Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, December 14, 2020

paraselene

[ par-uh-si-lee-nee ]

noun

Meteorology.

a bright moonlike spot on a lunar halo; a mock moon.

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What is the origin of paraselene?

Paraselene “a bright moonlike spot on a lunar halo; a mock moon, a moon dog,” is a compound noun formed from the Greek preposition and prefix pará, para– “alongside, contrary to” and the noun selḗnē “moon, the moon.” Selḗnē is the Attic Greek form (when people say they are studying classical Greek, they mean the Greek of Attica, whose chief city was Athens); other dialects have selā́nā (Doric Greek and most other dialects); as usual, Aeolic Greek goes its own way with selánnā (Aeolic is the dialect of the lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus). All the Greek forms derive from an unrecorded selasnā, a derivative of the neuter noun sélas “light, glow, beam.” Sixty percent of Greek words have no clear etymology; selḗnē, selā́nā, selánnā is among them. Paraselene entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is paraselene used?

In this image, the first quarter moon is flanked on both sides of a halo by “mock moons,” also known as paraselenae or “moondogs.” The apparitions are formed when moonlight is refracted through thin, plate-shaped ice crystals in cirrus clouds.

Nina Sen, "Dazzling 'Moondogs' Shine Over Alaska's Call of the Wild (Photo)," Space.com, April 1, 2013

The darkest part of the winter is from the middle of December to the middle of January, when the aurora transforms the sky into a vault of fire, and paraselene appear, surrounding the moon with blazing cresses, circles, and mock-moons, scarcely surpassed by the wonderful deceptions of the solar rays.

"Arctic and Antarctic Oceans," Scientific American, March 20, 1869

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Word of the day

Sunday, December 13, 2020

misbegotten

[ mis-bi-got-n ]

adjective

badly conceived, made, or carried out.

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What is the origin of misbegotten?

Misbegotten “badly conceived, made, or carried out,” is hard to figure out from its component parts. Misbegotten is made up of the prefix mis– “wrongly, incorrectly,” from the Germanic prefix missa– “astray, wrong” (from the same root as the verb miss “to fail to hit or strike”), as in Gothic missadeths “transgression, offense,” which occurs in Old English as misdǽd and in English as misdeed. Begotten is the past participle of beget, which comes from the Old English verb begietan “to get, acquire,” which since the second half of the 14th century has meant “to generate offspring; produce as an effect.” Beget is a compound of the prefix be-, a Germanic prefix originally meaning “about, around, on all sides,” with many other meanings, but here having a figurative sense (as also with befall, begin, behave). The verb get is from Old Norse geta “to get, be able to, beget, engender.” Misbegotten entered English in the first half of the 16th century in the sense “illegitimate child.”

how is misbegotten used?

It is long past time to end U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war.

Editorial Board, "End U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war," Washington Post, August 18, 2018

Does our respect for companion creatures herald a new way of relating to non-humans, rejecting centuries of misbegotten thinking about animals as unfeeling biological machines?

Brandon Keim, "Dogs and Cats Are Blurring the Lines Between Pets and People," Wired, April 8, 2014

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Word of the day

Saturday, December 12, 2020

lyceum

[ lahy-see-uhm ]

noun

an institution for popular education providing discussions, lectures, concerts, etc.

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What is the origin of lyceum?

The English noun lyceum comes from Latin Lycīum, Lycēum, from Greek Lýkeion, the name of a gymnasium in southeast Athens with a neighboring sanctuary of Apóllōn Lýkios / Lýkeios. The area was one of the places where Socrates used to ask his good-humored but troublesome questions, and where Aristotle used to lecture. The sanctuary also gave its name to Aristotle’s school, the Lýkeion. It is unclear what exactly lýkeios means: It may mean “belonging to a wolf” (lýkos) because of the Athenian military and athletic cult of Apóllōn Lýkios “Wolf-Apollo.” Lýkeios is also an epithet of Apollo meaning “Lycian (Apollo),” i.e., Apollo was born in Lycia (his mother Leto was Lycian). Finally, because of Apollo’s association with the sun, lýkeios may be from the same root as Greek lýchnos “lantern, lamp” and Latin lux (stem luc-) “light.” Modern authorities consider the connection with Lycia and Leto to be the most probable one. Lyceum entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is lyceum used?

At a lyceum, not long since, I felt that the lecturer had chosen a theme too foreign to himself, and so failed to interest me as much as he might have done.

Henry David Thoreau, "Life Without Principle," The Atlantic, October 1863

On the lyceum circuit, they travelled from town to town, an adult-education campaign offering lectures on everything from physical exercise to the moral crisis of slavery.

Evan Osnos, "Bringing Our Politics Back from the Brink," The New Yorker, November 9, 2020

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