Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ lawr-ee-it, lor- ] [ ˈlɔr i ɪt, ˈlɒr- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


deserving or having special recognition for achievement, as for poetry.

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What is the origin of laureate?

Laureate “having special recognition for achievement” is adapted from Latin laureātus “crowned with laurel,” ultimately from laurus “bay tree, laurel.” Though laurus is of uncertain origin and may come instead from a long-lost language of the Mediterranean, a popular theory is that laurus is related somehow to Ancient Greek dáphnē. This theory is partially based on the occasional change of Old Latin d into Classical Latin l, as with lacrima “tear” from earlier dacrima and lingua “tongue” from earlier dingua. Laureate was first recorded in English in the late 14th century.

how is laureate used?

As an assistant editor on the desk, I wrote to the nation’s many state poets laureate—nearly every state has one—and asked them to provide us with some words of gratitude in a relentlessly difficult year …. The nation’s poets laureate have a real sense of mission. They aim to encourage an appreciation for poetry, to challenge us, to generate some buzz for the art form.

Felice Belman, “In a Dark Season, We Went Looking for Poetry,” New York Times, December 2, 2020 ​
[Joy] Harjo, Muscogee Creek, has been tapped by the Library of Congress to serve a second term as U.S. poet laureate. She said the appointment is an honor, “especially during these times of earth transformation and cultural change.”

Sandra Hale Schulman, “Joy Harjo: Poetry reminds us we're all connected,” Indian Country Today, May 6, 2020
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[ ahp-zahyl, ab-seyl ] [ ˈɑp zaɪl, ˈæb seɪl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun, verb (used without object)

to descend by moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body.

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What is the origin of abseil?

Abseil “to descend down an incline by means of a rope” is a borrowing of German abseilen, which is a compound of ab- “down” and seilen “to rope.” Because German and English are related, German ab- is a cognate of English of and off; this makes German Ablaut, which refers to the vowel change in the verb singsangsung, equivalent to English off loud. However, German seilen does not have a relative in modern standard English. Old English had sāl “rope,” but this survives today only in dialectal English as sole “a rope for tying up cattle.” Abseil was first recorded in English in the early 1930s.

how is abseil used?

Over the Easter weekend, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company–based in the heart of London’s principal jewelery quarter–was raided. The circumstances of the case have yet to be established, but initial reports speculate that the perpetrators may have abseiled down an elevator shaft and broken through the wall of the vault with heavy-duty cutting equipment, before finally using drills to get into the deposit boxes.

David Churchill, “Drills, dynamite and derring-do: why we love a diamond heist,” Conversation, April 9, 2015

India, China, Russia, Spain and the United States all have deposits of jet, the pitch-black gem that actually is a form of coal. But the jet found along a seven-and-a-half-mile stretch of rugged coastland around Whitby, a remote Yorkshire fishing town, is considered the world’s best. Jacqueline Cullen, a London designer credited with some of the renewed interest in jet jewelry, gets her supplies from a Whitby resident who abseils down the cliffs to search abandoned Victorian mines, really just small holes chiseled into the rock face.

Felicia Craddock, “A Victorian Fad Has Regained Some of Its Allure,” New York Times, May 13, 2015
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[ stee-vi-dawr, -dohr ] [ ˈsti vɪˌdɔr, -ˌdoʊr ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a firm or individual engaged in the loading or unloading of a vessel.

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What is the origin of stevedore?

Stevedore “an individual who loads and unloads a vessel” is an Americanism adapted from Spanish estibador “dock worker, longshoreman,” which is based on the Spanish verb estibar “to pack, stow, cram.” Estibar, from Latin stīpāre “to stuff, pack tightly,” reflects a common sound change between Latin and some modern Romance languages: voiceless consonants (p, t, c) that are intervocalic, or appear between vowels, often become voiced, or pronounced with vibrations in the vocal chords (b, d, g). One of the best examples of this is Latin apothēca “shop, storehouse,” which voiced its voiceless consonants—and eventually dropped the initial a—to become Spanish bodega “wine cellar.” Stevedore was first recorded in English in the 1780s.

how is stevedore used?

[Naomi] Cain is part of nine Indigenous sailors, descendants of Indigenous Australians, on the 11-person crew sailing the Beneteau 47.7 Marguerite. She’s worked alongside boats as a stevedore for nearly 18 years, moving cargo on and off container ships with a forklift. Sailing, however, is uncharted waters.

John Clarke, “For the Sydney Hobart, an Indigenous Crew Puts to Sea,” New York Times, December 23, 2019

Around that time in Arles, on the Rhône River in what is now southern France, the stevedores did things a bit differently: They threw their empties into the river. Arles in the first century was the thriving gateway to Roman Gaul. Freight from all over the Mediterranean was transferred there to riverboats, then hauled up the Rhône by teams of men to supply the northern reaches of the empire, including the legions manning the German frontier.

Robert Kunzig, “Romans in France,” National Geographic, April 2014
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