can’t weigh or measure them, nor get at them by any rule of thumb.

"In the Interpreter's House," American Magazine, Vol. 79, January–June, 1915

Bronisław Malinowski, called [them] “the imponderabilia of actual life.” These are, he wrote, “small incidents, characteristic forms of taking food, of conversing, of doing work, [that] are found occurring over and over again.”

Graeme Wood, "Anthropology Inc." The Atlantic, March 2013
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Word of the day

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

oneiric

[ oh-nahy-rik ]

adjective

of or relating to dreams.

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What is the origin of oneiric?

The English adjective oneiric derives from the Greek noun óneiros “dream, the god of dreams.” Óneiros itself is a later derivative from the noun ónar “dream, fortune-telling dream; in a dream.” Oneiromancy is divination through dreams; oneirocriticism is the interpretation of dreams. Ónar has relatives in only two other Indo-European languages: Albanian ëndërrë (the ë represents schwa) and Armenian anurj, both meaning “dream” (linguists have recognized for nearly a century features of phonology, morphology, and vocabulary shared only by Greek and Armenian). Oneiric entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is oneiric used?

The clouds are pregnant and always in bloom, like oneiric cauliflowers ….

Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

Leonardo’s world was atomistic, volatile, constantly in flux. At the same time, it was also surprising and oneiric, like scenes from a daydream, and this is how he depicted that world in his art.

Maria H. Loh, "Five Hundred Years After Leonardo Da Vinci's Death, His Work Offers New Environmental Insights," Art in America, October 1, 2019

Word of the day

Monday, January 06, 2020

rax

[ raks ]

verb (used without object)

to stretch oneself, as after sleeping.

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What is the origin of rax?

The verb rax “to stretch oneself, as after sleeping,” is used in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Rax comes from Middle English raxen, rasken (Old English racsan, raxan). Raxan is from the same root as rack “a bar, framework of bars” and is akin to the verb reccan, reccean “to stretch, extend.” Rax dates from the Old English period.

how is rax used?

The quenis dog begowthe to rax

William Dunbar (c1460–c1520), "Of a Dance in the Quenis Chalmer," The Poems of William Dunbar, 1907

On easy chair that pamper’d lie, / Wi’ banefu’ viands gustit high, / And turn an’ fauld their weary clay, / To rax an’ gaunt the live-lang day.

Robert Fergusson (1750—1774), "Hame Content," The Poetical Works of Robert Fergusson, 1800

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