Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, November 06, 2021

melancholic

[ mel-uhn-kol-ik ]

adjective

disposed to or affected with intense sadness or low spirits; gloomy.

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What is the origin of melancholic?

Melancholic “disposed to or affected with intense sadness or low spirits” derives via Late Latin from Ancient Greek melancholía “condition of having black bile,” equivalent to melās “black” and cholḗ “bile, gall.” Black bile was one of the four humors (along with blood, phlegm, and yellow bile) that were once believed to affect temperament, and an excess of black bile was once believed to cause low, negative feelings. Melancholy came to refer to this excess of black bile and then to the feelings that this excess was believed to cause. Though we use depression today to indicate prolonged sadness, historical figures who struggled with depression, such as Abraham Lincoln, were described in their time as melancholic. Melancholic was first recorded in English around the turn of the 14th century.

how is melancholic used?

Once an anthem for the possibilities of Americana, “Country Roads” half a century later might resonate with the Asian diaspora in a different way: as a melancholic reminder of leaving a place they called home, and everything lost to the promise of a better life.

Jason Jeong, “The Song That Sold America to a Generation of Asian Immigrants,” The Atlantic, May 4, 2021

Already an anxious and melancholic child, the train crash un-loosed something in me, vague broodings. In the weeks that followed I would lay in bed at night feeling like I was made of black air. At any time death could claim me. Worse, it could claim my mother. She did what she could to help comfort my fears.

Jeffery Renard Allen, "Mother-Wit," Granta, July 7, 2020

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Word of the day

Friday, November 05, 2021

vendetta

[ ven-det-uh ]

noun

any prolonged and bitter feud, rivalry, contention, or the like.

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What is the origin of vendetta?

Vendetta “a prolonged and bitter feud” is a borrowing from Italian, derived from Latin vindicta “vengeance,” from vindex “defender,” which is also the source of avenger, revenge, vengeance, and vindicate. Vindex is likely a compound of vīs “energy, force” and the agentive suffix -dex, roughly meaning “shower, proclaimer.” Vīs is the source of vim (as in the phrase vim and vigor), violate, and violent—all of which literally pertain to a demonstration of strength or force—while the suffix -dex is related to the verbs dicāre “to proclaim, assign” (compare abdication, dedicate, and predicament) and dīcere “to say, tell” (compare dictionary, valedictorian, and verdict). Vendetta was first recorded in English in the early 1850s.

how is vendetta used?

“Your Honor, defense counsel has throughout these proceedings attempted to insinuate that I had some sort of personal vendetta against the defendant, and that my office … somehow concocted this plot to unfairly convict him …. I have repeatedly requested that if counsel has any evidence to substantiate these outrageous statements to present it forthwith, and Your Honor has concurred. But defense counsel has given the jury nothing but a lot of hot air and continued efforts to obfuscate the facts.

Robert Tanenbaum, Tragic, 2013

As long as Kogito was busy reading and working on various writing projects, he didn’t think much about his widely published enemy’s vendetta against him. But late at night when he suddenly found himself wide awake, or when he was out walking around town on some errand or other, the peculiarly abusive words of his nemesis (who was a talented writer, no question about it) kept running through his head like toxic sludge.

Kenzaburō Ōe, "The Rule of Tagame," Granta, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm, July 31, 2009

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Thursday, November 04, 2021

bellwether

[ bel-weth-er ]

noun

a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend.

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What is the origin of bellwether?

Bellwether “a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend” is a compound of bell, the instrument, and wether, a castrated male sheep. A bellwether was originally a wether that led the rest of a flock and wore a bell around its neck; from there, bellwether broadened to figuratively refer to a trendsetter, as within an industry, and then shifted once more to indicate something that demonstrates that a trend exists. Wether has nothing to do with the atmosphere or the climate; it derives instead from a Proto-Indo-European root that is also the source of veal (from Latin vitulus “calf”) and veterinarian (from Latin veterīnae “beasts of burden”). Bellwether was first recorded in English in the early 1400s.

how is bellwether used?

In American politics, a bellwether state has exhibited a historical tendency to duplicate in smaller scale the political behavior of the nation at large .…The best-known bellwether is Missouri, which not only demonstrates classic bellwether behavior but also has a history that invites and supports various theories to explain the effect.

Kenneth F. Warren, Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior, 2008

Covid put Code [Conference] on pause, however, along with every other technology conference. A year later, it’s among the first tech conferences to reemerge fully in-person, a possible bellwether for the future of such events.

Arielle Pardes, "Bring on the Fist Bumps and Nasal Swabs—Tech Conferences Are Back," Wired, October 1, 2021

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