Word of the Day

Monday, April 12, 2021

propinquity

[ proh-ping-kwi-tee ]

noun

nearness in place; proximity.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of propinquity?

Propinquity, “closeness in space, time, kinship,” comes via Middle English propinquite from Old French propinquite, from Latin propinquitāt-, the inflectional stem of the noun propinquitās. The English, Middle English, Old French, and Latin nouns even share the same meanings. Propinquitās is a derivative of the adjective propinquus, itself a derivative of the preposition and adverb prope “near, nearby, close.” The suffix –inquus is very rare in Latin, but it also occurs in the adjective longinquus “far, far off, remote,” the opposite of propinquus. Prope and propinquus are the positive degree whose comparative degree is the regularly formed propinquior “closer, nearer”; the superlative degree is the irregular proximus “next, next to, nearest, adjacent,” from which English derives proximate. Propinquity entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is propinquity used?

when he was called to New York, to become a partner in his father’s banking-house, I realized that our interests had already diverged, and that only propinquity had served to hold us together. For poor George had already allowed himself to be mastered by a fatal vice—the passion for money-making …

Edith Wharton (1862–1937), "A Granted Prayer," written between 1898 and 1911, The Atlantic, November 9, 2020

In the case of the pictures in “#nyc,” closeness involves not just a physical propinquity but also a kind of psychic insight into others’ hearts and minds.

Naomi Fry, "The Photographer Peeking at Your Phone," The New Yorker, September 3, 2020

Listen to the word of the day

propinquity

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sunday, April 11, 2021

vibrissa

[ vahy-bris-uh ]

noun

one of the stiff, bristly hairs growing about the mouth of certain animals, as a whisker of a cat.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of vibrissa?

Vibrissa, “one of the stiff hairs growing about the mouth of an animal, such as a cat’s whisker,” is restricted pretty much to (human) anatomy, ornithology, and zoology. Vibrissa is the singular of the Late Latin plural noun vibrissae, a word that occurs only once, in a work by Sextus Pompeius Festus, a Roman grammarian and lexicographer who flourished in the late 2nd century a.d. Festus defines vibrissae as “the nose hairs of a human being, so called because when they are pulled out, the head shakes (caput vibrātur)” (vibrissae does in fact derive from the Latin verb vibrāre “to shake”). This “human” sense is the original meaning in English in the late 17th century, but it is no longer common; the more general zoological and ornithological meaning arose in the first half of the 19th century. The singular form vibrissa first appears in English in the first quarter of the 19th century.

how is vibrissa used?

I stroked his splendid vibrissae, the stiff, sensitive whiskers that a walrus uses to search for bivalves through the seabed’s dark murk, and that feel like slender tubes of bamboo.

Natalie Angier, "The Walrus: Smart, sophisticated and ever closer to the edge," New York Times, May 20, 2008

Whiskers – technically called vibrissae in mammals – are an important part of my cats’ sensory arrays. When Margarita abruptly tears across the apartment for reasons I can only speculate about, her whiskers can tell her if she’s cutting to[o] close to a wall so that she doesn’t run headlong into the doorway.

Riley Black, "Dinosaur Whiskers?" National Geographic, March 27, 2015

Listen to the word of the day

vibrissa

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, April 10, 2021

putative

[ pyoo-tuh-tiv ]

adjective

commonly regarded as such; reputed; supposed.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of putative?

Putative, “supposed, so called, commonly regarded,” ultimately comes from Late Latin putātīvus “considered, reckoned, presumptive,” a derivative of the Latin verb putāre “to think, consider,” originally a farming or country word meaning “to trim, prune (trees), scour or clean (wool); purify, refine (gold).” In Latin putāre is not much used in its original senses, but it is very common in its developed senses, “to go over in the mind, ponder; to go over in words, discuss; estimate, deem, consider.” Putative entered English in the 15th century.

how is putative used?

The putative black hole would have to be feeding at one-millionth of its potential rate if it were there at all, Dr. Gultekin said.

Dennis Overbye, "Missing: One Black Hole With 10 Billion Solar Masses," New York Times, January 19, 2021

Jules had to remember: Oh right, Ibsen, the putative reason Ash had gone to Oslo. Isben’s Ghosts.

Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings, 2013

Listen to the word of the day

putative

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.