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[ oh-puh-les ] [ ˌoʊ pəˈlɛs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used without object)

to exhibit a play of colors like that of the iridescent gem opal.

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More about opalesce

Opalesce, “to exhibit colors like that of an opal,” is based on opal, the multicolored gemstone, and the verb-forming suffix -esce. Opal comes via Latin from Ancient Greek opállios “gem,” and while not certain, a common hypothesis is that opállios comes from Sanskrit upala- “stone, precious stone.” As we learned from the recent Words of the Day evanesce, rufescent, and violescent, the element -esce (as well as its noun and adjective counterparts -escence and -escent) derives from the inceptive infix -sc-, which roughly translates to “become, begin to be” in Latin. Opalesce was first recorded in English in the 1810s. Opal and tourmaline are two birthstones associated with the month of October. Find out more about the birthstones that make each month sparkle.

how is opalesce used?

Opalesce is a gauzy word to describe what the sky is doing. From the picture window Maas follows winter colors: whites, slates, steely skies, and yellows.

Christine Schutt, “Family Man,” Pure Hollywood and Other Stories, 2018

In front of me stood a man in something fluffy like fur, which, when touched by light, opalesced like metal.

Stanislaw Lem, Return from the Stars, 1961
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⚛️ Today's Word was chosen in partnership with the Museum of Science as the Science Word Of The Week! ⚛️


[ fron-des-uhns ] [ frɒnˈdɛs əns ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


leafage; foliage.

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Why the Museum of Science chose frondescence

Fall is upon us, which means cooler temperatures and a change in the color of frondescence from green to brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. It had us wondering, what causes these beautiful Fall colors? To find out, watch this video about frondescence from science communicator, Alex Dainis, PhD.

More about frondescence

Frondescence comes from a Latin verb meaning “to become leafy, put forth leaves,” which is based on the word for “branch, bough” that also gives us frond. An easily confused word is the Latin word frōns, meaning “forehead,” which is the source of front, frontage, and frontal. Frondescence was first recorded in English circa 1840.

When autumn sets in and the leaves shift colors, a rainbow of frondescence can be seen far and wide.

Leaves already contain the yellow and orange pigments we see emerge in Fall. They are just hidden most of the year by the overwhelming green of chlorophyll. Learn more fun facts at the Museum of Science.

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[ skahr-per ] [ ˈskɑr pər ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used without object)

to flee or depart suddenly, especially without having paid one's bills.

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More about scarper

Scarper, “to flee or depart suddenly,” originated in a British argot, likely Polari, and probably comes from Italian scappare “to flee,” which is related to English escape (compare French échapper). The ultimate origin appears to be from a Vulgar Latin verb reconstructed as excappāre, based on Latin ex “out of, from” and Late Latin cappa “hooded cloak, cape.” For another example of Polari’s influence on English, see the recent Word of the Day busk. Scarper was first recorded in English in the late 1840s.

how is scarper used?

But thwart a young rat’s zeal for play (by rearing it alone or with drugged companions that won’t play) and you create an adult that loses its cool in social situations. When things start getting edgy, play-deprived rats either succumb to rat-rage or scarper, quaking, to a corner.”

Lynda Sharpe, “So You Think You Know Why Animals Play…,” Scientific American, May 17, 2011

When [the giant peach] disappears they have to scarper, off to America on the Queen Mary, though since they apparently haven’t yet collected on all the money they thought was coming their way, it’s a mystery how they can afford it.

“Theatre Review: James and the Giant Peach is a treat for the eyes, but The Brown Bull just runs in circles,” National Post, December 12, 2014
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