Word of the Day

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

predilection

[ pred-l-ek-shuhn, preed- ]

noun

a tendency to think favorably of something in particular; partiality; preference.

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What is the origin of predilection?

Predilection, “a tendency to think favorably of something; partiality; preference,” has several origins. One is Middle French prédilection, from the second half of the 15th century; another is Italian predilezione from the early 17th century ; and the final source is the rare Medieval Latin noun praedīlectiō (inflectional stem praedīlectiōn-), dating from the 10th century. Praedīlectiō is a derivative of the verb praedīligere, “to prefer over others,” a compound of the preposition and prefix prae, prae– “before” and dīligere “to love” (usually not as strong as amāre). Dīligere in turn is a compound of the prefix dis– “apart” and the simple verb legere “to choose, select.” Predilection entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is predilection used?

It turns out that Swedes have an unlikely predilection for the American South. The Scandinavian country is a major hub for country music. Swedes have their own square dancing association. And thanks to one man, Johan Fritzell, they also have Holy Smoke BBQ, arguably the most authentic Texas barbecue in all of Europe.

Lisa Abend, "How Texas barbecue found a home in rural Sweden," Washington Post, September 21, 2019

Most of us hold unrealistically optimistic views of the future, research shows, downplaying the likelihood that we will have bad experiences. Now a study… has found clues to the brain’s predilection for the positive, identifying regions that may fuel this “optimism bias” by preferentially responding to rosier information.

Andrea Anderson, "Unflagging Optimism," Scientific American, March 1, 2012

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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

schwa

[ shwah ]

noun

the mid-central, neutral vowel sound typically occurring in unstressed syllables in English, however spelled, as the sound of a in alone and sofa, e in system, i in easily, o in gallop, u in circus.

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What is the origin of schwa?

Schwa, the neutral vowel sound like the a in sofa, comes via German Schwa from Hebrew shəwā, a variant of shāw’, literally “nothingness, emptiness, vanity.” Jewish grammarians used the word to mean “a diacritic mark that shows a neutral vowel quality or no vowel at all.” Schwa entered English toward the end of the 19th century.

how is schwa used?

The top six girls’s names in 2014—Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Isabella, Ava, and Mia—all end in “a,” and, what’s more, they end in the same unstressed vowel sound that linguists call schwa.

Robinson Meyer, "Why Do So Many Girls's Names End in 'A'?" The Atlantic, August 28, 2015

The schwa—the vowel sound at the end of the word “America,” represented in dictionary pronunciation guides with a backward and upside down “e” (ə)—is the most common vowel sound in the English language.

Jennifer Schuessler, "New Online Magazine Honors the Mighty Schwa," New York Times, May 23, 2014

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Monday, June 07, 2021

banausic

[ buh-naw-sik, -zik ]

adjective

serving utilitarian purposes only; mechanical; practical.

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What is the origin of banausic?

There has always been more than a hint of snobbery about banausic, “serving utilitarian purposes only; mechanical; practical.” The word comes from the Greek adjective banausikós, “pertaining to or for artisans,” which is related to the noun bausanía “handicraft; the habits of a mere artisan, bad taste, vulgarity.” Banausikós and bausanía are derivatives of baûnos (also baunós), “furnace, forge,” a pre-Greek word with no known etymology. In modern German Banause “uncouth person” is the exact equivalent of English Philistine. Banausic entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is banausic used?

Nor should we underestimate the counterinstinct, most prevalent among aristocrats and intellectuals, that looked down in contempt on all mundane and banausic occupations from the vantage point of inherited capital or estate income.

Peter Green, Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age, 1990

The modern undergraduates are what we should have called “banausic,” with a strict utilitarian outlook. For their virtues: they are more temperate and frugal than we were, less snobbish about athletics, more industrious, better sons to their parents and, I am inclined to think, better mannered.

John Buchan, Memory Hold-the-Door, 1940

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