Word of the Day

Friday, May 01, 2020

inflorescence

[ in-flaw-res-uhns, -floh-, -fluh- ]

noun

a flowering or blossoming.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of inflorescence?

Inflorescence, “the arrangement of flowers on the axis, a flower cluster; a flowering or blossoming,” is a term used mostly in botany. Inflorescence comes straight from New Latin inflōrēscentia, a noun coined by the great Swedish botanist and zoologist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), who formalized the system of binomial nomenclature used in the biological sciences. Inflōrēscentia is a derivative of the Late Latin verb inflōrēscere “to put forth flowers, bloom.” Inflōrēscere is a compound verb formed with the preposition and prefix in, in– “in, into,” but also, as here, used as in intensive prefix, and the verb flōrēscere “to begin flowering, increase in vigor.” Flōrēscere in turn is a compound of flōrēre “to be in bloom, be covered with flowers,” a derivative of the noun flōs (inflectional stem flōr-) “flower, blossom,” and the verb suffix –escere, which in Latin often has an inchoative sense, that is, it indicates the beginning of an action, as in rubescere “to become or turn red.” Inflorescence entered English in the 18th century.

how is inflorescence used?

To the amateur this opens a field of very interesting amusement: … watching every moment of the plant till it develops its beauties of inflorescence, which, if it prove of new character, is an ample compensation for the time spent upon the process.

Robert Buist, The Rose Manual, 1844

During fall and winter starch-grains … form the basis for that lavish expenditure of plant-force by which our orchards and woods are made glorious in the sudden inflorescence of spring.

T. H. McBride, "Plant Cells and Their Contents," Popular Science Monthly, July 1882

Listen to the word of the day

inflorescence

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Thursday, April 30, 2020

saponaceous

[ sap-uh-ney-shuhs ]

adjective

resembling soap; soapy.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of saponaceous?

Saponaceous, “soapy,” comes straight from the New Latin adjective sāpōnāceus. (New Latin, also called Modern Latin, is Latin that developed after, say, 1500; it is used especially and typically in the physical sciences, such as zoology, botany, and anatomy.) Sāpōnāceus is formed from the Latin sāpō noun (inflective stem sāpōn-) and the adjectival suffix –āceus, meaning “made of, resembling.” Sāpō means “a preparation for drying or coloring one’s hair,” and it is one of the relatively few words in Latin borrowed from Germanic (as compared to the many, many words in Germanic borrowed from Latin). Saponaceous also has the uncommon sense “slippery, unctuous,” which appeared in the 19th century: “This… judgment was… so oily, so saponaceous, that no one could grasp it.” Saponaceous entered English in the early 18th century.

how is saponaceous used?

The fruit of this plant is about the size of a large gooseberry, the outer covering or shell of which contains a saponaceous principle in sufficient abundance to produce a lather with water and is used as a substitute for soap.

"Report of the Chief of the Division of Gardens and Grounds," Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1890

The yolk contains natural food for the hair, iron and sulphur; while the white, being a mild alkali, finds its congenial mate in the oil from the sebaceous glands, and they mingle in a saponaceous lather.

Ella Adelia Fletcher, The Woman Beautiful, 1899

Listen to the word of the day

saponaceous

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

ylem

[ ahy-luhm ]

noun

the hypothetical initial substance of the universe from which all matter is derived.

learn about the english language

Why we chose ylem

Today's word was submitted by one of our readers as part of our Word of the Day Giveaway Sweepstakes! The winner, Matthew Winter, told us: "It makes me think about how everything is connected. All living and inanimate things originate from the same source; we are all ylem." Congrats, Matthew!

What is the origin of ylem?

The modern definition of ylem is “the hypothetical initial substance of the universe from which all matter is derived, originally conceived as composed of neutrons at high temperature and density.” The spelling of ylem comes from John Gower’s 33,000-line poem Confessio Amantis (A Lover’s Confession) finished in 1390: “That matere universall / Which hight Ylem in speciall” (“That universal matter which is called Ylem in particular”). Gower’s ylem is one of several Middle English spellings (also ile, ilem, ylem) from Medieval Latin hȳlēm or ȳlēm, the accusative singular of hȳlē or ȳlē, from Greek hȳ́lē “forest, woodland, wood, firewood”; Aristotle uses the phrase prṓtē hȳ́lē “primary stuff, matter, material.” In 1948 Robert Herman and Ralph Asher Alpher, associates of Russia-born U.S. nuclear physicist George Gamow, adopted the medieval word because, as Alpher said,” it seems highly desirable that a word of so appropriate a meaning be resurrected.”

how is ylem used?

One can call the mixture of particles ylem ( pronounced eelem ) -the name that Aristotle gave to primordial matter.

George Gamow, "Modern Cosmology," Scientific American, 1954

The Ylem is the primordial—the Ur-stuff—out of which everything else is made.

Jeremy Bernstein, "Out of My Mind: The Birth of Modern Cosmology," American Scholar, Vol. 55 No. 1, 1986

Listen to the word of the day

ylem

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.