Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, December 27, 2018

memorist

[ mem-er-ist ]

noun

a person who has a remarkably retentive memory.

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What is the origin of memorist?

Memorist is a rare word. When it entered English in the late 17th century, it meant “one who prompts the memory or conscience.” Memorist was revived in the late 19th century as an Americanism meaning “one who has a retentive or prodigious memory.”

how is memorist used?

As a memorist he is phenomenally endowed, his retentiveness so acute that he recites readily without reference or prompting, declamations committed in his schoolboys days more than seventy years ago.

William Travis, A History of Clay County Indiana, Volume II, 1909

… a memorist appeared on a Sunday morning TV show. He was introduced to the 100 or so youngsters in the audience and repeated all of their names back to them at the end of the show.

Ron Fry, Improve Your Memory, 2012
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Word of the day

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

mulligrubs

[ muhl-i-gruhbz ]

noun

Southern U.S. ill temper; grumpiness.

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What is the origin of mulligrubs?

The extravagant spelling variants of mulligrubs, e.g., mulligrums, mouldy-grubs, merlygrubs, muddigrubs, mullygrumps, murdiegrups,… at least show very plainly that mulligrubs has no sound etymology. Mulligrums “low spirits, bad temper, bad mood” first appears at the end of the 16th century. (Some scholars suggest a relationship between mulligrums and the slightly earlier noun megrims “melancholy, low spirits.”) A quarter of a century later, about 1625, mulligrubs meant “stomachache, diarrhea” and a few years later “ill-tempered or surly person.”

how is mulligrubs used?

Ma has a case of the mulligrubs here lately and some of the kinfolks figure it might be caused by reading the papers too much.

Bob Kyle, "Fiddlin' Around," The Tuscaloosa News June 1, 1983

I think when it comes I will enjoy it. It is just the coming that fills me with the mulligrubs.

Winston Graham, The Twisted Sword, 1990

Word of the day

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Noel

[ noh-el ]

noun

Christmas.

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What is the origin of Noel?

Noel has been in English since the 13th century as a forename and family name (e.g., Nuwel, Nuuel) for those born or baptized on Christmas or during the Christmas season. In the late 14th century, Nowel is used as an exclamation of joy in The Canterbury Tales (this usage remains only in Christmas carols). In the late-14th century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Nowel meant “Christmas day, the feast of Christmas, Christmastide.” Middle English shows several spellings, e.g., Newel, Nouel, Nowelle, Nowel, all derived from Anglo-French, Middle French, and Old French forms (Nowel, Nowelle, Nouel, Noel), Noël in French. The spellings with o (e.g., Noel) are a variant of spellings with a (e.g., Nael) that began in the 12th century. Nael is a regular French development from Latin nātālis (in full, diēs nātālis “birthday”).

how is Noel used?

… be sure to wish Tops a joyous Noel.

Ron Goulart, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," 1993

… the special season for such innocent gaiety is the Christmastide when they celebrate Noël with a joyous fervour not to be outdone elsewhere.

J. Macdonald Oxley, "Christmas Games in French Canada," The Canadian Magazine, November 1901 to April 1902

Word of the day

Monday, December 24, 2018

heartstrings

[ hahrt-stringz ]

plural noun

the deepest feelings; the strongest affections: to tug at one's heartstrings.

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What is the origin of heartstrings?

The original meaning of heartstrings was physical, or anatomical to be precise. A heartstring was one of the nerves or tendons that supposedly support and brace the heart; heartstrings (the plural) referred to the aorta and pulmonary artery (no longer in scientific use). By the 16th century the heartstrings were conceived as the source of a person’s feelings and emotions. Heartstring in its original anatomical sense entered English in the 15th century.

how is heartstrings used?

Little kids singing and smiling never failed to tug at the heartstrings.

Susan Wiggs, Candlelight Christmas, 2013

There was no choice now, but to bear the pang of whatever heartstrings were snapt asunder, and that illusive torment … by which a past mode of life prolongs itself into the succeeding one.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852

Word of the day

Sunday, December 23, 2018

stodge

[ stoj ]

verb

to stuff full, especially with food or drink; gorge.

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What is the origin of stodge?

The adjective stodgy “thick, heavy, dull (of food, clothes, books, people)” is fairly common, but not so its source, the verb stodge “to stuff full, gorge; trudge along.” Stodgy appeared in the 19th century and applied to glutinous mud and roads; a quarter of a century later (in the 1850s), stodgy referred to heavy foods like porridge or potatoes; in the 1870s stodgy meant “dull, boring (of people, one’s own life).” The etymology of stodge is unknown; it entered English in the 17th century.

how is stodge used?

A “City man,” on the other hand … stodges his stomach with rich food three times a day …

T. Clifford Allbutt, "Nervous Diseases and Modern Life," Contemporary Review, February 1895

… as he cuts, bolts, and gulps, smacks, sniffs, and stodges, his eyes examine, his eyes observe, the ever-diminishing remnant upon the plate …

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, translated by Eugene Jolas, 1931

Word of the day

Saturday, December 22, 2018

turtledove

[ tur-tl-duhv ]

noun

a sweetheart or beloved mate.

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What is the origin of turtledove?

The turtle in turtledove has nothing to do with the aquatic and terrestrial reptile whose trunk is enclosed in a shell. The ultimate derivation of the reptilian turtle is Greek Tartaroûchos “controlling Tartarus, holding the nether world”; the word turtle entered English in the 17th century. Turtledove is a compound of Old English turtla, from Latin turtur “turtledove,” imitating the call of the bird. Dove comes from Old English dufe, dūfe and is related to the verb dive. Similar forms are found in other Germanic languages. Turtledove entered English in the 14th century.

how is turtledove used?

You look anything but miserable, my turtledove. In fact, I never saw you look so well.

E. F. Harkins, The Schemers, 1903

A whole new world was mine the day … I met my turtledove … for since we’ve been together … my heart has been in love.

Ben Burroughs, "Since We Met," Gettysburg Times, February 2, 1962

Word of the day

Friday, December 21, 2018

hibernal

[ hahy-bur-nl ]

adjective

of or relating to winter; wintry.

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What is the origin of hibernal?

Hibernal “wintry, appearing in winter” and also “pertaining to the winter of life” comes straight from the Late Latin adjective hībernālis “wintry,” first appearing in the Vulgate (the Latin version of the Bible as edited or translated by St. Jerome). Hībernālis comes from Latin hībernus, which comes from a hypothetical Proto-Indo-European adjective gheimrinos, source also of Greek cheimerinós “in winter, winter’s,” and Slavic (Polish) zimny “cold.” Gheimrinos is formed from the Proto-Indo-European root ghei-, ghi- “snow, winter.” The form ghimo- appears in the Sanskrit noun himá- “cold, frost, snow,” familiar to us in the Himālaya Mountains, “Snow’s abode.” Hibernal entered English in the 17th century.

how is hibernal used?

The sky was in its grey wintry mood where there is no blue break in the clouds to be expected, no bright spell to hope for, nothing for it but to accept the hibernal darkness the way you accept love or death.

Jean Rouaud, The World More or Less, translated by Barbara Wright, 1998

Here’s where to engage in sledding, animal tracking, tree tapping, cross-country skiing, and other hibernal pursuits without ever leaving town.

, "Out in the Cold," New York, January 12, 1981

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