Word of the Day

Monday, March 04, 2019

pettifog

[ pet-ee-fog, -fawg ]

verb

to bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of pettifog?

The verb pettifog is a back formation from the noun pettifogger, originally “ambulance chaser, shyster, fixer.” Pettifogger is a compound of the adjective petty “of minor importance” and fogger “a middleman.” Fogger itself probably derives ultimately from Fugger, the name of a prominent family of German bankers of the 15th and 16th centuries. The family name became a common noun in German and Dutch, meaning “rich man, monopolist, usurer.” Pettifog entered English in the 17th century.

how is pettifog used?

Marius, my boy, you are a baron, you are rich, don’t pettifog—I beg of you.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, translated by Charles Edwin Wilbour, 1862

The way for the President to protect his prerogatives of office is not to pettifog about war powers but to go to the nation with his case.

William Safire, "In Harm's Way," New York Times, May 25, 1987
WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ
Put your wits to the test! New quizzes added weekly.
TAKE THE QUIZ
ALEXA, ENABLE DICTIONARY.COM
Now you can ask Alexa what the Word of the Day is at any time.
ENABLE ALEXA

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sunday, March 03, 2019

melic

[ mel-ik ]

adjective

intended to be sung.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of melic?

Melic comes from the Greek adjective melikós “lyric (poetry, poet),” a derivative of the noun mélos “limb (of a body), member, musical member, musical phrase, music, song.” Melic is not a common word, unlike its cousin melody, from mélos and ōidḗ “song” (the source of English ode). Melic entered English at the end of the 17th century.

how is melic used?

… anapaests are commonly used either as a sung form, “melic anapaests”, or chanted, a form sometimes called “marching anapaests.”

Simon Goldhill,  Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy, 2012

The earliest discussions call this kind of verse ‘melic’ (the Greek melos means ‘song’), and roughly distinguish sung poems from epic and tragedy.

Colin Burrow, "Ohs and Ahs, Zeros and Ones," London Review of Books, Vol. 39 No. 17, September 7, 2017
Saturday, March 02, 2019

animus

[ an-uh-muhs ]

noun

strong dislike or enmity; hostile attitude; animosity.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of animus?

In Latin the noun animus has many meanings: “the mind (as opposed to the body), the mind (or soul) that with the body constitutes a person, the mind as the seat of consciousness, the immortal part of a person (the soul)….” Animus comes from the same Proto-Indo-European source (anә– “to breathe”) as Greek ánemos “the wind.” The modern sense “strong dislike, enmity” is a development within English, appearing only at the end of the 18th century.

how is animus used?

This time, it’s not a border wall or a health care proposal driving the animus, but an online ad for a men’s razor, because, of course.

Emily Dreyfuss, "Gillette's Ad Proves the Definition of a Good Man Has Changed," Wired, January 16, 2019

Second, people should not let their animus toward him—and his animus toward the truth—trick them into trafficking in conspiracy theories.

David Leonhardt, "How to Cut Child Poverty," New York Times, October 27, 2017
Friday, March 01, 2019

tergiversate

[ tur-ji-ver-seyt ]

verb

to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of tergiversate?

Tergiversate comes from the Latin verb tergiversārī “to keep turning one’s back on a task, show reluctance.” The Latin noun tergum means “back (of a human or animal),” and the verb versārī “to keep moving about” is a derivative of vertere “to turn.” Tergiversate entered English in the 17th century.

how is tergiversate used?

The nominees will equivocate and tergiversate. They will never engage.

Stephen L. Carter, "What We Think About Supreme Court Hearings Is Wrong," Bloomberg, July 17, 2018

I can sense a growing concentricity in my manner of thinking, a desire to circle back on my own thoughts, to tergiversate, to animadvert, to extemporise.

Will Self, "Inclusion," Grey Area, 1994
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.

learn about the english language

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
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

divertissement

[ dih-vur-tis-muhnt ]

noun

a diversion or entertainment.

learn about the english language

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.

learn about the english language

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

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.