Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, May 06, 2021

machinate

[ mak-uh-neyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to contrive or plot, especially artfully or with evil purpose.

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What is the origin of machinate?

The English verb machinate comes from Latin māchinātus, the past participle of the verb māchinārī “to invent, contrive, devise artfully, plot.” Māchinārī has both neutral and pejorative senses, but English machinate has mostly pejorative or hostile senses. Māchinārī is a derivative of the noun māchina “apparatus, mechanism, machine,” a borrowing from Doric Greek māchanā́ “contrivance, machine, crane.” Machinate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is machinate used?

His is a character which is typical in the heroic poetry of the Tuetons … the malicious counselor of the old king who machinates against the young hero.

Axel Olrik, The Heroic Legends of Denmark, translated by Lee M. Hollander, 1919

And while Ford’s Theater has become a secular shrine in Washington, only a true trivialist knows that the house where John Wilkes Booth machinated, at 604 H Street N.W., is now a Chinese restaurant.

"Honest, Abe: Ninescore And Seven," New York Times Magazine, February 11, 1996

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Word of the day

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

hardscrabble

[ hahrd-skrab-uhl ]

adjective

providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding.

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What is the origin of hardscrabble?

Hardscrabble, “yielding a meager return for much effort,” is an Americanism that originally began as two separate words: the adjective hard “difficult, arduous” and the noun scrabble “scratching, clawing, scramble”; the phrase meant “painful effort under hard conditions,” later applied particularly to farmland that required much work for little reward. By the first half of the 19th century, Hard-Scrabble (variously spelled) was used as a placename for a remote town or region where life was difficult. The current sense “yielding meager results” dates from the second half of the 19th century. Hardscrabble entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is hardscrabble used?

The oil and gas business is full of guys like T. Boone Pickens, self-made men who rose from a hardscrabble life on the prairie to become titans of the industry.

Jeff Goodell, "The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind Aubrey McClendon’s Gas Boom," Rolling Stone, March 1, 2012

Maybe you caught tinges of her vivid, hardscrabble love letter crackling through tinny speakers at a CVS, and paid attention because it’s one of the few songs in the commercially programmed soundtrack of our mundane errands that no one should have objections to.

Hau Chu, "Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' is a beautiful ballad. This 33-minute cover version takes it to a whole new place." Washington Post, April 3, 2021

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Word of the day

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

thrawn

[ thrawn, thrahn ]

adjective

contrary; peevish; stubborn.

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What is the origin of thrawn?

Scots and Northern Irish thrawn, “contrary; peevish; stubborn,” in origin is the past participle of the verb thraw “to twist, wrench, distort,” the Scots form of throw. The sense “to twist, wrench” is one of the senses of Middle English throuen and Old English thrāwan in addition to the more common sense “to hurl, cast, throw.” Throw and thraw are related to Dutch draaien “to turn, rotate” and German drehen “to twist, turn.” Readers familiar with the “Star Wars” extended universe may recognize thrawn for a different reason: Grand Admiral Thrawn is a character introduced by author Timothy Zahn in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. In the “Star Wars” novels, however, the name Thrawn is short for Mitth’raw’nuruodo. While we can’t say whether the name was inspired by the Scots term, it seems fair to classify the character Thrawn as a rather peevish or stubborn fellow. Thrawn entered English in the late 15th century.

how is thrawn used?

He reckons it was his doggedness that got him through. “I’m a very thrawn, determined person so I don’t like to get beat,” he said.

"New exhibition tells 'inside' story of prison riot," Scotsman, September 27, 2017

The trouble was that a narrative structure implied sequence, and any display based upon the accretion of knowledge in a certain order would be vulnerable to thrawn visitor who, human and contrary, enters at the wrong end of a sequence; or, worse, grazes at random.

Charles McKean, The Making of the Museum of Scotland, 2000

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