Word of the Day

Monday, October 08, 2018

librate

[ lahy-breyt ]

verb

to remain poised or balanced.

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What is the origin of librate?

The verb librate comes from Latin lībrātus, the past participle of lībrāre “to balance, make level,” a derivative of the noun lībra “a balance, a pound (weight).” The further etymology of lībra is difficult. It is related to Sicilian (Doric) Greek lī́tra “a silver coin, a pound (weight),” also a unit of volume, e.g., English litre (via French litre from Latin). Both lī́tra and lībra derive from Italic līthrā. Lībra becomes lira in Italian, libra in Spanish and Portuguese, French livre (both coinage and weight). The abbreviation for lībra (weight) is lb.; the symbol for lībra (the coinage, i.e., the pound sterling) is £. Librate entered English in the 17th century.

how is librate used?

Watching them to the ground, the wings of a hawk, or of the brown owl, stretch out, are drawn against the current air by a string as a paper kite, and made to flutter and librate like a kestrel over the place where the woodlark has lodged …

John Leonard Knapp, Journal of a Naturalist, 1829

At this period the balance of tropic and pole librates, and the vast atmospheric tides pour their flood upon one hemisphere and their ebb upon another.

Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea, translated by William Moy Thomas, 1866
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Sunday, October 07, 2018

brio

[ bree-oh ]

noun

vigor; vivacity.

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What is the origin of brio?

The Italian noun brio comes from Spanish brío “energy, determination,” ultimately from Celtic brīgos “strength” (compare Middle Welsh bri “honor, dignity,” Old Irish bríg “strength, power”). Celtic brīgos derives from Proto-Indo-European gwrīgos, a derivative of the very common and complicated Proto-Indo-European root gwer- “heavy,” which has many variations, including gwerə-, gwerəu-, and gwerī-. From gwerə- and its variants, English has “grave, gravid, gravity” from Latin; the prefixes baro- “heavy” and bary- “deep” from Greek; and guru from Sanskrit. From gwrīgos, the same source as Celtic brīgos, Germanic derives krīgaz “fight, strife,” German Krieg “war.” Brio entered English in the 18th century.

how is brio used?

Although Stopsack had probably never before directed such an undertaking, he performed his duties with brio, skillfully heaping verbal abuse on the manacled inmates …

James Morrow, Galápagos Regained, 2014

Her work rustles with the premonition that she was obsolete, that her splendor and style and ferocious brio had been demoted to a kind of sparkling irrelevance.

Tobi Haslett, "The Other Susan Sontag," The New Yorker, December 11, 2017
Saturday, October 06, 2018

axilla

[ ak-sil-uh ]

noun

Anatomy. the armpit.

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What is the origin of axilla?

Axilla, the Latin word for “armpit,” is a diminutive of āla “wing (of a bird or insect), fin (of a fish), armpit, flank (of an army).” Āla comes from an earlier, unrecorded ags-lā (axla in Latin orthography), one of the Latin reflexes of Proto-Indo-European ages-, aks- “pivot, pivot point.” Another Proto-Indo-European derivative, aks-lo-s, becomes ahsulaz in Germanic, eaxl in Old English, and axle in English. A third derivative noun, aks-is, becomes Latin axis “axle, axletree, chariot, wagon,” assis in Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language), and in Polish. Axilla entered English in the 17th century.

how is axilla used?

There is a game of croquet set up on the lawn and my second cousin Sonsoles can be found there any hour of the afternoon, bent over, with a mallet in her hand, and looking out of the corner of her eye, between the arm and the axilla, which form a sort of arch for her thoughtful gaze, at the unwary masculine visitor who appears in the harsh afternoon light.

Carlos Fuentes, "La Desdichada," Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, translated by Thomas Christensen, 1990

He recoiled from one odor to another until, in resignation, he accepted and his nose pumped steadily at the single generalized odor that was a meld of everything from axilla to organic debris and smelled like clam soil.

Thomas McGuane, The Sporting Club, 1968

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