Word of the Day

Sunday, April 26, 2020

precipitate

[ pri-sip-i-teyt ]

verb (used with object)

to hasten the occurrence of; bring about prematurely, hastily, or suddenly: to precipitate an international crisis.

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What is the origin of precipitate?

All the noun, verb, and adjective senses of precipitate developed together in a 25-year period in the middle of the 17th century. Precipitate comes from Latin praecipitātus, the past participle of the verb praecipitāre “to cast down headlong, throw overboard,” a derivative of the adjective praeceps (inflectional stem praecipit-) “plunging headfirst, falling headlong; (of terrain) steep, falling steeply, sheer; (of human age) advanced in years, declining.” Praeceps is a compound of the preposition, adverb, and prefix prae, prae– (the prefix is also spelled prē-) “before, in front or advance of” and the combining form –ceps, –cipit-, a reduced form of caput (inflectional stem capit-) “head.” Praeceps (and praecipitāre) can also convey a notion of abruptness, rashness, or sudden disaster. In the 19th century precipitous in the sense “steep” gave rise to the curious phrase precipitous rise (as in prices or blood pressure), that is, sharply rising prices or blood pressure, not suddenly falling prices or blood pressure.

how is precipitate used?

We face a new reality, precipitated by the pandemic.

Jim Bankoff, quoted in "SB Nation faces murky future after Vox Media furloughs national writers for three months," Washington Post, April 17, 2020

He and others also hope this experience may help precipitate a sea change in disaster policy by encouraging the integration of once disparate fields such as emergency management, public health, and economics and steadier funding in those areas.

Andrea Thompson, "What Happens When Other Disasters Hit during a Pandemic? Scientific American, April 16, 2020

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

succedaneum

[ suhk-si-dey-nee-uhm ]

noun

a substitute.

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What is the origin of succedaneum?


The noun succedaneum comes straight from New Latin succēdāneum, a noun use of the neuter singular adjective of Latin succēdāneus “following after, substituted, additional.” Succēdāneus is formed from the Latin verb succēdere “to move into a position below, move on upward, advance” (a compound of suc-, a form of sub– “under, below,” and the simple verb cēdere “to come, come up, proceed”) and the adjectival suffix –āneus, source of English –aneous. Succedaneum entered English in the 17th century.

how is succedaneum used?

What succedaneum of mutton chop or broiled ham she had for the roast duck and green peas which were to have been provided for the family dinner we will not particularly inquire. We may, however, imagine that she did not devote herself to her evening repast with any peculiar energy or appetite.

Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, 1864

A painter, as I have said on another occasion, if possible, should paint all his studies, and consider drawing only as a succedaneum when colours are not at hand. 

Joshua Reynolds, "'Note XI. Verse 106' on 'The Art of Painting,'" The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Vol. 2, 1797

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Friday, April 24, 2020

silvics

[ sil-viks ]

noun

(used with a singular verb)

the scientific study of trees and their environment.

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What is the origin of silvics?

Silvics, an extremely rare noun, is a branch of forestry meaning “the scientific study of forest trees and their environment.” The word is formed from Latin silva “forest, woods, woodland, grove,” and the modern suffix –ics, which forms nouns denoting a body of facts or principles, like economics, physics, or politics. The suffix –ics is the plural of –ic and represents Latin –ica and Greek –iká, which form neuter plural nouns such as Latin mathēmatica and Greek mathēmatiká “mathematics.” Silvics entered English in the early 20th century.

how is silvics used?

They gained enough appreciation of silvics (in general, the study of how [a] tree grows) and arboriculture to know that trees change over time and that these changes must be understood, advocated for and included in the design of urban green spaces.

Louise Levy, "New book is tree tome like few others—part science, part art marvel," Star Tribune, March 28, 2019

Although silvics had at its core an ideal of transforming the forest, it also offered a way of learning about the forest and making a connection between the individual and the wild nature out there.

Nancy Langston, Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West, 1995

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