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

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