Word of the Day

Monday, January 13, 2020

nival

[ nahy-vuhl ]

adjective

of or growing in snow: nival flora.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of nival?

The adjective nival comes straight from Latin nivālis “of or belonging to snow, snowy, covered in snow,” a derivative of the noun nix (inflectional stem niv-) “snow.” The adjective is relatively rare, being confined to zoology, botany, and physical geography. Nix is related to English snow, Sanskrit sneha-, Slavic (Polish) śnieg, and Irish snigid “it’s raining.” Nival entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is nival used?

… when the Alpine climbers ascend the snow-clad mountains of picturesque Switzerland and gather a pretty little bouquet of a dozen different nival flowers, on that barren zone ….

C. O. Van Cleve, "Arctic Flowers," Annual Report of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, 1888

The nival region is characterised by accumulating snow deposits, both in the completely nival province where precipitation takes the form solely of snow and the semi-nival province where this is interrupted by rainfall.

Albrecht Penck, "Attempt at a Classification of Climate on a Physiographic Basis," Climatic Geomorphology, 1973
WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ
Put your wits to the test! New quizzes added weekly.
TAKE THE QUIZ
ALEXA, ENABLE DICTIONARY.COM
Now you can ask Alexa what the Word of the Day is at any time.
ENABLE ALEXA

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sunday, January 12, 2020

euchred

[ yoo-kerd ]

adjective

Australian Informal.

utterly done in or at the end of one's tether; exhausted.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of euchred?

In Australian English euchred has meant “exhausted, destitute” since the second half of the 19th century, a meaning that formerly existed in American English. The sense derives from the card game euchre (originally American) in which, if a player plays a round and fails to take three tricks, they are euchred “done for,” a sense that was extended to “outwitted, outdone, deceived, cheated.” Euchre, the name of the card game, dates from the first half of the 19th century and has no known etymology.

how is euchred used?

You had one water bottle a day for all purposes, and it would be 48 degrees, so we were euchred physically as much as anything else, and it’s very wearing on the mental factor.

Bob Semple, as quoted in "A life and a violin, forever etched by the horrors of war," Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2018

My breath comes hard—I’m euchred boy …

Robert H. Newell, "Letter X," The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers, 1862
Saturday, January 11, 2020

pacific

[ puh-sif-ik ]

adjective

tending to make or preserve peace; conciliatory: pacific overtures.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of pacific?

The adjective pacific ultimately derives from the Latin adjective pācificus “making peace, peaceable,” a compound derived from pāx (inflectional stem pāc– “peace”) and –ficus, a combining form of the verb facere “to do, make.” In the Vulgate (the late 4th-century Latin version of the Bible, used by the Roman Catholic Church), pācificus as an adjective means “peace-loving,” and as a noun “peace offerings.” The Romans wanted peace like everyone else, but on their own terms. The great Roman historian Tacitus in his Agricola, a biography of his father-in-law, has the British chieftain Calgacus deliver a speech in which Calgacus says of the Romans, … ubi sōlitūdinem faciunt, pācem appellant, “… where they make a desert, they call it peace.” Pacific entered English in the 16th century.

how is pacific used?

My mother was a very calm, pacific individual, and I learned from her to be the same way.

Paul Tibbets, as quoted in "We Did It to Stop the Killing, to Stop the War," Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1999

In this way arose the Roman empire, the largest, the most stable, and in its best days the most pacific political aggregate the world had as yet seen.

John Fiske, The Destiny of Man Viewed in the Light of His Origin, 1884
Friday, January 10, 2020

sidesplitter

[ sahyd-split-er ]

noun

something that is uproariously funny, as a joke or a situation.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of sidesplitter?

Sidesplitter is perfectly obvious in its derivation and meaning: something that is so uproariously funny that you split your sides from laughing. Sidesplitter first appears in a weekly newspaper, the New-York Mirror, in 1834 and slightly later in England.

how is sidesplitter used?

If the lyric “In New York, you can be a real ham” sounds like a sidesplitter, this one’s for you.

Erik Piepenburg, "5 Shows to See in New York When You Have Only an Hour," New York Times, March 8, 2017

My appreciation of the short form was enhanced when I discovered the quirky humor of Damon Runyon and Ring Larder, clearly at their peak in a twenty-page sidesplitter.

Otto Penzler, "Foreword," The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, 2000
Thursday, January 09, 2020

beaucoup

[ boh-koo ]

adjective

Informal: Usually Facetious.

many; numerous; much: It's a hard job, but it pays beaucoup money.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of beaucoup?

In French, beaucoup is an adverb meaning (in various combinations) “a lot, lots, lots of, much, many.” Beaucoup first appeared in American English about 1760 in the sense “a lot, many.” The word, whether used as a singular or plural, was rare before 1918, when the United States became fully engaged in World War I, as in “We’ve been spending beaucoup francs lately for Uncle Sam,” and as an adverb “very, very much,” as in Ernest Hemingway’s “I’m pulling through my annual tonsilitis now so feel bokoo rotten” (1918). During the 1960s and ’70s, American servicemen returning from Vietnam popularized the word and introduced the spellings boo-koo, boocoo(p).

how is beaucoup used?

Grassroots support, a powerful message and good timing can still win elections, even without beaucoup bucks.

Eleanor Smeal, "Women Voted for Change," Ms., Vol. 17, 2007

Of course, one can ignore the message and simply revel briefly in the traditional values: the days of beaucoup silverware, heaping platters of mutton, folks upstairs and downstairs.

Rita Kempley, "The Past: Perfect for the Tense Present," Washington Post, November 21, 1993
Wednesday, January 08, 2020

imponderabilia

[ im-pon-der-uh-bil-ee-uh, -bil-yuh ]

plural noun

imponderables; things that cannot be precisely determined, measured, or evaluated: the imponderabilia surrounding human life.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of imponderabilia?

There are not very many seven-syllable words in English, which makes imponderabilia a really weighty word. It’s Latin for “imponderable things, imponderables.” It comes from New Latin imponderābilia, a noun use of the neuter plural of the Medieval Latin adjective imponderābilis “unable to be weighed or measured,” ultimately deriving from Latin ponderāre “to weigh.” Imponderabilia entered English in the early 20th century.

how is imponderabilia used?

… the imponderabilia,—those obscure but all-powerful factors like sentiment, public opinion, good will, affection, and so on. You can’t weigh or measure them, nor get at them by any rule of thumb.

"In the Interpreter's House," American Magazine, Vol. 79, January–June, 1915

Bronisław Malinowski, called [them] “the imponderabilia of actual life.” These are, he wrote, “small incidents, characteristic forms of taking food, of conversing, of doing work, [that] are found occurring over and over again.”

Graeme Wood, "Anthropology Inc." The Atlantic, March 2013
Tuesday, January 07, 2020

oneiric

[ oh-nahy-rik ]

adjective

of or relating to dreams.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of oneiric?

The English adjective oneiric derives from the Greek noun óneiros “dream, the god of dreams.” Óneiros itself is a later derivative from the noun ónar “dream, fortune-telling dream; in a dream.” Oneiromancy is divination through dreams; oneirocriticism is the interpretation of dreams. Ónar has relatives in only two other Indo-European languages: Albanian ëndërrë (the ë represents schwa) and Armenian anurj, both meaning “dream” (linguists have recognized for nearly a century features of phonology, morphology, and vocabulary shared only by Greek and Armenian). Oneiric entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is oneiric used?

The clouds are pregnant and always in bloom, like oneiric cauliflowers ….

Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

Leonardo’s world was atomistic, volatile, constantly in flux. At the same time, it was also surprising and oneiric, like scenes from a daydream, and this is how he depicted that world in his art.

Maria H. Loh, "Five Hundred Years After Leonardo Da Vinci's Death, His Work Offers New Environmental Insights," Art in America, October 1, 2019

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.