Word of the Day

Sunday, April 04, 2021

leporine

[ lep-uh-rahyn, -rin ]

adjective

of, relating to, or resembling a rabbit or hare.

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What is the origin of leporine?

Leporine, “pertaining to or resembling a rabbit or hare,” a technical term in zoology, comes straight from the Latin adjective leporīnus, a derivative of the noun lepus (inflectional stem lepor-) “hare.” The etymology of lepus is obscure, but it may be related to Greek dialect léporis (Sicily) and lebērís (Marseille). Leporine entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is leporine used?

Of course, the Easter Bunny isn’t our only leporine hero. There is a general fascination with hares, bunnies, and rabbits in children’s literature and other aspects of popular and folk culture around the world.

Ellen C. Caldwell, "The Easter Bunny, or, Why We Love Rabbits," JSTOR Daily, March 25, 2016

His face looked naked, his teeth big and leporine.

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, 2013

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Saturday, April 03, 2021

cackleberry

[ kak-uhl-ber-ee ]

noun

a hen's egg used for food.

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What is the origin of cackleberry?

Cackleberry, “an egg, a hen’s egg,” is a piece of facetious American slang. The word is a compound of the verb cackle “to utter a shrill, broken cry such as a hen makes” and the common noun berry “small fruit without a pit,” also used often in compounds such as strawberry or gooseberry.

how is cackleberry used?

Cackleberries,” said Gately, picking up one of the eggs and examining it as though it were an emerald. “A genuine cackleberry.”

Beirne Lay, Jr. and Sy Bartlett, Twelve O'Clock High! 1948

Klock had played swell ball all week, scampering around station one like a hare—the March variety, of course—but he wasn’t hitting hard enough to imperil the shell of a cackleberry.

James W. Egan, "Cuckoo Klock," Munsey's Magazine, Vol. 73, June to September, 1921

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Friday, April 02, 2021

passe-partout

[ pas-pahr-too; French pahs-par-too ]

noun

something that passes everywhere or provides a universal means of passage.

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What is the origin of passe-partout?

Passe-partout, “something that provides a universal means of passage; a master key, skeleton key,” comes from the French compound passe-partout, whose literal meaning is “(it) passes everywhere.” In French the phrase originally meant “a person who can go anywhere,” and slightly later “a master key.” The French verb passer “to pass” comes from Vulgar Latin passāre “to walk, step, pass,” from the Latin noun passus “pace, step.” Partout is a compound of par “through” and tout “all.” Par comes from the Latin preposition per “through”; tout comes from Latin tōtus “all, the whole of, complete.” Passe-partout entered English in the 17th century.

how is passe-partout used?

Journalists have an invisible passe-partout that allows them to roam the world and ask consequential people impertinent questions.

Nicholas Lemann, "Spheres of Influence," The New Yorker, April 4, 2004

I conducted my own furtive tour of the French intelligence community and found that de Villiers’s name was a very effective passe-partout, even among people who found the subject mildly embarrassing.

Robert F. Worth, "The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much," New York Times, January 30, 2013

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