Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, October 07, 2021

pariah

[ puh-rahy-uh ]

noun

any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided.

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What is the origin of pariah?

Pariah “a social outcast” is at its core a term for a member of a low caste in the traditional cultures of the southern Indian subcontinent. The word was adapted from Tamil paṟaiyan, literally meaning “drummer” because of that low caste’s hereditary duty. Paṟaiyan, in turn, derives from paṟai “drum.” While the majority of people from India speak an Indo-European language, such as Hindi and Bengali, the Dravidian family is predominant in southern India. Dravidian languages include Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada—each spoken by tens of millions of people. Pariah was first recorded in English in the early 1600s.

how is pariah used?

In February 1956, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted King and dozens of other boycott leaders for unlawful conspiracy. Gilmore was among those who testified at King’s trial .… The testimony made Gilmore a hero to local Blacks, [John T.] Edge says. But “in the white world she became a pariah.”

Maria Godoy, “Meet The Fearless Cook Who Secretly Fed—And Funded—The Civil Rights Movement,” NPR, January 15, 2018

Before his death, [D. H.] Lawrence was a pariah, living outside the herd and throwing bombs into it. After his death, he was reborn as a Byronic hero: W. H. Auden described the carloads of women who, having lurched across the Taos desert and up the Rocky Mountains, stood in reverence before a memorial chapel to Lawrence[.]

Frances Wilson, "The D. H. Lawrence We Forgot," The New Yorker, October 8, 2020

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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

gramarye

[ gram-uh-ree ]

noun

occult learning; magic.

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What is the origin of gramarye?

Gramarye “occult learning” is a doublet of grammar, and both derive via Old French gramaire and Latin gramatica from Ancient Greek grammatikḕ (téchnē) “grammatical (art),” from grammatikós “knowing one’s letters” and earlier grámma “letter, something drawn; small weight.” The story of how an ancient word for “letter” evolved into gramarye, grammar, and even glamour (via Scots) is full of semantic twists and turns. The sense “knowledge of letters” shifted to the broader definition of “the study of how a language’s sentences are constructed,” and this is the definition of grammar today. In the Middle Ages, because grammar was taught only among the upper classes, grammar became a symbol of general “higher” learning, which also included subjects such as astrology, magic, and the occult at the time. Glamour and gramarye are simply variants of grammar that kept this connection to magic, though glamour later shifted again to refer to enchantingly good looks. Gramarye was first recorded in English in the early 1300s.

how is gramarye used?

[W]ater turned to fire and fire to water. He levitated without a … harness. He seemed aflame, he walked through fire unscathed. He performed feats of gramarye that left his audience gawping. In short, he was astounding. A bell tolled eleven. On the eleventh stroke, the wizard vanished for the last time, leaving a rain of gold, silver, and scarlet sparks to descend slowly into the foggy Hall.

Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Ill-Made Mute, 2001

“Know’st thou what thou look’st like, Sir Conrade, at this moment? Not like the politic and valiant Marquis of Montserrat—not like him who would direct the Council of Princes, and determine the fate of empires—but like a novice, who, stumbling upon a conjuration in his master’s book of gramarye, has raised the devil when he least thought of it, and now stands terrified at the spirit which appears before him.”

Sir Walter Scott, “The Talisman,” Waverly Novels, Vol. 39, 1827

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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

inculcate

[ in-kuhl-keyt, in-kuhl-keyt ]

verb (used with object)

to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly.

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What is the origin of inculcate?

Inculcate “to implant by repeated statement or admonition” derives from the Latin verb inculcāre “to trample, impress, stuff in,” a combination of the preposition in “in” and the noun calx (stem calc-) “heel,” which is also the source of calcaneus, the bone found in the heel. Calx is easily confused with its unrelated homonym calx “limestone,” though descendants of both words are often found today in educational settings: while inculcate, from calx “heel,” can refer to a teaching style, derivatives of calx “limestone” include chalk and, through a diminutive form meaning “small stone,” calculus. Inculcate was first recorded in English in the mid-1500s.

how is inculcate used?

At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks.

Megan McArdle, “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators,” The Atlantic, February 12, 2014

Jericho Brown considers how poets traverse the often long and chilly days, weeks, or months between poems. He begins by thinking about how the ideas of happiness (a short lived sensation) and joy (longer, deeper, and irrational) were inculcated in him through the church where he grew up.

Harriet Staff, “Jericho Brown Covering Distance at Boston Review,” Poetry Foundation, May 2016

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