Word of the Day

Saturday, February 09, 2019

inculpate

[ in-kuhl-peyt, in-kuhl-peyt ]

verb

to involve in a charge; incriminate.

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What is the origin of inculpate?

Inculpate, like inflammable, is capable of two opposite meanings depending on whether you take in- to be a negative prefix (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-) or an intensive prefix. If in- is the negative prefix, then inculpate means “unblamed, blameless,” the only meaning of the Latin inculpātus and a meaning that inculpate had in (and only in) 17th-century English. Likewise inflammable would mean “not flammable,” a very common mistake in modern English. The in- in inculpate and inflammable is in fact the intensive in-; Late Latin inculpāre means “to blame”; inflammāre means “to set on fire.” The Romans, too, were confused by the two different prefixes: inaudīre (in- here the intensive prefix) means “to catch the sound of, get wind of, hear”; its past participle inaudītus (in- here the negative prefix) means “unheard, unheard of, not listened to.” Inculpate in the sense “to blame” entered English in the late 18th century.

how is inculpate used?

Then someone came into your room and placed the pistol there in order to inculpate you.

Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Problem of Thor Bridge," The Strand Magazine, Volume 63, 1922

Their job was simply to get as much information as possible, which, along with corroborating evidence, would either inculpate the suspect or set him free.

Douglas Starr, "The Interview," The New Yorker, December 9, 2013
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Friday, February 08, 2019

roborant

[ rob-er-uhnt ]

adjective

strengthening.

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What is the origin of roborant?

Roborant comes from Latin rōborant- (the stem of rōborāns), present participle of rōborāre “to strengthen, invigorate,” a derivative of the noun rōbor (stem rōbur-) “oak, oak tree.” From rōborāre Latin forms corrōborāre “to strengthen, harden” (English corroborate). Latin also has an archaic form rōbus for rōbur, and the archaic form clearly shows the source of Latin rōbustus “strong, powerful” (English robust). The Latin noun rōbus is akin to the adjective rōbus “red” and dialectal rūfus “light red, fox red” (English rufous), the noun rōbīgō (also rūbīgō), stem rōbīgin- (rūbīgin-) “rust,” and its derivative adjective rōbīginōsus “rusty” (English rubiginous). Roborant entered English in the 17th century.

how is roborant used?

… they put him to bed in the rest room, where the doctor gave him a roborant injection.

Thomas Glavinic, Carl Haffner's Love of the Draw, translated by John Brownjohn, 1999

The label, designed for the English speaking market, gives this description of its virtues: “Nutritious and roborant: promoting the brain and recovering the memory: strengthening the organs and systems of generations.”

Jack Anderson, "Fat Cats Show They Care," Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Saturday October 7, 1972
Thursday, February 07, 2019

dullsville

[ duhlz-vil ]

noun

Slang. something boring or dull.

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What is the origin of dullsville?

Dullsville, originally an Americanism, is an obvious, self-explanatory compound. The suffix -ville comes from the French noun and suffix ville, -ville “city, town,” a straightforward development of Latin villa “farmhouse, farm, estate.” Both French and English use the suffix -ville to form placenames (nearly 20 percent of the toponyms, or placenames, in northern France end in -ville); American toponyms include Gainesville, Charlottesville, and Chancellorsville. French and English also use -ville to form derogatory or disparaging quasi-toponyms: French has bidonville “shantytown,” formed from bidon “metal can, metal drum (used in constructing shanties).” American English has Hooverville, dating from the Great Depression of the 1930s, and named “in honor of” president Herbert Hoover; Squaresville, associated with the Beat Generation, dates from the mid-1950s; Hicksville dates from the early 1920s; dragsville dates from the mid-1960s; and dullsville (also Dullsville) from 1960.

how is dullsville used?

Just that it was another system that didn’t look particularly noteworthy. A star and some planets. No record of human presence. Dullsville, really.

Alastair Reynolds, Absolution Gap, 2003

I work in a big insurance office now, working in the customer enquiries department. No doubt this will sound a bit dullsville to you …

David Nicholls, One Day, 2009

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