Word of the Day

Saturday, May 29, 2021

pièce de résistance

[ pyes duh rey-zee-stahns; English pee-es duh ri-zee-stahns ]

noun

the most noteworthy or prized feature, aspect, event, article, etc., of a series or group; special item or attraction.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of pièce de résistance?

Pièce de résistance, “the principal dish of a meal; the most noteworthy item of a group,” entered English from French in 1789—a fateful year. In French pièce de résistance appears at least by 1732 and refers to the main course of a meal. By 1789 the phrase was used in English to describe a person. The phrase literally means “piece of resistance,” but scholars disagree on how the phrase acquired its senses.

how is pièce de résistance used?

Last year, Americans spent four times as much money on grocery store hummus as they did a decade before, according to the latest consumer surveys, and a growing number of snacks and fast-casual concepts also feature the fiber- and protein-rich chickpea as their pièce de résistance.

Whitney Pipkin, "Your Hummus Habit Could Be Good For The Earth," NPR, July 10, 2019

He goes home to his apartment, takes a good, long look at himself in the mirror, and decides to slick back his hair. Then he takes a cigarette break. (Pause for dramatic music.) And, finally, he brings out the pièce de résistance: a black turtleneck.

Emilia Petrarca, "The Most Important Costumes in Halston Are the Black Turtlenecks," The Cut, May 18, 2021

Listen to the word of the day

pièce de résistance

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Friday, May 28, 2021

skylark

[ skahy-lahrk ]

verb

to frolic; sport.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of skylark?

The verb skylark, “to frolic; sport; have boisterous fun,” dates from about 1771 in Britain. This sense is the same as the verb lark, which comes later, in 1813. How skylark acquired its “fun” sense isn’t clear: some suggest it was a term in sailors’ slang for roughhousing high up in a ship’s rigging, skylarks being known for their singing while hovering high in the air. The earliest occurrences of the verb, however, are from court and police records in London, which seem to indicate that the verb skylark is a city word, not a sailor’s one. Skylark is a favorite word of Mark Twain’s: he used the participle or gerund skylarking four times in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

how is skylark used?

He never backslapped, roughhoused or skylarked with his colleagues, and his statesmanlike calm evoked feelings of awe.

Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., 1998

With all the jocularity of a clambake getting started in bare feet and shallow water, a crew of performers skylarked through a robust performance borrowing impartially from vaudeville, burlesque and backporch conversation last week before a Radio City audience.

R.W. Stewart, "With Bing at Work," New York Times, May 11, 1947

Listen to the word of the day

skylark

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, May 27, 2021

bovarism

[ boh-vuh-riz-uhm ]

noun

an exaggerated, especially glamorized, estimate of oneself; conceit.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of bovarism?

Bovarism, “an exaggerated, especially glamorized, estimation of oneself,” also spelled bovarysm and bovarysme (capitalized and uncapitalized), is a borrowing from French bovarysme, a derivative of the family name Bovary, the married surname of Emma Bovary, née Rouault, the eponymous protagonist of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1857) who was prone to escapist daydreaming. The French philosopher Jules de Gaultier is credited with coining the term in his 1902 work, La Bovarysme. Bovarism entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is bovarism used?

Othello succeeds in turning himself into a pathetic figure, by adopting an aesthetic rather than a moral attitude, dramatising himself against his environment. He takes in the spectator, but the human motive is primarily to take in himself. I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.

T. S. Eliot, Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca, 1927

There is a bovarism in the field of hierarchical relationships—the bovarism of the bourgeois snob who imagines himself to be an aristocrat and tries to behave as such.

Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun, 1952

Listen to the word of the day

bovarism

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.