Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, July 24, 2021

natant

[ neyt-nt ]

adjective

swimming; floating.

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What is the origin of natant?

Natant, “swimming; floating,” began life in English in the mid-15th century as natand, a term in heraldry describing a swimming fish or dolphin. Natand is an Anglo-French derivative of the Latin participle natant– (the inflectional stem of natāns), from natāre “to swim, float.” Natāre is a frequentative verb formed from the simple verb nāre (a frequentative verb expresses repeated or frequent action). Latin nāre comes from the Proto-Indo-European root snā– (with several variants) “to swim, float.” The root appears in Sanskrit snā́ti “(he) bathes (himself)” and Greek neîn, nḗchein, nā́chein “to swim.” Irish writer Brian O’Nolan (1911-66), whose pen name was Flann O’Brien, wrote a comic masterpiece entitled At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). This title is a literal English translation of Irish Snámh Dá Éan, the name of a ford on the River Shannon. Snámh “swim, swimming” comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root snā– as the Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin words.

how is natant used?

It is said that theirs is a floating metropolis … The solemn ritual of extreme unction is performed by wet-suited priests on natant, paddle-powered funeral parlors wafting placidly along the Eel.

Michael Martone, The Blue Guide to Indiana, 2001

In the lamp glass coconut oil, because it was of the unrefined type, rested golden-hued on water, a natant disc.

Rohinton Mistry, "Condolence Visit," Tales from Firozsha Baag, 1987

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Word of the day

Friday, July 23, 2021

brouhaha

[ broo-hah-hah, broo-hah-hah, broo-hah-hah ]

noun

excited public interest, discussion, or the like, as the clamor attending some sensational event.

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What is the origin of brouhaha?

Brouhaha, “excited public interest; the clamor attending some sensational event,” comes from Medieval French brou, ha, ha, an exclamation used by characters representing the devil in 16th-century drama. Beyond that everything else is speculation. The most interesting explanation is that brou, ha, ha is a distortion of the Hebrew sentence bārūkh habbā (beshēm ădōnai) “Blessed is he who comes (in the name of the Lord)” (Psalms 118:26). Brouhaha entered English in the late 19th century.

how is brouhaha used?

“[Guy] Zinn was not a significant player. The card, and the brouhaha surrounding it, is more interesting than the man,” said John Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball.

Ben Berkon, "A Jewish Player's 1914 Baseball Card Triggers a $125,000 Dispute," New York Times, December 18, 2016

As always, her major concern was to live the life given to her, and her children were expected to do the same. And to do it without too much brouhaha.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1969

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Word of the day

Thursday, July 22, 2021

furphy

[ fur-fee ]

noun

a false report; rumor.

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What is the origin of furphy?

Furphy, a piece of Australian slang meaning “a false report; rumor,” originated in the early days of World War I and derives from the Furphy carts used to haul water and rubbish for the Australian army. The carts, made of galvanized iron drums mounted on wheels and originally used for hauling water on farms, were invented and manufactured by J. Furphy & Sons in Shepparton, in the state of Victoria. Soldiers gathering around a Furphy cart, like office workers around the water cooler, would hear and spread all the rumors they could absorb, and the drivers of the Furphy carts could then spread rumors among different units. Furphy first appears in print in 1915 in a poem by the English poet Robert Graves entitled On Gallipoli: “To cheer us then a ‘furphy’ passed around… They’re fighting now on Achi Baba’s mound.” Scuttlebutt, “an open cask containing drinking water,” shows a parallel development among American sailors, the scuttlebutt originally being the place where one could get a drink of water, becoming by 1901 “rumor, gossip.”

how is furphy used?

Granted, they’re judged by panels, rather than lone individuals. But the idea that panels make better decisions than individuals is a furphy.

David Free, "Judge a literary prize? No thanks, they're all a giant waste of time," WA Today, July 9, 2021

Some tourism figures in Queensland fear an “in danger” listing will be more bad news that could discourage international visitors from travelling once borders reopen.

“I really think that’s a furphy,” says Dr Jon Day, a former Australian government representative on the world heritage committee and a veteran of the meetings.

Graham Readfearn, "Why Australia's Great Barrier Reef may end up on the world heritage 'in danger' list—and what it means," The Guardian, June 26, 2021

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