Word of the Day

Thursday, June 17, 2021

prothalamion

[ proh-thuh-ley-mee-on, -uhn ]

noun

a song or poem written to celebrate a marriage.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of prothalamion?

Prothalamion, “a song or poem written to celebrate a marriage,” is modeled on epithalamion “a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom.” Epithalamion is the neuter singular of the Greek adjective epithalámios “bridal, nuptial,” literally “at the thalamus,” i.e., the inner chamber at the rear of a house, woman’s room, bedroom, storeroom. Epithalamia (plural of epithalamion) were traditional features in Greek weddings and were therefore a very ancient custom. The epithalamia of the Lesbian lyric poet Sappho, the Athenian comic playwright Aristophanes, and the tragedian Euripides were famous. Edmund Spenser coined prothalamion in 1597, apparently intending his coinage to mean “a song or poem celebrating an upcoming wedding,” the Greek prefix pro– here meaning “before in time,” not “before in space.”

how is prothalamion used?

He struck a formal pose with the shotgun cradled in his arms and commenced a rawk-voiced prothalamion. It vaguely took the form of song, modal and dark, and the dire jig of its tune grated on the ear.

Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain, 1997

Every wolf in the world now howled a prothalamion outside the window as she freely gave the kiss she owed him.

Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves,” The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, 1979

Listen to the word of the day

prothalamion

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.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021

manavelins

[ muh-nav-uh-linz ]

plural noun

miscellaneous scraps or small items, especially of food or gear.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of manavelins?

Manavelins, “miscellaneous pieces of gear and material; odds and ends; leftovers or scraps (of food),” is originally sailors’ slang. Like many slang terms, manavelins has no reliable etymology, which helps explain the many variant spellings, such as manavalins, manarvelins, malhavelins. There is a likely connection between manavelins and the verb manarvel, manavel “to pilfer from a ship’s stores,” another item of nautical slang of unknown origin. Herman Melville was by far the most distinguished author to use manavalins (White-jacket, 1850): “Various sea-rolls, made dishes, and Mediterranean pies…all of which come under the general denomination of Manavalins.” Melville had served as a common sailor on the frigate USS United States in 1843; his publishers, Harper & Bros., sent copies of White-jacket to every member of Congress in order to show the brutality and arbitrariness of flogging. Congress outlawed flogging in 1850. Manavelins entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is manavelins used?

The sailors, however, became his friends. Though he seldom came into contact with them, when he did it was to pass into the forecastle a plate of manavelins–an unconsumed pudding or some such dainty from the cabin table–instead of throwing it overboard, as most deep-water stewards do from sheer laziness.

Morgan Robertson, "The Steward," Cosmopolitan, November, 1910

All around him there was noise—traders calling wares, seamen slinging shanties as they hauled at cables, gulls cawing as they swooped for manavilins of fish ….

Rory Clements, Traitor, 2012

Listen to the word of the day

manavelins

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, June 15, 2021

terpsichorean

[ turp-si-kuh-ree-uhn, turp-si-kawr-ee-uhn, -kohr- ]

adjective

pertaining to dancing.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of terpsichorean?

The adjective terpsichorean “pertaining to dancing” is a derivative of the proper name Terpsichore, the muse of dancing and song, especially of dramatic choruses. Terpsichore comes from Greek Terpsichórē, a noun use of the feminine adjective terpsíchoros “delighting in dancing.” The element terpsi– comes from the verb térpein (also térpesthai) “to delight, gladden, cheer”; the second element, –choros, is a combining form of the noun chorós “a round dance, dancing floor, band of dancers, choir.” The etymology of chorós is uncertain: it may come from a Proto-Indo-European root gher-, ghor– “to enclose”; if so, the original meaning of chorós would be “an enclosed space (for dancing).” The root gher-, ghor– is also the source of Greek chórtos “enclosure, court,” Latin hortus “garden” (English horticulture), Sanskrit gṛhá– “house, dwelling place,” Proto-Slavic gordŭ “castle, fortress, town,” source of Russian górod “city, town” (cf. Nóvgorod “New Town”), Old Church Slavonic and South Slavic grad, as in Russian Stalingrad, Serbo-Croatian Beograd “Belgrade, White City.” Terpsichorean entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is terpsichorean used?

Never has a dance been so much discussed, defended and denounced as has the tango, the extraordinary terpsichorean craze which has swept over the whole of Europe and the United States.

"Amazingly Popular Dance Causes Widespread Social Controversy," International Herald Tribune, 1914

They’re quiet enough in the morning hours, / They’re quiet enough in the afternoon, / Reserving their terpsichorean powers / To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon.

T. S. Eliot, "The Song of the Jellicles," Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, 1939

Listen to the word of the day

terpsichorean

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.