Word of the Day

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

indemnity

[ in-dem-ni-tee ]

noun

compensation for damage or loss sustained.

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What is the origin of indemnity?

Indemnity comes from Middle French indemnité, from Late Latin indemnitās (inflectional stem indemnitāt-) “security from financial loss.”  Indemnitās is first recorded in the writings of the Imperial Roman jurists Sextus Pomponius and Ulpian. The root word of indemnitās is the noun damnum “financial loss, deprivation of possessions or property, a sum to be paid in restitution.” Damnum comes from an unrecorded dapnom, a noun derivative of the extended root dap-, from the Proto-Indo-European root – “to apportion in exchange.” The same root yields Latin daps “sacrificial meal, banquet,” Old Norse tafn “sacrificial animal, meal” (also from dapnom), Greek dapánē “cost, expenditure” and dáptein “to devour, consume,” Sanskrit dāpayate “he divides,” and Armenian tawn “feast” (from dapni-). Indemnity entered English in the 15th century.

how is indemnity used?

I promise you indemnity for your loss, and an apology that shall, I trust, satisfy your feelings ….

George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 1859

On his arrival, as an indemnity for alleged insults offered to the flag of his country, he demanded some twenty or thirty thousand dollars to be placed in his hands forthwith ….

Herman Melville, Typee, 1846

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Monday, May 18, 2020

weal

[ weel ]

noun

well-being, prosperity, or happiness: the public weal; weal and woe.

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What is the origin of weal?

The history of weal is complicated and confusing. The Middle English spellings include wele, wel(le), weil(e), weal(le) “worldly wealth, riches; possessions, goods; prosperity, good fortune; well-being, welfare; happiness, joy.” These exuberant Middle English spellings come from Old English wela, weola, weala “wealth, riches; prosperity.” The English meanings have always been influenced by the related adverb wellwel, wel(l)e in Middle English, and wel, weol, woel in Old English—which in general signifies successful accomplishment of the action of the verb. Weal entered English before 900.

how is weal used?

They did not consider a commitment to the public good, the common weal, to be at odds with the desire for prosperity.

Jill Lepore, These Truths, 2018

I will not arise from this spot, O valorous and redoubtable knight, until your benevolence and courtesy vouchsafe me a boon that will redound to the honor and glory of your person and to the weal of the most disconsolate and aggrieved damsel that ever the sun beheld.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

dishabille

[ dis-uh-beel, -bee ]

noun

the state of being dressed in a careless, disheveled, or disorderly style or manner; undress.

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What is the origin of dishabille?

Dishabille or deshabille “the state of being dressed in a careless, disheveled, or disorderly style or manner,” comes from French déshabillé, the noun use of the past participle of the verb déshabiller “to undress.” The French prefix dés– is a regular development of the Latin prefix dis-, which often has, as here, a reversing force (like un– in the English pair tie and untie). The French verb habiller “to dress,” originally “to trim and smooth (a log for working), to arrange, prepare,” comes from Vulgar Latin adbilāre, abbilāre, a derivative of bilia “log, tree trunk” (originally a Gaulish word). The h– in habiller comes from the French noun habit “clothing” (from Latin habitus “physical condition, appearance, dress”). Dishabille entered English in the 17th century.

how is dishabille used?

It is daylight; is, then, the carriage to open and the empress to alight with one slipper on her feet, to be triumphantly conducted into the house? Ah, my friend, all Europe would smile at the idyllic empress who accompanied her husband on his journey in such a dishabille.

Luise Mühlbach (1814–1873), Napoleon and the Queen of Prussia, translated by F. Jordan, 1906

Yes, there are town houses, and yes, many prominent people hold the deeds to them because they don’t want to be seen in dishabille scooping up the morning paper ….

Joanne Kaufman, "Stargazing in the Elevator," New York Times, November 2, 2012

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

chariness

[ chair-ee-nis ]

noun

scrupulous integrity.

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What is the origin of chariness?

Chary, the adjective from which chariness derives, comes from the Middle English adjective chari, charry, cearig “actively concerned, diligent; sad, sorrowful; cherished (of a person).” Chari comes from the Old English adjective cearig, ceari “careful, grieving, pensive, wary, anxious, dire.” The Old English adjective is a derivative of the noun cearu, caru “sorrow, grief” (Modern English care). Chariness entered English in the 16th century.

how is chariness used?

Nay, I will consent to act any villainy against him, that may not sully the chariness of our honesty.

William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1623

The reason for the chariness of the broker is that most of his transactions are carried through on credit and he runs many dangers if he cannot have absolute confidence in the integrity, both financial and otherwise, of his client …

Edith Wharton, "Why the English Broker Does Not Want to Sell Direct," System: The Magazine of Business, April 1919

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Friday, May 15, 2020

melee

[ mey-ley, mey-ley, mel-ey ]

noun

confusion; turmoil; jumble.

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What is the origin of melee?

Melee, also spelled mêlée, has been in English since the mid-17th century; yet its spellings and several pronunciations show that it is still not naturalized. Melee comes from Old French melee, meslee, medlee “mixture, argument, confused hand-to-hand fighting,” from Old French mesler, medler, mesdler, from Vulgar Latin misculāre, Latin miscere “to mix.” Medler is also the source of English medley; mesler is the source of the second half of pell-mell (from Middle French pelemele, Old French pesle mesle).

how is melee used?

The fifteen dogs were off leash, creating a melee of barking, squeaking squeaky toys, and the voices of puppy raisers shouting “Leave it!,” “Bring it!,” and “Good puppy!”

Lizzie Widdicombe, "Puppies Behind Bars, with Glenn Close," The New Yorker, November 20, 2017

A recent tussle between Maduro loyalists and the U.S.-backed opposition for control of Venezuela’s National Assembly descended into a melee of competing claims that left neither side with clear authority over the assembly.

Kejal Vyas, "Behind Maduro's Latest Power Play: Reviving Venezuela's Collapsed Oil Industry," Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2020

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

insufflate

[ in-suhf-leyt, in-suh-fleyt ]

verb (used with object)

to blow or breathe (something) in.

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What is the origin of insufflate?

There is not an obvious connection between insufflate and soufflé, but it exists. Insufflate comes from Late Latin insufflātus, the past participle of the verb insufflāre “to blow into or upon,” first recorded in Christian Latin authors. Insufflāre is a compound of the common preposition and suffix in, in- “in, into, on, upon” and sufflāre “to blow up from below, blow up,” itself a compound of sub, sub- “below, from below” and the simple verb flāre “to blow, breathe.” Soufflé in French means “puffed up”; it is the past participle of the verb souffler, the regular French development of Latin sufflāre. Insufflate entered English in the 17th century.

how is insufflate used?

They handed a trumpet to the old man, who put it to the lips of the two creatures still suspended in their vegetable lethargy, their sweet animal sleep, and he began to insufflate soul into their bodies.

Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum, translated by William Weaver, 1989

If the EU were to give Britain a good deal, it would inspire other countries to leave and might insufflate new life into populist parties that are already gaining more and more support throughout Europe.

Barbara Tasch, "There must be a threat, a risk, a price," Business Insider, October 7, 2016

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

blarney

[ blahr-nee ]

noun

deceptive or misleading talk; nonsense; hooey: a lot of blarney about why he was broke.

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What is the origin of blarney?

Blarney is named after the Blarney stone, a stone set high up on the outside of the parapet of Blarney Castle, and accessible to a kisser who desires eloquence only if he or she leans backward over the parapet to kiss the stone. There are several stories of the origin of the legend about the stone. One of them involves the goddess Cliodhna, queen of the banshees, to whom Cormac Laidir McCarthy, who built Blarney Castle and became involved in a lawsuit, appealed for assistance. Cliodhna told McCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court. McCarthy did as the goddess told him, pleaded his case with great eloquence, and won. Blarney Castle is in the town of Blarney, about five miles northwest of Cork, in southwest Ireland. The name Blarney in Gaelic is (an) Bhlarna “(the) little field,” from blair, blar “field.” Blarney entered English in the 18th century.

how is blarney used?

I am a lawyer and would therefore never mislead you: Blarney is not exactly lies, but it’s not exactly the full truth either.

John F. X. Irving, "Blarney—A Political Definition," New York Times, March 13, 1977

Perfect love, I suppose, means that a married man and woman never contradict one another, and that they both of them always feel the same thing at the same moment … What blarney!

D. H. Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, 1925

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