Word of the Day

Monday, September 02, 2019


[ op-uh-rohs ]


done with or involving much labor.

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What is the origin of operose?

Operose is a borrowing from the Latin adjective operōsus “busy, active, painstaking, taking or involving much care.” Operōsus is a derivative of the noun opus (stem oper-) “labor, work, a work” and the adjective suffix –ōsus, meaning “full of, abounding in.” Opus comes from an uncommon Proto-Indo-European root op– “to work, produce in quantity.” In Oscan, the most conservative of the Italic languages, the root appears in the verbal adjective úpsannam (in form equivalent to Latin operandam, and both derived from Italic opesandam) “to be built, to be made.” Sanskrit derives the noun ápas “work” from op-, and Avestan the compound hvapah– “good work.” Operose entered English in the 16th century.

how is operose used?

In reality no problem can be imagined more operose, than that of decomposing the sounds of words into four and twenty simple elements or letters, and again finding these elements in all other words.

William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 1793

So long as we insist upon approaching them through the operose and roundabout method of dead-language studies, schooldays will flee away, and the object will not be accomplished.

William P. Atkinson, "Liberal Education of the Nineteenth Century," Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 4, November 1873
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Sunday, September 01, 2019


[ ih-lahyd ]

verb (used with object)

to suppress; omit; ignore; pass over.

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What is the origin of elide?

Elide comes straight from the Latin verb ēlīdere “to strike out, crush, smash,” a compound of the preposition and prefix ē, ē-, a variant of ex, ex-, here indicating deprivation or loss, and the combining form –līdere, from laedere “to wound, injure, damage.” Ēlīdere and elide both have the legal sense “to nullify, invalidate,” and the grammatical or prosodic sense “to omit a vowel or syllable in pronunciation,” as formerly in English th’embattled plain, and in French l’homme, or Italian l’uomo. Laedere has no known etymology. Elide entered English in the 16th century.

how is elide used?

These videos slyly elide the long hours that lie between seeing how something is done and knowing how to do it.

Dan Brooks, "The Pleasure of Watching Others Confront Their Own Incompetence," New York Times Magazine, May 15, 2019

They confused her, made her angry, as though the whole middle section of her life—the part where she was supposed to grow to adulthood, bear children, be a young mother, and watch her children grow to adulthood—had simply been elided.

Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation, 2003
Saturday, August 31, 2019


[ ad-vuhn-tish-uhs ]


associated with something by chance rather than as an integral part; extrinsic.

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What is the origin of adventitious?

Adventitious comes from the Medieval Latin adjective adventītius, from Latin adventīcius “coming from without, from abroad, foreign, external, made or happening by chance, casual.” Adventīcius is a derivative of the verb advenīre “to come to, arrive at, reach” (formed from the preposition and prefix ad, ad– “to, toward” and the simple verb venīre “to come, be on the way, approach”) and the suffix –īcius, used for forming adjectives from the past participle stems of verbs (here, advent– from adventum). The zoological or botanical sense “appearing in an abnormal or unusual position or place, as a root” dates from the second half of the 17th century. Adventitious dates from the early 17th century.

how is adventitious used?

It is not founded on organic strength, the delicate, ennobling mark of a good endowment, of sound blood and a sound character, but is in a curious way something adventitious, accidental, perhaps even usurped or stolen.

Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, 1969

This is exhausting, of course, but far less so than the tenor of a normal museum, which groups works by adventitious categories of period and style.

Peter Schjeldahl, "Untouchable," The New Yorker, February 8, 2004
Friday, August 30, 2019


[ buh-nal-ahyz, -nah-lahyz, beyn-l-ahyz ]

verb (used with object)

to render or make devoid of freshness or originality; trivialize: Television has often been accused of banalizing even the most serious subjects.

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What is the origin of banalize?

Banalize “to render or make banal, trivialize” dates only from the mid-20th century. Banalize is a derivative of the adjective banal “lacking freshness or originality, trite, hackneyed.” Banal comes from Old French banal, banel “communal, open to the public,” from ban “public proclamation, edict, (in ecclesiastical usage) an official notice of an intended marriage, given three times in the parish church of each of the betrothed,” usually used in the plural banns or bans. In secular life, ban in feudal times meant “a summons from a lord or sovereign to a vassal to perform military service.” Any American male of a certain age who has ever received a letter personally addressed to him from The President of the United States, beginning with “Greeting:” would consider a ban like that as anything but banal.

how is banalize used?

Once the human tragedy has been completed, it gets turned over to the journalists to banalize into entertainment.

Philip Roth, I Married a Communist, 1998

… these poets suffer by living in an anti-Romantic hollow, when the lyric occasion is no longer a noble and high thing, (let alone a public thing) but has been banalized and domesticated.

James Wood, "Several General Conclusions," Slate, January 14, 1999
Thursday, August 29, 2019


[ wahyuhr-draw ]

verb (used with object)

to strain unwarrantably, as in meaning.

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What is the origin of wiredraw?

The verb wiredraw, which entered English at the end of the 16th century, is a back formation from the agent noun wiredrawer, which dates from the 13th century and means—get this!—a worker whose job is to draw metal into wire (by forcibly pulling metal through holes of smaller and smaller diameter). Readers with scholarly interests will be familiar with the adjective wiredrawn “(of scholarly arguments) overrefined, overly subtle, contrived”—an occupational hazard.

how is wiredraw used?

He wiredraws every thing, and endeavours to misrepresent every circumstance of the story.

Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher, Vol. 2, 1739

They wiredraw their arguments to such a length, that they absolutely weaken the very impression which a previous part of their speech may have produced.

James Grant, The Bench and the Bar, Vol. 2, 1837
Wednesday, August 28, 2019


[ sang-gwin ]


cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident: a sanguine disposition; sanguine expectations.

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What is the origin of sanguine?

Sanguine comes from the Middle English adjective and noun sanguyn(e), sanguyn(e) “blood red, blood-red cloth, rosy hue, ruddy (of complexion), dominated by the humor blood, the humor blood.” The Middle English forms come from the Old French adjective sanguin(e), from the Latin adjective sanguineus “crimson, bloody, bloodstained. polluted with blood,” a derivative adjective of sanguis (stem sanguin-) “blood.” Neither sanguis nor sanguineus has any sense of the humor blood, which in medieval physiology is one of the four elemental fluids of the body (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) regarded as determining, by their relative proportions, a person’s physical and mental constitution (their complexion). The medieval physiological theory actually dates back at least as far as Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” (c460–375 b.c.); it was adopted by Galen (c129–216 a.d.), the Greek physician and medical writer and afterward by Muslim and medieval scholars. Sanguine entered English in the 14th century.

how is sanguine used?

Today, investors seem sanguine about risks.

Floyd Norris, "Going Long: Bond Buyers Are Sanguine," New York Times, May 9, 1993

As his temper therefore was naturally sanguine, he indulged it on this occasion, and his imagination worked up a thousand conceits, to favour and support his expectations of meeting his dear Sophia in the evening.

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749
Tuesday, August 27, 2019


[ pee-chuh-ree-noh ]


Informal: Older Use.

person or thing that is especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed.

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What is the origin of peacherino?

Slang terms are notoriously difficult to etymologize, and peacherino is a slang term. Peacherino, with the variant spellings or words peachamaroot, peacherine, peachermaroot, is American in origin, formed from peach in the sense “someone or something especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed,” and the suffix –erino, of uncertain origin, but possibly from the suffix –eroo (of uncertain origin itself) augmented by the Spanish or Italian diminutive suffix –ino. The suffix –erino has its own variants, such as –arina, –arino, –erama, –ereeno, –erine. Peacherino entered English in the late 19th century.

how is peacherino used?

“It’s a peacherino!” declared Tom enthusiastically. “Just wait till you see it and listen to the music coming in.”

A. Hyatt Verrill, The Radio Detectives, 1922

Here’s a peacherino: “The dieter who is limited to one slide of bread per meal should divide it into four quarters. This gives him the feeling that he has had access to four slices of bread.”

Earl Wilson, "All the Diet Secrets," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 15, 1957

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