Word of the Day

Sunday, February 09, 2020

pinnacle

[ pin-uh-kuhl ]

noun

the highest or culminating point, as of success, power, fame, etc.: the pinnacle of one's career.

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What is the origin of pinnacle?

English pinnacle comes from Middle English pinacle, pinnacle, penacle (and even more spellings) “upright architectural structure terminating in a gable or cone,” from Middle French, Old French pinacle, pinnacle “gable, top,” from Late Latin pinnāculum “peak (of a building), pinnacle.” Pinnāculum comes from pinna, a dialect variation of penna “feather, wing, raised part of a parapet,” and the usually diminutive suffix –(ā)culum. The figurative senses, such as “the highest point of success or power,” developed in the mid-15th century. Pinnacle entered English in the first half of the 14th century.

how is pinnacle used?

… the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists.

"500 Greatest Albums of All Time," Rolling Stone, May 31, 2012

That little golden statue, which will be handed out on February 9, represents the pinnacle of movie-making.

Elena Nicolaou, "The 2020 Oscar Nominations Are Here, and J.Lo Was Snubbed," O, January 13, 2020
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Saturday, February 08, 2020

tantivy

[ tan-tiv-ee ]

adverb

at full gallop: to ride tantivy.

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What is the origin of tantivy?

Tantivy, whether in its sense as an adverb “at a gallop,” adjective “quick,” noun “a gallop or rush,” or interjection “a hunting cry when the chase is on,” has no reliable etymology. The only etymology suggested is that tantivy is onomatopoeic, supposedly representing the sound of horses galloping. Tantivy entered English in the 17th century.

how is tantivy used?

He was of a nature to ride tantivy into anything that promised excitement or adventure.

Henry Handel Richardson, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, 1930

… he supposes himself as a wolf actually to have been galloping tantivy over hill and dale, through forest and bosky dingle ….

Montague Summers, The Werewolf, 1933
Friday, February 07, 2020

zephyr

[ zef-er ]

noun

a gentle, mild breeze.

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What is the origin of zephyr?

The noun zephyr “west wind, the west wind personified, the god of the west wind” comes from Latin Zephyrus, a borrowing of Greek Zéphyros “(any) westerly wind, the west wind.” Greek poets conceived the winds as minor deities who live and feast in their own palaces or as unruly elemental forces controlled by the god Aeolus. For the Greeks, Zéphyros was the bringer of gentle spring and early summer breezes. Since at least the time of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, zephyrs have been associated with mild, gentle weather. Traditional etymology connects Zéphyros with zóphos “the west, darkness,” but there is no further etymology for either word. Zephyr entered English before a.d 1000.

how is zephyr used?

There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds …

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876

Isaac had dunked from the foul line, moving through the air with such power, authority and grace that he looked like a seasoned professional. Or a prehistoric bird riding a zephyr.

Floyd Skloot, "The Wings of the Wind," Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1997

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