Word of the Day

Monday, June 22, 2020

lassitude

[ las-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

weariness of body or mind from strain, oppressive climate, etc.; lack of energy; listlessness.

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What is the origin of lassitude?

The primary meaning of lassitude is “weariness of mind or body, listlessness,” but lassitude has a second meaning, “indolent indifference.” The immediate source of the English word is Middle French lassitude, which, as in English, may be pleasant or unpleasant fatigue. French lassitude comes from Latin lassitūdō, which in Latin always has an unpleasant sense. Lassitūdō is a derivative of the adjective lassus “tired, weary, exhausted,” a derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root -, – “to let go, go slack,” extended with –d (lēd-, ləd-). The same root yields Greek lēdeîn “to be tired,” Albanian lodhem “to become tired,” and Germanic lētan, which in Old English becomes lǣtan “to allow, permit, suffer” and let in English. Lassitude entered English in the 16th century.

how is lassitude used?

it occurred to me, as I ate another astringent chip, that this lassitude, the trouble focusing, the sleep difficulties, my exhaustion: Oh yes, I thought, I remember this. I was grieving.

R. O. Kwon, "Trouble Focusing? Not Sleeping? You May Be Grieving," New York Times, April 9, 2020

Heavy lassitude settled upon me as I walked away from Peter Kanarjian. There had been too much excitement in the past eighteen hours, and I had had little sleep.

Walter A. Roberts, The Mind Reader, 1929

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

agnate

[ ag-neyt ]

adjective

related or akin through males or on the father's side.

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What is the origin of agnate?

The English adjective and noun agnate comes straight from Latin agnātus, adgnātus, past participle (also used as a noun) of the verb agnascī (also adnascī and adgnascī) “to be born in addition to; (of a human being) to be born after the father makes his will.” (The noun agnātus, adgnātus is a male blood relative on the father’s side; agnāta, adgnāta is a female blood relative on the father’s side.) Agnascī (adnascī, adgnascī) is a compound verb formed from the preposition and prefix ad, ad– “to, toward, in addition” and the simple verb (g)nascī “to be born” (Romans of the classical age had the same difficulty with initial gn– as modern English speakers do with, say, gnat, gnarly, and Gnostic). The much rarer Latin terms for “a blood relative on the mother’s side” are ēnātus for a male relative and ēnāta for a female, formed from the preposition and prefix ē, ē– (from ex “out of”) and nascī. Agnate entered English in the second half of the 15th century.

how is agnate used?

Rather than writing that one thing is like another, she suggested, pupils might use “commensurate” or “agnate,” which means related through male descent or on the father’s side.

James R. Hagerty, "'Use More Expressive Words!' Teachers Bark, Beseech, Implore,"  Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015

As office-holding tended to become hereditary, however, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, greater emphasis was placed upon agnate descent.

John B. Freed, The Counts of Falkenstein: Noble Self-Consciousness in Twelfth-Century Germany, 1984

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

tête-à-tête

[ teyt-uh-teyt, tet-uh-tet; French te-ta-tet ]

noun,

a private conversation or interview, usually between two people.

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What is the origin of tête-à-tête?

Tête-à-tête, “a private conversation, usually between two people,” in French literally means “head to head.” The tête in tête-à-tête comes from Old French teste, from testa “head” in Vulgar Latin, from Latin testa “terracotta pot, brick.” Tête-à-tête first occurs in French in a comédie-ballet by Molière entitled La comtesse d’Escarbagnas “The Countess of Escarbagnas” (1671). Testa is the Italian word for head, too, but if you use testa a testa in Italian, you will get only a lot of laughs. Tête-à-tête entered English in the early 18th century.

how is tête-à-tête used?

While she and Osborne were having their delightful tête-à-tête above stairs, old Mrs. Sedley and Captain Dobbin were conversing below upon the state of the affairs ….

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero, 1848

It’s a meeting that promises awkward handshakes, a “family photo” against a scenic backdrop and tense tête-à-têtes on the sidelines.

Claire Parker, "The G-7 summit kicks off on Saturday. Here are some key relationships to watch." Washington Post, August 23, 2019

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