Word of the Day

Friday, June 15, 2018

nacreous

[ ney-kree-uhs ]

adjective

resembling nacre or mother-of-pearl; lustrous; pearly.

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What is the origin of nacreous?

The English adjective nacreous is a derivative of nacre “mother-of-pearl.” Nacre comes from Middle French nacre, from Medieval Latin nacchara, nacara, nacrum. Other Romance languages have similar forms: Old Italian nacacra, nacchera, Catalan nacre, and Spanish nácar, all meaning “mother-of-pearl.” The further origin of nacre is uncertain: the most common etymology is that it comes from Arabic naqqāra “small drum,” or from Arabic naqur “hunting horn,” a derivative of the verb nakara “hollow out,” from the shape of the mollusk shell that yields mother-of-pearl. Nacreous entered English in the 19th century.

how is nacreous used?

Nacreous pearl light swam faintly about the hem of the lilac darkness; the edges of light and darkness were stitched upon the hills.

Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel, 1929

It should not have surprised them to find the angel in that preserved condition. The fingernails, nacreous as the inside of an oyster shell …

Danielle Trussoni, Angelology, 2010
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

semaphore

[ sem-uh-fawr, -fohr ]

noun

a system of signaling, especially a system by which a special flag is held in each hand and various positions of the arms indicate specific letters, numbers, etc.

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What is the origin of semaphore?

Semaphore came into English from French sémaphore, a device for making and transmitting signals by line of sight. From the point of view of a purist or pedant, semaphore is a malformed word. The Greek noun sêma means “mark, sign, token,” and its combining form, which should have been used in semaphore, is sēmat-, which would result in sematophore. The combining form -phore comes from the Greek combining form -phoros “carrying, bearing,” a derivative of the verb phérein “to carry, bear.” Semaphore entered English in the 19th century.

how is semaphore used?

The gymnasts were like the diagrams to illustrate the semaphore alphabet, arms thrust firmly out in precise positions, a flag in each hand, the little figures in naval uniform like her brother, Ben, drawn over and over.

Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister, 2005

His younger brother admired his speed and what looked like his precision, though semaphore signals were a closed book to the major.

Harry Turtledove, Fort Pillow, 2006
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

antigodlin

[ an-ti-god-lin ]

adjective

lopsided or at an angle; out of alignment.

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What is the origin of antigodlin?

Antigodlin is an adjective used chiefly in the American South and West. The origin of the word is unclear, but it may be a combination of the familiar prefix anti- “against, opposite” and godlin or goglin, a variant pronunciation of goggling, the present participle of goggle, in the archaic sense “to squint” and originally meaning “twisted to one side, cockeyed.” The form godlin may also be reinforced by the folk etymology “against God.” Antigodlin entered English in the early 20th century.

how is antigodlin used?

This was moved so as to make it set, as the witness expressed it, “antigodlin.” … we suppose he meant that it was set diagonally to the window after being moved so as to permit the party to pass between the side of the box and the window.

Rudolph Kleberg, "Frank Fields v. The State," The Texas Criminal Reports, Volume 61, 1911

When the ecology of the environment is out of sorts (“anti-godlin” as my mountain neighbors might say, referring to anything that is out of balance or out of plumb or that goes against God and the laws of nature), we also see symptoms …

Thomas Rain Crowe, Zoro's Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods, 2005

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