Word of the Day

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Parnassian

[ pahr-nas-ee-uhn ]

adjective

pertaining to poetry.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of Parnassian?

The adjective Parnassian originally meant “pertaining to Mount Parnassus,” a mountain in central Greece on which Delphi is located. Delphi was sacred to Apollo as the god of prophecy and the god of music, which he shared with the Muses, the goddesses of music, poetry, drama, history, and dancing. Parnassian comes via the Latin adjective Parnassius (also Parnāsius) from Greek Parnā́sios, the adjective derivative of Parnās(s)ós. Sixty percent of Greek words have no reliable etymology: Parnās(s)ós is one of them. Parnassian entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is Parnassian used?

His granular, giddy analysis of Scottish bard William Topaz McGonagall, “widely acclaimed as the worst poet in history,” fascinates as the negative expression of a Parnassian ideal. It’s also comedic gold.

Katy Waldman, "Ben Lerner Doesn't Hate Poetry," Slate, Katy Waldman, July 8, 2016

With some major performers, this approach might have been revelatory, showing the thunderbolts of inspiration behind the poetry. But with songs containing lines like “I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms” or “When I was six years old I broke my leg … I was younger then,” we’re not exactly in the realm of Parnassian transcendence.

Jonathan Romney, "Songwriter review–Ed Sheeran, an ordinary bloke writing ordinary songs," The Guardian, February 24, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

Parnassian

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

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.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021

alfresco

[ al-fres-koh ]

adverb

out-of-doors; in the open air.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of alfresco?

Very many people became used to dining alfresco in 2020. In Italian al fresco means “in the fresh air, in the cool air,” and is composed of the prepositional phrase al “to the” (from the preposition a “to, on,” and the masculine singular article il, lo, and the adjective fresco “cool, fresh”). Italian fresco comes from Old High German frisc (English fresh and modern German frisch). The Italian noun fresco “painting or a painting on a fresh, moist, plaster surface with colors ground up in water,” entered English at the end of the 16th century. In contemporary Italian slang, al fresco means “in prison” (prisons formerly being cold, dark, dank). Alfresco entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is alfresco used?

This being spring, waiters in red jackets with gold buttons dart in and out of the kitchen to ferry drinks from the bar and dishes from the kitchen to those of us wishing to dine alfresco.

Tom Sietsema, "L'Auberge Chez Francois is ready for its close-up, yet again," Washington Post, April 9, 2021

Working from one of the apartment’s two rooms getting a little tedious? Time to upgrade their Wi-Fi router and take calls and Zoom meetings alfresco.

Kim Velsey, "Making the Most of Their Terrace," New York Times, February 1, 2021

Listen to the word of the day

alfresco

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, April 19, 2021

brummagem

[ bruhm-uh-juhm ]

adjective

showy but inferior and worthless.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of brummagem?

Brummagem, an adjective and noun meaning “showy but inferior and worthless; something of that kind,” comes from the local Birmingham (England) pronunciation of Birmingham. The original (and standard) spelling and pronunciation of the city is bir-; the nonstandard or dialect spelling bru– is an example of metathesis, the transposition of sounds, a very common phenomenon. Compare Modern English bird with Middle English brid (brid was the dominant spelling until about 1475; the spelling bird is first recorded about 1419). The name Birmingham is first recorded as Bermingeham in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book (1086); spelling variants with Br- first appear in 1198 as Brumingeham. In the mid-17th century Birmingham was renowned for its metalworking and notorious for counterfeit coins. Brummagem entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is brummagem used?

In an effort to brighten up austerity-ridden Britain, the Southern Region of the state-owned railway system devised a pub-on-wheels (bar car) which was supposed to be very quaint. The outside of the car features leaded windows, cream panels, false brickwork and fake timbers, and the motif of brummagem antiquity is carried on inside.

"Foreign News: Ye Olde-Time Gynmille," Time, June 13, 1949

Anthony lay upon the lounge looking up One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Street toward the river, near which he could just see a single patch of vivid green trees that guaranteed the brummagem umbrageousness of Riverside Drive.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned, 1922

Listen to the word of the day

brummagem

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

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.