Word of the Day

Saturday, July 07, 2018

plantigrade

[ plan-ti-greyd ]

adjective

walking on the whole sole of the foot, as humans, and bears.

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What is the origin of plantigrade?

The adjective plantigrade comes from the Latin noun planta “sole (of the foot)” and the verb gradī “to take steps, step, walk.” The Proto-Indo-European root ghredh- “to step, stride” is not very common, and all current English words are borrowings from Latin, e.g., gradual, grade, and verbs ending in -gress, e.g., ingress, regress, transgress. Planta, however, is another story: it shows the infix n, but its Proto-Indo-European root is the very common plat-, plet-, plot- “flat, broad.” Plat- is the source of the Lithuanian adjective platùs “wide, broad,” the all but identical Greek adjective platýs “flat, wide” (as in platypus “flatfoot”), the English adjective and noun flat, the noun flet (also flett) “dwelling, hall,” familiar to readers of Beowulf and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (probably the same crowd), and flan (the Spanish custard). Plantigrade entered English in the 19th century.

how is plantigrade used?

When later the old man slipped back into the night, the bear lifted itself and nosed briefly about its prison and the open gate, then walked out favoring one leg, its plantigrade shuffle derelict and comic in the darkness.

Robert Herring, McCampbell's War, 1986

Cats and many other carnivores walk upright on their toes, a stance known as digitigrade, as opposed to the plantigrade stance found in humans and bears.

Kevin Hansen, Bobcat: Master of Survival, 2007
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Friday, July 06, 2018

campcraft

[ kamp-kraft, -krahft ]

noun

the art of outdoor camping.

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What is the origin of campcraft?

Campcraft is a straightforward compound noun. Camp ultimately derives from Latin campus “field, plain,” especially the Campus Martius “the field of Mars” (so called from the altar dedicated to Mars), which was originally pastureland between the Tiber River and the northwest boundary of Rome. The Campus Martius was used for recreation and exercise, various civilian meetings, and army musters and military exercises. Craft is a common Germanic word: cræft in Old English, Kraft in German, kraft in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. All of the Germanic languages except English have maintained the original meaning “strength, power”; only English has developed the sense “skill, skilled occupation.” Campcraft entered English in the 20th century.

how is campcraft used?

Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and the other old fellows we admire so much could never have lived a week in the wilderness had they not known all the ins and outs of campcraft–that is, the art of taking care of themselves in the wilderness and of making themselves as comfortable as conditions would permit under canvas or in the open.

Dillon Wallace, "How to Be a Good Camper," Boys' Life, July 1914

Inman squatted in the brush and watched the folks go about their campcraft.

Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain, 1997
Thursday, July 05, 2018

debonair

[ deb-uh-nair ]

adjective

courteous, gracious, and having a sophisticated charm: a debonair gentleman.

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What is the origin of debonair?

The adjective debonair, from Old French debonaire, originated in Old French as the phrase de bon aire “of good lineage.” The aire of that phrase comes from the Latin noun ager “field,” which presumably meant “nest” in Vulgar Latin. Debonair entered English in the 13th century.

how is debonair used?

He was a tall, thin man, with gray hair swept back and a debonair ease of movement that suggested wealth, confidence, and success.

Jacqueline Winspear, Pardonable Lies, 2005

What could be simpler than to toddle down one flight of stairs and in an easy and debonair manner ask the chappie’s permission to use his telephone?

P. G. Wodehouse, Indiscretions of Archie, 1921

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