Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, September 02, 2021

lodestone

[ lohd-stohn ]

noun

something that attracts strongly.

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What is the origin of lodestone?

Lodestone, “a variety of magnetite that possesses magnetic polarity” in its non-figurative sense, is a compound of lode and stone. While lode most often refers to a metal-bearing deposit or, in dialectal English, a waterway, its original meaning in Old English, as lád, was “way, course,” and from there, its definition expanded to indicate something to follow, such as a channel or a vein of ore. Lode is a variant spelling of load, which went in a different semantic direction, shifting from a travel route to the heavy objects to be carried along such a route, likely with influence from the unrelated yet similar-sounding verb lade “to put a load or burden on.”

how is lodestone used?

The Mergui archipelago has been called the “Lost World,” but outsiders have found it … The islands are thought to harbor some of the world’s most important marine biodiversity, and are a lodestone for those eager to experience one of Asia’s last tourism frontiers before, as many fear, it succumbs to the ravages that have befallen many once-pristine seascapes.

Denis Gray, “Myanmar’s marine ‘Lost World’ braces for tourism,” AP News, March 21, 2014

The last time fans saw Black Widow in action, in “Avengers: Endgame,” she was fighting her dear friend Hawkeye on planet Vormir to sacrifice her life for the Soul Stone… Chapek says that scene of poignant humanity was a narrative lodestone for “Black Widow.”

Michael Cavna, "Black Widow finally gets her own movie, one that poses the question: Who is she, really?" Washington Post, July 1, 2021

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Word of the day

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

alma mater

[ ahl-muh -mah-ter, al-; al-muh -mey-ter ]

noun

a school, college, or university at which one has studied and, usually, from which one has graduated.

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What is the origin of alma mater?

Alma mater “a school where one has studied” comes from a Latin phrase that means “nourishing mother.” The first half, alma “nourishing” or “kind,” derives from an Indo-European root appearing variously as al-, el-, ol-, or ul- that is found frequently in words connected to nourishment or, more generally, the life cycle. Alumnus means “nourished one” in Latin, while alimony derives from the noun alimōnia “feeding” or “nourishment,” and the verb coalēscere, the source of coalesce, literally means “to grow up together.” Adolescent and adult come from the same Latin verb, adolēscere, and respectively mean “becoming mature” and “having matured,” and prolific and proliferate derive from prōlēs “offspring.” This same Indo-European root found in alma appears in English as well, in words such as old, elder, and alderman, and in the Scots phrase auld lang syne.

how is alma mater used?

Famed actor Phylicia Rashad is returning to her alma mater as the new dean of the Howard University College of Fine Arts. The longtime performer and Tony Award winner … graduated magna cum laude from Howard with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1970.

Ashraf Khalil, “Phylicia Rashad to lead Howard College of Fine Arts,” AP News, May 12, 2021

In fact, Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, seemed to suggest last August that Obama would be returning to his New York alma mater. No doubt, Columbia would offer him a king’s ransom and every other academic perk imaginable.

Cinque Henderson, "Three Places Obama Could Teach," The New Yorker, March 15, 2016

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Word of the day

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

gorgonize

[ gawr-guh-nahyz ]

verb (used with object)

hypnotize; petrify.

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What is the origin of gorgonize?

Gorgonize is ultimately derived, via Latin, from Ancient Greek Gorgṓ, which comes from the adjective gorgós “dreadful” and is the original Greek name for each of the Gorgons, the triumvirate of mythic sisters with snakes for hair and whose appearance was so frightful that anyone who looked at them directly would turn to stone. The Gorgons were named Euryale, Medusa, and Stheno, and Medusa is the most famous of the three because of her mortality, which allowed for Perseus to behead her by using her reflection in his shield to guide his sword.

how is gorgonize used?

Offensively democratic exhibitions of free manners occur every once in a while. Churlish fellows will obtrude themselves with their hats on, lighted segars [sic] and their pantaloons tucked into their boots. Dropping into chairs, they will sit puffing away and trying to gorgonize the President with their silent stares, until their boorish curiosity is fully satisfied.

Henry Villard, as quoted in Lincoln on the Eve of '61, 1940

Athena smiled, then turned to Po. “Not a word out of you, Poseidon, or I’ll freeze you so fast you won’t know what hit you. Now watch while I gorgonize your little girlfriend.”

Kate McMullan, Say Cheese, Medusa, 2002

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