Word of the Day

Thursday, March 19, 2020

primaveral

[ prahy-muh-veer-uhl ]

adjective

of, in, or pertaining to the early springtime.

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What is the origin of primaveral?

The adjective primaveral is a derivative of the noun primavera “spring (the season),” found in just about all the Romance languages: Italian (end of the 12th century), Catalan (13th century), Spanish (14th century), and Portuguese (16th century); even Romanian has primăvară. The Romance forms ultimately derive from the Latin neuter plural adjective and noun phrase prīma vēra, literally “first springs.” It is common for Latin neuter plural nouns to become feminine singulars in Romance, e.g., Latin gaudia “delights, joys,” becoming singular joie in French and gioia in Italian. Primaveral entered English in the 19th century.

how is primaveral used?

Crocuses planted in clusters or in thick rows, or scattered on banks, have a brilliant effect in the sunshine of a bright primaveral day.

Thomas Ignatius M. Forster, Circle of the Seasons, and Perpetual Key to the Calendar and Almanack, 1828

It is the urge of Spring—the primaveral force that inspires the young and mocks the aged.

Leon Gellert, "The Joys of Gardening," Sydney Morning Herald, October 1, 1950

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

lunker

[ luhng-ker ]

noun

something unusually large for its kind.

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What is the origin of lunker?

The noun lunker has two meanings: something large and unruly, and a large game fish, especially a bass. It was originally an Americanism, and its etymology is obscure: lunk, lunkhead, and clunker have all been suggested. Lunker entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is lunker used?

Do black holes, such as the lunker in our own Milky Way Galaxy … drive the evolution of galaxies around them; or do galaxies naturally nurture the gravitational gobblers at their centers … ?

John Matson, "Hole's on First?: New Evidence Shows Black Hole Growth Preceding Galactic Formation," Scientific American, January 9, 2011

As sure as I’m standing here, ten pounds; what a little lunker for a first baby.

Gary Paulsen, The Quilt, 2004

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lunker

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

greenth

[ greenth ]

noun

green growth; verdure.

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What is the origin of greenth?

Greenth, “green growth,” was coined by the English author and politician Horace Walpole, who also coined blueth and gloomth. Greenth, blueth, and gloomth all entered English simultaneously in the mid-18th century.

how is greenth used?

I found my garden brown and bare, but these rains have recovered the greenth.

Henry Walpole to George Montagu, August 16, 1753, The Letters of Horace Walpole, Vol. 2, 1842

Imagine a rambling, patchy house … the mellow darkness of its conical roof surmounted by a weather-cock making an agreeable object either amidst the gleams and greenth of summer or the low-hanging clouds and snowy branches of winter …

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, 1876

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Monday, March 16, 2020

muzz

[ muhz ]

verb (used with object)

to confuse (someone); make (someone) muzzy.

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What is the origin of muzz?

It is only fitting that the etymology of the verb muzz “to confuse,” is itself obscure. Most authorities connect muzz with the adjective muzzy “confused, lazy, mentally dull,” but muzzy itself has no reliable etymology. Other authorities connect muzz with the verb muse “to think or meditate in silence.” Muzz entered English in the 18th century.

how is muzz used?

I must have sufficiently muzzed you with my singular critique upon poor, injured, honest John.

Mary Morgan, A Tour to Milford Haven, 1795

With a very heavy cold on me, which muzzed my head, and a mass of work by day … I have been very far from comfortable.

Henry Bradshaw, A Memoir of Henry Bradshaw by George Walter Prothero, 1888

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

scordatura

[ skawr-duh-toor-uh; Italian skawr-dah-too-rah ]

noun,

Music.

the tuning of a stringed instrument in other than the usual way to facilitate the playing of certain compositions.

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What is the origin of scordatura?

The musical term scordatura comes, as many musical terms do, from Italian. In English and Italian, scordatura is the tuning of a stringed instrument in an unusual way to facilitate the playing of certain compositions. Italian scordatura is a derivative of scordato “out of tune,” past participle of the verb scordare “to be out of tune.” Scordare is a somewhat reduced form of Latin discordāre “to be at variance, quarrel, disagree,” formed from the prefix dis- “apart, asunder” and cord-, the stem of the noun cor “heart.” Scordatura entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is scordatura used?

The alternative tuning, known as scordatura, is not some minor technical detail. Each new configuration is a secret key to an invisible door, unlocking a different set of chordal possibilities on the instrument, opening up alternative worlds of resonance and vibration.

Jeremy Eichler, "Reciting a Rosary, but in Sonata Form," New York Times, November 14, 2004

Scordatura in some violin concertos provides additional evidence for Vivaldi’s tendency to extend the advantages of playing on open strings to additional keys.

Bella Brover-Lubovsky, Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi, 2008

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Saturday, March 14, 2020

à la mode

[ ah luh mohd, al-uh-; French a la mawd ]

adjective

(of pie or other dessert) served with a portion of ice cream, often as a topping: apple pie à la mode.

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What is the origin of à la mode?

In French the phrase à la mode “in the current fashion” is a shortening of à la mode de “in the style of (X),” a meaning extant in U.S. English. But to most Americans à la mode means a dessert, typically a wedge of pie, topped with ice cream, a meaning that has been current in U.S. English since the early 1890s but not in British English. À la mode entered English in the 17th century.

how is à la mode used?

If your server mentions apple-and-caramel pie a la mode, don’t hesitate.

Tom Snyder, The Two-Lane Gourmet, 2007

You can find a hotel, convenience store, and pay-per-use showers there; more important, though, you can find blueberry pie a la mode.

Rebecca Flint Marx, "10 Pies to Eat on a Cross-Country Road Trip from New York to San Francisco," Bon Appétit, June 12, 2013

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Friday, March 13, 2020

hobgoblin

[ hob-gob-lin ]

noun

something causing superstitious fear; a bogy.

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What is the origin of hobgoblin?

Hobgoblin is a compound of the nouns hob and goblin. Hob (also Hobbe), a pet form or nickname of Robin or Robert, was used as early as the 15th century as a shortened form of Robin Goodfellow, a.k.a. Puck (as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and a.k.a. Hobgoblin (i.e., the common noun used as a personal name). Goblin comes from Middle English gobelin goblin, gobolin “a devil, incubus, fairy,” from Middle French gobellin. Further etymology is uncertain and speculative: The French forms may come from Medieval Latin gobelīnus, from an unrecorded Late Latin gobalus, cabalus “domestic sprite,” from Greek kóbalos “malicious knave, mischievous genie.” The Latin suffix –īnus and French suffix –in complete the word. Hobgoblin entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is hobgoblin used?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," Essays, 1841

The enemy was very real, literally an existential foe … not just the hobgoblin of alleged McCarthyite paranoia.

Jonah Goldberg, "How Politics Destroyed a Great TV Show," Commentary, October 2009

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