Word of the Day

Thursday, August 02, 2018

nubilous

[ noo-buh-luhs, nyoo- ]

adjective

cloudy or foggy.

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What is the origin of nubilous?

The English adjective nubilous comes straight from Latin nūbilus, a derivative of nūbēs “cloud.” The uncommon Proto-Indo-European root sneudh- “fog, mist, cloud” lies behind the Latin words and appears as well in several Iranian languages, e.g., Avestan snaodha- “clouds” and Baluchi nōd “light clouds, fog”; Greek nythós “dark, dumb,” and Welsh nudd “mist, fog.” Nubilous entered English in the 16th century.

how is nubilous used?

… it seemed, in their arbitrary disposition of the world’s affairs, the Fates had ordained that Peyton’s sky should always be nubilous

Montgomery G. Preston, "An Eventful Evening," Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine," February 1876

Her azure eyes are nubilous.

Antoinette van Heugten, Saving Max, 2010
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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

improbity

[ im-proh-bi-tee ]

noun

lack of honesty or moral scruples.

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What is the origin of improbity?

The English noun improbity comes from Latin improbitās (stem improbitāt-) “dishonesty, unscrupulousness,” a derivative of improbus “inferior, improper.” The parts of improbus break down fairly easily: the prefix im- is a variant of the Latin negative prefix in- used before labial consonants (e.g., b, p) from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Germanic (English) un-, Greek a-, an-, and Sanskrit a-, an-. The element pro- is from the very common (and complicated) Proto-Indo-European prefix and preposition per “forward, through, in front of, early, first.” The -bus is the same ending as in the Latin adjective superbus “proud, haughty” (the ultimate source of English superb) from the Proto-Indo-European root bheu- “to be, exist, grow,” source of Germanic (English) be, Latin fuï “I was, have been” (the perfect of esse “to be”), and Slavic (Polish) być “to be.” The original sense of probus would be “going well, growing well,” and improbus “not going well.” Improbity entered English in the late 16th century.

how is improbity used?

But apart from these hurtful factors, the Ring itself radiated improbity. It had but recently been said by Henry Ward Beecher that perhaps the government of the City of New York did more harm to its people than all the churches together did good.

Edgar Fawcett, A New York Family, 1891

“Beelzebub” had been floundering in the sea of improbity, holding by a slender life-line to the respectable world that had cast him overboard.

O. Henry, "The Remnants of the Code," Cabbages and Kings, 1904
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

hagridden

[ hag-rid-n ]

adjective

worried or tormented, as by a witch.

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What is the origin of hagridden?

The hag in hagridden has always meant “evil spirit (in female form), ghost, woman who deals with the Devil, a witch; an ugly, repellent, malicious old woman.” The noun is very rare in Middle English (hegge appears once in the 13th century, and hagge once in the 14th) and becomes common only in the 16th century as heg, hegge. Hag is generally believed to descend from Old English hægtesse, hægtis “a fury, witch,” akin to Old High German hagazissa, German Hexe (cf. hex signs on barns, especially in Amish country), from West Germanic hagatusjōn-. Hagridden entered English in the 17th century.

how is hagridden used?

We are a simple people, but we are hagridden by our fear of darkness.

Jack Whyte, The Saxon Shore, 1995

Alas, poor devil! spectres are appointed to haunt him: one age he is hag-ridden, bewitched; the next priestridden, befooled; in all ages, bedevilled.

Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 1836

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