Word of the Day

Sunday, May 10, 2020

materfamilias

[ mey-ter-fuh-mil-ee-uhs ]

noun

the mother of a family.

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What is the origin of materfamilias?

Materfamilias, “the mother of a family,” is not very common in English, even less common than paterfamilias “the male head of a family, householder.” Materfamilias comes from Latin māterfamiliās, a compound of māter “mother” (nominative singular) and familiās “of a family” (the archaic genitive singular of the noun familia, which in classical Latin is familiae). Māterfamiliās is often written in Latin as two words (māter familiās). Materfamilias entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is materfamilias used?

I do not know a more hard-worked, driven creature than the ordinary Materfamilias at the seaside, more especially if she has left her own large airy house, with its nurseries and schoolrooms, and taken lodgings at a fashionable spot, where every inch of space costs pounds, and where she can never rid herself of her family for one moment.

J. E. Panton, Nooks and Corners, 1889

Uncle Dikran … took Shushan’s side in every family dispute, knowing better than to disagree with the omnipotent materfamilias.

Elif Shafak, The Bastard of Istanbul, 2007

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Saturday, May 09, 2020

aeolian

[ ee-oh-lee-uhn ]

adjective

of or caused by the wind; wind-blown.

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What is the origin of aeolian?

The chief element of the adjective aeolian is the proper noun Aeolus, the entity, whether human, divine, or semidivine, in charge of and controlling the winds. Aeolus lived on one of the Aeolian (Lipari) Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea just a little north of Sicily. English and Latin Aeolus derives from the Latin adjective Aeolius “connected with, derived from, or descended from Aeolus,” from Greek Aiólos, a proper noun use of the adjective aiólos “quick, nimble.” Aiólos first appears on a Linear B tablet from about the 13th century b.c. as aiwolos, the name of a cow. (Linear B was the very inefficient writing system used for Mycenean Greek in the Late Bronze Age.) The next occurrence of aiólos is much, much grander: It is the second half of the Homeric compound adjective korythaiólos “quickly moving the helmet; with flashing helmet,” part of the poetic formula korythaiólos Héktōr “Hector with the flashing helmet.” Aeolian entered English in the 16th century.

how is aeolian used?

Between June and October, subtropical tempests sweep over the landscape, creating aeolian forms—corrugated ridges caused by wind erosion.

Gulnaz Khan, "Iran's Most Wild and Beautiful Places," National Geographic, March 16, 2017

before the words of these volumes can be enjoyed, the spirit must hear the roar and thunder of the breakers of passion in the distance … and drink in his ear aeolian murmurings, and music from the thrill of spirit wings through the clear marble air.

Edwin Paxton Hood, William Wordsworth, 1856

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Friday, May 08, 2020

garth

[ gahrth ]

noun

a yard or garden.

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What is the origin of garth?

The original meaning of the common noun garth, “an open courtyard enclosed by a cloister,” has been replaced by courtyard or quadrangle or just plain quad. Garth comes from the Middle English noun garth (also gard, gart and a half dozen other spellings) “enclosed courtyard or garden; a hedge or fence,” from Old Norse garthr. The Old English noun cognate with the Old Norse is geard “enclosure, enclosed space, court, dwelling, home” (geard is pronounced about the same as yard). The Old English and Old Norse nouns come from Germanic gardaz “house, garden,” from Proto-Indo-European ghordh-, an extension of the Proto-Indo-European root gher-, ghor- “to enclose.” The extended root ghordh- yields Old Church Slavonic gradŭ “city, garden” (as in the name Stalingrad “Stalin City”), Russian górod, and Polish gród, both meaning “city.” The extended root ghorto- yields Greek chórtos “enclosure, court,” Latin hortus “garden” (horticulture is the cultivation of gardens), Welsh garth, and Irish gort, both meaning “field.” Garth entered English in the 14th century.

how is garth used?

The highest ambition of such men as the Daltons was to possess a cottage and a small garth or close of land for a cow’s summer grazing.

Henry Lonsdale, The Worthies of Cumberland: John Dalton, 1874

For a comfortable habitation, a garden for potatoes, of a rood or half an acre, called a garth

Arthur Young, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Lincoln, 1799

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