Word of the Day

Sunday, January 05, 2020

orbicular

[ awr-bik-yuh-ler ]

adjective

like an orb; circular; ringlike; spherical; rounded.

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What is the origin of orbicular?

The uncommon adjective orbicular ultimately comes from the rare Late Latin adjective orbiculāris “circular, orbicular,” which occurs in zoological and botanical texts. Orbiculāris is a derivative of orbiculus “small disk or ring, small wheel or pulley.” Orbiculus is a diminutive of the noun orbis “ring, disk, hoop, millstone, table, tabletop (i.e., a two-dimensional figure), sphere, ball, globe (i.e., describing a heavenly body).” In English, orbicular is about as restricted in usage as it is in Latin, occurring in anatomy, physiology, botany, and zoology. Orbicular entered English in the 15th century.

how is orbicular used?

The whole orbicular World hangs by a golden chain from that part of the battlements of Heaven whence the angels fell.

Walter Alexander Raleigh, Milton, 1900

What would be thought of a zoologist who should describe the feet of the web-footed birds as orbicular disks, divided to a great or less extent?

"On the Natural System of Botany," Magazine of Botany and Gardening, British and Foreign, Vol. 2, No. 20, 1834
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Saturday, January 04, 2020

welp

[ welp ]

interjection

Nonstandard.

an informal variant of well used to indicate disappointment, resignation, or acceptance at the beginning of an utterance: Welp, this might not work out for us after all.

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What is the origin of welp?

The etymological explanation of welp is accurate, if wonky: welp is a form of well as an isolated or emphatic utterance, with an excrescent p representing closing of the lips, creating an unreleased labial stop, as also in nope, yep, and yup. Excrescent consonants are pretty common: the usual one in English is t, as in amongst, midst, and whilst. Excrescent t also occurs in ancient Greek and Sanskrit. German Sekt “champagne” derives from French vin sec “dry wine” and shows the same excrescent t. Welp is first recorded in English in the mid-1940s but doubtless has been around far longer.

how is welp used?

Pitt smiles and bluntly states, “There is no future.” Welp.

Avery Matera, "Brad Pitt Makes a Statement About Climate Change by Channeling a Weatherman," W, June 7, 2017

Knowing that I’ll get to retire is such a “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” Welp, time for another day of answering e-mails.

Alex Schmidt, "Just Another Nineties Workday," The New Yorker, September 26, 2019
Friday, January 03, 2020

hibernaculum

[ hahy-ber-nak-yuh-luhm ]

noun

winter quarters, as of a hibernating animal.

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What is the origin of hibernaculum?

Hibernaculum comes directly from Latin hībernāculum, a derivative of the adjective hībernus “wintry,” itself a derivative of hiems “winter.” Nowadays hibernaculum is restricted pretty much to zoology, especially referring to the winter quarters of a hibernating animal (some students of Latin may recall reading about Julius Caesar leading his troops to safety, if not comfort, into their hībernācula “winter quarters”). The inflectional stem of hiems is hiem-, which is close to Sanskrit hima– in himālaya “abode of snow,” a compound of himá– “snow” and ālaya “dwelling, abode.” Hibernaculum entered English in the late 17th century.

how is hibernaculum used?

It retires to its hibernaculum when the cold weather has fairly set in, and comes generally out in early Spring.

J. Duns, "Hibernation of Mammals," Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, January 1885

The bears spent the winter in a hibernaculum—basically a big box.

Joe Palca, "Hibernating Bears 'A Metabolic Marvel'," NPR, February 18, 2011

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