Word of the Day

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

marplot

[ mahr-plot ]

noun

a person who mars or defeats a plot, design, or project by meddling.

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What is the origin of marplot?

The noun marplot is a combination of the verb mar “to damage, spoil” and its direct object, the noun plot, formed like the noun pickpocket. Marplot is a character in a farce, The Busie Body, written by Susanna Centlivre, c1667-1723, an English actress, poet, and playwright, and produced in 1709. In the play Marplot is a well-meaning busybody who meddles in and ruins the romantic affairs of his friends.

how is marplot used?

… Time is unalterable; he swings his merry bomb through centuries, nor feels a jot the mental agony of us sublunary mortals; therefore is he, to our thinking, a Marplot.

, "New Music," The Metropolitan, April 1843

Humpty is Puss’ childhood frenemy: pal, rival and seemingly inept marplot to our hero’s suave efficiency in a crisis.

Richard Corliss, "Antonio Banderas in Puss in Boots: One Cool Cat," Time, October 28, 2011
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

riant

[ rahy-uhnt, ree- ]

adjective

laughing; smiling; cheerful.

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What is the origin of riant?

The rare adjective riant is a direct borrowing from the French present participle riant “laughing,” from the verb rire, ultimately from Latin rīdēre “to laugh,” which comes from a very complicated Proto-Indo-European root wer- “to twist, bend” (rīdēre would mean “twist the face or mouth”). Wer- has many suffixes and extensions that form some startling words. The meaning of the root extended with the suffix -t is clearly seen in Latin vertere “to turn,” with its many English derivatives, e.g., revert, convert, invert. The Germanic form of wert- is werth-, source of the English suffix -ward(s), as in homeward(s), toward(s). A variant form of wer- with the suffix -m forms Latin vermis “worm” (from its twisting) and Germanic wurmiz (Old English wyrm “dragon, serpent”; English worm). Finally, somewhat related to rīdēre is the Latin noun rictus “wide open mouth, gaping jaws” (English rictus). Riant entered English in the 16th century.

how is riant used?

Mistress Marjory bent her head with a murmured assurance of “giving him small trouble,” but again the riant eyes belied the lips …

Sara Beaumont Kennedy, "Sweet Marjory," Outing, Volume XXVII, January 1896

At the head of that open and legal agitation, was a man of giant proportions in body and mind; … a humor broad, bacchant, riant, genial and jovial …

John Mitchel, Jail Journal; or, Five Years in British Prisons, 1854
Monday, August 13, 2018

laeotropic

[ lee-uh-trop-ik, -troh-pik ]

adjective

oriented or coiled in a leftward direction, as a left-spiraling snail shell.

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What is the origin of laeotropic?

The adjective laeotropic “turning leftward” is restricted to describing snail shells. The second element, -tropic “turning (to),” is common enough in the physical sciences, e.g., geography, meteorology, chemistry. The first element laeo- is rare. It comes from the Greek adjective laiós “left, on the left” (there is one ancient lexicographical reference implying the form laiwós). Laiwós is all but identical to Latin laevus and pretty close to Slavic (Polish) lewy. Outside these three branches of the Indo-European languages (and possibly also Lithuanian, among the Baltic languages), laiwo- does not occur. Laeotropic entered English in the 19th century.

how is laeotropic used?

The arms of the cross are slightly oblique; and it is worthy of note that the direction of their inclination is laeotropic, while in Crepidula and Ischnochiton the arms show a slight dexiotropic twist.

Samuel J. Holmes, "The Early Development of Planorbis," Journal of Morphology, Volume XVI, February 1900

… the direction of corresponding cleavages is the same, i.e., the second cleavage is laeotropic and the third dexiotropic, and so on …. Why should this constancy occur?

C. M. Child, "The Significance of the Spiral type of Cleavage and Its Relation to the Process of Differentiation," Biological Lectures from the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Holl, 1899

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