Word of the Day

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


[ lam-buhnt ]


dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly playful: lambent wit.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of lambent?

Lambent comes straight from Latin lambent-, the inflectional stem of the present participle lambēns, from the verb lambere “to lick, (of food or liquid) lick up, suck up, absorb.” Lambere has the transferred senses “(of fire) to play upon, lick,” “(of water) to wash, bathe,” and “(of creeping plants) to surround, wreathe.” The only English sense deriving from the Latin is “running or moving lightly over a surface”; the other senses, including “dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject,” developed within English. Lambent entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is lambent used?

There is the lightning wit that flashes of a short sentence or an apt reply, and there is the lambent wit that sparkles either by description or dialogue.

Walter Sydney Sichel, "The Wit and Humour of Lord Beaconsfield," Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. 44, May–October 1881

He goes to Oxford, where his lambent gift of tongues is recognized and encouraged, and then to war, where everything he values is laid waste.

Anthony Lane, "Why Make Movies About Writers," The New Yorker, May 10, 2019
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
arrows pointing up and down
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Tuesday, October 08, 2019


[ ek-spee-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to atone for; make amends or reparation for.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of expiate?

The verb expiate, “to atone for, make amends for, make reparation for,” comes from Latin expiātus, the past participle of expiāre “to make atonement to the gods for, appease, propitiate (deities, spirits),” a compound formed by the intensive prefix ex– and the simple verb piāre “to propitiate (a deity, spirit),” a derivative of the very important Roman adjective pius “dutiful, faithful (to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred, and friends).” Aeneas is called pius Aeneas 20 times in the Aeneid. Expiate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is expiate used?

Ridding oneself of guilt is often easier than overcoming shame, in part because our society offers many ways to expiate guilt-inducing offenses, including apologizing, paying fines, and serving jail time.

Annette Kämmerer, "The Scientific Underpinnings and Impacts of Shame," Scientific American, August 9, 2019

Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins.

Andy Newman, "If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?" New York Times, June 3, 2019
Monday, October 07, 2019


[ te-loor-ee-uhn ]


of or characteristic of the earth or its inhabitants; terrestrial.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of tellurian?

The adjective and noun tellurian ultimately derive from the Latin noun tellūs (inflectional stem tellūr-) “ground, dry land, earth, the earth.” In English the adjective tellurian, meaning pretty much the same as terrestrial, was a technical term used in astronomy. Tellurian used as a noun, “an inhabitant of earth, earthling,” appears in the first half of the 19th century. Throughout much of the 20th century, tellurian, adjective and noun, occurs especially in science fiction. Tellūs comes from a Proto-Indo-European root tel– “flat, level, floor, ground,” the root of Sanskrit tala– “flat surface, flat of the hand”; Old Irish talam “earth”; Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language) talus “floor (of a room)”; and Greek tēlía “board for rolling dice on, kitchen board.” Tellurian entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is tellurian used?

That … I should feel in touch with something that I am, or was, and yet seems to go beyond the rational either bespeaks the power of self-delusion in even those with trained minds, or reveals that tellurian force still present and available to us …

Catharine Savage Brosman, "Turn My Face Out to the West," The Shimmering Maya and Other Essays, 1994

Her [the moon’s] antiquity in preceding and surviving successive tellurian generations …

James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922
Sunday, October 06, 2019


[ flek-shoo-uhs ]


full of bends or curves; sinuous.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of flexuous?

Flexuous comes straight from Latin flexuōsus “full of bends or turns, winding,” an adjective derived from the noun flexus “an act of bending, turning, or swerving, or of turning a corner,” which in turn is a derivative of the verb flectere “to bend, curve, curl (the hair).” Further etymology of flectere is uncertain. Flexuous is not common in English; the word is used chiefly in zoology and botany. Flexuous entered English in the early 17th century.

how is flexuous used?

The searching stems are gently flexuous, belying their innate urge to reach up to the light.

Andy Byfield, "Ivy: the forgotten festive plant," The Guardian, December 31, 2013

… George Best corkscrewing his way past man after man on a flexuous run of perfect balance and improvised brilliance.

Paul Gardner, "Soccer, American Style," New York Times, May 4, 1975
Saturday, October 05, 2019


[ ree-ey-lee-uh, -al-ee-uh, rey-ah-lee-uh ]

plural noun

objects, as coins, tools, etc., used by a teacher to illustrate everyday living.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of realia?

Realia comes from the Late Latin adjective reālia “real things, facts,” the neuter plural of reālis used as a noun. Reālis is a derivative of the noun rēs “thing, matter, affair” (three of the word’s many, many meanings). The earliest English usage of realia referred to German culture and educational systems, specifically the Realschule, a secondary school specializing in practical subjects rather than the liberal arts. In the United States since the late 1890s, realia have meant ordinary, everyday objects used as teaching aids for children. This is nothing new: in the first century a.d., the Roman rhetorician Quintilian recommended using large letters carved of wood, easy for children to handle, to help them learn the alphabet. Realia entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is realia used?

For students to learn a new language in meaningful contexts, teachers must use every instructional strategy available to them, including the use of actual objects (realia), pictures, videos, and gestures to express meaning.

Anthony Jackson, "Immersion Teaching: Successful Approaches," Education Week, October 17, 2013

Many libraries contain realia, or real artifacts. School libraries may include various kinds of rock for the study of geology; cultural libraries may possess objects such as the toki ….

Ian H. Witten and David Bainbridge, How to Build a Digital Library, 2003
Friday, October 04, 2019


[ sluhm-ber-land ]


an imaginary land described to children as the place they enter during sleep.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of slumberland?

Slumberland is a humorous, poetic, or childish word. It first appears in the Decadent poet Algernon Swinburne’s Tristram of Lyonesse and other Poems (1882): “The great good wizard … Takes his strange rest at heart of slumberland.” Slumber, “to sleep, doze,” comes from Middle English slumeren, frequentative of slumen “to doze,” itself a derivative of Old English slūma “sleep.”

how is slumberland used?

… Drew Ackerman created a podcast to lead listeners into slumberland.

Pagan Kennedy, "The Insomnia Machine," New York Times, September 17, 2016

Every time the boy thinks he has ushered them into slumberland, with the goal of getting some shut-eye himself, a new obstacle pops up (“Is something wrong?” “I need my coil!”/ “My sensor aches!” “I want more oil!”).

, "Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!" Publishers Weekly, July 6, 2015
Thursday, October 03, 2019


[ foh-lee-ey-shuhs ]


bearing leaves or leaflike parts.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of foliaceous?

Foliaceous “leaflike, leafy,” is a technical adjective used in botany and other branches of biology. Foliaceous comes straight from Latin foliāceus (with the same meanings), a derivative of the noun folium “leaf.” Folium comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bhel-, bhol-, bhlē-, bhlō– “to bloom, thrive.” The root is the source of Latin flōs (inflectional stem flōr-) “flower,” which through French yields English flower and flour, and Old Irish blāth “blossom, flower.” The Germanic form blō– yields the Old English noun blōstma, blōsma “blossom,” and the verb blōwan “to blow, blossom, flourish.” The Greek noun phýllon “leaf” could be from the same root, except that the y (instead of o) is hard to explain. Foliaceous entered English in the 17th century.

how is foliaceous used?

This Oak presents about the longest trunk of all California foliaceous trees.

Titus Fey Cronise, The Natural Wealth of California, 1868

The autumn dress of the foliaceous forest is much more varied and rich in colour than even that of the Atlantic forests of North America ….

J. J. Rein, The Industries of Japan, 1889

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.