Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, October 15, 2021

penumbral

[ pi-nuhm-bruhl ]

adjective

relating to or being a shadowy, indefinite, or marginal area.

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What is the origin of penumbral?

Penumbral “relating to or being a shadowy area” is the adjectival form of New Latin penumbra, which 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler coined in 1604 as a combination of Latin paene “almost” and umbra “shade.” Umbra is also the source of the English terms somber, umber, umbrage, and umbrella, all of which originally had senses related to shadows or darkness. While penumbra and umbra in the context of astronomy today both refer to the shadow that results when a planetary body cuts off direct light, a penumbra results when the light is only partially cut off, while an umbra results when the light is fully blocked. Penumbral was first recorded in English in the 1660s.

how is penumbral used?

The lock buzzed and she pushed inward to a claustrophobic hall of black-painted walls and sticky green carpet. Beyond that, a narrow staircase led down to a nightclub that managed to be both garish and penumbral. Nearly a dozen rooms ran off the lower corridor, which finally opened into a dance floor and bar. On the wall was a pair of crossed scimitars, vaguely Baltic in origin.

Christopher Fowler, Bryant & May: Strange Tide, 2016

After a while the darkness gets the better of her. It cannot even be called darkness anymore, since she’s begun to see bluish filaments of lights coiling and uncoiling like glowing threads in the space above her .… When she can no longer resist—it’s either turn on the light or continue to pinch her face to remind herself she has form and heft and isn’t merely a pair of eyes connected to a brain in shapeless dark—the penlight throws a ghostly penumbral beam on the far wall, temporarily banishing these.

Brian Van Reet, Spoils, 2017

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Word of the day

Thursday, October 14, 2021

chaebol

[ je-buhl ]

noun

a South Korean conglomerate, usually owned by a single family, based on authoritarian management and centralized decision-making.

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What is the origin of chaebol?

Chaebol “a South Korean conglomerate” is a direct borrowing from Korean and is composed of chae “wealth, property” and pŏl “clique, faction.” However, while chaebol is a Korean term, its origins lie across the Sea of Japan; chaebol reflects the Korean pronunciation of the kanji characters that are used in Japanese to spell the word zaibatsu “a large industrial or financial conglomerate of Japan,” making chaebol the Korean loan translation of zaibatsu. Both chaebol and zaibatsu originated as borrowings from Middle Chinese dzoi “wealth” and bjot “powerful family” (compare Mandarin Chinese cái and ). Chinese is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and though neither Japanese nor Korean belongs to this family, earlier versions of the Chinese language were once heavily influential on the non-Sinitic languages of East Asia. Chaebol was first recorded in English in the 1970s.

how is chaebol used?

South Korea’s family-run conglomerates are facing calls for a shakeup in their governance .… The conglomerates known as chaebol have come under the reform buzz saw before, only to emerge bigger and stronger than ever. The country’s four biggest chaebol groups account for around half the stock market’s value, according to the Korea Stock Exchange.

Hyunjoo Jin, Se Young Lee, and Nichola Saminather, “Chaebol reform at forefront of South Korea presidential campaign—again,” Reuters, March 27, 2017

Officials worry that as firms such as Naver, which began life as a search engine, and Kakao have expanded into anything from ride-hailing to personal finance, they have picked up the bad habits of the chaebol. These sprawling conglomerates were instrumental in making South Korea rich and continue to dominate its economy. But they are notorious for murky governance structures, oligopolistic business practices and close ties with the political elite.

"South Korea’s government sees tech firms as the new chaebol," Economist, September 18, 2021

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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

empyrean

[ em-puh-ree-uhn, -pahy-, em-pir-ee-uhn, -pahy-ree- ]

noun

the highest heaven, supposed by the ancients to contain the pure element of fire.

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What is the origin of empyrean?

Empyrean “the highest heaven” ultimately derives via Late Latin from Ancient Greek empýrios “fiery,” from pŷr “fire,” which is the source of words such as pyre, pyrite, and pyro- and is distantly related to English fire. The Ancient Greeks believed that the world around them comprised five elements—fire, water, air, earth, and ether—and although ether was considered a distinct airlike element found in the upper atmosphere, there was some overlap with fire; ether (Ancient Greek aithḗr) was related to the verb aíthein “to burn” and was considered together with fire to constitute the heavens and emit light and heat. Empyrean was first recorded in English in the early 1600s.

how is empyrean used?

It was the belief of Europe during the Middle Ages, that our globe was the centre of the universe. The earth, itself fixed and immovable, was encompassed by ten heavens successively encircling one another, and all of these except the highest in constant rotation about their centre. This highest and immovable heaven, enveloping all the others and constituting the boundary between created things and the void, infinite space beyond, is the Empyrean, the heaven of fire…

Viktor Rydberg, The Magic of the Middle Ages, translated by August Hjalmar Edgren, 1879

Makeda, rumor has it, is skilled in the sinister arts of voodoo. But what she’s channeling here is a spirit of pure divinity. And as Ms. Foy rides the bucking rhythms of Makeda’s journey through the past, present and future of African-Americans, she achieves an exaltation that lifts her and the audience into the empyrean.

Ben Brantley, "Review: In a New Orleans ‘House,’ Wealthy Women Are Haunted by Slavery’s Ghosts," New York Times, July 30, 2018

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