Word of the Day

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

peduncle

[ pi-duhng-kuhl, pee-duhng- ]

noun

a flower stalk, supporting either a cluster or a solitary flower.

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What is the origin of peduncle?

The English noun peduncle is a technical term in the biological sciences, meaning “a stalk, flower stalk, stem.” Peduncle comes from New Latin pedunculus, with the same meanings, a derivative of Latin pēs (inflectional stem ped-) “foot” and the suffix –unculus, a variant of –culus, used to form diminutives. Latin pēs, ped– comes from the very widespread Proto-Indo-European root ped-, pod-, pēd-, pōd “foot.” The variant pōd– regularly becomes fōt– in Proto-Germanic, fōtus in Gothic, fōtr in Old Icelandic, fōt in Old English, and foot in English. The variant pod– becomes pous (stem pod-) “foot” in Greek, and the preposition pod “under” in Slavic. The Latin suffix –unculus is uncommon, but it also appears in Latin homunculus “human being, mere human being (as opposed to preternatural or supernatural beings or forces),” English homunculus. Peduncle entered English in the early 18th century.

how is peduncle used?

A member of the iris family, the marica is sometimes known as walking iris because of the way it produces young plants from drooping peduncles (flower stalks).

Edith Saylor Abbott, "Apostle Plant," New York Times, January 18, 1959

On Monday, they [the cherry blossom buds] reached “peduncle elongation,” which is the penultimate stage before the Tidal Basin is overwhelmed by both magnificent flowering trees and an onslaught of tourists.

Jason Samenow, "Cherry blossoms reach 'peduncle elongation' and Park Service moves up peak bloom forecast to April 1," Washington Post, March 26, 2019

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

emulous

[ em-yuh-luhs ]

adjective

desirous of equaling or excelling.

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What is the origin of emulous?

The English adjective emulous, “desirous of equaling or excelling; jealous, envious,” comes from Latin aemulus with the same meanings, both positive and negative. Aemulus is a Latin derivative of the rare Proto-Indo-European root aim-, im– “to copy, imitate.” From that same root Latin derives imāgō (inflectional stem imāgin-) “picture, likeness, reflection (in a mirror),” source of English image, imagine, and imago (a technical term in entomology and psychoanalysis), the Latin verb imitārī “to copy, reproduce, imitate,” source of English imitate, imitation, and the Latin adjective inimitābilis “unable to be reproduced or copied, inimitable.” Emulous entered English in the 14th century.

how is emulous used?

Tastefully emulous, Villard wanted his home to transcend its less fashionable location and magnify its owners through classical restraint rather than ostentatious display.

"New York Bookshelf: Villard: The Life and Times of an American Titan", New York Times, May 13, 2001

“Mr. Hareton is desirous of increasing his amount of knowledge,” I said, coming to his rescue. “He is not envious but emulous of your attainments—He’ll be a clever scholar in a few years!”

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, 1847

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Monday, March 22, 2021

abecedarian

[ ey-bee-see-dair-ee-uhn ]

adjective

arranged in alphabetical order.

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What is the origin of abecedarian?

The English noun and adjective abecedarian has several closely related senses. As a noun, it means “someone learning the letters of the alphabet,” and more loosely, “a beginner in a field of learning.” As an adjective, abecedarian means “pertaining to the alphabet; arranged in alphabetical order; elementary, rudimentary.” Abecedarian comes from Medieval Latin abecedāriānus, a derivative of Late Latin abecedārius, an adjective and noun first used by St. Augustine of Hippo. As an adjective, abecedārius means “pertaining to the alphabet; alphabetical.” As a masculine noun, abecedārius means “one learning the alphabet”; the feminine noun abecedāria means “elementary instruction,” and the neuter noun abecedārium “the alphabet.” The noun abecedarium has been in English since the days of the Old English monk and scholar Byrhtferth of Ramsey, who used the word. In modern English abecedarium is a fairly technical word, meaning “an ancient writing system using an alphabet,” usually referring to the languages of ancient Italy (e.g., Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, Etruscan) and the many dialects and local alphabets of ancient Greece. Abecedarian in the sense “someone learning the letters of the alphabet” entered English in the beginning of the 17th century.

how is abecedarian used?

It turns out that the shared element here is in the placement of the letters of each word: They are in abecedarian sequence, meaning the letters appear in alphabetical order, something more unusual than I first imagined.

Caitlin Lovinger, "Only a Little," New York Times, March 14, 2017

But now that Pie’s name is set and done, the eyes of the Android naming community must turn to the real challenge: this year’s Android 10 Q release. We’ve always known that, one day, we’d have to cross this road, given Google’s abecedarian naming conventions for Android, and with Google I/O 2019 right around the corner, it’s time to revisit this nomenclature nightmare to see what the possibilities are.

Chaim Gartenberg, "What will Google call Android 10 Q?" The Verge, May 6, 2019

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