Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, December 22, 2019

kvell

[ kvel ]

verb (used without object)

Slang.

to be extraordinarily pleased; especially, to be bursting with pride, as over one's family.

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What is the origin of kvell?

We can’t help but kvell about Yiddish words borrowed into English. Kvell “to be extraordinarily pleased, burst with pride” comes from Yiddish kveln “be delighted,” related to Middle High German and German quellen “well up, gush.” The informal verb kvell is often used to convey pride and pleasure, especially about the accomplishments of one’s own family. For example: “‘My granddaughter graduated at the top of her medical school class,’ he kvelled.” For the opposite of kvell, one might consider another borrowing from Yiddish: kvetch “to complain, especially chronically,” from the Yiddish verb kvetshn, which literally means “to squeeze, pinch.” Kvell entered English in the mid-1900s.

how is kvell used?

Sidney, more than any of the others, has kept his parents reliably supplied with … reasons to kvell: full scholarships, graduation cum laude, smart grandsons, Junior Chamber of Commerce awards.

Jane Howard, Families, 1978

Omega threw a rollicking cocktail party starring Buzz Aldrin and other astronauts, to kvell over the fortieth birthday of the first lunar landing—of both man and wristwatch.

Patricia Marx, "Face Value," The New Yorker, May 18, 2009
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Saturday, December 21, 2019

halcyon

[ hal-see-uhn ]

adjective

calm; peaceful; tranquil: halcyon weather.

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What is the origin of halcyon?

The English adjective halcyon “calm; peaceful; tranquil” is rooted in ancient Greek—and classical mythology. Halcyon ultimately derives via Latin alcyōn from Greek alkyṓn “kingfisher.” In ancient myths, the halcyon named a bird, usually identified with the kingfisher, that was said to breed around the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea, and was believed to have the power to charm the winds and waves into calmness. Halcyon frequently occurs in the expression halcyon days, a period of calm weather in the winter, historically a stretch of fourteen days around the winter solstice connected with (the myth of) breeding kingfishers. Halcyon days evolved to mean, more broadly, “a time of peace and prosperity,” and the adjective halcyon evolved to mean, variously, “calm; rich; carefree.” Halcyon is recorded in English by the late 1300s.

how is halcyon used?

… the sun high and bright, the sky a preternatural robin’s-egg blue. The kind of halcyon day reserved for picture postcards.

Carmen K. Sisson, "After the tornadoes: Rebuilding a campus, piece by piece," Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2008

This halcyon weather continued until the day a black storm arose.

Richard O'Mara, "The Sea," The Sewanee Review, Fall 2013
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Word of the day

Friday, December 20, 2019

effervescent

[ ef-er-ves-uhnt ]

adjective

vivacious; merry; lively; sparkling.

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What is the origin of effervescent?

Effervescent is a buoyant adjective meaning “vivacious; merry; lively; sparkling,” as in “The choir delivered an effervescent performance of favorite Christmas carols.” Effervescent derives from Latin effervēscere “to boil (over); burst forth; seethe; rage.” Effervēscere is composed of ef-, a variant of the prefix ex– “out of,” and fervēscere “to start boiling,” from fervēre “to be hot,” ultimate source of English fervent “enthusiastic, ardent.” True to its Latin root, fervent originally meant “hot, glowing” in English, just as effervescent first meant “giving off bubbles of gas” before evolving to its variously “bubbly” metaphorical senses. Effervescent entered English in the late 1600s.

how is effervescent used?

Yet his spirits are so effervescent that, with only a candle for fuel and only raw turnips for supper, he is able to lose himself in illusions of grandeur.

Walter Fuller Taylor, The Story of American Letters, 1956

The book combines effervescent comedy and stinging critique, but its most arresting quality is the lively humanity of its characters.

"Briefly Noted: The Sellout," The New Yorker, April 13, 2015
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