Word of the Day

Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist at The Weather Channel

isobar

[ ahy-suh-bahr ]

noun

a line drawn on a weather map or chart that connects points at which the barometric pressure is the same.

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Why Stephanie Abrams chose isobar

"Isobars are lines of constant pressure, and believe it or not, when you look at a bunch of them together, they can tell you a lot about the weather." —Stephanie Abrams

What is the origin of isobar?

You may see an isobar on your TV screen or hear the word on your local weather channel and already know or deduce that an isobar is “a line drawn on a weather map connecting points where the barometric pressure is the same.” The prefix iso– is from the Greek combining form iso– “equal,” from the adjective ísos “equal (in number, size, weight, stature, etc.).” It is used mostly in technical terms, as in another meteorological term isotherm “a line on a weather map connecting points having equal temperature,” or in the geometric term isosceles, “(of a triangle) having two sides equal.” The suffix –bar is interesting: it is a derivative of the Greek noun báros, “weight, heavy weight, heaviness, oppressiveness.” Báros is related to the adjective barýs “heavy (in weight), low (in tone),” as in English baritone. Isobar entered English in the 19th century.

how is isobar used?

These are lines of equal pressure known as isobars, which reveal wind speed and direction and allow forecasters to spot features such as highs, lows, troughs and ridges that are associated with particular types of weather.

Kirsty McCabe, "Weather charts, fronts and isobars," Weather.com, June 5, 2014

The isobars (lines of equal pressure) of a weather chart are much like the contour lines of a topo map.

Bill Biewenga, "An Onboard Forecaster's Bag of Tricks," Cruising World, November 1995
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

outré

[ oo-trey ]

adjective

passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre.

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What is the origin of outré?

Outré may bring smiles of recognition to fans of the American writer of horror stories H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), it and nefandous being particular favorites of his. The very French-looking outré, “excessive, extreme, exaggerated,” is indeed a past participle of the French verb outrer “to push or go beyond the limits.” Outrer is a derivative of Old French oultre, ultimately from the Latin preposition and adverb ultrā “on the far side of, beyond.” Outré is also the root of Old French and English outrage, “an act of wanton cruelty.” Students of modern European history will be familiar with the phrase attaque à outrance “an attack to the bitter end, to death,” the ruinous, catastrophic French military policy of World War I. Outré entered English in the 18th century.

how is outré used?

A kind of growing horror, of outré and morbid cast, seemed to possess him.

H. P. Lovecraft, "Cool Air," Tales of Magic and Mystery, March 1928

Since the dawn of the millennium, the outré has become ordinary in opera.

Elisa Mala, "Opera Inspiration: Books, Film—Even TV Talk Shows," Newsweek, August 1, 2008
Monday, September 23, 2019

gossamer

[ gos-uh-mer ]

noun

a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn.

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What is the origin of gossamer?

The etymology of English gossamer is a little clearer in the alternative Middle English spellings gossomer, gosesomer, gossummer “goose summer,” that is, a late, mild fall when roast goose was a favorite dish (German has the noun Gänsemonat “November,” literally “goose month”). But the etymology of gossamer does not fit its meaning, “a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in the fall.” It may be that the cobwebs resembled goose down, or that the cobwebs appeared in “goose summer,” and the name of the season was transferred to the spider webs. Gossamer entered English in the 14th century.

how is gossamer used?

Small, viewless aeronaut, that by the line / Of Gossamer suspended, in mid air / Float’st on a sun beam …

Charlotte Smith, "To the insect of the gossamer," Conversations Introducing Poetry, 1804

When the early morning sun glints off droplets of dew on the gossamer strands of a spider web, it creates a visual masterpiece.

Carrie Arnold, "Spiders Listen to Their Webs," National Geographic, June 5, 2014

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