Word of the Day

Saturday, September 19, 2020

probity

[ proh-bi-tee, prob-i- ]

noun

integrity and uprightness; honesty.

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What is the origin of probity?

Probity, “integrity and uprightness, honesty,” comes via Old French probité from Latin probitās (inflectional stem probitāt-) “moral integrity, uprightness, honesty; sexual purity,” a derivative of the adjective probus. Probus is composed of pro– “forward” and –bhwo– “growing,” the entire word meaning “going forward, growing well.” The element –bhwo– comes from the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root bheuə-, bheu-, bhou-, bhwo-, bhū– (with still more variants) “to be, exist, become, grow.” The root appears in Latin fuisse “to have been,” futūrus “what is going to be, future,” and fīerī “to become,” English be and been, Lithuanian bū́ti “to be,” Greek phýesthai “to grow, arise, become,” and its derivatives phýsis “nature” and physikós “pertaining to nature, natural.” Probity entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is probity used?

For an instant he had been tempted to accept the carriage as a gift, but probity never deserted him for very long, not to mention an unrelenting awareness of the importance of the appearance of things.

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

Coolidge ended up serving twice as long as Harding in the White House, sanitizing the place with his dignified, even endearing probity.

Thomas Mallon, "How the Promise of Normalcy Won the 1920 Election," The New Yorker, September 14, 2020

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Friday, September 18, 2020

mellifluous

[ muh-lif-loo-uhs ]

adjective

flowing with honey; sweetened with or as if with honey.

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What is the origin of mellifluous?

Mellifluous comes from Late Latin mellifluus “flowing with honey, (of a taste or scent) sweetened with or as if with honey,” and by extension “eloquent, persuasive.” Mellifluus is a compound of mel (inflectional stem mell-) “honey” and –fluus “flowing,” a derivative of fluere “to flow.” Mel is the Latin result of the Proto-Indo-European melit “honey,” which in Greek appears as méli (inflectional stem mélit-). Melit– corresponds exactly with Hittite milit (from melit), Old Irish mil (also from melit). In the Germanic languages, an expanded form, melitom, yields Gothic milith “honey,” Old English mildēaw, meledēaw “honey dew, nectar” (in English, the mil– of mildew, which was thought to be distilled or condensed from air like dew). Mellifluous entered English in the 14th century.

how is mellifluous used?

As the bee flies from flower to flower, taking nectar from each blossom in order to make its mysterious, mellifluous conversion, so the poet should, according to Seneca, “blend those several flavors into one delicious compound …”

Susan Bridgen, Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest, 2012

He is Mr. A. I. Kaplan, whose power to aid art came through his efficient conduct in the molasses business, about which mellifluous substance he knows more than anyone else in the world.

"Sixty-Six," The New Yorker, November 14, 1925

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

festinate

[ fes-tuh-neyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to hurry; hasten.

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What is the origin of festinate?

Festinate, a verb meaning “to hurry, hasten,” comes from Latin festīnātus, the past participle of the verb festīnāre “to make haste, hasten, hurry.” One of the emperor Augustus’s homely sayings was festīnā lentē “make haste slowly.” Festīnāre comes from the Latin root festi-, from an unrecorded Italic root ferst-, from the uncommon Proto-Indo-European root bheres-, bhers– “quick,” source of Irish bras and Welsh brys, both meaning “quick.” In Slavic, bhers– appears in the Polish adverb bardzo “very,” Czech brzo, brzý “early, soon,” and Russian borzóĭ “quick, swift,” also the name of a Russian breed of wolfhound. Festinate entered English as an adverb at the end of the 16th century, and as a verb in the mid-17th.

how is festinate used?

A bagatelle, ailing notes of a typochondriac, something to festinate the coming of spring or to take your mind off The Four Horsemen. Allons!

Joe Morehead, "U. S. Government Documents: A Mazeway Miscellany," Reference Quarterly, Spring 1970

That night he had had the firm belief that he would never need to eat again as long as he lived, and he wandered around in the dark, keeping his legs moving in a desperate attempt to festinate digestion …

Tibor Fischer, Under the Frog, 1992

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