Word of the Day

Sunday, May 31, 2020

plaintive

[ pleyn-tiv ]

adjective

expressing sorrow or melancholy; mournful: a plaintive melody.

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What is the origin of plaintive?

The English adjective plaintive “sorrowful, melancholic” comes from Middle English pleintif (also plaintive, plantif, and plantife), from the Old French adjective plaintif (masculine) and plaintive (feminine) “lamentable.” Plaintif derives from the noun plainte “mourning, lamentation,” and comes from the Medieval Latin noun plancta, from Latin planctus “the sound of a person striking their breast,” from the verb plangere “to beat, strike, mourn, bewail.” Old French plaintif is also the source of English plaintiff “one who brings suit in a court, complainant.” Plaintive entered English in the late 14th century.

how is plaintive used?

A strain of plaintive music, played on stringed instruments and flutes, recalled my attention to the hidden shrine.

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, 1868

Thundercat’s new album feels particularly suited for this moment — filled with both celestial, futuristic escapism and plaintive grief, the strength of human resilience and an unstinting sense of frustration.

Jeff Weiss, "Think there can't be a jazz-funk fusion superstar in 2020? Then you don't know Thundercat." Washington Post, March 27, 2020

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

escapism

[ ih-skey-piz-uhm ]

noun

the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc.

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What is the origin of escapism?

Escapism, originally an Americanism, is a compound of escape and the suffix –ism, first appearing in 1933.

how is escapism used?

Most of us, when we arrive at a particularly trying moment in life, begin to indulge in escapism.

Carrie Battan, "The Italian Supermodel Who Was Already Hiding in Her Apartment," The New Yorker, April 30, 2020

Not that there’s anything wrong with escapism—until escapism is all you’ve got.

Alex Shearer, This Is the Life, 2014

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Friday, May 29, 2020

unctuous

[ uhngk-choo-uhs ]

adjective

excessively smooth, suave, or smug.

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What is the origin of unctuous?

Unctuous comes from Medieval Latin unctuōsus, “full of grease or soft fat,” a derivative of Latin unguen. All of the Middle English meanings pertain to grease, oil, or fat. It is only in the 18th century that the sense “marked by spiritual unction or holy oil” developed into the extended sense “smooth, suave, or smug,” the most common meaning of the word today. Unctuous entered English in the 14th century.

how is unctuous used?

Dwight Schrute, when last we left him, was regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pa. … He was vainglorious, unctuous, gullible, humorless, vulnerable, fascistic.

Louis Bayard, "'The Bassoon King' review: There's more to Rainn Wilson than Dwight Schrute," Washington Post, December 7, 2015

His style, moreover, struck her as being far too unctuous and effusive to be sincere.

William Edward Norris, "Citizens of the World," An Octave, 1900

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

doover

[ doo-ver ]

noun

Australian Slang.

thingamabob; thingamajig.

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What is the origin of doover?

Doover is an Australian slang word for thingamabob, thingamajig “something whose name is unknown.” As with many slang terms, an etymology (literally “true story”) for doover does not exist. The Hebrew noun dābhār “word, thing, matter” has been suggested as a source; an alteration of “do for (now)” is more likely.

how is doover used?

I carefully take little plastic doovers from the handle and top, and plier off the frame’s metal retainers without damaging them.

Cameron Woodhead, "Appetite for destruction: the art of smashing things and putting them back together," The Age, March 12, 2018

Well, not unlike my husband, who haunts hardware stores for ever newer and more complicated devices and doovers, I have become addicted to shops selling sewing bits and bobs.

Susan Kurosawa, "Toko Central: sew happy to be in Bali," The Australian, January 20, 2017

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

scilicet

[ sil-uh-set ]

adverb

to wit; namely.

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What is the origin of scilicet?

The English adverb scilicet “namely, specifically, to wit” comes from Latin scīlicet, a contraction of the phrase scīre licet “it is permitted to know, one may be sure, of course, naturally.” The infinitive of the impersonal verb licet is licēre “to be allowed,” the source of licentia “freedom, freedom to do what one wants, lack of restraint, license” (as in English). The infinitive scīre “to know” was translated into Old English as (hit is tō) witanne “That is to know, to wit,” a gerund phrase from the verb witan “to know,” which became in Middle English it is to wite “it is to be noted,” and survives in current English as to wit. Scilicet entered English in the late 14th century.

how is scilicet used?

this universal world contains other guess sorrows than yours, Viscount,—scilicet than unvarying health, unbroken leisure, and incalculable income.

Charles Reade, Christie Johnstone, 1853

Marqueray like most men kept his work and play, scilicet his political intrigues and his pursuit of Phyllida, in separate compartments.

Anthony Pryde, Marqueray's Duel, 1920

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

celestial

[ suh-les-chuhl ]

adjective

pertaining to the sky or visible heaven, or to the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

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What is the origin of celestial?

Celestial has always had several meanings, beginning with Latin caelestis, “being in, happening in, or coming from the sky or heavens,” ranging from the physical, astronomical, and navigational to the supernatural and divine, including the pagan Roman reference to emperors posthumously deified. Caelestis is an adjective derived from the noun caelum “heaven, sky,” whose etymology is unclear. The adjective celestial entered English in the late 14th century, the noun in the second half of the 16th.

how is celestial used?

Located deep in the disk of the Milky Way, the dense, dead celestial body had been slinging high-energy radiation into the cosmos for a week or so, as a rare class of objects called soft gamma-ray repeaters are known to do.

Nadia Drake, "'Magnetic Star' Radio Waves Could Solve the Mystery of Fast Radio Bursts," Scientific American, May 5, 2020

Of all the celestial bodies, the moon is closest to the matters of this lower world.

Jokha Alharthi, Celestial Bodies, translated by Marilyn Booth, 2018

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Monday, May 25, 2020

salute

[ suh-loot ]

verb (used with object)

to express respect or praise for; honor; commend.

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What is the origin of salute?

Of the verb and the noun salute, the verb is earlier, appearing in the late 14th century, the noun appearing between 1400 and 1450. The Middle English verb was saluten “to greet courteously or respectfully,” from the Latin verb salūtāre “to greet, hail, salute.” (In older English usage I salute you means “I send you respectful greetings.”) Salūtāre is a derivative of the noun salūs (inflectional stem salūt-) “health, safety, personal safety.” Salūs in its turn is derived from the adjective salvus “safe, safe and sound” (Salvus sum in colloquial Latin means “I’m all right”).

how is salute used?

Arlington, Va.’s Boy Scout Troop 164 helped to salute the fallen from that famous Army unit, whose history spans from World War I to the war in Iraq.

Michael E. Ruane and Antonio Olivo, "On Memorial Day, honoring the fallen and those who contributed," Washington Post, May 27, 2019

DiMaggio attended the post-game ceremony not only to remember Gehrig, his former teammate, but to salute the game’s new Iron Horse.

Claire Smith, "The Game Gets Together To Salute Favorite Son," New York Times, September 7, 1995

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