Word of the Day

Sunday, June 28, 2020

megafauna

[ meg-uh-faw-nuh ]

noun

Zoology.

large or giant animals, especially of a given area.

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What is the origin of megafauna?

Megafauna is a hybrid of mega-, a combining form meaning “very large” (as in megachurch and megalith), from Greek mégas “large,” and fauna “the animals of a given region or period considered as a whole.” Fauna comes from the Latin proper noun Fauna, a rustic goddess and sister of Faunus, the rustic god who protected fields, herds, agriculture, and shepherds, identified with the Greek god Pan. Megafauna tend to have long lives and slow population growth and recovery rates. As a result, many such species, as elephants and whales, are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation by humans. Megafauna entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is megafauna used?

Poaching threatens megafauna, our planet’s largest animals that often function as the keystones of their respective ecosystems.

Robin R. Ganzert, "Coronavirus Effect On The Environment: Without Tourism, We Will Lose Elephants," International Business Times, May 31, 2020

Like the V-shaped graptolites or the ammonites or the dinosaurs, the megafauna weren’t doing anything wrong; it’s just that when humans appeared, the “rules of the survival game” changed.

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction, 2014

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

bight

[ bahyt ]

noun

a bend or curve in the shore of a sea or river.

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What is the origin of bight?

Bight has several senses in Modern English. It can refer to a bend or curve in the shore of a sea or river, a body of water bounded by such a bend, or the loop or bent part of a rope. Following the twists and turns of its morphology, we arrive at Middle English byght, bight, beghte, beythe “the fork of the legs, the pit or hollow of the arm, (in names) bend or bay,” from Old English byht “a bending, corner, dwelling, bay, bight.” The English word comes from Germanic buhtiz, from the Proto-Indo-European root bheug(h)-, bhoug(h)-, bhug(h)– “to bend,” which is the source of Sanskrit bhujáti “(he) bends,” Gothic biugan and Old English būgan, both meaning “to bow,” and Old English boga “arch, bow” (as in English rainbow and bow and arrow).

how is bight used?

The boardwalk weaves along the bight from the ferry terminal on Grinnell to the end of Front Street.

Melissa Coleman, "36 Hours in Key West, Fla." New York Times, April 29, 2015

A bight is simply a long and gradual coastal curve that creates a large bay, often with shallow waters. You’re likely already familiar with a number of bights — for instance, the area between Long Island and New Jersey on the East Coast is known as the New York Bight, while California’s Channel Islands live in the Southern California Bight, which stretches all the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Hannah Lott-Schwartz, "Australia's Southern Coast Has Stunning Views and Incredible Wildlife You Won't Find Anywhere Else," Travel & Leisure, July 14, 2019

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Friday, June 26, 2020

lugubrious

[ loo-goo-bree-uhs, -gyoo- ]

adjective

mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner: lugubrious songs of lost love.

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What is the origin of lugubrious?

The source of English lugubrious is the Latin adjective lūgubris “mournful, sorrowful,” a derivative of the verb lūgēre “to mourn, grieve.” The meaning of lūgēre is closely akin to the Greek adjective lygrós “sad, sorrowful,” and both the Latin and the Greek words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root leug-, loug-, lug– “to break,” source of Sanskrit rugná– (from lugná-) “shattered” and rujáti “(he) breaks to pieces, shatters,” Old Irish lucht and Welsh llwyth, both meaning “load, burden,” Lithuanian lū́žti “to break” (intransitive), and Old English tō-lūcan “to tear to pieces, tear asunder.” Lugubrious entered English in the early 17th century.

how is lugubrious used?

The radio slid from mournful to downright lugubrious. Ridiculously lugubrious. There was even sobbing in the background. Talk about melodramatic.

Molly MacRae, Last Wool and Testament, 2012

Cohen’s lugubrious tones always divided opinion; for some they were intrinsic to his melancholic charms, to others a turn-off that blindsided them to the genius of his songcraft, which was always gilded, its cadences measured, its images polished.

Neil Spencer, "Hallelujah and all that ... Leonard Cohen remembered," The Guardian, November 13, 2016

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