• Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 27, 2018

    necropolis

    noun [nuh-krop-uh-lis, ne-]
    a cemetery, especially one of large size and usually of an ancient city.
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    What is the origin of necropolis?

    Necropolis, Greek for “city of the dead, corpse city,” first appears in the works of the Greek historian and geographer Strabo (c 63 b.c.-c 21a.d.). It was originally the name of the cemetery district in Alexandria, Egypt (founded by Alexander the Great in 323 b.c.). Greek nekrós means “corpse” (its plural nekrói means “the dead”); its combining form necro- forms the first half of necromancy (divination through communication with the dead, one of the blackest of the black arts). Nekrós comes from the Proto-Indo-European root nek- “death,” with a variant nok- “to kill.” From the same root Latin has the noun nex (stem nec-) “murder, violent death” (as in internecine, whose original English meaning was “deadly”). From the variant nok- Latin derives the verb nocēre “to harm” (source of nocent and innocent) and the adjective noxius “guilty, delinquent, harmful, injurious.” Greek pólis “city," more properly "citadel, fortified high place,” is related to Sanskrit pū́r, puram “city,” as in Singapore “Lion City,” ultimately from Sanskrit siṁha- “lion” and pū́r, puram. Necropolis entered English in the 19th century.

    How is necropolis used?

    The column of mourners moved under the archway into the necropolis, progressing slowly up the hill towards a spot where Fidelma could see several other torches burning. Peter Tremayne, Behold a Pale Horse, 2011

    Just beyond an island of hemlocks the road divides into the cluttered plain of the necropolis, grey and white as an overexposed snapshot. Marge Piercy, Braided Lives, 1982

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 26, 2018

    timorous

    adjective [tim-er-uhs]
    full of fear; fearful: The noise made them timorous.
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    What is the origin of timorous?

    Timorous, “fearful,” has several spellings in Middle English, e.g., tymerous, timerous, temerous, which all come via Old French temeros, timoureus from the Medieval Latin adjective timōrōsus “fearful,” a derivative of the Latin noun timor “fear,” itself a derivative of the verb timēre “to fear, be afraid.” (There is no further reliable etymology for the Latin.) The English and French spellings tim- and tem- betray a confusion going back to at least the 14th century between derivations of the Latin verb timēre “to fear” and adverb temere “rashly, recklessly” (the source of the English noun temerity). From the English variant spelling timerous (“fearful”), English forms the uncommon noun temerity “fearfulness, timidity,” which is also spelled timerite and temerity, the latter spelling continuing that confusion. Timorous entered English in the 15th century.

    How is timorous used?

    Besides these fearful things, he was expected to do what terrified him into the very core of his somewhat timorous heart. L. T. Meade, A Little Mother to the Others, 1896

    Though the fellow is far from being timorous in cases that are not supposed preternatural, he could not stand the sight of this apparition, but ran into the kitchen, with his hair standing on end, staring wildly, and deprived of utterance. Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 25, 2018

    dirigible

    noun [dir-i-juh-buh l, dih-rij-uh-]
    an airship.
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    What is the origin of dirigible?

    Dirigible is a shortening of “dirigible balloon,” a translation of the French ballon dirigeable “steerable balloon.” Dirigible and dirigeable are derivatives of the Latin verb dīrigere “to guide, align, straighten” and the common suffix -ible “capable of, fit for.” Dirigible in its literal sense “capable of being directed” dates from the late 16th century; the sense referring to the balloon or airship dates from the late 19th century.

    How is dirigible used?

    With gas cells collapsing, framework breaking up, and controls out of order, the great dirigible had reared and plunged and finally had fallen 3,000 feet into the Pacific. Edwin Teale, "Does Latest Disaster Spell Doom for the Dirigible?" Popular Science Monthly, May 1935

    Being up in that tower was like being in a dirigible above the clouds. Umberto Eco, "The Gorge," The New Yorker, March 7, 2005

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 24, 2018

    moonstruck

    adjective [moon-struhk]
    dreamily romantic or bemused.
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    What is the origin of moonstruck?

    The original sense of moonstruck, “mentally deranged, insane,” first appears in Paradise Lost (1667) by John Milton (1608–74). Milton was astonishingly learned: he wrote poetry in Latin, Greek, and Italian; he translated Psalm 114 from Hebrew into Greek verse; he was a polemicist (or propagandist) for the English general, Puritan statesman, and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Moonstruck is probably Milton’s own creation, a translation from Greek selēnóblētos “moonstruck, epileptic,” a compound of selḗnē “moon” and blētós “stricken, stricken with palsy,” a past participle of bállein ”to throw, hit (with a missile).” The sense of “dreamily romantic” dates from the mid-19th century.

    How is moonstruck used?

    He wanted to see her ... Otherwise he wouldn't have waited for nearly an hour like some moonstruck schoolboy and worried all the while about the reception he would receive. Matt Braun, Indian Territory, 1985

    The sonata was originally given the name that's on your music. But an author renamed it the Moonlight Sonata. I like that name very much. ... Because it's music for a moonstruck man. Herbjørg Wassmo, Dina's Book, translated by Nadia M. Christensen, 1994

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 23, 2018

    hooly

    adverb [hoo-lee, hy-lee]
    Scot. cautiously; gently.
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    What is the origin of hooly?

    Hooly in Scottish English is an adjective and adverb meaning “slow, cautious; slowly, cautiously.” It comes from Middle English hōly, from Old Norse hófligr “moderate” or its adverb hófliga “moderately,” derived from the noun hóf “moderation." Hooly often forms part of the phrase hooly and fairly (fairly meaning “gently, softly, steadily, cautiously”). Hooly entered English in the 14th century.

    How is hooly used?

    Just to look that their tackle does not graze on the face o' the crag, and to let the chair down, and draw it up hoolly and fairly--we will halloo when we are ready. Sir Walter Scott, The Antiquary, 1816

    Yet love is kittle and unruly, / And shou'd move tentily and hooly ... Allan Ramsay, "To Robert Yarde of Devonshire," 1725

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 22, 2018

    barnstorm

    verb [bahrn-stawrm]
    to conduct a campaign or speaking tour in rural areas by making brief stops in many small towns.
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    What is the origin of barnstorm?

    The original sense of barnstorm, the theater sense, “to tour small towns and rural areas (often in barns),” dates from the second half of the 19th century. The political or campaigning sense “to conduct a speaking tour in rural areas by making brief stops in small towns,” and the professional sports sense “to tour an area playing exhibition games after the regular season” date from the end of the 19th century. The flying or piloting sense “to give exhibitions of stunt flying, participate in airplane races, etc., while touring country towns and rural areas” dates from the first half of the 20th century.

    How is barnstorm used?

    President Trump and Vice President Pence are barnstorming swing states with 68 days to go before the midterm elections. Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger, "The Hill's Morning Report -- Trump, Pence barnstorm swing states," The Hill, August 30, 2018

    ... Mr. Frotman barnstormed the country to encourage state officials to scrutinize the companies that are contracted by the department to manage the loan portfolio, collect debt from students and work out payment plans with delinquent borrowers. Glenn Thrush, "After Scaling Back Student Loan Regulations, Administration Tries to Stop State Efforts," New York Times, September 6, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 21, 2018

    humdinger

    noun [huhm-ding-er]
    Informal. a person, thing, action, or statement of remarkable excellence or effect.
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    What is the origin of humdinger?

    The origin of humdinger is speculative. It was originally American slang, first appearing in print at the beginning of the 20th century and in British English about 1926.

    How is humdinger used?

    ... Beethoven gave the Viennese a humdinger, something to make them sit up and take notice. Michael Steinberg, The Concerto: A Listener's Guide, 1998

    Streep, whose speeches are perfect, delivered a humdinger of a tribute to Emma Thompson, who was receiving the best-actress honor, for “Saving Mr. Banks.” Michael Schulman, "Meryl Streep Pokes Back at Male Hollywood," The New Yorker, January 9, 2014

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