Word of the Day

Sunday, May 09, 2021

nonesuch

[ nuhn-suhch ]

noun

a person or thing without equal; paragon.

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What is the origin of nonesuch?

The noun nonesuch (also spelled nonsuch), “someone or something without equal,” is a compound of the pronoun none and the adjective such. The word’s earliest sense was as an impersonal term or neuter word meaning “something unparalleled,” a sense it still has. By the mid-17th century, nonesuch came to mean “a person without equal, beyond compare.” Nonesuch entered English in the second half of the 16th century. Middle English had the compound word non-swich, an adjective meaning “no such,” and a pronoun meaning “no such person, no such thing,” but not “someone or something without parallel.” Nonesuch entered English in the late 16th century.

how is nonesuch used?

She is a nonesuch, of course. No woman in England, or out of England like her.

Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr, A Song of a Single Note, 1902

I had a good look at the Indianapolis Union Station—a celebrated architectural nonesuch—and then took a deep breath, crossed myself several times, and approached the man at the ticket window.

"Talk of the Town: Now and Then," The New Yorker, March 2, 1981

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Saturday, May 08, 2021

obnubilate

[ ob-noo-buh-leyt, -nyoo- ]

verb (used with object)

to cloud over; becloud; obscure.

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What is the origin of obnubilate?

The verb obnubilate, “to cloud over; obscure,” comes straight from Latin obnūbilātus, the past participle of the verb obnūbilāre “to become cloudy, to darken (the mind),” a compound verb formed from the prefix ob– “towards, in the face of, against” and the simple verb nūbilāre “to become cloudy, overcast, opaque,” a derivative of the adjective nūbilus “cloudy, overcast,” which in its turn is a derivative of the noun nūbēs “cloud.” In Latin, nūb– is a regular phonetic development from the Proto-Indo-European root sneudh– “mist, cloud” (sneudh– > snoudh– > nūb-), the source of Avestan (the language of the Zoroastrian scriptures) snaodha– “clouds, cloud cover” and Welsh nudd “fog.” Obnubilate entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is obnubilate used?

Dost thou think because a cloud sometimes may cover and obnubilate the Sun, that it will therefore shine no more?

Anonymous, The Stage-Players Complaint, 1641

It is the pity of the world, Dr Maturin, to see a man of your parts obnubilate his mind with the juice of the poppy.

Patrick O'Brian, The Mauritius Command, 1977

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Friday, May 07, 2021

lackadaisical

[ lak-uh-dey-zi-kuhl ]

adjective

without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic.

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What is the origin of lackadaisical?

The adjective lackadaisical, “lacking interest or determination; listless; lazy; indolent,” comes from the interjection, adjective, and noun lackadaisy. Lackadaisy as an interjection expresses dismay, sorrow or disapproval; as an adjective it means “given to crying lackadaisy; and as a noun, “a person given to crying lackadaisy.” Lackadaisy is a variant of the archaic interjection lackaday, a shortened variant of alack the day. Middle English has the interjection alacke (also alagge), possibly related to the noun lak, lack(e) “a lack, fault, shortcoming,” and alack the day may have originally meant “shame on the day (for turning out like this),” like alas the day. Lackadaisical weakened in meaning from a person who cried lackadaisy to someone who complained about trivialities, then still further to someone who was sentimental, and finally to someone who was just lazy. Lackadaisical entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is lackadaisical used?

So while you may have every right to resent your colleagues’ sloth and your boss’s lackadaisical attitude about it, merely venting is more likely to make you seem petty than it is to result in change.

Rob Walker, "Annoyed by a Hands-Off Boss," New York Times, March 4, 2016

Our government’s lackadaisical approach to genomic surveillance leaves us blind to precisely how prevalent these mutants are — and yet, even as other nations have responded to the emergence of such strains with lockdowns, our cities are reopening indoor dining just in time to accelerate their spread.

Eric Levitz, "Herd Immunity May Be Out of Reach — But Normality Is in Sight," New York, February 12, 2021

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