Word of the Day

Monday, July 29, 2019

nisus

[ nahy-suhs ]

noun

an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse.

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What is the origin of nisus?

The rare noun nisus, a technical word used in various branches of philosophy and theology, comes directly from Latin nīsus, a derivative of the verb nītī and meaning “a resting of one’s weight on the ground, planting one’s feet firmly, a strong muscular effort, pressure (of forces), an endeavor, strong effort.” Nisus in the sense “effort” first appears at the end of the 17th century in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In later usage nisus simply means “impulse.”

how is nisus used?

The accumulation of wealth into a few hands is the nisus of all bad governments …

"Ireland in 1832," The Metropolitan, Vol. 5, No. 18, October 1832

… in Aristotle’s teleological universe, every human being … has a kind of inner nisus toward a life of at least civic virtue …

Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, 1985
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Sunday, July 28, 2019

fulgurant

[ fuhl-gyer-uhnt ]

adjective

flashing like lightning.

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What is the origin of fulgurant?

Fulgurant comes straight from Latin fulgurant-, the inflectional stem of fulgurāns, the present participle of the verb fulgurāre, originally an impersonal and intransitive verb meaning “it lightens,” then becoming personal and applied to Jupiter or the sky, and finally being applied generally (such as to orators) and meaning “to shine, glitter.” There are many Latin words for lightning, e.g., the noun fulmen (from an unrecorded fulgmen), which has its own derivative verb fulmināre (like fulgurāre, originally an impersonal and intransitive verb), whose past participle fulminātus is the source of the English verb fulminate. And its present participle fulmināns (inflectional stem fulminant-) is the source of the uncommon adjective fulminant, which has largely been replaced by fulminating. Fulgurant entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is fulgurant used?

To the left the draw-bridge slowly raised its broken span, the soft edges illumined by fulgurant lights of red and green.

Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

The comedy has to arise from the daily disparities in which the playwright made her nest, from the way an irreverent mutter or a fulgurant non sequitur rends the conventional fabric of existence with a lightninglike tear.

John Simon, "Pathetic and Peripatetic," New York, August 16, 1993
Saturday, July 27, 2019

heterography

[ het-uh-rog-ruh-fee ]

noun

the use of the same letter or combination of letters to represent different sounds, as, in English, the use of s in sit and easy.

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What is the origin of heterography?

Orthodoxy “correct belief” is to heterodoxy as orthography “correct writing” is to heterography. The combining form hetero– comes from the Greek adjective héteros “one of two, the other, different.” (Even in ancient authors, words prefixed with hetero– were ambiguous: heterodoxía could mean “difference of opinion” and “error in opinion.”) Heterography originally meant “misspelling, incorrect spelling, bad spelling” (like awsome, kat, miniscule), then “irregular or inconsistent spelling,” which is usual in English: consider the value of c in call and cell, or of –ough in bough, cough, rough, though, or through. Heterography entered English in the late 18th century.

how is heterography used?

… the whole world lies in heresy or schism on the subject of orthography. All climates alike groan under heterography.

Thomas De Quincey, "Orthographic Mutineers," Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 14, March 1847

Of course everybody recollects the great phonetic mania of some years ago,—and how Mr. Pitman and his followers denounced English spelling as heterography, and organized an orthography of their own …

"Visible Speech," Littell's Living Age, Vol. 83, October 15, 1864

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