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[ pahy-bawld ] [ ˈpaɪˌbɔld ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


having patches of black and white or of other colors; parti-colored.

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More about piebald

The Word of the Day is piebald. Piebald is a compound of pie and bald, but not with their normal definitions. The pie in piebald refers to magpies, not to the tasty pastry, and comes from the Latin words for “magpie” and “woodpecker.” The connection is based on the magpie’s black and white plumage. The bald element in piebald means “having white on its head,” as in bald eagle. Some linguists identify bald, which most often means “hairless,” as an old derivative of ball—with the shift in definition from “ball-shaped” to “smoothed” and then to “lacking hair.” Other linguists connect bald to modern English blaze, meaning “white mark on an animal’s face” or “mark made on a tree to indicate a trail,” as in recent Word of the Day trailblaze. Piebald was first recorded in English in the 1580s.

how is piebald used?

Piebald has nothing to do with pieing bald people in the face. In fact, piebald describes a physical characteristic found in many domesticated animals. Instead of walking around with the coat of their wild ancestors—one that is well adapted for the natural environment and can provide camouflage—domestic animals show up to the party essentially wearing a colorful suit.

Julie Hecht, “Some Dogs Wear a Costume Every Day,” Scientific American, October 31, 2015

When the storm broke she emerged, a brilliant sunny morning, the light frantic with nowhere to settle. The cattle sensed her coming and shifted, sleep-eyed, red coats made piebald with matted ice and snow. The goats sprang from their shelter, kicking through the fluff, whether in disgust or delight she couldn’t tell.

Callan Wink, “In Hindsight,” The New Yorker, November 20, 2015
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[ dawnt-lis, dahnt- ] [ ˈdɔnt lɪs, ˈdɑnt- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


fearless; intrepid; bold.

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More about dauntless

Dauntless “fearless, intrepid, bold” is a compound of the verb daunt “to overcome with fear” and the combining form -less “without.” Daunt comes from Old French donter and ultimately Latin domitāre “to tame,” a frequentative of domāre, of the same meaning. Frequentative verbs indicate repeated or frequent action, and while English does not create new frequentative verbs today, many verbs ending in -le originally fell into this category; compare bobble from bob, sparkle from spark, and wrestle from wrest. Latin domāre, and therefore daunt, is a distant relative of the words adamant “unyielding in opinion” and diamond, which both come from Ancient Greek damân “to tame.” Thanks to Grimm’s law, which states that Latin and Ancient Greek d correspond to English t, the English cognate of daunt is the verb tame. Dauntless was first recorded in English circa 1590.

how is dauntless used?

In some ways, kids are better equipped to be dauntless than [we are]. They are myopic to outcomes and consequences. And while it’s our job as parents to help them develop the foresight necessary to sustain them into independence, we should also take care to equip them against fear of the future.

“How to Be Dauntless,” Wired, July 31, 2012

With the intimate candor of autobiography, Russo-Young recounts the romance between her mothers Sandy and Robin, their dauntless decision to start an unconventional family in the still-small-minded 80s, and the ensuing legal campaign to keep it intact in the face of an external challenge from her biological father.

Charles Bramesco, “‘They fought hard and all for love’: the lesbian couple who started a family in the 80s,” The Guardian, October 7, 2011
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[ sing-kuh-pee ] [ ˈsɪŋ kəˌpi ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle.

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More about syncope

Syncope “the contraction of a word by omitting sounds from the middle” comes from Ancient Greek synkopḗ “a cutting short” and is a compound of the elements syn- “together” and kop- (from kóptein “to cut”). Syn- (becoming sym- before b or p) is the Ancient Greek equivalent of the Latin-origin prefix co- “together” (as in cooperate) and appears in terms such as syndrome (literally “run together”), sympathy (“felt together”), and synthesis (“placed together”). The verb kóptein is related to comma, from Ancient Greek kómma “a piece cut off,” as well as to English hatchet—the latter because of Grimm’s law, which makes Ancient Greek k and Latin c tend to correspond to English h (compare heart and the recent Word of the Day cordiform). Syncope was first recorded in English in the late 14th century.

how is syncope used?

As for elisions in the middle of a word, called syncope, even purists do not hesitate to say bedlam (Bethlehem), bizness (business), can’t, don’t, I’ll, isn’t, … pacifist (pacificist), Wenzday (Wednesday). The syncopation of words ending in ary and ory (litry for literary, militry for military, labratry for laboratory) is an Anglicism which never fails to delight the American ear. Syncope is common in proper names: Bennett (Benedict), Dennis (Dionysius), Jerome (Hieronymus). Syncope between words is illustrated by don’t wantny (don’t want any). Pram (perambulator) illustrates both syncope and apocope.

Jotham Johnson, “The Changing American Language,” Scientific American, August 1, 1955

The word “interesting” is pronounced today with either three or four syllables. [University of Michigan Professor] Anne Curzan explains the four syllable pronunciation, which often annoys the three-syllable camp, is actually the more traditional pronunciation …. “If you look in modern standard dictionaries from the last ten years, they will show multiple pronunciations, three and four syllables,” says Curzan. The process of losing a syllable is not rare in the English language. “The process of going from four to three, that losing of a syllable, is called syncope in linguistics, where an unstressed syllable just gets lost,” she says.

Austin Davis, "How many syllables are in the word 'interesting'?" NPR, June 9, 2013

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