Word of the Day

Friday, April 16, 2021

pandiculation

[ pan-dik-yuh-ley-shuhn ]

noun

the act of stretching oneself, especially on waking.

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What is the origin of pandiculation?

Pandiculation, “stretching” (as when waking up),” comes via French pandiculation from the Latin verb pandiculārī “to stretch, grimace.” Pandiculārī is a derivative of pandere “to spread out, extend.” In Latin pandiculārī occurs only twice: the first time in a play by the Roman comic playwright Plautus (d. 184 b.c.), and the second time in the Epitoma Festi by the Benedictine monk Paulus Diaconus (Paul the deacon), who died about a.d. 799. Pandiculation entered English in the early 17th century.

how is pandiculation used?

There is a shared animal and human behaviour of “having a stretch” and yawning called pandiculation. It is often a combination of elongating, shortening and stiffening of muscles throughout the body.

Eyal Lederman, Therapeutic Stretching: Towards a functional approach, 2014

I had hoped to deal, here, with two other minor emotional luxuries that have been hitherto hidden in obscurity. They are oscitation (yawning) and pandiculation (stretching) which may be practiced separately or together.

Leon Gellert, "The Delights of Sneezing," Sydney Morning Herald, July 17, 1949

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

hydra

[ hahy-druh ]

noun

a persistent or many-sided problem that presents new obstacles as soon as one aspect is solved.

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What is the origin of hydra?

Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340-1400) was the first English writer to use ydre, the nine-headed serpent. Middle French ydre derives from Latin hydra, itself a borrowing of Greek hýdra “water-serpent.” Hýdra is closely related to Greek hýdōr “water,” and both words come from the Proto-Indo-European root wed-, wod-, ud– “wet, water.” This same root is the source of wet, water, and wash in Germanic (English); of voda “water” and vodka “vodka” in Slavic (Czech), of Hittite wātar “water.” Ud– is the variant of the root for both Greek hýdōr and Old Irish uisce “water” (from unattested ud-skio-) and the immediate source of English whisky/whiskey.

how is hydra used?

At every turn, Lutie confronts that many-headed hydra of racism, sexism and classism.

Tayari Jones, "In Praise of Ann Petry," New York Times, November 10, 2018

Partially or fully wiping out federal student loan debt would be a godsend to many Americans but not be enough to slay the fund-eating dragon that has become a many-headed hydra.

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, "Even forgiving student loans won't solve the higher education funding crisis," Washington Post, January 22, 2021

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

foofaraw

[ foo-fuh-raw ]

noun

a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant.

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What is the origin of foofaraw?

Foofaraw, “a great fuss over something very insignificant; excessive decoration or ornamentation, as on clothing or a building,” originated on the western frontier of the U.S. in the mid-19th century. Foofaraw, spelled fofarraw, used as an adjective meaning “gaudy, tawdry” first appears in print in June 1848 in a series of articles for Blackwood’s Magazine (published in Edinburgh) by George Ruxton, an English explorer and travel writer, who wrote about the Far West. Fofarrow used as a noun meaning “gaudy apparel” appears in the same magazine by the same author two months later, in August 1848. The sense “great fuss over something insignificant” dates from the early 1930s. The many variant spellings, such as fofarraw, fofarow, foofaraw, foofoorah, and 20 others, show that foofaraw has no reliable etymology. Speculations about the etymology of foofaraw include Spanish fanfarrón, a noun and adjective meaning “braggart, boaster” (perhaps from Arabic farfār “talkative”). Foofaraw may also come from French fanfaron, a noun and adjective with the same meanings as the Spanish. The French dialect form fanfarou may also have contributed to the American word.

how is foofaraw used?

Last week, Swedish movie theaters created a media foofaraw when they announced that they would begin providing a rating based on the Bechdel test for the films they screen.

Holly L. Derr, "What Really Makes a Film Feminist?" The Atlantic, November 13, 2013

Pound for pound, City Lights is almost certainly the best bookstore in the United States. It’s not as sprawling as the Strand, in Manhattan, or Moe’s Books, in Berkeley. But it’s so dense with serious world literature of every stripe, and so absent trinkets and elaborate bookmarks and candles and other foofaraw, that it’s a Platonic ideal.

Dwight Garner, "Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Enduring San Francisco," New York Times, March 11, 2019

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