Word of the Day

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

peregrinate

[ per-i-gruh-neyt ]

verb (used without object)

to travel or journey, especially to walk on foot.

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What is the origin of peregrinate?

The verb peregrinate, “to go on a journey on foot,” comes from Latin peregrīnātus, the past participle of peregrīnārī “to travel abroad,” a derivative of the adjective and noun peregrīnus “alien, foreign; an alien, a foreigner,” formed from the adverb peregrī “away from home, abroad.” In Roman republican and imperial law, a peregrīnus was a free person or a free community that did not have Roman citizenship (the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Empire). Late Latin peregrīnus became pelegrīnus by a common dissimilation (compare the spelling colonel with its pronunciation). Pelegrīnus has its own history, becoming the source of pilgrim. Peregrinate entered English in the late 16th century.

how is peregrinate used?

Regardless of how they get there, they seem to peregrinate in a fog, for which they can hardly be blamed …

Yelena Akhtiorskaya,

I had peregrinated further to the little hamlet of Bürglen, and peeped into the frescoed chapel which commemorates the hero’s natal scene.

Henry James, “At Isella,” The Galaxy, August 1871

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Monday, May 04, 2020

Jedi

[ jed-ahy ]

noun

a person who has an unexplainable power over people or things, or who seems to enjoy unusual luck and positive outcomes, as if able to exert the power of the Force to mystically influence the universe: The defense lawyer was a jedi—two minutes into his closing argument the jury forgot all of the incriminating evidence that had been presented.

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What is the origin of Jedi?

If you are from a galaxy far, far away, you will know what a Jedi is (a member of an order of warrior monks). The order and word were formed a long, long time ago in another galaxy, but in this one the word dates only to 1973.

how is Jedi used?

In the Senate, the outspoken Paul and McConnell, the methodical Jedi of the upper chamber, would sometimes disagree on tactics.

Peter Hamby, "How Mitch McConnell crushed the tea party," CNN, May 20, 2014

In December 2010, McGuire made a pilgrimage to Black Sheep Bikes in Fort Collins, Colo., to learn at the hands of an acknowledged Jedi of bike frame fabrication, James Bleakley.

Kyle Munson, "These Iowa bicycles lovingly built by hand travel all around the world," Des Moines Register, March 3, 2017

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Sunday, May 03, 2020

domicile

[ dom-uh-sahyl, -suhl, doh-muh- ]

noun

a place of residence; abode; house or home.

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What is the origin of domicile?

Domicile is a very legal-sounding word. Its general meaning is “place of residence, abode, house or home”; its legal meaning is “permanent legal residence, as for tax obligations or voting rights.” (Thus one may be domiciled in New York, paying state income taxes there and voting there, but also have a weekend residence in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.) Domicile comes from Middle French, from Latin domicilium, formed from the noun domus “house, home” and the suffix –cilium, of uncertain etymology, but probably derived from colere “to live in, inhabit, dwell” (the source of English colony). Latin domicilium has no legal meaning. Domicile entered English in the 15th century.

how is domicile used?

We drove into an older section of the downtown, down a street of brick row houses, and ended up in front of the family’s old domicile

Michael Paterniti, "Mr. Nobody: The Bizarre Story of Sywald Skeid," GQ, June 1, 2007

Choosing the latter alternative, I began by making up my mind to leave the hotel, and take up my quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile. 

Arthur Conan Doyle, "A Study in Scarlet," Beeton's Christmas Annual, 1887

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Saturday, May 02, 2020

sedentary

[ sed-n-ter-ee ]

adjective

accustomed to sit or rest a great deal or to take little exercise.

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What is the origin of sedentary?

There is unfortunately no more apt a word right now than sedentary, “accustomed to sit or rest a great deal or to take little exercise.” Sedentary comes via Middle French sédentaire from Latin sedentārius “sitting, sedentary.” Sedentārius is a derivative of sedēns (stem sedent-), the present participle of sedēre “to sit,” and the very common adjective and noun suffix –ārius, which becomes -aire in French and French borrowings into English (as in doctrinaire, millionaire) and –ary in English (as in complimentary, visionary). Sedentary entered English in the 16th century.

how is sedentary used?

Picture yourself, Jack, a confirmed home-body, a sedentary fellow who finds himself walking in a deep wood.

Don DeLillo, White Noise, 1985

His love of books, his sedentary habits, and quick wit on matters of learning, led those interested in his fate to consider him fitted for the church, and therefore, he took priest’s orders. 

Mary Shelley, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, 1830

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Friday, May 01, 2020

inflorescence

[ in-flaw-res-uhns, -floh-, -fluh- ]

noun

a flowering or blossoming.

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What is the origin of inflorescence?

Inflorescence, “the arrangement of flowers on the axis, a flower cluster; a flowering or blossoming,” is a term used mostly in botany. Inflorescence comes straight from New Latin inflōrēscentia, a noun coined by the great Swedish botanist and zoologist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), who formalized the system of binomial nomenclature used in the biological sciences. Inflōrēscentia is a derivative of the Late Latin verb inflōrēscere “to put forth flowers, bloom.” Inflōrēscere is a compound verb formed with the preposition and prefix in, in– “in, into,” but also, as here, used as in intensive prefix, and the verb flōrēscere “to begin flowering, increase in vigor.” Flōrēscere in turn is a compound of flōrēre “to be in bloom, be covered with flowers,” a derivative of the noun flōs (inflectional stem flōr-) “flower, blossom,” and the verb suffix –escere, which in Latin often has an inchoative sense, that is, it indicates the beginning of an action, as in rubescere “to become or turn red.” Inflorescence entered English in the 18th century.

how is inflorescence used?

To the amateur this opens a field of very interesting amusement: … watching every moment of the plant till it develops its beauties of inflorescence, which, if it prove of new character, is an ample compensation for the time spent upon the process.

Robert Buist, The Rose Manual, 1844

During fall and winter starch-grains … form the basis for that lavish expenditure of plant-force by which our orchards and woods are made glorious in the sudden inflorescence of spring.

T. H. McBride, "Plant Cells and Their Contents," Popular Science Monthly, July 1882

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

saponaceous

[ sap-uh-ney-shuhs ]

adjective

resembling soap; soapy.

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What is the origin of saponaceous?

Saponaceous, “soapy,” comes straight from the New Latin adjective sāpōnāceus. (New Latin, also called Modern Latin, is Latin that developed after, say, 1500; it is used especially and typically in the physical sciences, such as zoology, botany, and anatomy.) Sāpōnāceus is formed from the Latin sāpō noun (inflective stem sāpōn-) and the adjectival suffix –āceus, meaning “made of, resembling.” Sāpō means “a preparation for drying or coloring one’s hair,” and it is one of the relatively few words in Latin borrowed from Germanic (as compared to the many, many words in Germanic borrowed from Latin). Saponaceous also has the uncommon sense “slippery, unctuous,” which appeared in the 19th century: “This… judgment was… so oily, so saponaceous, that no one could grasp it.” Saponaceous entered English in the early 18th century.

how is saponaceous used?

The fruit of this plant is about the size of a large gooseberry, the outer covering or shell of which contains a saponaceous principle in sufficient abundance to produce a lather with water and is used as a substitute for soap.

"Report of the Chief of the Division of Gardens and Grounds," Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1890

The yolk contains natural food for the hair, iron and sulphur; while the white, being a mild alkali, finds its congenial mate in the oil from the sebaceous glands, and they mingle in a saponaceous lather.

Ella Adelia Fletcher, The Woman Beautiful, 1899

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

ylem

[ ahy-luhm ]

noun

the hypothetical initial substance of the universe from which all matter is derived.

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Why we chose ylem

Today's word was submitted by one of our readers as part of our Word of the Day Giveaway Sweepstakes! The winner, Matthew Winter, told us: "It makes me think about how everything is connected. All living and inanimate things originate from the same source; we are all ylem." Congrats, Matthew!

What is the origin of ylem?

The modern definition of ylem is “the hypothetical initial substance of the universe from which all matter is derived, originally conceived as composed of neutrons at high temperature and density.” The spelling of ylem comes from John Gower’s 33,000-line poem Confessio Amantis (A Lover’s Confession) finished in 1390: “That matere universall / Which hight Ylem in speciall” (“That universal matter which is called Ylem in particular”). Gower’s ylem is one of several Middle English spellings (also ile, ilem, ylem) from Medieval Latin hȳlēm or ȳlēm, the accusative singular of hȳlē or ȳlē, from Greek hȳ́lē “forest, woodland, wood, firewood”; Aristotle uses the phrase prṓtē hȳ́lē “primary stuff, matter, material.” In 1948 Robert Herman and Ralph Asher Alpher, associates of Russia-born U.S. nuclear physicist George Gamow, adopted the medieval word because, as Alpher said,” it seems highly desirable that a word of so appropriate a meaning be resurrected.”

how is ylem used?

One can call the mixture of particles ylem ( pronounced eelem ) -the name that Aristotle gave to primordial matter.

George Gamow, "Modern Cosmology," Scientific American, 1954

The Ylem is the primordial—the Ur-stuff—out of which everything else is made.

Jeremy Bernstein, "Out of My Mind: The Birth of Modern Cosmology," American Scholar, Vol. 55 No. 1, 1986

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