Word of the Day

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

perigee

[ per-i-jee ]

noun

Astronomy.

the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon, or of an artificial satellite at which it is nearest to the earth.

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What is the origin of perigee?

Perigee, “the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon or an artificial satellite, at which it is nearest to the earth,” comes via French périgée from the New Latin noun perigēum, perigaeum, from the Greek adjective perígeios, a term in Stoic philosophy meaning “surrounding the earth,” and as an astronomical term, “near the earth (e.g., the moon).” The noun plus adjective phrase perígeion semeîon (“sign, signal”) means “the perigee”; the phrase is also shortened to perígeion, a noun use of the neuter adjective. The Greek preposition and prefix perí, peri– means “around, surrounding”; the combining form  –geios is a derivative of the noun “earth.” Perigee entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is perigee used?

The phenomenon, in which a full moon appears at its closest point in its orbit around the Earth, known as perigee, is colloquially called a “supermoon.”

, "Images of a Supermoon Spectacle," New York Times, November 15, 2016

The moon’s distance varies within its orbit. At its apogee, it is 252,088 miles (405,696 km) from Earth. At its perigee, it is a closer 225,623 miles (363,104 kilometers).

David Grossman, "The Moon: An Explainer," Popular Mechanics, July 25, 2019

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Monday, April 06, 2020

Jabberwocky

[ jab-er-wok-ee ]

noun,

an example of writing or speech consisting of or containing meaningless words.

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What is the origin of Jabberwocky?

Jabberwocky, “speech consisting of or containing meaningless words,” is a derivative of the name Jabberwock, a monster generally depicted as a dragon in a nonsense poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1871). Concerning the etymology of Jabberwocky, Carroll himself wrote in a letter to students at Girls’ Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts (now Boston Latin Academy), “The Anglo-Saxon word wocer or wocor signifies ‘offspring or fruit.’ Taking jabber in its ordinary acceptation of ‘excited and voluble discussion,’ this would give the meaning of ‘the result of much excited and voluble discussion.’”

how is Jabberwocky used?

his face melts into a mask of sadness and despair, then sparkles with wit as he tells in a stream of jabberwocky the loopy story of a fop named Pongo Twistleton …

Rex Reed, "John Lithgow's 'Stories by Heart' Breathes New Life Into the One-Man Show," Observer, January 16, 2018

Of course all the White House’s latest jabberwocky about “benchmarks” and “milestones” and “timetables'”…  is nothing more than an election-year P.R. strategy …

Frank Rich, "Dying to Save the G.O.P. Congress," New York Times, October 29, 2006

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Sunday, April 05, 2020

erstwhile

[ urst-hwahyl, -wahyl ]

adjective

former; of times past: erstwhile friends.

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What is the origin of erstwhile?

Erstwhile is a compound of the Middle English adjective and adverb erest “first in time, rank, order, excellence, etc.,” from the similar Old English adjective and adverb ǣrest “first, at first.” (The –est ending indicates that Old English ǣrest is the superlative degree of ǣr “early,” which functions as an adjective, adverb, preposition, and conjunction.) While comes from the Old English noun hwīl “a space of time, a while, an indefinite space of time,” which in Middle English develops senses as an adverb and conjunction. Erstwhile as an adverb entered English in the second half of the 16th century, and as an adjective, in the early 20th.

how is erstwhile used?

Many of Biden’s erstwhile opponents have found roles for themselves.

Eric Lach, "What's Joe Biden's Role in the Response to the Coronavirus Crisis?" The New Yorker, March 27, 2020

When the the 75-year-old ruler … refused to step down, some of his erstwhile allies from the military and security forces pushed him out.

Mohammed Alamin, "Why Sudan's Pain Endures After a Brutal Leader's Ouster," Washington Post, June 11, 2019

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