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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