Word of the Day

Monday, October 28, 2019

macabre

[ muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber ]

adjective

gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible.

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What is the origin of macabre?

The history of the adjective macabre is confusing. The word is Middle French and first occurs (in French) in 1376, Je fis de Macabré la dance “I made the Dance of Death.” In late Middle English Macabrees daunce meant “Dance of Death.” French Macabré may be an alteration of Macabé “Maccabaeus”; if so, Macabré la dance may be the same as the medieval ritual or procession chorēa Machabaeōrum “dance of the Maccabees,” honoring the martyrdom of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers (II Maccabees). Macabre entered English in the 15th century.

how is macabre used?

Their macabre task is swabbing dead animals they find by the side of the road to get hold of their microbiomes—the communities of microorganisms that inhabit these mammals.

Jamie Durrani, "Roadkill Animals Are Surprising Sources of Drug Discovery," Scientific American, January 4, 2017

Vincent (1982) combines Burton’s burgeoning visual aesthetic with his lifelong love of the macabre and interest in stop-motion animation.

Aja Romano, "Tim Burton has built his career around an iconic visual aesthetic. Here's how it evolved." Vox, April 17, 2019
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Sunday, October 27, 2019

horripilation

[ haw-rip-uh-ley-shuhn, ho- ]

noun

a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc.; goose bumps.

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What is the origin of horripilation?

Horripilation “bristling of the hair on the skin from cold or fear,” is a three-dollar word for goose bumps. Horripilation comes from the Late Latin noun horripilātiō (inflectional stem horripilation-), a derivative of the verb horripilāre “to become bristly or hairy.” Horripilātiō first appears in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d. Horripilation entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is horripilation used?

… I have often wandered round other reputedly haunted places, especially in the vicinity of mills and local stream meets and in many have experienced that same horripilation of the flesh ….

John Hillaby, "Witchcraft and all that," New Scientist, May 8, 1975

I can’t have been the only person who spent the evening in a pretty much constant state of horripilation.

Alexis Soloski, "Review: In 'All Is Calm,' Thrilling Song in the Trenches," New York Times, November 25, 2018
Saturday, October 26, 2019

chthonian

[ thoh-nee-uhn ]

adjective

Classical Mythology.

of or relating to the deities, spirits, and other beings dwelling under the earth.

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What is the origin of chthonian?

Chthonian ultimately derives from the Greek adjective chthónios “of the earth, the underground, the underworld.” Chthónios is a derivative of the noun chthṓn, deriving from a very, very old Proto-Indo-European word meaning “earth” and surviving in most of the “daughter” languages. The original Proto-Indo-European root was dheghm, dhghem-, dhghom-, (dh)ghm– (with various suffixes). From dheghm– Hittite derives tekan (stem tagn-) “earth,” Tocharian A (spoken in central Asia and now part of Xin Jiang) tkaṃ, Sanskrit kṣam-, and Avestan zəm-. From dh(e)ghom Greek has chthṓn, from earlier chthom (Greek also reversed the order of the consonant cluster from thch– to chth-). The suffixed form (dh)ghom-os yields Latin humus (from homos) “earth,” the adjective humilis “low to the ground” (English humble), and the noun humilitās (stem humilitāt-) “lowness of height or position, low condition (English humility). The suffixed form dhgh(e)mōn “one who is on the earth, human being” becomes hemō (stem hemōn-) in Old Latin, homō (stem homin-) in Latin. Latin also derives, somewhat obscurely, from homin– the adjective humānus “of man, human, humane, gentle” (English human and humane). (Hebrew follows a similar semantic development with ādhām “man, mankind, human being, Adam” and ădhāmāh “earth, soil, ground.”) In Germanic (dh)ghm-ōn yields guma “human being, man” in Gothic and Old English. Old English has the noun brȳdguma “young man about to be married or recently married; bridegroom, husband,” which becomes brīdgome in Middle English, and bridegroom in English. The –groom in bridegroom arose in the 16th century due to the influence of groom “boy, young man.” Chthonian entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is chthonian used?

The streets throng with crowds of dapper skeletons and chthonian floats.

Christopher Orr, "Spectre: Bond Doesn't Need an Origin Story," The Atlantic, November 6, 2015

This chthonian belief—that the world’s underbelly rumbles with life—guides all the so-called Earth-based faiths.

Michael Tortorello, "If a Druid Rings the Doorbell," New York Times, October 30, 2013

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