Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, August 02, 2021

integument

[ in-teg-yuh-muhnt ]

noun

a natural covering, as a skin, shell, or rind.

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What is the origin of integument?

Integument, “covering, coating,” comes straight from Latin integumentum “covering, shield, guard, wrapping,” a derivative of the verb integere “to cover, overlay,” itself a compound of the preposition and prefix in, in– “in, on, upon” and the simple verb tegere “to cover, close, bury.” Tegere comes from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)teg-, (s)tog– “to cover.” The variant teg– forms Latin tēgula “a roof tile” (source of English tile). The variant tog– yields Latin toga “toga” (the loose outer garment worn by Roman male citizens in public). The variant (s)teg– yields stégē “covering” and stégos “roof” in Greek, which in turn forms the first element of English stegosaurus, literally “roofed or covered lizard” (from the row of bony plates along its back). Integument entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is integument used?

This is a time of year that makes me wish I could slough my skin entire, like a snake, just walk away from that old integument and step out new into the air.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, "The Rural Life; The Big Melt," New York Times, March 18, 2003

They [tanks] are not steely monsters; they are painted with drab and unassuming colours that are fashionable in modern warfare, so that the armour seems rather like the integument of a rhinoceros.

H. G. Wells, War and the Future: Italy, France and Britain at War, 1917

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Word of the day

Sunday, August 01, 2021

totemic

[ toh-tem-ik ]

adjective

of, being, or relating to anything regarded as a distinctive or venerated emblem by a group or individual.

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What is the origin of totemic?

The adjective totemic, “relating to something, such as a natural object or an animate being, venerated as an emblem by a group or individual,” comes from Ojibwa (also spelled Ojibway and Chippewa), an Algonquian language now spoken mostly in the Great Lakes region. (The Algonquian language family extends from Labrador westward to the Rocky Mountains, west-southwestward through Michigan and Illinois, and southwestward along the Atlantic coast to Cape Hatteras.) In Ojibwa ninto·te·m means “my totem,” oto·te·man “his totem” (probably originally “my/his clan-village-mate,” a derivative of the verb stem o·te·- “dwell in a village”). Totemic was first used in English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is totemic used?

I agree with those who feel that New York would gain by restoring the totemic image of the twin towers to the skyline, if not in their original form.

Herbert Muschamp, "A Goal for Ground Zero: Finding an Urban Poetry," New York Times, January 28, 2003

The sphinx crouches in a position that’s regal and yet totemic of subjugation—she is “beat down” but standing. That’s part of her history, too.

Hilton Als, "The Sugar Sphinx," The New Yorker, May 8, 2014

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Word of the day

Saturday, July 31, 2021

tocsin

[ tok-sin ]

noun

a signal, especially of alarm, sounded on a bell or bells.

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What is the origin of tocsin?

Tocsin, “a signal, especially an alarm sounded on a bell,” comes via Old French toquesin, touquesaint, tocsaint from Provençal tocasenh. Tocasenh is a compound made up of the verb tocar “to strike” (French toucher, English touch), from Vulgar Latin toccāre “to touch” and senh “a bell, note of a bell,” from Medieval Latin signum “a bell,” from Latin signum “a mark or sign; a signal.” Tocsin entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is tocsin used?

Labor Day instead of sounding the knell of vacations, has become the tocsin for more holidays–Fall holidays. Increasingly of late years has this season been growing in favor among those who wish to avoid the crowds of early August, or plan a special sort of trip.

Diana Rice, "Labor Day Sounds the Tocsin for Fall Vacations," New York Times, August 24, 1941

Paris is in the streets;—rushing, foaming like some Venice wine-glass into which you had dropped poison. The tocsin, by order, is pealing madly from all steeples.

Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, 1837

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