Word of the Day

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

macushla

[ muh-koosh-luh ]

noun, Irish English.

darling.

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What is the origin of macushla?

Macushla is a phonetic English spelling of the Erse (Irish Gaelic) mo chuisle, literally “my pulse,” or translated more romantically, “my heartbeat, my sweetheart, darling.” The mo-, ma– in macushla, mo chuisle means “my”; cushla, chuisle “pulse, heartbeat, vein,” comes from an earlier Erse cuisle, of uncertain etymology, but most likely a borrowing of Latin pulsus “striking, beating, pulse.” Cuisle appears in another Irish idiom: a chuisle “my dear, darling,” in full, a chuisle mo chroí, literally, “pulse of my heart.” (The phrase Mother Machree “Mother dear” entered English in the first half of the 19th century.) The a is the Gaelic vocative particle, a particle used in direct address, and equivalent to English exclamation O. Chroí “heart” comes from Old Irish crid-, which closely resembles Welsh craidd, Latin cord-, Greek kard-, and Hittite karts, all meaning “heart.” Macushla entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is macushla used?

Come, macushla, come, as in ancient times / Rings aloud the underland with faery chimes.

George William Russell, "Song," The Earth Breath and Other Poems, 1897

To hear teenagers quietly speaking Irish. To read Maurice O’Sullivan’s Twenty Years A-Growing. To find out that the endearment “macushla” comes from the Irish word for pulse. These are the things that would encourage a person to look more closely at the Irish language.

"Broken syntax identity of a nation tongue-tied by Irish," Irish Times, March 17, 2008

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

haimish

[ hey-mish ]

adjective

homey; cozy and unpretentious.

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What is the origin of haimish?

The Yiddish adjective haimish (also spelled heimish) means “cozy, comfortable, unpretentious,” pretty much the same as English homey. Heimish comes from the Middle High German adjective heimisch (German heimisch), a compound of the Middle High German noun heim “home,” from Proto-Germanic haimaz, the same source as Old English hām (English home). The adjective suffix –ish comes from Proto-Germanic –iska-, source of English –ish. The Proto-Germanic suffix is related to the Greek suffix –iskos, used to form diminutive nouns such as neanískos “youth,” a diminutive of neanías “young man.” Heimish entered English in the mid-1950s.

how is haimish used?

Here, the antique and modern furniture you see spotlighted in pricey Manhattan store windows doesn’t look special; it just looks right, and comfortable — not to mention somehow new when combined this way. Call it haimish modern.

Pilar Viladas, "Drawn From Memory," New York Times Magazine, August 11, 2002

It’s irresistibly haimish, with exposed-brick walls and, behind the oak-and-tile bar, an eighteenth-century map of Rome. Everybody knows everybody, by sight or by name—diners, waiters, staff.

Sarah Larson, "A Neighborhood Restaurant's Last Night, For Now," The New Yorker, March 30, 2020

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Monday, March 15, 2021

lickety-split

[ lik-i-tee-split ]

adverb

at great speed; rapidly.

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What is the origin of lickety-split?

The adverb lickety-split, “at great speed; rapidly,” was originally and remains mostly a colloquialism. The origin of lickety is fanciful—an extension of lick “to move quickly, run at full speed.” And split means “fraction,” as in split second. Lickety-split entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is lickety-split used?

Well, pretty soon, after we had got down to level country and were making the speedometer earn its board, I happened to look around and, good night, there was an automobile coming along lickety-split, about a quarter of a mile behind us.

Percy Keese Fitzhugh, Roy Blakeley's Silver Fox Patrol, 1920

You will pay very little, and your coffee, pancakes or waffles will arrive lickety-split on your red-checked tablecloth. At the next table may be a tug crew, a film company or even the First Lady.

Jeannete Belliveau, "Outer Storm, Inner Harbor," Washington Post, July 20, 1994

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