Word of the Day

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

improbity

[ im-proh-bi-tee ]

noun

lack of honesty or moral scruples.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of improbity?

The English noun improbity comes from Latin improbitās (stem improbitāt-) “dishonesty, unscrupulousness,” a derivative of improbus “inferior, improper.” The parts of improbus break down fairly easily: the prefix im- is a variant of the Latin negative prefix in- used before labial consonants (e.g., b, p) from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Germanic (English) un-, Greek a-, an-, and Sanskrit a-, an-. The element pro- is from the very common (and complicated) Proto-Indo-European prefix and preposition per “forward, through, in front of, early, first.” The -bus is the same ending as in the Latin adjective superbus “proud, haughty” (the ultimate source of English superb) from the Proto-Indo-European root bheu- “to be, exist, grow,” source of Germanic (English) be, Latin fuï “I was, have been” (the perfect of esse “to be”), and Slavic (Polish) być “to be.” The original sense of probus would be “going well, growing well,” and improbus “not going well.” Improbity entered English in the late 16th century.

how is improbity used?

But apart from these hurtful factors, the Ring itself radiated improbity. It had but recently been said by Henry Ward Beecher that perhaps the government of the City of New York did more harm to its people than all the churches together did good.

Edgar Fawcett, A New York Family, 1891

“Beelzebub” had been floundering in the sea of improbity, holding by a slender life-line to the respectable world that had cast him overboard.

O. Henry, "The Remnants of the Code," Cabbages and Kings, 1904
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.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

hagridden

[ hag-rid-n ]

adjective

worried or tormented, as by a witch.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of hagridden?

The hag in hagridden has always meant “evil spirit (in female form), ghost, woman who deals with the Devil, a witch; an ugly, repellent, malicious old woman.” The noun is very rare in Middle English (hegge appears once in the 13th century, and hagge once in the 14th) and becomes common only in the 16th century as heg, hegge. Hag is generally believed to descend from Old English hægtesse, hægtis “a fury, witch,” akin to Old High German hagazissa, German Hexe (cf. hex signs on barns, especially in Amish country), from West Germanic hagatusjōn-. Hagridden entered English in the 17th century.

how is hagridden used?

We are a simple people, but we are hagridden by our fear of darkness.

Jack Whyte, The Saxon Shore, 1995

Alas, poor devil! spectres are appointed to haunt him: one age he is hag-ridden, bewitched; the next priestridden, befooled; in all ages, bedevilled.

Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 1836
Monday, July 30, 2018

contextomy

[ kon-teks-tuh-mee ]

noun

the practice of misquoting someone by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding words or sentences that would place the quotation in context.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of contextomy?

Contextomy is a blend of the words context and -tomy, a Greek suffix meaning “cutting.” In was first recorded in English in 1965–70.

how is contextomy used?

Contextomy can be used to create a false impression of a source’s attitudes in the service of motives as harmless as selling movie tickets or as harmful as character assassination, which is typical of its employment in political advertising.

Joseph McGlynn III, Matthew S. McGlone, "Language," Encyclopedia of Deception, Volume 2, 2014

They engage in what writer Milton Mayer once called “contextomy“: cutting a statement out of context (e.g. John Adams on religion) in order to give a completely misleading impression what what some famous person believes.

Paul. F. Boller, Jr., John H. George, "Preface," They Never Said It, 1989

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.