• Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Sunday, August 18, 2019

    luminary

    noun [loo-muh-ner-ee]
    a person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others: one of the luminaries in the field of medical science.
    Look it up

    Get to know dictionary.com

    Sign up for our Newsletter!
    Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    What is the origin of luminary?

    English luminary comes from Middle English luminari(e) “light (especially of the sun or moon), lamp, source of spiritual light, shining example of holiness, earthly glory,” from Old French luminarie, luminaire, from Medieval Latin lūmināria (plural of lūmināre), from Late Latin lūmināria “lights, lamps,” used in the Vulgate for the lights in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and in Christian churches. (The Vulgate is the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by St. Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d.). In Latin of the classical period, lūmināre meant merely “window, window shutter.” Luminary entered English in the late 15th century.

    How is luminary used?

    I have been accustomed to consider him a luminary too dazzling for the darkness which surrounds him .... Percy Bysshe to William Godwin, January 3, 1812, in The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Vol. 1, 1912

    She had been a luminary of the British folk revival in the nineteen-fifties and sixties—a ballad singer with a steady, almost austere approach to melody, a demure presence, and a true, heartbreaking voice. "What We're Reading This Summer," The New Yorker, June 20, 2018

    Get to know dictionary.com

    Sign up for our Newsletter!
    Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Saturday, August 17, 2019

    redoubtable

    adjective [ri-dou-tuh-buhl]
    that is to be feared; formidable.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of redoubtable?

    English redoubtable comes from Middle English redoutable “terrible, frightening, worthy of honor, venerable,” ultimately from Old French redotable, redoubtable, a derivative of the verb redouter “to fear, dread.” Redouter is formed from a French use of the prefix re- as an intensive (for instance, in refine), a use that Latin re- does not have, and from Latin dubitāre “to doubt, hesitate, waver” (but not “to fear”). Redoubtable entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

    How is redoubtable used?

    Isabelle may not realize it for a while, but she's become a redoubtable opponent, Vincent. Jonathan Carroll, Glass Soup, 2005

    "They are as redoubtable a gang of pirates as ever sailed the Spanish Main," Cannon said in introduction to his remarks about the Florida delegation. Keith Wheeler, Henry Suydam, Norman Ritter, Bill Wise, and Howard Sochurek, "Now—See the Innards of a Fat Pig," Life, August 16, 1963

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Friday, August 16, 2019

    beadledom

    noun [beed-l-duhm]
    a gratuitous or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of beadledom?

    Beadledom, “a gratuitous or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials,” is a compound of beadle and the noun suffix -dom. In Old English a býdel meant “a herald, proclaimer, preacher,” from an original Germanic budilaz “a herald,” akin to Old High German butyl and German Büttel “bailiff, beadle.” The Germanic word was adopted into Romance, becoming bidello in Italian, bedel in Spanish and Old French, and bidellus or bedellus in Medieval Latin. Nowadays a beadle is a minor officer in a parish who acts as an usher and maintains order during services, a sense the word has had since the late 16th century. The Middle English forms, such as budel, beodel, bidell (deriving from Old English býdel), were gradually replaced by French bedel beginning in the early 14th century; the modern spelling beadle dates from the early 17th century. The abstract noun suffix -dom, indicating a state or condition, as in wisdóm “wisdom” and cyningdóm “kingdom,” is akin to Old English and Old Saxon -dóm, German -tum (as in Heiligtum “sanctuary, shrine, relic”), and was originally an independent noun meaning “putting, position, stature, judgment," a derivative of the verb do. Beadledom entered English in the 1840s.

    How is beadledom used?

    ... I shall endeavor to limit the occupation of the Beadle of Golden Square to pure beadledom, by prohibiting him from waiting at the evening parties of the trustees, and beating the door-mats of the inhabitants. Editors, "Punch for Parliament," Punch, Vol. 13, 1847

    The music of beadledom has an attire uniformly officious, sublimely unmeaning. "The Decadence of Church Music," The Musical Standard, No. 428, Vol. 3, October 12, 1872

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Thursday, August 15, 2019

    golden

    adjective [gohl-duhn]
    indicating the fiftieth event of a series: a golden wedding anniversary.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of golden?

    The adjective golden is obviously a compound of the noun gold and the suffix -en, which is used to form adjectives of source or material from nouns. The odd thing about golden is that it is first recorded only about 1300. Golden is a Middle English re-formation of gold and -en that replaced earlier Middle English gulden, gilden, gelden, gylden “made of or consisting of gold,” from Old English gylden, gilden “golden.” Golden age occurs in The Works and Days of the Greek didactic poet Hesiod (c700 b.c.) and has persisted throughout Western literature. Golden mean “the perfect moderate course or position that avoids extremes” entered English in the 1540s. Golden mean was also formerly called the golden mediocrity, a literal translation of Horace's aurea mediocritās (Odes 2.10). The golden mean as an ethical principle is usually associated with Aristotelian ethics, it being a virtue, the midpoint between two opposite extremes, as, for example, the virtue of courage being the golden mean between the two opposite vices of cowardice and foolhardiness. The Americanism golden handcuffs “a series of raises, bonuses, etc., given at intervals or tied to length of employment in order to keep an executive from leaving the company,” dates to the mid-1960s; golden handshake “a special incentive, such as generous severance pay, given to an older employee as an inducement to elect early retirement,” dates to the late 1950s; and golden parachute “an employment contract guaranteeing an executive of a company substantial severance pay and other perquisites in the event of job loss caused by the company's being sold or merged,” dates to the early 1980s.

    How is golden used?

    Museums and towns across the country geared up for their own golden anniversary celebrations, including Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong's hometown that was serving up "cinnamoon pancakes" and "buckeye on the moon sundaes." Marcia Dunn, "Apollo 11 Astronauts Reunite on 50th Anniversary of Moonshot," Associated Press, July 19, 2019

    Kurt and Verena Kuster will be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. Fleur Jaeggy, Last Vanities, translated by Tim Parks, 1998

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Wednesday, August 14, 2019

    plebeian

    adjective [pli-bee-uhn]
    common, commonplace, or vulgar: a plebeian joke.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of plebeian?

    English plebeian, adjective and noun, ultimately derives from the Latin adjective and noun plēbēius “pertaining to the common people, a commoner.” The adjective also meant “common, ordinary, everyday” and was usually disparaging. Plēbēius derives from the noun plebs (also plēbēs, stem plēb-) “the general citizenry (as opposed to the patricians)." Plebs (plēbēs) is akin to Greek plêthos “great number, multitude, the majority of people, the commons”; the Latin and Greek nouns derive from a Proto-Indo-European plēdhwo-, ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root pele-, plē- “to fill.” Plebeian entered English in the 16th century.

    How is plebeian used?

    It outfitted all the high-touch areas of the penthouse (like the bannister on the staircase) in an antimicrobial coating, so you don’t have to deal with such plebeian concerns as germs. Elizabeth Segran, "This $26 million penthouse is the Goop of luxury real estate," Fast Company, July 17, 2019

    The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, dons bifocals when she appears before the House of Commons, as if to advertise her sympathetic connection to the plebeian indignities of embodiment. Katy Waldman, "Kyrsten Sinema and Statement Glasses in the Senate," The New Yorker, November 15, 2018

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Tuesday, August 13, 2019

    donnybrook

    noun [don-ee-brook] (often initial capital letter)
    an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of donnybrook?

    Donnybrook is the English spelling of the English pronunciation of Irish Domhnach Broc “Church of (St.) Broc.” Domhnach also means “Sunday” in Irish and comes from Latin (Diēs) Dominica “Lord’s (Day).” Little is known of St. Broc, who founded a church in the 8th century at the location of Donnybrook Cemetery in Dublin, Ireland. In 1204 the English King John (“famous” for the Magna Carta) granted a charter for an annual fair, at first like an American county fair, featuring livestock and produce, but later developing into a carnival, a medieval Irish Coney Island, beset with drunks and brawlers. During the 1790s campaigns against the fair began; prominent citizens purchased the royal charter, and they had the fair shut down in 1866. The Donnybrook Fair grounds are now the Donnybrook Rugby Ground. Donnybrook entered English in the mid-19th century.

    How is donnybrook used?

    Now the New York hotel and restaurant workers' local is threatening a "donnybrook" if it doesn't get a contract at the Portman. "Portman's New Headache," New York, March 22, 1982

    On Monday, when the panel conducted a hearing about the Mueller report, there was a partisan donnybrook. Jeffrey Toobin, "The House Judiciary Committee Considers Antitrust Law, the Tech Giants, and the Future of News," The New Yorker, June 14, 2019

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Monday, August 12, 2019

    subitize

    verb (used without object) [soo-bi-tahyz] Psychology.
    to make an immediate and accurate reckoning of the number of items in a group or sample without needing to pause and actually count them.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of subitize?

    Subitize is a useful word in psychology regardless of the awkwardness of its formation. The first part of the word, subit-, comes from the Late Latin verb subitāre “to come suddenly and unexpectedly upon” (a derivative of the adjective subitus “sudden, abrupt”). The familiar, completely naturalized suffix -ize ("to render, make; convert into; subject to; etc.") comes via Late Latin -izāre from Greek -ízein.

    How is subitize used?

    Below five, we’re able to subitize, or rapidly judge numbers of items without counting. Steph Yin, "Do You Know What Lightning Really Looks Like?" New York Times, June 11, 2018

    Getting the computer model to subitize the way humans and animals did was possible, he found, only if he built in “number neurons” tuned to fire with maximum intensity in response to a specific number of objects. Jim Holt, "Numbers Guy," The New Yorker, February 24, 2008

    Previous Day Load More
Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.