Word of the Day

Monday, June 10, 2019

nebulated

[ neb-yuh-ley-tid ]

adjective

having dim or indistinct markings, as a bird or other animal.

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What is the origin of nebulated?

The adjective nebulated comes from Late Latin nebulātus, past participle of nebulāre “to cloud, obscure,” a derivative of the noun nebula “mist, cloud.” Nebula is the Latin result of the Proto-Indo-European root nebh– (with many variants) “cloud.” The neuter noun nebhos yields Greek néphos “cloud, clouds,” Slavic (Polish) niebo “sky, heaven,” Hittite nebis “heaven.” The root nebh– and the suffix –el yield Middle Welsh nyfel “cloud” and Greek nephélē “cloud, clouds,” corresponding to Latin nebula. The Germanic form of the root, neb-, and the suffix –l– form German Nebel “fog, mist” and Old Norse niflheim “the world of darkness,” ruled over by the goddess Hel. Nebulated entered English in the late 15th century.

how is nebulated used?

Immature birds are smaller, with central tail-feathers not, or scarcely, projecting, and have chiefly nebulated plumage below, with admixture of pale cinnamon, especially on under tail-coverts …

William Leon Dawson, The Birds of California,  Vol. 3, 1923

I fear that the intellectual gloom of the age is too great and nebulated by prejudice to duly appreciate your sentiments and devotion.

Henry Hatch, letter to the editor, The Republican, Vol. 1, No. 8, October 15, 1819
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Sunday, June 09, 2019

Delphic

[ del-fik ]

adjective

oracular; obscure; ambiguous: She was known for her Delphic pronouncements.

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What is the origin of Delphic?

English Delphic comes via Latin Delphicus from the Greek adjective Delphikós, a derivative of the plural noun Delphoí, the name of the inhabitants of Delphi and of the historic city itself. The many dialect forms of the name, especially Aeolic Bélphoi, point to a form gwelphoi with an original labiovelar (a sound combining a velar, such as k or g, and a bilabial, such as w), as in Latin quis, quid “who, what” and English quick and Gwendolyn. Gwelphoi is a Greek derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root gwelbh– “womb” (the city was so named from its shape). Gwelbh– is also the source of the Greek noun adelpheós (Attic adelphós) “brother,” whose first letter a– is a much-reduced form of sem– “one,” related to Greek homós “same” and English “same.” Adelph(e)ós therefore means “born of the same womb.” Delphic entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is Delphic used?

The poems of his mature career were often Delphic, haunted, and bleak.

Dan Chiasson, "The Final Prophecy of W. S. Merwin," The New Yorker, March 17, 2019

… he would certainly make a few Delphic pronouncements that next to nobody would understand, such as: “You can get many kinds of balance toward any seemingly grinding postulate of life.”

Newsweek, "About Jack," December 15, 2002
Saturday, June 08, 2019

stymie

[ stahy-mee ]

verb

to hinder, block, or thwart.

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What is the origin of stymie?

The verb stymie has an obscure origin. It may be a golfing term, a noun referring to an opponent’s ball that lies closer to the hole than one’s own and is in the line of play, from which the slightly later verb sense in golf developed. By the beginning of the 20th century, the verb stymie had a generalized sense “to impede, hinder, thwart.” Stymie may come from Scots stymie “a person with poor eyesight,” a derivative of stime, styme “a glimmer, glimpse.” Stymie in the sense of “a person with poor vision” entered English in the early 17th century, the golfing sense in the first half of the 19th century.

how is stymie used?

This kind of leader would have little to no incentive to work with the Board of Supervisors and could easily stymie much of the progress the county is making on critical problems.

Alice A. Huffman, "Sacramento's plan to expand the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has nothing to do with diversity," Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2017

Astronomers concluded that the gas was being blasted out by winds from newly formed stars, a huge loss of starmaking material that could stymie the galaxy’s future growth.

Yudhijit Battacharjee, "Cosmic Dawn," National Geographic, April 2014

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