Word of the Day

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Minerva

[ mi-nur-vuh ]

noun

a woman of great wisdom.

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What is the origin of Minerva?

The Roman goddess Minerva is so completely identified with the Greek goddess Athena that it is difficult to discern what is “native” to Minerva. Minerva (earlier Latin spelling Menerva) was a native Italian goddess of handicrafts (hence easily identified with Athena in that respect). The name Minerva (Menerva) may be of Indo-European origin, from the root men- “to think, bear in mind,” source of English mind, Latin meminī “I remember,” and Greek Méntōr, a proper name meaning “adviser.” The original Latin name will have been Meneswā “intelligent, wise (woman),” related to Sanskrit manasvin “wise” and Manasvinī, the name of the mother of the moon. Alternatively, Meneswā may mean “woman who measures (the phases of the moon),” from the Proto-Indo-European root mē- “to measure,” source of English meal (a Germanic word), as in piecemeal, measure (from Latin), and Greek metron “measure,” the source of the English suffix -meter, among other words. Minerva as the name of the goddess entered English in the Old English period; the sense “wise woman” dates from the late 18th century.

how is Minerva used?

God, it seems like I’ll always have a Minerva by my side being a better person than I am.

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies, 1994

The notion of such a Minerva as this, whom I saw in public places now and then, surrounded by swarms of needy abbés and schoolmasters, who flattered her, frightened me for some time, and I had not the least desire to make her acquaintance.

William Makepeace Thackeray, "The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century," Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Volume XXX, July to December, 1844
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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

benighted

[ bih-nahy-tid ]

adjective

intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened: benighted ages of barbarism and superstition.

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What is the origin of benighted?

Benighted originally meant, in the 16th century, “overtaken by darkness before one has reached home, lodging, or safety.” Its only modern sense, “intellectually or morally ignorant,” dates from the 17th century.

how is benighted used?

Beyond that, the continued association of pregnancy with sickness perpetuates the benighted notion of childbearing as a threat to ordinary human experience when many would argue that it is the singular manifestation of it.

Ginia Bellafante, "Paid Parental Leave, Except for Most Who Need It," New York Times, December 1, 2017

… it is difficult to have a reasonable conversation with someone who makes no secret about the fact that he thinks you are both benighted and stupid.

Bruce Franzese, "The Conversation," The Atlantic, November 2017
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

ergophobia

[ ur-guh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work.

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What is the origin of ergophobia?

Ergophobia, “abnormal fear of or aversion to work,” is formed from two Greek nouns commonly used to form words in English: érgon “work” and the combining form -phobía “fear.” Greek dialects preserve the original form wérgon, which comes directly from Proto-Indo-European wérgom, the source of Germanic werkam (English work). The combining form -phobía is a derivative of phóbos “flight, fear, panic fear,” from Proto-Indo-European bhógwos, a derivative of the root bhegw- “to run,” which appears in Slavic (Polish) biegać “to run.” Ergophobia entered English in the early 20th century.

how is ergophobia used?

He was examined by Dr. Wilson, who diagnosed the disease which had attacked him as ergophobia, (fear of work.)

, "Bad Case of Ergophobia," New York Times, October 13, 1907

Doctor, I thank thee for the name / That dignifies my soul’s complaint, / That silences the voice of blame, / That frees me from the toiler’s taint, / That lets me loaf the livelong day– / Thrice blessed ergophobia!

Ross Ellis, "Ergophobia," Munsey's Magazine, Volume LV, June to September, 1915

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