Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, May 07, 2021

lackadaisical

[ lak-uh-dey-zi-kuhl ]

adjective

without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic.

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What is the origin of lackadaisical?

The adjective lackadaisical, “lacking interest or determination; listless; lazy; indolent,” comes from the interjection, adjective, and noun lackadaisy. Lackadaisy as an interjection expresses dismay, sorrow or disapproval; as an adjective it means “given to crying lackadaisy; and as a noun, “a person given to crying lackadaisy.” Lackadaisy is a variant of the archaic interjection lackaday, a shortened variant of alack the day. Middle English has the interjection alacke (also alagge), possibly related to the noun lak, lack(e) “a lack, fault, shortcoming,” and alack the day may have originally meant “shame on the day (for turning out like this),” like alas the day. Lackadaisical weakened in meaning from a person who cried lackadaisy to someone who complained about trivialities, then still further to someone who was sentimental, and finally to someone who was just lazy. Lackadaisical entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is lackadaisical used?

So while you may have every right to resent your colleagues’ sloth and your boss’s lackadaisical attitude about it, merely venting is more likely to make you seem petty than it is to result in change.

Rob Walker, "Annoyed by a Hands-Off Boss," New York Times, March 4, 2016

Our government’s lackadaisical approach to genomic surveillance leaves us blind to precisely how prevalent these mutants are — and yet, even as other nations have responded to the emergence of such strains with lockdowns, our cities are reopening indoor dining just in time to accelerate their spread.

Eric Levitz, "Herd Immunity May Be Out of Reach — But Normality Is in Sight," New York, February 12, 2021

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Word of the day

Thursday, May 06, 2021

machinate

[ mak-uh-neyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to contrive or plot, especially artfully or with evil purpose.

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What is the origin of machinate?

The English verb machinate comes from Latin māchinātus, the past participle of the verb māchinārī “to invent, contrive, devise artfully, plot.” Māchinārī has both neutral and pejorative senses, but English machinate has mostly pejorative or hostile senses. Māchinārī is a derivative of the noun māchina “apparatus, mechanism, machine,” a borrowing from Doric Greek māchanā́ “contrivance, machine, crane.” Machinate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is machinate used?

His is a character which is typical in the heroic poetry of the Tuetons … the malicious counselor of the old king who machinates against the young hero.

Axel Olrik, The Heroic Legends of Denmark, translated by Lee M. Hollander, 1919

And while Ford’s Theater has become a secular shrine in Washington, only a true trivialist knows that the house where John Wilkes Booth machinated, at 604 H Street N.W., is now a Chinese restaurant.

"Honest, Abe: Ninescore And Seven," New York Times Magazine, February 11, 1996

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Word of the day

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

hardscrabble

[ hahrd-skrab-uhl ]

adjective

providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding.

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What is the origin of hardscrabble?

Hardscrabble, “yielding a meager return for much effort,” is an Americanism that originally began as two separate words: the adjective hard “difficult, arduous” and the noun scrabble “scratching, clawing, scramble”; the phrase meant “painful effort under hard conditions,” later applied particularly to farmland that required much work for little reward. By the first half of the 19th century, Hard-Scrabble (variously spelled) was used as a placename for a remote town or region where life was difficult. The current sense “yielding meager results” dates from the second half of the 19th century. Hardscrabble entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is hardscrabble used?

The oil and gas business is full of guys like T. Boone Pickens, self-made men who rose from a hardscrabble life on the prairie to become titans of the industry.

Jeff Goodell, "The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind Aubrey McClendon’s Gas Boom," Rolling Stone, March 1, 2012

Maybe you caught tinges of her vivid, hardscrabble love letter crackling through tinny speakers at a CVS, and paid attention because it’s one of the few songs in the commercially programmed soundtrack of our mundane errands that no one should have objections to.

Hau Chu, "Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' is a beautiful ballad. This 33-minute cover version takes it to a whole new place." Washington Post, April 3, 2021

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