Word of the Day

Friday, July 02, 2021

lilt

[ lilt ]

noun

rhythmic swing or cadence.

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What is the origin of lilt?

Lilt, “a rhythmic swing or cadence; a light and merry song or song or tune,” comes from the Middle English verb lilten, lulten “to sound an alarm; lift up (one’s voice).” Lilten seems to be related to the Middle English verb lulle(n), lullien, loulen “to induce a baby to sleep by rocking or singing; lull.” All of these words are possibly related to Dutch and Low German lul “pipe,” lullen “to lull,” and Norwegian lilla “to sing,” and are likely to be imitative in origin. Lilt entered English in the 14th century.

how is lilt used?

No one knows what this thing is, or which neurons fire in the heads of the people who flock in droves to old Bob Ross videos on YouTube to bask in the unflappable lilt of his folksy patter and the calm, sure sound of his palette knife as it flicks and scrapes pigment onto the canvas.

Alexandra Schwarz, "Performers on Lockdown Turn to Their Smartphones," The New Yorker, March 30, 2020

My professor, Linda Heywood, was slight and bespectacled, spoke with a high Trinidadian lilt that she employed like a hammer against young students like me who confused agitprop with hard study.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 2015

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

stalwart

[ stawl-wert ]

adjective

firm, steadfast, or uncompromising.

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What is the origin of stalwart?

Stalwart “strong and brave; valiant” or “firm, steadfast, or uncompromising” is in origin a Scots form of Middle English stalworth “strong, sturdy, serviceable.” Stalworth has many variant spellings in Middle English because its second syllable was confused with the adjective worth “having monetary value.” In fact, stalworth comes from Old English stǣlwirthe “able to stand a person in good stead; serviceable (of ships).” Stǣl is probably a contraction of stathol “base, support, bottom (of a haystack)”; the Old English adjective suffix –wirthe, with the variants –wierðe, –wyrðe, –weorðe “good, worthy,” survives in modern English worth. Stalwart in the sense “serviceable” entered English before 900; the other senses date from the late 12th century.

how is stalwart used?

Martha was envious, but she was a stalwart friend, and mordantly funny about women’s plight.

Dorothy Wickenden, "The Pre-Civil War Fight Against White Supremacy," The New Yorker, January 18, 2021

It would have needed a very stalwart young woman in 1828 to disregard all those snubs and chidings and promises of prizes. One must have been something of a firebrand to say to oneself, Oh, but they can’t buy literature too. Literature is open to everybody.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

cunctation

[ kuhngk-tey-shuhn ]

noun

lateness; delay.

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What is the origin of cunctation?

Cunctation “lateness; delay; tardy action” comes from Latin cunctātiō (inflectional stem cunctātiōn-), a derivative of the verb cunctārī “to delay, hang back.” Cunctārī is a derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root kenk-, konk– “to hang; hang back; vacillate.” The root appears in Sanskrit śáṅkate “(he) vacillates, doubts, fears,” Hittite kanki “(he) hangs.” In Proto-Germanic the original root konk– becomes hanh-, forming the transitive verb hanhan “to hang (e.g., a malefactor)” and the intransitive verb hanganan “to hang, be suspended, be in suspense.” Cunctation entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is cunctation used?

Lord Eldon, however, was personally answerable for unnecessary and culpable “cunctation,” as he called it, in protracting the arguments of counsel and in deferring judgment from day to day, from term to term, and from year to year, after the arguments had closed and he had irrevocably decided in his own mind what the judgment should be.

John Campbell, Lives of Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Brougham, 1869

Break off delay, since we but read of one / That ever prosper’d by cunctation.

Robert Herrick, "Delay," Hesperides, 1648

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