Word of the Day

Thursday, February 28, 2019

petrichor

[ pe-tri-kawr, ‐trahy- ]

noun

a distinctive scent, usually described as earthy, pleasant, or sweet, produced by rainfall on very dry ground.

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What is the origin of petrichor?

Petrichor is an uncommon word used in mineral chemistry or geochemistry to describe the pleasant scent of rain falling on very dry ground. Petrichor is a compound of the Greek nouns pétrā “rock, stone” (as in petroleum “rock oil”) and īchṓr, the juice or liquid—not blood!—that flows in the veins of the Olympian gods. About 60 percent of ancient Greek words have no satisfactory etymology; īchṓr is one of them. Petrichor was coined by two Australian chemists, Isabel “Joy” Bear and Richard Grenfell Thomas, in 1964.

how is petrichor used?

I surfaced from the tunnel in a shack, where the air was close and smelled of petrichor.

Samantha Shannon, The Mime Order, 2015

So whether rainfall reminds you of summer soccer games, puddle-splashing with siblings or a terrifying storm, thank (or blame) the planets [sic], microbes and minerals that give petrichor such a distinctive odor.

Marissa Fessenden, "High-Speed Video Shows When The Smell of Rain Begins," Smithsonian.com, January 20, 2015
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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

divertissement

[ dih-vur-tis-muhnt ]

noun

a diversion or entertainment.

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What is the origin of divertissement?

The English noun divertissement comes directly from the French divertissement “amusement, entertainment, diversion.” Divertisse- is the long stem of the verb divertir “to amuse, entertain”; it comes from Latin dīvertere or dēvertere “to turn away, divert, make a detour, digress”; the French suffix -ment, from the similar Latin noun suffix -mentum, denotes action or resulting state. Divertissement entered English in the 18th century.

how is divertissement used?

Featuring an uncomplicated plot and easily relatable personalities, this is a divertissement compared with the thematic heft of “Like Father, Like Son.”

Maggie Lee, "Cannes Film Review: 'After the Storm'," Variety, May 20, 2016

My place in your life is a divertissement, and when it ceases to be that it will be no good to you.

May Sarton, The Single Hound, 1938
Tuesday, February 26, 2019

cozen

[ kuhz-uhn ]

verb

to cheat, deceive, or trick.

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What is the origin of cozen?

The verb cozen has a doubtful ancestry. One plausible etymology has cozen associated with the noun cousin (i.e., the relative), modeled on the French usage of the verb cousiner “to call ‘cousin,’” i.e., to claim fraudulent kindred to gain some profit or advantage. A second etymology derives cozen from Italian cozzonare “to engage in horse trading, cheat,” from cozzone, from Latin coctiōn-, the inflectional stem of coctiō “a dealer, broker.” Cozen entered English in the 16th century.

how is cozen used?

He had come to cozen me into letting him use me in return for a mockery of an honor.

David Graham Phillips, The Plum Tree, 1905

Let us cozen it with a golden shrewdness.

Iris Murdoch, An Accidental Man, 1971

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