Word of the Day

Monday, April 30, 2018

Machiavellian

[ mak-ee-uh-vel-ee-uhn ]

adjective

characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.

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What is the origin of Machiavellian?

Machiavellian is an adjective derived from Machiavelli, the family name of the Florentine diplomat, historian, and political philosopher Niccolò Bernardo Machiavelli (1469–1527). He wrote his most famous work The Prince (Il Principe) in 1513 while in exile from Florence. Machiavellian entered English in the 16th century.

how is Machiavellian used?

I need to tell you about my shamefully Machiavellian motive for sending her packing and the subdolous way in which her death facilitated my crowning achievement.

Clanash Farjeon, A Handbook for Attendants on the Insane: The Autobiography of 'Jack the Ripper' as Revealed to Clanash Farjeon, 2003

The doctor’s mind pursued its own schemes with Machiavellian subtlety.

Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, 1904
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Sunday, April 29, 2018

vagility

[ vuh-jil-i-tee ]

noun

Biology. the ability of an organism to move about freely and migrate.

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What is the origin of vagility?

The rare English adjective vagile is restricted to biology and refers to an organism’s being able to scatter or be scattered in an environment. The English adjective comes from German vagil, of the same meaning. The German adjective derives from Latin vagus “wandering, roaming.” The German suffix -il and the English suffix -ile come directly from Latin -ilis, -ile; the English suffix -ity comes from Latin -itat- (the stem of -itās) via Old French -te (French -té). Vagility entered English in the 20th century.

how is vagility used?

Using the GPS collars that updated an animal’s location regularly and other data, the project found that vagility—the ability of an organism to move—declines in areas with human footprints by as much as half to two-thirds the distance than in places where there is little or no human activity.

Jim Robbins, "Animals Are Losing Their Vagility, or Ability to Roam Freely," New York Times, February 19, 2018

With this combination of low vagility and narrow habitat requirements, the mayfly faunas of islands around New Zealand provide a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of isolation, dispersal ability and the response of communities to reduced diversity.

D. R. Towns, "The mayflies (Ephemeroptera) of Great Barrier Island, New Zealand: macro- and micro-distributional comparisons," Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 17, 1987
Saturday, April 28, 2018

feint

[ feynt ]

noun

a movement made in order to deceive an adversary; an attack aimed at one place or point merely as a distraction from the real place or point of attack: military feints; the feints of a skilled fencer.

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What is the origin of feint?

The English noun feint comes from Old French feinte, a noun use of the feminine past participle of the verb feindre “to feign, pretend, dissemble.” The Old French verb comes from Latin fingere “to shape, form, fashion,” the ultimate source of English faint, fiction, figment, and effigy. Feint entered English in the 17th century.

how is feint used?

Antagonism in my family comes wrapped in layers of code, sideways feints, full deniability.

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves, 2013

… it always had been understood that when the Germans did decide to take the desperate risk of trying to invade England they would make a feint in a couple of places, and, having drawn off the British fleet, would direct their serious attacks somewhere else.

, "Coast Attack Expected," New York Times, December 17, 1914

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