Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

ostracize

[ os-truh-sahyz ]

verb (used with object)

to exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of ostracize?

Ostracize “to exclude from society” derives from Ancient Greek ostrakízein “to banish,” from óstrakon “potsherd, tile, ballot” and the verbal suffix -izein “-ize.” The original sense of ostrakízein involved banishing a person by voting that was conducted by using potsherds as ballots, hence the verb’s derivation. Though ostracize resembles ostrich, the flightless bird, in spelling and pronunciation, the two words are unrelated; instead, ostracize descends from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “bone” that is also found in osteoporosis, a common bone disease; oyster, because of the hardness of the shell; and, from Latin, the adjective osseous “bony.” Ostracize was first recorded in English in the 1640s.

how is ostracize used?

Frida was confined to her bed for nine months—an eternity for an active six-year-old. Her father tended to her with care, and when she was finally given the go-ahead to return to school, Guillermo prescribed sports. Frida excelled in soccer, swimming, roller-skating, and boxing. She grew stronger, but her right leg remained puny and withered. She was ostracized at school for her “peg leg.” To help compensate for her loneliness, her father, who believed her to be the most like him of all his daughters … gave her books from his library and taught her how to take and develop photographs.

Karen Karbo, “The inconvenient spectacle of Frida Kahlo,” National Geographic, January 4, 2019

The ballot is the scepter of power in the hand of every citizen. Woman can never have an equal chance with man in the struggle of life until she too wields this power. So long as women have no voice in the Government under which they live they will be an ostracised [sic] class, and invidious distinctions will be made against them in the world of work. Thrown on their own resources they have all the hardships that men have to encounter in earning their daily bread, with the added disabilities which grow out of disfranchisement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Self-Government the Best Means of Self-Development,” 1884, as quoted in The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 4, 1902

Listen to the word of the day

ostracize

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

Monday, November 15, 2021

pampero

[ pahm-pair-oh, pam- ]

noun

a cold and dry southwesterly wind that sweeps down over the pampas of Argentina from the Andes.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of pampero?

Pampero “a cold and dry southwesterly wind in Argentina” is a direct borrowing from Latin American Spanish, in which the term literally means “of the pampas.” Pampas are the vast grassy plains typical of southern South America that are especially common in Argentina, and pampa is a loanword from Quechua, in which it means “flat, unbounded plain.” Quechua is native to the Andes Mountains and is spoken to this day by millions of people in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, and although this dialect continuum is most often associated with the Incan Empire, the Inca were one of many Quechuan-speaking groups. Pampero was first recorded in English in the 1810s.

how is pampero used?

The pampero, dreaded on shore as well as at sea, blows with tremendous force across this region. There is not a cloud in the sky. The night may be perfectly calm. Mosquitoes in vast numbers are busy with their sharp stings. Suddenly a rustling in the woods may be heard afar off. The noise increases into a dull roar. Clouds appear above the horizon. Still all is calm. The mosquitoes vanish. The dogs are howling in anticipation of danger. As if by magic, dark masses of clouds cover the heavens like a curtain. They are rent asunder, thunder roars, lightning flashes, and the wind, like an army of wild beasts, rushes on.

W. H. G. Kingston, The Western World, 1874

When the heat is at the greatest, a pampero suddenly comes, with its accompaniment of rain, thunder and lightning, and cools the air. Pampero winds from the W. and W.S.W. with nothing to impede their progress across the extended Pampas, blow with great violence, raising clouds of dust, and obliging every one to close windows and doors. Being off the land, they are not dangerous to shipping; though vessels at the mouth of the river have been blown in sea hundreds of miles, by a Pampero.

George Thomas Love, A Five Years’ Residence in Buenos Ayres During the Years 1820 to 1825, 1825

Listen to the word of the day

pampero

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day

Sunday, November 14, 2021

desolate

[ adjective des-uh-lit ]

adjective

deprived or destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of desolate?

Desolate “deprived or destitute of inhabitants” comes via Middle English from Latin dēsōlātus “forsaken,” from sōlāre “to make lonely, abandon,” a derivative of the adjective sōlus “alone, on one’s own, lonely.” Sōlus is the source of numerous loneliness-related words in English, such as isolate, soliloquy, solitary, solitude, solo, and even sullen, and it is most likely descended from a Proto-Indo-European reflexive pronoun; compare self (via Old English) and the combining form idio- “proper to one” (via Ancient Greek). Alternative origins for sōlus include a connection to sollus “whole” as well as a distant link to English consolation and solace (via Latin) and the German adjective selig “overjoyed”—almost the opposite of what desolate means today. Desolate was first recorded in English in the late 1300s.

how is desolate used?

Hot, harsh, arid wastelands, nothing but sand, sky, and rocks. Majestic, sweeping landscapes, teeming with a life that seems it shouldn’t be, and more things to see, experience, and explore than one could imagine to fit in a lifetime. These are two ways to describe the desert, neither wrong, and neither giving the whole picture. A land of contrasts, with razor thin lines between polar opposites: pleasure and pain, life and death, success and failure, bleakness and beauty. The desert is a truly desolate and wondrous place.

Carston Oliver, “Utah by Dirt: Seeking the Secrets of the Desert,” National Geographic, June 26, 2015

Each of [J. G.] Ballard’s 98 short stories is like a dream more perfectly realized than any of your own. His personal vocabulary of scenarios imprints itself from the very first, each image with the quality of a newly minted archetype. Ballard was the poet of desolate landscapes marked by signs of a withdrawn human presence: drained swimming pools, abandoned lots littered with consumer goods, empty space stations, sites of military or vehicular tragedies.

Jonathan Lethem, "Poet of Desolate Landscapes," New York Times, September 8, 2009

Listen to the word of the day

desolate

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Word of the Day Calendar

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Word of the Day Calendar