Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ mon-soon ] [ mɒnˈsun ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the season during which the southwest wind blows, commonly marked by heavy rains; rainy season.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of monsoon?

Monsoon “rainy season” is a borrowing by way of obsolete Dutch monssoen from Portuguese monção (earlier moução), and prior to Portuguese, the term arose as Arabic mawsim “season.” Mawsim is a noun formed from the verb wasama “to mark,” which comes from an ancient Semitic root meaning “to become fitting.” This root also appears in Sivan, a month of the Jewish calendar that tends to overlap with May and June. Sivan (Hebrew sīwān) is adapted from the Akkadian word for “season,” so the similarity between Sivan and English season is merely a happy coincidence. Monsoon was first recorded in English circa 1580.

how is monsoon used?

If you’ve never lived in or visited the U.S. Southwest, you might picture it as a desert that is always hot and dry. But this region experiences a monsoon in the late summer that produces thunderstorms and severe weather, much like India’s famous summer deluges …. This year’s monsoon is the third-wettest ever in Tucson, with 12.80 inches (325 millimeters) of rain.

Diana Zamora-Reyes and Christopher L. Castro, “Monsoons make deserts bloom in the US Southwest, but climate change is making these summer rainfalls more extreme and erratic,” Conversation, October 1, 2021

The Indian monsoon, a seasonal event that brings key moisture to an agricultural region where about 20 percent of the world’s population resides, is getting more extreme, researchers report …. The frequency and intensity of extreme events within the monsoon are important, as periods of intense rainfall can lead to floods, while periods of extreme dryness can lead to crop failures, particularly at certain growth states when crops are particularly vulnerable.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn, “Indian Monsoons Are Becoming More Extreme,” Scientific American, April 29, 2014
quiz icon
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
arrows pointing up and down
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

mano a mano

[ mah-noh uh mah-noh ] [ ˈmɑ noʊ ə ˈmɑ noʊ ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a direct confrontation or conflict; head-on competition; duel.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of mano a mano?

Mano a mano “a direct confrontation” is a loanword from Spanish, in which it means “hand to hand”—not “man to man,” per the common misconception. Spanish mano “hand” comes from Latin manus “hand,” which is also the source of a wide variety of English words, from manicure (“hand care”) and manuscript (“handwritten”) to maintain (“to hold with the hand”) and both maneuver and manure (“to work by hand”). Latin manus and Spanish mano are grammatically feminine nouns with masculine endings. This means that a “bad hand” in Latin is a manus mala (Spanish mano mala), with feminine mala agreeing only in grammatical gender with manus. In contrast, to use the masculine Latin noun lupus “wolf,” a “bad wolf” is a lupus malus (Spanish lobo malo), with masculine malus agreeing in gender and spelling with lupus. Mano a mano was first recorded in English in the early 1950s.

how is mano a mano used?

Let’s be clear, though: an air fryer would be flattened in a mano-a-mano with a real Fryalator and its big tub of hot oil. Few of us deep fry at home, though, as it involves that huge amount of hot oil which you have to deal with after dinner. So does air frying bring us close enough to the ideal to take the plunge?

Joe Ray, “Are Air Fryers Worth It?” Wired, May 10, 2018

This is a tale of two former bodybuilders, facing off in court—over a patent. And not just any patent: Based on federally funded research, this one has a pedigree that links back to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And this kind of legal mano a mano raises questions about the role of universities in the patent system.

Laura Sydell, “Bodybuilders Beef Over A Workout Supplement—And A Stanford Patent,” NPR, July 8, 2016
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day


[ adz ] [ ædz ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


an ax-like tool, for dressing timbers roughly, with a curved, chisel-like steel head mounted at a right angle to the wooden handle.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of adze?

Adze “an ax-like tool” dates back more than 1000 years to the days of Old English, when it was spelled adesa, but before then, its origins are unknown. Some linguists have noted the similarity between adze and ax (or axe), but the resemblance is flimsier in Old English, in which ax is spelled æx or æces, and cannot explain a sound change from x to des. Another loose hypothesis is that adze is related to, if not derived from, Latin ascia “axe” (compare French asse “pickax”), but it seems likelier instead that English ax and Latin ascia share a common, distant origin. One clue to the potential origin of adze may lie at the other end of Europe, specifically in Turkey, where the Hittite language was spoken over 3000 years ago. English and Hittite are both members of the Indo-European language family, which may explain why English adze looks a bit like Hittite atešša “ax.” Adze was first recorded in English before 900.

how is adze used?

They were the metaphorical pickup trucks of their day …. Dugout canoes were difficult to fashion into water-worthy vessels. All were made from a single tree trunk, fire coals placed atop it and then the charred wood was hollowed out with an adze or similar sharp-edged tool made of stone, sea shells and, eventually, metal.

“Ancient Canoe Exhibit Inspires Thousands at Chickasaw Cultural Center,” Indian Country Today, November 30, 2014
[A]n axe that is more than 9,000 years old, found at Ireland’s earliest burial site, in Co Limerick, has shed light on the ancient burial practices of our hunter-gatherer ancestors …. Microscopic analysis has revealed the shale tool, believed to be the earliest fully polished adze in Europe, was only used for a short time, and then deliberately blunted.

Fiona Gartland, “A 9,000-year-old axe sheds light on burial practices,” Irish Times, November 2, 2016
Word of the Day Calendar

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day in your inbox every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Word of the Day Calendar