Word of the Day

Saturday, March 10, 2018

krummholz

[ kroom-hohlts ]

noun

a forest of stunted trees near the timber line on a mountain.

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What is the origin of krummholz?

The German noun Krummholz, literally “crooked wood,” means “a forest of stunted trees near the timber line; elfinwood.” The German adjective krumm “bent, crooked, warped, stooping, devious” is related to British dialectal words crump “bent, crooked” and crumpback (also crump-back) “hunchback.” The German noun Holz “wood” is related to English holt and Old Norse holt. The Germanic nouns derive from Proto-Germanic hulto-, from keld-, an extended form of the Proto-Indo-European root kel- “to cut, hit.” Keld- is the source of Greek kládos “twig, branch, shoot” (and the English taxonomic term clade), and Slavic (Polish) kłoda “log.” Krummholz entered English in the early 20th century.

how is krummholz used?

A few miles away bare scree-covered slopes protruded from the gnarled krummholz, marking the trail’s maximum height.

Annie Proulx, "Testimony of the Donkey," Fine Just the Way It Is, 2008

I should point out that nowhere are the wabi and sabi palettes of time acting on nature more visible than in the krummholz–the “elfin timber,” gnarled and twisted little trees at treeline that might be a thousand years old …

Dan Simmons, “Introduction to ‘Looking for Kelly Dahl,’” Worlds Enough & Time, 2002
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Friday, March 09, 2018

demonym

[ dem-uh-nim ]

noun

the name used for the people who live in a particular country, state, or other locality: Two demonyms for the residents of Michigan are Michigander and Michiganian.

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What is the origin of demonym?

The noun demonym is clearly from Greek dêmos “people, common people, common soldiery (as opposed to officers), popular government, democracy, district, country, land.” The second part of the word comes from Greek dialect (Doric, Aeolic) ónyma, a variant of ónoma “name” (the Attic and Ionic dialectal form) and is very common in compounds like antonym and pseudonym. Demonym entered English in the late 20th century.

how is demonym used?

The word “Hoosier,” which today is the demonym used to describe people from the state of Indiana, is a mystery nearing its second century. It is one of the best-known irregular demonyms for American states, along with “Yankee,” referring to someone from New York (and sometimes expanded from that into the entire Northeast), and “Buckeye,” which refers to someone from Ohio.

Dan Nosowitz, "The Unsolvable Mystery of the Word 'Hoosier'," Atlas Obscura, August 22, 2017

Shafik turns his thoughts back to the archaic demonym, Shawam, singular Shami, which is what the native Egyptians called people from a certain part of the Fertile Crescent.

Alain Farah, "Life of the Father," Granta, 141: Canada, November 9, 2017
Thursday, March 08, 2018

Minerva

[ mi-nur-vuh ]

noun

a woman of great wisdom.

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What is the origin of Minerva?

The Roman goddess Minerva is so completely identified with the Greek goddess Athena that it is difficult to discern what is “native” to Minerva. Minerva (earlier Latin spelling Menerva) was a native Italian goddess of handicrafts (hence easily identified with Athena in that respect). The name Minerva (Menerva) may be of Indo-European origin, from the root men- “to think, bear in mind,” source of English mind, Latin meminī “I remember,” and Greek Méntōr, a proper name meaning “adviser.” The original Latin name will have been Meneswā “intelligent, wise (woman),” related to Sanskrit manasvin “wise” and Manasvinī, the name of the mother of the moon. Alternatively, Meneswā may mean “woman who measures (the phases of the moon),” from the Proto-Indo-European root mē- “to measure,” source of English meal (a Germanic word), as in piecemeal, measure (from Latin), and Greek metron “measure,” the source of the English suffix -meter, among other words. Minerva as the name of the goddess entered English in the Old English period; the sense “wise woman” dates from the late 18th century.

how is Minerva used?

God, it seems like I’ll always have a Minerva by my side being a better person than I am.

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies, 1994

The notion of such a Minerva as this, whom I saw in public places now and then, surrounded by swarms of needy abbés and schoolmasters, who flattered her, frightened me for some time, and I had not the least desire to make her acquaintance.

William Makepeace Thackeray, "The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century," Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Volume XXX, July to December, 1844

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