Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ puh-goh-duh ] [ pəˈgoʊ də ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a temple or sacred building, usually a pyramidlike tower and typically having upward-curving roofs over the individual stories.

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What is the origin of pagoda?

Pagoda “a temple or sacred building with upward-curving roofs” is an adaptation of Portuguese pagode “temple,” which is of uncertain origin, but there are two prevailing hypotheses. The first is a derivation from classical Persian butkada, in which but (modern Persian bot) means “idol” and derives from Buddha (that is, Sanskrit buddha “awakened”), while kada (modern Persian kade) is a noun of place variously meaning “temple, dwelling, village.” The second explanation is a connection to pagavadi (or pakavati) in Tamil, a language of Sri Lanka and southern India, and the term is borrowed from Sanskrit bhagavatī “goddess” (distantly related to the recent Words of the Day nebbish and baksheesh). In this way, both explanations for pagoda come back to the purpose of the building: a house for gods. Pagoda was first recorded in English circa 1630.

how is pagoda used?

The Chinese built their pagodas mainly in stone, with inner staircases, and used them as much as watch-towers as for worship. In Japan, however, the architecture was freely adapted to meet the local conditions. The Japanese stuck with wood—and they saw no reason to clutter the design with an inner staircase. The upper floors of a Japanese pagoda serve no practical purpose. Often, in fact, there are not even stairs to them.

“Why pagodas don’t fall down,” Economist, December 18, 1997

Ever since Jūbei received the order, he dedicated his entire being to the pagoda project; at breakfast he ruminated on the pagoda, and in his dreams at night his soul circled the top of its nine-ringed spire.

Kōda Rohan (1867–1947), The Five-Storied Pagoda, translated by Cheiko Irie Mulhern, 2011
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Word of the day


[ hip-nuh-pee-dee-uh ] [ ˌhɪp nəˈpi di ə ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the act or process of learning during sleep by listening to recordings repeatedly.

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What is the origin of hypnopedia?

Hypnopedia “learning during sleep by listening to recordings repeatedly” is a compound of the Ancient Greek nouns hýpnos “sleep” and paideía “child-rearing, education” (compare encyclopedia, from enkýklios paideía “circular education”). Hýpnos is the Ancient Greek cognate of Latin somnus “sleep”; because Ancient Greek and Latin are both Indo-European languages, the two languages share hundreds of cognates, and Ancient Greek h often corresponds to Latin s at the beginning of a word (compare hyper- and super-). Paideía comes from paîs (stem paid-) “child,” which is also the source of the combining form pedo- or ped- in pedantic, pediatrician, and pedology “the study of children.” Aldous Huxley is the first known user of hypnopedia in print and may have coined the term for his 1932 novel Brave New World.

how is hypnopedia used?

Babies, from earliest days, are exposed to systematic conditioning, designed to make them like the task they are predestined to perform and to dislike what they will not be able to attain …. Moreover, they are exposed to repetitious slogans—whether during sleep (hypnopedia) or in waking hours—which inculcate in them certain basic values and judgments, which agree with and promote their social roles.

Mordecai Roshwald, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction, 2008

“I just didn’t have the logical aptitudes when I first came. Some things just wouldn’t stick in my head, even in hypnopedia. All the facts in the universe won’t help if you don’t know how to put them together.”

Thomas Sturgeon, The Stars Are the Styx, 1950
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[ pahy-bawld ] [ ˈpaɪˌbɔld ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


having patches of black and white or of other colors; parti-colored.

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What is the origin of piebald?

The Word of the Day is piebald. Piebald is a compound of pie and bald, but not with their normal definitions. The pie in piebald refers to magpies, not to the tasty pastry, and comes from the Latin words for “magpie” and “woodpecker.” The connection is based on the magpie’s black and white plumage. The bald element in piebald means “having white on its head,” as in bald eagle. Some linguists identify bald, which most often means “hairless,” as an old derivative of ball—with the shift in definition from “ball-shaped” to “smoothed” and then to “lacking hair.” Other linguists connect bald to modern English blaze, meaning “white mark on an animal’s face” or “mark made on a tree to indicate a trail,” as in recent Word of the Day trailblaze. Piebald was first recorded in English in the 1580s.

how is piebald used?

Piebald has nothing to do with pieing bald people in the face. In fact, piebald describes a physical characteristic found in many domesticated animals. Instead of walking around with the coat of their wild ancestors—one that is well adapted for the natural environment and can provide camouflage—domestic animals show up to the party essentially wearing a colorful suit.

Julie Hecht, “Some Dogs Wear a Costume Every Day,” Scientific American, October 31, 2015

When the storm broke she emerged, a brilliant sunny morning, the light frantic with nowhere to settle. The cattle sensed her coming and shifted, sleep-eyed, red coats made piebald with matted ice and snow. The goats sprang from their shelter, kicking through the fluff, whether in disgust or delight she couldn’t tell.

Callan Wink, “In Hindsight,” The New Yorker, November 20, 2015
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