Word of the Day

Thursday, March 12, 2020

punctilio

[ puhngk-til-ee-oh ]

noun

a fine point, particular, or detail, as of conduct, ceremony, or procedure.

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What is the origin of punctilio?

The English noun punctilio comes via Italian puntiglio “minor point (of detail or behavior),” from Spanish puntillo “a dot, minute point, point of honor” a diminutive of punto “point, spot, dot.” The Spanish and Italian noun punto comes from Latin punctum “small hole, puncture,” a noun use of the past participle punctus from the verb pungere “to pierce, prick, sting (of insects).” The c in Latin punctum is the source of c in English punctilio. Punctilio entered English in the late 16th century.

how is punctilio used?

I omitted not the least punctilio, and was surprised that in these matters I should know without ever having learned. I arranged all my papers, and regulated all my affairs, without the least assistance from any one.

Lydia Maria Francis Child, The Biographies of Lady Russell, and Madame Guyon, 1832

This version of the dance gets a shortened title, “Errand” — a punctilio that the deviations from the original seem too minor to justify.

Brian Seibert, "After the Flood, Drying Off the Classics and Letting Them Fly," New York Times, February 26, 2013

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

stownlins

[ stoun-linz ]

adverb

Scot.

secretly; stealthily.

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What is the origin of stownlins?

Scots English has many interesting words, and stownlins is one of them. Stownlins is an adverb meaning “secretly, stealthily.” Stownlins is formed from stown, Scots for English stolen, and the compound adverb suffix -lins, formed from the now rare and dialectal suffix -ling and the adverb suffix -s (as in English always, unawares). Stownlins appears in print in 1786 in a poem by Robert Burns, which guarantees its immortality.

how is stownlins used?

But she my fairest faithfu’ lass / And stownlins we sall meet again.

Robert Burns, "I'll ay ca' in by yon Town," The Scots Musical Museum, Vol. 5, song 458, 1797

An’ stownlins I tak o’ her charms a survey, / For my courage aye fails when to speak to’r I try.

David Anderson, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1826

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

moil

[ moil ]

verb (used without object)

to work hard; drudge.

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What is the origin of moil?

English moil has a number of odd relatives. Middle English mollen “to moisten, soften by wetting” comes from Anglo-French moiller, muiller (Old French moiler “to soak, wet, stain”), from Vulgar Latin molliāre (from Latin mollīre “to soften, relax”), a derivative of mollis “soft, yielding to the touch.” From mollīre Latin derives ēmollīre “to soften, relax, soothe, enervate” (source of English emollient). Late Latin has mollificāre “to soften,” which via Middle French mollifier becomes English mollify. Students of French will recognize the French phonetics term mouillé “palatalized,” literally “wet, moistened.” In Spanish molliāre becomes mojar “to wet, moisten,” whose past participle mojado “wet, moistened” is familiar to many people from the phrase piso mojado “wet floor.” One of the senses of moil “to work hard” dates from the 16th century and is most likely a development of the sense “to make oneself wet, wallow in mire.” The Middle English verb mollen, mullen is the source of the uncommon verb mull, a metallurgical term meaning “to mix clay with sand (to make a mold).” Have we toiled and moiled on the topic enough for today? Moil entered English in the 15th century.

how is moil used?

I shall have to toil and moil all my days, with only little bits of fun now and then, and get old and ugly and sour, because I’m poor, and can’t enjoy my life as other girls do.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, 1868

Why should he toil and moil, and be at so much trouble to pick himself up out of the mud, when, in a little while hence, the strong arm of his Uncle will raise and support him?

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 1850

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Monday, March 09, 2020

hypethral

[ hi-pee-thruhl, hahy- ]

adjective

wholly or partly open to the sky, especially of a classical building; having no roof.

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What is the origin of hypethral?

The uncommon adjective hypethral (also spelled hypaethral) means “open to the sky, not having a roof, uncovered.” The English word comes from the Latin adjective hypaethros; the neuter of the adjective, hypaethron, is used as a noun in Latin meaning “temple open to the sky.” Hypaethros is a borrowing from Greek hypaíthrios (also hýpaithros) “in the open air, in open country,” a compound of the familiar prefix hypo- “under” and the noun aithḗr “the upper air, pure air, ether.” In Greek hýpaithron did not mean “temple open to the sky”; that was a new sense coined by the Roman architect Vitruvius in the first century b.c. Hypaethral entered English in the late-18th century.

how is hypethral used?

One of the noblest effects of interior illumination known in historical art is in the Roman Pantheon, the area of which (140 feet in diameter) is lighted only by the circular hypethral opening 25 feet wide at the apex of the dome.

Henry Van Brunt, "Architecture at the World's Columbian Exposition," The Century, Vol. 44, May–October 1892

It seems probable that to this period must be assigned the famous rock-reliefs at the hypethral sanctuary of Iasily Kaya, near Boghaz-Keui, as well as those at Giaour Kalesi.

Edward Bell, Early Architecture in Western Asia, 1924

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Sunday, March 08, 2020
Today's Word of the Day was selected by Girl Scouts

confidence

[ kon-fi-duhns ]

noun

belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

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Why Girl Scouts chose confidence

In short, Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Confidence is an important aspect to reach higher and go further!

Girl Scouts helps girls be their best, bravest, boldest selves each day. The benefits go beyond the badges and awards they earn as recognition of the new skills they learn. Whether she’s finishing a school project, making a new friend, hiking in the backcountry, or speaking up for what’s right—a Girl Scout faces the world with confidence and optimism.

What is the origin of confidence?

Confidence can come from a variety of sources, such as overcoming an obstacle or mastering a new skill. But etymologically, confidence comes from Latin, specifically the noun confīdentia from the verb confīdere “to confide.” The Latin prefix con-, a variant of com-, usually means “with; together; in combination,” but here it is an intensive prefix meaning “completely”; the verb fīdere means “to trust.” The related Latin noun fidēs “trust” is the ultimate source of the English word faith. Confidence entered English in the 14th century. 

how is confidence used?

Its message is that girls should have confidence, step up and become leaders by raising our hands. As with every patch in Girl Scouts, you have to earn this one.

Alice Paul Tapper, "I'm 10. And I Want Girls to Raise Their Hands," New York Times, October 31, 2017

Her confidence was contagious. King was a role model in my life.

Kathleen Kemper,

"'Complete Awe': What It Was Like to Be On the Court at the Battle of the Sexes," Fortune, September 24, 2017

Saturday, March 07, 2020

cavil

[ kav-uhl ]

verb (used without object)

to raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily (usually followed by at or about): He finds something to cavil at in everything I say.

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What is the origin of cavil?

The verb cavil “to raise irritating and trivial objections” ultimately comes from the Latin verb cavillārī “to jeer, scoff, quibble,” a derivative of the noun cavilla “jesting, banter.” Cavillārī and calvī “to deceive, trick” come from the Latin root cal-, and cavilla comes from an earlier unrecorded calvilla. Cavil entered English in the 16th century.

how is cavil used?

Now, I’m not the type to cavil at the outrageous fortune of others, as long as they come by it legally.

, "Maybe Anyone Can Hop on the I.P.O. Bandwagon," New York Times, July 8, 2007

Has it become a custom for the brothers and sisters to carp and cavil at one another—and even for Mamma to cavil at her children—as I have heard you all do to-night?

Louis Couperus (1863–1923), Small Souls, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, 1914

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Friday, March 06, 2020

tantamount

[ tan-tuh-mount ]

adjective

equivalent, as in value, force, effect, or signification: His angry speech was tantamount to a declaration of war.

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What is the origin of tantamount?

In contemporary English tantamount is an adjective meaning “equivalent,” an adjective use of the obsolete noun tantamount “something equivalent, an equivalent,” which, in its turn, is a development of the somewhat earlier verb tantamount “to amount to as much” (all three parts of speech are recorded between 1628 and 1641). Tantamount comes from Anglo-French tant am(o)unter or Italian tanto montare “to amount to as much.” Tant and tanto come from the neuter Latin adjective tantum “so much”; am(o)unter “to add up to, ascend” comes from the Old French adverb amont “up, upward,” from Latin ad montem “(up) to the hill.”

how is tantamount used?

It was a daring move in those days; most men of the countryside feared the city, clung to what was safe and familiar, teaching their sons that leaving the land was tantamount to dying.

Bina Shah, A Season for Martyrs, 2014

Recovering a diamond at Karowe is tantamount to finding a needle in a haystack, in a barn full of other haystacks without needles.

Ed Caesar, "The Woman Shaking Up the Diamond Industry," The New Yorker, January 27, 2020

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