Word of the Day

Saturday, April 06, 2019

plasticity

[ pla-stis-i-tee ]

noun

the capability of being molded, receiving shape, or being made to assume a desired form: the plasticity of social institutions.

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What is the origin of plasticity?

Plasticity is made up of plastic and the noun suffix –ity. Plastic comes via Latin plasticus “for molding or modeling,” from Greek plastikós with the same meanings. Plastikós is a derivative of the verb plássein, pláttein “to mold, form.” Other derivatives from the Greek include plaster, from Medieval Latin plastrum “plaster (both medical and building senses),” ultimately an alteration of Greek émplaston “molded on, daubed”; plastid “an organelle of plant cells”; plastique (as in the explosive); and plastron “a piece of armor; part of a turtle’s shell.” Plasticity entered English in the 18th century.

how is plasticity used?

Studies reveal adolescence to be a period of heightened “plasticity” during which the brain is highly influenced by experience.

Laurence Steinberg, "The Case for Delayed Adulthood," New York Times, September 19, 2014

Comic actors, like dramatic ones, have their comfortable niches, from Bill Murray’s sardonic schlubbism to Jim Carrey’s manic plasticity.

Christopher Orr, "The Movie Review: 'Along Came Polly'," The Atlantic, June 8, 2004
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Friday, April 05, 2019

anthophobia

[ an-thuh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an abnormal fear of flowers.

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What is the origin of anthophobia?

Anthophobia, “an abnormal fear of flowers,” is surely one of the odder phobias, as opposed to acrophobia “an abnormal fear of heights” or arachnophobia “an abnormal fear of spiders” or—a good one!—chiroptophobia “an abnormal fear of bats (the flying mammal).” Anthophobia is composed of two Greek nouns: ánthos “flower” and the combining form –phobíā “fear.” Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) suffered from anthophobia, especially of a fear of roses, which has no technical name. Anthophobia entered English in the 19th century.

how is anthophobia used?

And if you dislike the task of summer gardening, you may even be a victim of anthophobia, the fear of flowers, although that’s a rare malady indeed.

Hal Boyle, "Some Phobias You Can Enjoy," Tallahassee Democrat, Associated Press, May 23, 1969

Queen Elizabeth I is said to have been terrorized by roses, a subcategory of anthophobia, a generalized fear of flowers.

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, "Conquering Our Phobias: The Biological Underpinnings of Paralyzing Fears," U.S. News & World Report, December 6, 2004
Thursday, April 04, 2019

multiverse

[ muhl-ti-vurs ]

noun

a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, including our own.

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What is the origin of multiverse?

Multiverse, a combination of the common prefix multi– and (uni)verse, nowadays means “a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, ours included,” a sense first suggested in 1952 by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961). Multiverse, however, was coined by the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910). Multiverse to James was an alternative to or an opposite of universe and meant “the universe imagined as lacking order, unity, or a single ruling and guiding power.” James used multiverse in a lecture “Is Life Worth Living?” in 1895.

how is multiverse used?

Multiverse proponents advocate the idea that there may exist innumerable other universes, some of them with totally different physics and numbers of spatial dimensions; and that you, I and everything else may exist in countless copies.

Heinrich Päs, "Quantum Monism Could Save the Soul of Physics," Scientific American, March 5, 2019

Ten days before he died, Stephen Hawking sent one more written insight out into the cosmos—a paper, co-written with physicist Thomas Hertog of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, tackling the problem of a multiverse.

Sarah Kaplan, "One of Stephen Hawking's final scientific acts: Tackling the multiverse," Washington Post, May 3, 2018

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