Word of the Day

Sunday, August 23, 2020

inanition

[ in-uh-nish-uhn ]

noun

lack of vigor; lethargy.

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What is the origin of inanition?

Inanition, “exhaustion from lack of food, starvation; lethargy,” comes from Middle English inanicioun, inanisioun, which has a somewhat different meaning, “pathological emptiness of blood, humors, and fluids.” Inanicioun in turn comes from Late Latin inānitiō (stem inānitiōn-) “emptiness,” ultimately a derivative of the adjective inānis “empty, void, hungry.” In medical usage, Late Latin inānitiō and Middle English inanicioun are frequently combined (or contrasted) with replētiō (Latin) and Middle English replecioun, repleccioun, replesioun, “overindulgence in food or drink, satiety; fullness or a pathological fullness of blood and humors.” Inanition entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is inanition used?

Sparky is never going to amount to anything. He hasn’t been practicing, and now, rather than face the consequences of his inanition, he is going to cheat.

Errol Morris, "The Pianist and the Lobster," New York Times, June 21, 2019

There are a pair of weeping willows in the churchyard, very often rapturously astream in the wind, but which, on a hot, calm day, hang there for a moment in a gust of sudden awful inanition, like the stillness between two beats of one’s heart.

J. R. Salamanca, Southern Light, 1986

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

epizeuxis

[ ep-i-zook-sis ]

noun

a literary or rhetorical device that appeals to or invokes the reader’s or listener’s emotions through the repetition of words in quick succession.

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What is the origin of epizeuxis?

Epizeuxis is a Late Latin noun occurring for the first and only time in the damaged Ars Grammatica “Art of Grammar” by the grammarian Flavius Sosipater Charisius—his name alone is worth repeating—whose work is valuable only because it preserves extracts from earlier grammarians. Late Latin epizeuxis comes straight from Greek epízeuxis, a noun that is used only in technical subjects such as botany and rhetoric, and as a rhetorical term is quite rare, occurring only twice in two Greek grammarians. Epízeuxis is a compound made up of the preposition and prefix epí, epi- “on, upon, over” and the noun zeûxis “yoking (of oxen), joining.” Zeûxis is formed from the verb zeugnýnai “to yoke”; its related noun zygón is from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Latin jugum, Germanic (English) yoke, Hittite yugan, Sanskrit yugám (“yoke, pair”; a related form yields Sanskrit yoga- “union,” English yoga). The final element, -sis, is a Greek suffix forming action nouns from verbs. The form -sis is the Attic Greek form of earlier -tis, preserved in some of the more conservative Doric dialects. The suffix -tis is related to the Latin suffix -tis, as in vestis “clothing” (compare vestment), from the verb vestīre “to dress, clothe,” and hostis “stranger, enemy” (yielding English hostile). Epizeuxis entered English in the late 16th century.

how is epizeuxis used?

You might know epizeuxis best from Hamlet: When Polonius asks the prince what he is reading, Hamlet replies, “Words, words, words.”

Russell Smith, "A deep literary take on Psy's Gentleman," The Globe and Mail, April 17, 2013

When we see epizeuxis, we hear the voice of any great leader or powerful person. When we see amplification, we hear a voice full of emotion. When we see anastrophe, we think, of course, of Yoda.

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Friday, August 21, 2020

sobriquet

[ soh-bruh-key, -ket, soh-bruh-key, -ket; French saw-bree-ke ]

noun

a nickname.

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What is the origin of sobriquet?

Sobriquet (also spelled soubriquet), “a nickname,” has an uncertain origin. Most likely it comes from French sobriquet “nickname,” from Middle French soubriquet, also soubzbriquet “a jest or quip”; also “a chuck under the chin, a gentle tap under the chin.” The only recognizable part of soubzbriquet is soubz, sous, from Latin sub “under.” It is possible that the second element is Middle French briquet, also brichet, bruchet, “breast of an animal, cut of meat,” English brisket. Sobriquet entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is sobriquet used?

And never mind the “Greedy McCreadie” sobriquet bestowed on him by former colleagues and workers who testify, with full mockumentary gravitas, to his lack of character.

Ella Taylor, "'Greed': A Scabrous Satire Of A Megalomaniacal Mogul," NPR, February 27, 2020

As with most memorable nicknames, there’s a story behind it: Hya was the sobriquet that stuck after my siblings and I tested out various permutations of Hyderabad, the city she lived in, and a place I thought of as home.

Sarah Khan, "Return to Hyderabad," New York Times, April 21, 2020

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