Word of the Day

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

ineluctable

[ in-i-luhk-tuh-buhl ]

adjective

incapable of being evaded; inescapable: an ineluctable destiny.

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What is the origin of ineluctable?

“Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses, opens with the beautiful but opaque “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.” At least the word ineluctable is easy to analyze, if not the entire sentence. Ineluctable comes directly from Latin inēluctābilis “from which one cannot escape,” which consists of the negative or privative prefix in-, roughly “not” (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-). Ēluctārī is a compound verb meaning “to force one’s way out”; it is formed from the prefix ē-, a form of the preposition and prefix ex, ex- “out of, from within” used only before consonants, and luctārī “to wrestle”; the suffix -bilis is added to verbs and denotes ability. Ineluctable entered English in the 17th century.

how is ineluctable used?

The coming of a new day brought a sharper consciousness of ineluctable reality, and with it a sense of the need of action.

Edith Wharton, Summer, 1917

My world, on the contrary, has been thrown into extreme ethical confusion by my ineluctable connection with the crimes of Tsardom, forced on me by my birth into a family belonging to the minor nobility.

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down, 1966
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Monday, October 08, 2018

librate

[ lahy-breyt ]

verb

to remain poised or balanced.

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What is the origin of librate?

The verb librate comes from Latin lībrātus, the past participle of lībrāre “to balance, make level,” a derivative of the noun lībra “a balance, a pound (weight).” The further etymology of lībra is difficult. It is related to Sicilian (Doric) Greek lī́tra “a silver coin, a pound (weight),” also a unit of volume, e.g., English litre (via French litre from Latin). Both lī́tra and lībra derive from Italic līthrā. Lībra becomes lira in Italian, libra in Spanish and Portuguese, French livre (both coinage and weight). The abbreviation for lībra (weight) is lb.; the symbol for lībra (the coinage, i.e., the pound sterling) is £. Librate entered English in the 17th century.

how is librate used?

Watching them to the ground, the wings of a hawk, or of the brown owl, stretch out, are drawn against the current air by a string as a paper kite, and made to flutter and librate like a kestrel over the place where the woodlark has lodged …

John Leonard Knapp, Journal of a Naturalist, 1829

At this period the balance of tropic and pole librates, and the vast atmospheric tides pour their flood upon one hemisphere and their ebb upon another.

Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea, translated by William Moy Thomas, 1866
Sunday, October 07, 2018

brio

[ bree-oh ]

noun

vigor; vivacity.

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What is the origin of brio?

The Italian noun brio comes from Spanish brío “energy, determination,” ultimately from Celtic brīgos “strength” (compare Middle Welsh bri “honor, dignity,” Old Irish bríg “strength, power”). Celtic brīgos derives from Proto-Indo-European gwrīgos, a derivative of the very common and complicated Proto-Indo-European root gwer- “heavy,” which has many variations, including gwerə-, gwerəu-, and gwerī-. From gwerə- and its variants, English has “grave, gravid, gravity” from Latin; the prefixes baro- “heavy” and bary- “deep” from Greek; and guru from Sanskrit. From gwrīgos, the same source as Celtic brīgos, Germanic derives krīgaz “fight, strife,” German Krieg “war.” Brio entered English in the 18th century.

how is brio used?

Although Stopsack had probably never before directed such an undertaking, he performed his duties with brio, skillfully heaping verbal abuse on the manacled inmates …

James Morrow, Galápagos Regained, 2014

Her work rustles with the premonition that she was obsolete, that her splendor and style and ferocious brio had been demoted to a kind of sparkling irrelevance.

Tobi Haslett, "The Other Susan Sontag," The New Yorker, December 11, 2017
Saturday, October 06, 2018

axilla

[ ak-sil-uh ]

noun

Anatomy. the armpit.

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What is the origin of axilla?

Axilla, the Latin word for “armpit,” is a diminutive of āla “wing (of a bird or insect), fin (of a fish), armpit, flank (of an army).” Āla comes from an earlier, unrecorded ags-lā (axla in Latin orthography), one of the Latin reflexes of Proto-Indo-European ages-, aks- “pivot, pivot point.” Another Proto-Indo-European derivative, aks-lo-s, becomes ahsulaz in Germanic, eaxl in Old English, and axle in English. A third derivative noun, aks-is, becomes Latin axis “axle, axletree, chariot, wagon,” assis in Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language), and in Polish. Axilla entered English in the 17th century.

how is axilla used?

There is a game of croquet set up on the lawn and my second cousin Sonsoles can be found there any hour of the afternoon, bent over, with a mallet in her hand, and looking out of the corner of her eye, between the arm and the axilla, which form a sort of arch for her thoughtful gaze, at the unwary masculine visitor who appears in the harsh afternoon light.

Carlos Fuentes, "La Desdichada," Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, translated by Thomas Christensen, 1990

He recoiled from one odor to another until, in resignation, he accepted and his nose pumped steadily at the single generalized odor that was a meld of everything from axilla to organic debris and smelled like clam soil.

Thomas McGuane, The Sporting Club, 1968
Friday, October 05, 2018

schadenfreude

[ shahd-n-froi-duh ]

noun

satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

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What is the origin of schadenfreude?

Schadenfreude is a direct borrowing from German. In German Schadenfreude is a compound noun made up of the nouns Schaden “harm, injury, damage” and Freude “joy.” Schaden is related to English scathe (via Old Norse). Freude is a derivative of the adjective froh “happy,” and is related to English frolic, which comes from Dutch vrolijk “cheerful, gay.” Schadenfreude entered English in the late 19th century.

how is schadenfreude used?

Social media exploded with gleeful Schadenfreude.

Naomi Fry, "Searching for Meaning in the Leftover Merchandise of Fyre Festival," The New Yorker, May 24, 2018

It also let Peggy see the sagging flesh under Blanche’s chin. Since her own jawline was still pretty good, she soaked up some Schadenfreude on that score.

Harry Turtledove, The Big Switch, 2011
Thursday, October 04, 2018

tump

[ tuhmp ]

noun

British Dialect. a small mound, hill, or rise of ground.

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What is the origin of tump?

The noun tump has an obscure etymology. It is a dialect word used mostly in the British West Country (Somerset, Cornwall) and the West Midlands (around Birmingham). Tump may come from the Welsh noun twmp “round mass, hillock,” unless the Welsh word comes from English. Tump entered English in the 16th century.

how is tump used?

Despite the fine afternoon sunlight all around, the tump itself seemed steeped in perpetual shadow, brooding and ominous.

Stephen R. Lawhead, The Spirit Well, 2012

They buried the coffin in their garden. No cross marked it, just a brown tump in the bleak landscape.

Willy Peter Reese, A Stranger to Myself, translated by Michael Hofmann, 2005
Wednesday, October 03, 2018

notionate

[ noh-shuh-nit ]

adjective

Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. strong-willed or stubborn.

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What is the origin of notionate?

Notionate, an adjective from the noun notion and the adjective suffix -ate, is a dialect word used mostly used in the Midland and Southern U.S., Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Notionate entered English in the 19th century.

how is notionate used?

He wouldn’t let me give a direction. He’s fussy sometimes and notionate.

George Madden Martin, The House of Fulfilment, 1904

In Saturday’s stretch run, Alysheba turned rank, or sour, refusing to run in a straight line, his head twisted in the manner of notionate colts, and he came out to sideswipe second-place Cryptoclearance.

Shirley Povich, "Belmont Unfolding Proves Alysheba Is Only Equine," Washington Post, June 8, 1987

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