Word of the Day

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

mirabilia

[ mee-rah-bil-i-ah; English mir-uh-bil-ee-uh ]

plural noun

Latin.

marvels; miracles.

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What is the origin of mirabilia?

In English, mirabilia is a plural noun meaning “miracles, wonders.” Mirabilia comes straight from Latin mīrābilia, a noun use of the neuter plural of the adjective mīrābilis “wonderful, marvelous, remarkable, singular.” In the Vulgate (the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d.,) the adjective mīrābilis means “glorious, miraculous;” the noun use, mīrābile in the singular, mīrābilia in the plural, means “wondrous deed, miracle.” The corresponding form in Vulgar Latin, mīribilia (noun), regularly becomes merveille in Old French, merveille in Middle English, and marvel in English. Mirabilia entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is mirabilia used?

Reading this compendium is like exploring a cabinet of curiosities, each section home to uncanny and startling mirabilia.

Kanishk Tharoor, "Aphrodisiacs? Search This Medieval Islamic Encyclopedia," New York Times, October 7, 2016

in Rome you caused mirabilia to appear that the Romans themselves had never dreamed of, starting with the gabble of that Hugo of Jabala …

Umberto Eco, Baudolino, translated by William Weaver, 2002

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Monday, July 20, 2020

singularity

[ sing-gyuh-lar-i-tee ]

noun

a hypothesized future era or event when exponential improvements in computer intelligence and advances in technology will result in an acute change in human society and evolution.

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What is the origin of singularity?

Singularity comes from Middle English singularite, singulerite “solitude, solitary living; personal gain or advantage; individual or particular things; singleness of purpose,” from Old French singulerte, singulariteit “singular character or quality; peculiarity” or from Late Latin singulāritās (inflectional stem singulāritāt-) “a being alone or by oneself,” a derivative of the adjective singulāris “alone, alone of its kind, one by one, singular.” The computer or technological sense, “a hypothesized future in which exponential improvements in computer intelligence and technological advances result in an acute change in human society and evolution,” is closely associated with the computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who popularized this sense in his writings, most notably in his 1986 novel Marooned in Realtime, and later in an article titled “Technological Singularity” published in Whole Earth Review in 1993. Singularity entered English in the 14th century.

how is singularity used?

A lot of smart people are thinking about the singularity, when the machines grow advanced enough to make humanity obsolete.

Matt Simon, "The WIRED Guide to Robots," WIRED, April 16, 2020

But fulfilling the wishes of a revered biological legacy will occupy only a trivial portion of the intellectual power that the Singularity will bring.

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, 2005

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

fain

[ feyn ]

adverb

gladly; willingly: He fain would accept.

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What is the origin of fain?

The word fain is very old, indeed: It first appears in English as an adjective about 888 in King Alfred the Great’s translation of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy (Dē Cōnsōlātiōne Philosophiae, ca. 532). Fain comes from Old English fægen, fægn “glad, joyful, rejoicing.” Fægen is cognate with Old Norse feginn, Old Saxon fagan, fagin, Old High German fagin, all meaning “happy, glad,” and related to the Old English verb geféon, gefeohan, gefeagan “to be glad, rejoice,” from the Germanic verb stem fagin-, fagan– “to enjoy,” derived from the root fag-. From the same root fag– is derived the adjective stem fagra-, as in Gothic fagrs “fit for, beautiful,” Old Icelandic fagr “fine, fair, beautiful,” and Old English fæger “beautiful, joyous, pleasant,” English fair.

how is fain used?

It is rather sad to think that their revels now are ended, that the happy woods (where I would fain be, wandering in pensive mood) where they held high holiday will soon be a silent grove.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, "Patrick Leigh Fermor to Enrica (Ricki) Huston,  August 11, 1961," Patrick Leigh Fermror: A Life in Letters, 2016

What a poor soul it is that has not some secret chamber, sacred to itself; where one can file away the things others have no right to know, as well as things that one himself would fain forget!

Charles Wadell Chestnutt, House Behind the Cedars, 1900

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