Word of the Day

Friday, February 12, 2021

lunisolar

[ loo-ni-soh-ler ]

adjective

pertaining to or based upon the relations or joint action of the moon and the sun.

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What is the origin of lunisolar?

Lunisolar, meaning “pertaining to or based upon the relations or joint action of the moon and the sun,” is used exclusively in astronomy, as in lunisolar calendar or lunisolar precession. The word comes straight from the Latin nouns lūna “moon” and sōl “sun” (the –i– is a Latin connecting vowel). It is no accident that lūna looks so much like Russian luná: They both come from the same Proto-Indo-European noun louksnā, from the root leuk-, louk-, luk– “to shine, be bright.” Louksnā becomes raokhshnā “shining, brilliant, radiant” in Avestan (the Old Iranian language of the Zoroastrian scriptures); as a proper name, Raokhshnā is transliterated in Greek as Rhōxánē Roxanne (the English spelling was affected by the name Anne). Raokhshnā was an Iranian princess who become Alexander the Great’s wife (she bore Alexander a posthumous son). Latin sōl comes from Proto-Indo-European sāwel (from sāwel to sāwol to sāol to sōl). The derivative noun sāwelios “sun” becomes hḗlios in (Classical Attic) Greek. Greek dialects have the forms ēélios (Homeric), hā́lios and āélios (Doric), and awelios (Cretan). Lunisolar entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is lunisolar used?

To correct for seasonal drift, the Chinese, Hindu, Jewish and many other calendars are lunisolar. In these calendars, a month is still defined by the moon, but an extra month is added periodically to stay close to the solar year.

Steph Yin, "What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World's Calendars," New York Times, February 5, 2019

The day of or the day after the New Moon marks the start of the new month for most lunisolar calendars. The first month of the Chinese calendar starts on Friday, February 12, 2021 (at midnight in China’s time zone, which is 13 hours ahead of EST), making this Chinese New Year, the start of the year of the Ox!

Gordon Johnston, "The Next Full Moon is Another Wolf Moon," NASA, January 26, 2021

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

galimatias

[ gal-uh-mey-shee-uhs, -mat-ee-uhs ]

noun

confused or unintelligible talk.

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What is the origin of galimatias?

Galimatias, “confused or unintelligible talk,” is a masculine singular noun in French. It first appears in 1580 in an essay of Montaigne’s; it first appears in English in 1653 in a translation of Rabelais. Galimatias has no reliable etymology: scholars suggest a connection with gallimaufry “a hodgepodge, a jumble,” but these are just guesses.

how is galimatias used?

“I have seen this letter in which you tell me there is so much galimatias, and I assure you that I have not found any at all. On the contrary, I find everything very plainly expressed …”

George Eliot, "Woman in France: Madame de Sablé," Westminster Review, October 1854

Such productions are called books, because there is no other name for them. As a matter of fact, idle talk and galimatias of the sort are in no wise literature.

George Brandes, Recollections of My Childhood and Youth, 1906

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

parlous

[ pahr-luhs ]

adjective

perilous; dangerous.

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What is the origin of parlous?

Parlous and its variant perlous, meaning “dangerous,” are contractions of perilous, which dates from the end of the 13th century. Perilous comes from Old French perillus, perilous, perilleus (with many more spelling variants) “dangerous, hazardous,” from Latin perīculōsus. Parlous and perlous both entered English at about the same time, toward the end of the 14th century.

how is parlous used?

High school lay before me, vast and parlous, as middle school receded in the rearview mirror.

Phuc Tran, Sigh, Gone, 2020

I gave him two one-dollar bills. As I handed them over I noticed that one of them had seen parlous times. Its upper right-hand corner was missing, and it had been torn through in the middle, but joined again.

O. Henry, A Municipal Report, Maclean's Magazine, May 1911

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