Word of the Day

Saturday, March 23, 2019

plumbeous

[ pluhm-bee-uhs ]

adjective

resembling or containing lead; leaden.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of plumbeous?

Plumbeous comes straight from the Latin adjective plumbeus “made of lead, leaden, (of coins) base,” a derivative of the noun plumbum. Plumbum is a noun of unknown etymology, and linguists have speculated on the connection between plumbum and Greek mólybdos with its variants mólibos and bólimos, which also have no reliable etymology. In ancient times lead was mined in Attica (i.e., the territory whose capital was Athens), Macedonia, Asia Minor (Anatolia), Etruria, Sardinia, Gaul (France), Britain, and Spain. Many scholars think that the Greek and Latin words derive from an Iberian (Spanish) language, and the Basque word for lead, berun, supports this. Plumbeous entered English in the 16th century.

how is plumbeous used?

… a headachy dawn was breaking, with small rain sifting down out of clouds that were the same plumbeous colour as the shadows under Baby’s eyes.

John Banville, The Untouchable, 1997

… the pencil has been worn down to two-thirds of its original length. The bare wood of its tapered end has darkened to a plumbeous plum, thus merging in tint with the blunt tip of graphite whose blind gloss alone distinguishes it from the wood.

Vladimir Nabokov,  Transparent Things, 1972

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Friday, March 22, 2019

earthshaking

[ urth-shey-king ]

adjective

imperiling, challenging, or affecting basic beliefs, attitudes, relationships, etc.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of earthshaking?

Earthshaking in its literal sense was modeled on epithets for the Greek god Poseidon (he caused earthquakes) and the Latin god Neptune. Ennosígaios and Ennosíchthōn, both meaning “earthshaker,” were epithets for Poseidon in the Iliad and Odyssey. Latin Ennosigaeus is a pretty unimaginative borrowing. Earthshaking entered English toward the end of the 16th century; its usual sense “of great consequence or importance” dates from the 19th century.

how is earthshaking used?

… not everything true is universally comprehensible. And that, small as it is, is an earthshaking insight.

Jesse Green, "Review: 'An Ordinary Muslim' Gets Caught Between Cultures and Genres," New York Times, February 26, 2018

Divorce is hardly an earthshaking event in politics these days.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, The Other Woman, 2012
Thursday, March 21, 2019

palimpsest

[ pal-imp-sest ]

noun

a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of palimpsest?

English palimpsest comes via Latin palimpsēstus from Greek palímpsēstos “rubbed again, scraped again,” i.e., in reference to durable parchment (not papyrus) “erased (so as to be able to be written upon) again.” Palimpsests are important in recovering the texts of ancient manuscripts. At least two unique ancient texts have been recovered through modern techniques of decipherment: the first text is Cicero’s dialogue De Re Publica (“On the Republic, On the Commonwealth”), which was discovered in the Vatican Library in 1819 and published definitively in 1908. The second major find is the Archimedes Palimpsest, containing seven treatises by the Greek scientist and mathematician Archimedes (c287-212 b.c.), which was made legible after decipherment performed between 1998 and 2008. Palimpsest entered English in the 17th century.

how is palimpsest used?

All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949

Holmes and I sat together in silence all the evening, he engaged with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest, I deep in a recent treatise upon surgery.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez," The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1905
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

wellspring

[ wel-spring ]

noun

a source or supply of anything, especially when considered inexhaustible: a wellspring of affection.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of wellspring?

Wellspring from its earliest records has meant both “source or headspring of a river or stream” as well as “source of a constant supply of something.” The extended, metaphorical sense appears earlier, in the Old English version of the Cura Pastoralis (Pastoral Care) of St. Gregory the Great (a.d. c540-604) that was commissioned by King Alfred the Great (a.d. 849-899). The literal sense of wellspring, “source of a stream or river,” first appears in the Catholic Homilies (c990) composed by Aelfric “Grammaticus” (c955-c1025).

how is wellspring used?

I decided to reach deep down, to the wellspring of my charisma, which had been too long undisturbed, and dip my fingers in it and flick it liturgically over the audience.

Steve Martin, The Pleasure of My Company, 2003

And from the same wellspring of creativity, utilizing that same power to abstract, they were the first people to see the world around them in symbolic form, to extract its essence and reproduce it.

Jean M. Auel, The Plains of Passage, 1990
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

obscurantism

[ uhb-skyoor-uhn-tiz-uhm, ob-skyoo-ran-tiz-uhm ]

noun

opposition to the increase and spread of knowledge.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of obscurantism?

English obscurantism ultimately comes via the French noun obscurantisme from Latin obscūrant-, the stem of obscūrāns, present participle of obscūrāre “to dim, cover in darkness,” a derivative of the adjective obscūrus “dim, dark, dingy; insignificant, doubtful,” the obvious source of English obscure. Obscūrus is a compound of the preposition and prefix ob, ob- “to, toward, in front of“ (and in compounds usually having a sense of confrontation or opposition), and the unattested adjective scūrus. Scūrus is a Latin development of the Proto-Indo-European root (s)keu-, (s)kū- “to hide, cover.” The Germanic form of this root, skeu-, has a derivative noun skeujam “cloud, cloud cover” that becomes skȳ in Old Norse, adopted into English as sky. Obscurantism entered English in the 19th century.

how is obscurantism used?

New ideologies manipulate religions, push a contagious obscurantism.

Emmanuel Macron, "Commemoration of the Armistice," translated from French, November 11, 2018

There is the obscurantism of the politician and not always of the more ignorant sort, who would reject every idea which is not of immediate service to his cause.

Y. B. Yeats, "The Irish National Theatre and Three Sorts of Ignorance," The United Irishman, October 24, 1903
Monday, March 18, 2019

bracketology

[ brak-i-tol-uh-jee ]

noun

Sports.

a system of diagrammatically predicting and tracking the process of elimination among sequentially paired opponents in a tournament, especially an NCAA basketball tournament.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of bracketology?

Bracketology combines bracket, in the sports sense of “a diagram for tracking advancement in a tournament,” and -ology, a word-forming element indicating “branch of knowledge, science.” The term playfully elevates the sports pastime to a discipline or science. Stages of sports tournaments have been termed brackets since the early 1900s, from bracket as a “grouping” in the late 1800s, a sense informed by pairs of typographical brackets for enclosing text or numbers. The tree-diagram structure of NCAA basketball tournament brackets indeed calls up such typographical brackets, named after the original architectural bracket, a type of L-shaped support projecting from a wall. Entering English in the 16th century, the word bracket may derive from a Romance word meaning “breeches,” the architectural devices perhaps resembling a pair of legs or the codpieces historically worn on breeches. That could make bracketology, with a liberal literalism, “the study of pants” or “the study of jockstraps.”

how is bracketology used?

Bracketology—the scientific-sounding name for prognosticating tournament picks before the official committee reveals the bracket on Selection Sunday—has exploded among basketball fans in recent years ….

Zach Schonbrun, "To N.C.A.A. Bracketologists, It’s Who’s In, Not Who Wins," New York Times, March 13, 2018

Bracketology is the practice of predicting the field and seeding for all 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and/or the outcomes for all games in the tournament. It is a made-up “-ology”, sadly, so don’t change your major just yet.

Daniel Wilco, "March Madness bracketology: The ultimate guide," NCAA, March 12, 2019
Sunday, March 17, 2019

green-eyed

[ green-ahyd ]

adjective

Informal.

jealous; envious; distrustful.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of green-eyed?

Green-eyed means “jealous” and is probably most familiar from Shakespeare’s phrase green-eyed monster (Othello, 1604). In the ancient and medieval humoral theory, an excess of yellow bile, which was thought to give the skin a greenish tint, was associated with the element fire and produced a violent, short-tempered, vengeful character. Green-eyed in its literal sense entered English in the 16th century.

how is green-eyed used?

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; / It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock / the meat it feeds on …

William Shakespeare, Othello, 1623

The protagonist, Ida, has a green-eyed prettiness …

Maria Russo, "In Praise of Maurice Sendak," New York Times, February 14, 2019

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.