Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, October 29, 2021

nyctophobia

[ nik-tuh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an irrational or disproportionate fear of night or nighttime darkness.

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What is the origin of nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia “fear of night or nighttime darkness” is a compound of the combining forms nycto- “night” and -phobia “fear.” Nycto- derives from Ancient Greek nýx, of the same meaning, and comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root, nekwt-, found in English night, German nacht, and the Latin-derived terms equinox and nocturnal. In Greek mythology, Nyx was the primordial goddess and personification of nighttime who mated with Erebus, the god of darkness, to create Aether, the god of the upper air, and Hemera, the goddess of daytime. The ending -phobia is commonly used to indicate fear, and the opposite is -philia; while nyctophobia is fear of darkness, nyctophilia is love of darkness. The ending –phobia derives from Ancient Greek phóbos “fear” (but originally “flight”), which is related to Latin fugere “to flee,” as in fugitive.  Nyctophobia was first recorded in English in the early 1890s.

how is nyctophobia used?

[F]rightening words and concepts repeated over a period of time during childhood will have long-lasting neurological and emotional consequences. Nyctophobia, a pathological fear of night and darkness, might be an extreme example of such a consequence. Yet even the most protected children sometimes believe that there’s a monster under the bed at night or a ghost outside the window in the darkness. Nor do adults stop being afraid of venturing into Central Park at night, even when they’re presented with rational and incontrovertible facts about its relative safety after dark.

Marie Winn, Central Park in the Dark, 2008

“But wasn’t it dark inside the trunk?” Nora asked. “If Ashley had nyctophobia she wouldn’t have climbed in there” …. He shook his head. “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t recognize the Ashley I knew in any of this, this witch we’ve been tracking. Curses on the floor? Nyctophobia? Ashley wasn’t afraid of the dark. She wasn’t afraid of anything.”

Marisha Pessl, Night Film, 2014

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Thursday, October 28, 2021

sanguivorous

[ sang-gwiv-er-uhs ]

adjective

feeding on blood, as a bat or insect.

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What is the origin of sanguivorous?

Sanguivorous “feeding on blood” is a compound of the combining forms sangui- “blood” and -vorous “devouring.” Sangui- derives from Latin sanguis, of the same meaning, but the story does not stop there. Continuing a common pattern in the Indo-European language family, the Romans had two words for “blood”—sanguis and cruor—and while sanguis implicitly referred to blood inside the body, cruor referred to blood outside the body, particularly in violent contexts. In this way, it should come as little surprise that cruor is distantly related to English raw (Old English hrēaw) and Ancient Greek kréas “raw flesh,” while sanguis may be a compound of the Proto-Indo-European roots for “blood” and “to pour.” While cruor survives today to some extent in modern Romance languages, it is sanguis that serves as the root of most Romance words for “blood,” such as French sang, Italian/Portuguese sangue, and Spanish sangre. Sanguivorous was first recorded in English in the mid-1800s.

how is sanguivorous used?

“In humans, anaphylactic shock can be fatal; in sanguivores, it’s less dangerous but still extraordinarily unpleasant. Garlic is to you as peanuts are to your cousin; I cannot overemphasize the importance of this—and it’s not just garlic, it’s several other members of the allium family to lesser extents .… Sanguivore just means ‘eater of blood’ .… The older term was hemophagous, but these days, all creatures who feed on blood are known as sanguivorous.”

Vivian Shaw, Dreadful Company, 2018

Only three mammalian species are sanguivorous—that’s blood feeding—and they are all bats. Blood, apparently, is not that nutritious. It has almost no carbs, fats, or vitamins; its high iron levels can disrupt heart, liver, and pancreas function; its obscenely high protein and salt levels can cause renal disease if nitrogenous waste products build up. It contains pathogens. It clots. Vampire bats have some obvious adaptations to allow them to survive on their limited and macabre diet.

Diana Gitig, "Gut bacteria key to the vampire bat’s ability to survive on blood," Ars Technica, March 1, 2018

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

ravenous

[ rav-uh-nuhs ]

adjective

extremely hungry; famished; voracious.

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What is the origin of ravenous?

Ravenous “extremely hungry” is a borrowing from Old French that derives ultimately from the Latin noun rapīna “plunder, robbery, pillage”; the sense shifted in Old French from “plunder” to describe people who are likely to plunder and then to the associated personality traits of plunderers, such as “violent” and “greedy,” and eventually came to mean “hungry.” Rapīna comes from the verb rapere “to seize,” which is the source of words such as rapacious, rapid, rapt, ravish, surreptitious, and usurp. A common misconception is that ravenous is related to raven, the black-feathered bird, but raven is of Germanic origin, from Old English hrǣfn, and may be a distant relative of Latin corvus “raven” and Ancient Greek kórax “raven, crow.” (In addition, despite the similar spelling and meaning, crow is not related to corvus—though crows and ravens are part of the genus Corvus.) Ravenous was first recorded in English in the late 1300s.

how is ravenous used?

Locusts are ravenous eaters. An adult desert locust that weighs about 2 grams (a fraction of an ounce) can consume roughly its own weight daily. And they’re not picky at all.

Pranav Baskar, “Locusts Are A Plague Of Biblical Scope In 2020. Why? And ... What Are They Exactly?” NPR, June 14, 2020

The merest suggestion of mouth and I was ravenous—I filled the house with chocolate, chestnuts, strudel, blood sausage; I bathed in butter.

Rynn Williams, “Appetite,” Adonis Garage, 2005

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