Word of the Day

Thursday, February 08, 2018

naissance

[ ney-suh ns ]

noun

a birth, an origination, or a growth, as that of a person, an organization, an idea, or a movement.

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What is the origin of naissance?

The English noun naissance comes from Middle French naissance, which is a derivative of the verb naître “to be born.” The French verb comes from the Vulgar Latin nāscere, a regular verb replacing the Latin deponent verb nāscī. Naissance entered English in the late 15th century. The sense of “new style, movement, or development (in the arts)” comes from a French usage of the 20th century.

how is naissance used?

If this was a period of Renaissance for Western Europe, was it not rather a Naissance for Russia?

Mary Platt Parmele, A Short History of Russia, 1899

Nina’s watchful eyes opened wider and wider as she witnessed in Eileen the naissance of an unconscious and delicate coquetry, quite unabashed, yet the more significant for that …

Robert W. Chambers, The Younger Set, 1907
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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

lenity

[ len-i-tee ]

noun

the quality or state of being mild or gentle, as toward others.

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What is the origin of lenity?

The English noun lenity is a borrowing of Old French lenité or Latin lēnitat-, the stem of lēnitās “softness, smoothness, gentleness,” a derivative of the adjective lēnis, from which English has lenient and lenition. Lenity entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is lenity used?

He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes …

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726

… I have relaxed, as I believe I may depend on her observing the rules I have laid down for their discourse. But do not imagine that with all this lenity I have for a moment given up my plan of her marriage …

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, 1871
Tuesday, February 06, 2018

cerebrate

[ ser-uh-breyt ]

verb

to use the mind; think or think about.

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What is the origin of cerebrate?

The verb cerebrate is a back formation from the noun cerebration, which is a derivative of the Latin noun cerebrum “brain, understanding.” Cerebrum is a derivative of a very widespread, very complicated Proto-Indo-European root ker- “uppermost part of the body, head, horn, nail (of the finger or toe).” This root has many variant forms and is related to the Latin noun crābro “hornet” (English hornet comes from the same root), Greek kár “head” and kéras “horn,” and German Hirn “brain.” Cerebrate entered English in the 19th century.

how is cerebrate used?

To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate intensely.

George Wharton James, Quit Your Worrying!, 1917

If you simply retire to your own room, shove your backside into an excessively sprung easy chair, and there grimly cerebrate, the chances are that you will eventually do no more than crawl into bed — to wake up six to eight hours later with an unsolved conundrum and a filthy headache.

Michael Innes, An Awkward Lie, 1971
Monday, February 05, 2018

crump

[ kruhmp, kroo mp ]

verb

to make a crunching sound, as in walking over snow, or as snow when trodden on.

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What is the origin of crump?

Crump was first recorded in 1640-50. It is imitative of the sound of something crunching underfoot.

how is crump used?

With the new snow flattening sounds he felt almost deaf or dreaming. His boots crumped down into it.

Adam Foulds, The Quickening Maze, 2009

The horses’ hooves crunched in the snow, the wagon wheels creaked through it and, behind, the march of several hundred feet crumpcrumped along.

Janet Paisley, White Rose Rebel, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2018

byzantine

[ biz-uh n-teen, -tahyn, bahy-zuh n-, bih-zan-tin ]

adjective

complex or intricate: a deal requiring Byzantine financing.

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What is the origin of byzantine?

The English adjective Byzantine originally applied to the city of Byzantium (later Constantinople) and the art, architecture, and history of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. The most common current sense “complex, intricate” dates from the first half of the 20th century. Byzantine entered English in the 18th century.

how is byzantine used?

“We’ve had the process referred to as byzantine, shrouded in secrecy, opaque. Yet this is the process that Congress designed, a process that not only demands confidentiality, but strict confidentiality. This is the system we’re tasked to administer,” Grundmann said.

Joe Davidson, "Hill's workplace rights agency points to Congress for lack of transparency," Washington Post, December 1, 2017

Over the course of two hundred pages I had improvised a byzantine system involving highlighter, underlines, and marginal punctuation marks.

Tom Perrotta, Joe College, 2000
Saturday, February 03, 2018

moxie

[ mok-see ]

noun

Slang. courage; nerve; determination.

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What is the origin of moxie?

Moxie originally was the trademark of a carbonated soft drink that was created by Dr. Augustin Thompson, a homeopathic physician who was born in Maine and spent his professional life in Massachusetts. Dr. Thompson patented his beverage in 1885 and promoted it as a “nerve tonic” or “nerve food.” Moxie, the drink, has always been associated with New England: Calvin Coolidge liked it; Ted Williams endorsed it on the radio; the state of Maine made Moxie its official soft drink in 2005. Moxie’s lowercase sense “courage, spirit, vigor” entered English in the 20th century.

how is moxie used?

“The only safe thing is to take a chance,” she told Nichols, who was both amazed at her moxie and inspired by her trust in him.

, "Sweet and Sour," The New Yorker, June 13, 2005

He’s not a natural singer … but like the kid in the school play who sells the thing by sheer force of moxie, Crowe handily wins us over.

Richard Lawson, "'Les Miserables': Destroying Cynicism with Song," The Atlantic, December 17, 2012
Friday, February 02, 2018

oblivescence

[ ob-luh-ves-uh ns ]

noun

the process of forgetting.

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What is the origin of oblivescence?

Oblivescence dates from the late 19th century and is a later spelling of obliviscence, which dates from the late 18th century. The spelling oblivescence arose by influence of the far more common suffix -escence. The English noun is a derivative of the Latin verb oblīviscī “to forget,” literally “to wipe away, smooth over.” The Latin verb is composed of the prefix ob- “away, against” and the same root as the adjective lēvis “smooth.”

how is oblivescence used?

Would that our sins had built-in qualities of oblivescence such as our dreams have.

Iris Murdoch, A Word Child, 1975

Even in reasoning, the gratifying confirmatory instance sticks in the mind, while the negative cases all go glimmering into oblivescence.

H. L. Hollingworth, "The Oblivescence of the Disagreeable," The Journal of Philosophy Psychology and Scientific Methods, Volume VII, January–December 1910

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