Word of the Day

Monday, January 04, 2021

nimiety

[ ni-mahy-i-tee ]

noun,

excess; overabundance.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of nimiety?

Nimiety is a bit much, literally. It comes from the Late Latin noun nimietās (inflectional stem nimietāt-) “excess, overabundance,” a derivative of the adjective nimius “excessive, immoderate.” Nimius in its turn is a derivative of the adverb and noun nimis “too much, unduly; an excessive amount or degree.” Nimietās first appears in the Metamorphōsēs (“Transformations”) of Lucius Apuleius, who may have coined the word. Apuleius was a Roman satirist and Epicurean philosopher who was born in Madaurus in North Africa and lived in the 2nd century a.d. His Metamorphōsēs is a bawdy, picaresque novel, the only ancient Roman novel to survive intact. St. Augustine of Hippo (a.d. 354-420), also from North Africa, disliked Epicureanism (most ancients did because of its atheism) and derisively renamed Apuleius’ Metamorphōsēs the Asinus Aureus (“Golden Ass”), an alternative title that has persisted till this day. Nimiety entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is nimiety used?

But of course there were problems of upkeep, and an oppressive feeling of nimiety, or too‐muchness. I have suffered from it all my life—too many possessions, too many books, too much to eat and drink.

Kenneth Clark, The Other Half, 1977

The additions to the template may be broadly inconsequential … but the execution is unrivalled—the humorous animations, the high-contrast vistas, the nimiety of customization options. Video games have been this detailed before, but rarely to such unwaveringly joyous effect.

Simon Parkin, "The Best Video Games of 2014," The New Yorker, December 15, 2014

Listen to the word of the day

nimiety

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sunday, January 03, 2021

frazil

[ frey-zuhl, fraz-uhl, fruh-zeel, -zil ]

noun

ice crystals formed in turbulent water, as in swift streams or rough seas.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of frazil?

The relatively uncommon noun frazil “ice crystals formed in turbulent water, as in swift streams or rough seas,” comes from Canadian French frasil (also frazil, fraisil), an extension of French fraisil “coal cinders, coal dust.” French fraisil is an alteration of Vulgar Latin adjective facilis “pertaining to a torch or firebrand,” a derivative of the Latin noun fax (inflectional stem fac-) “torch, light.” It is unsurprising that frazil first appeared in the Montreal Gazette in the winter of 1888.

how is frazil used?

Sea ice begins as tiny, needle-shaped crystals, about a tenth of an inch long, known as frazil.

Jon Gertner, "Does the Disappearance of Sea Ice Matter?" New York Times, July 29, 2016

First the wind churns up the surface, and the spray and droplets freeze into frazil. Murphy describes this as a collection of “spicules,” or needle-shaped pieces.

Tom Spears, "Frazzle ice has frazzled Ottawa since 1910," Ottawa Citizen, May 13, 2016

Listen to the word of the day

frazil

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, January 02, 2021

handsel

[ han-suhl ]

noun

a gift or token for good luck or as an expression of good wishes, as at the beginning of the new year or when entering upon a new situation or enterprise.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of handsel?

The noun handsel “a token given at New Year’s for good luck; a payment or reward,” is used mostly in Scotland, Ireland, and Northern England. Handsel comes via Middle English hansel(l)e, hancel, handsell (and several other variant spellings). The Middle English forms come from Old English handselen “manumission,” which literally means “hand-gift” (the Old English noun selen “gift” is akin to the verb sell). The Middle English forms were influenced by Old Norse handsal “handshake, handclasp (for sealing a purchase or a promise).” Handsel entered English before 1000.

how is handsel used?

A handsel is a gift made to celebrate a new beginning, as a coin might be placed in the pocket of a freshly-tailored coat.

Brian Stableford, "Chanterelle," Black Heart, Ivory Bones, 2000

It was the principal day of the whole year for making trials and forecasts of the future. Every visitor to the house received a “handsel,” i.e. a gift.

W. W. Tullock, D. D., "The Celtic Year," The Living Age, January–March, 1907

Listen to the word of the day

handsel

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.