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the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing.
Quiddity, with its conflicting senses, “the essential nature of a thing” and “a trifling nicety of subtle distinction,” ultimately comes from the Medieval Latin noun quidditās (stem quidditāt-), literally “whatness,” formed from the Latin interrogative pronoun quid “what” and the abstract noun suffix –itās, the source via Old French –ité of the English suffix –ity. Quiddity entered English at the end of the 14th century.
… that gift for creating idioms may be a clue to the quiddity of his genius.
If, argues he, we could only find out exactly what humour is ‘in its quiddity,’ we could keep ourselves humorous, or at any rate bring up our children to be so.
verb (used without object)
to shrink; flinch; quail: an unsteady eye that blenched under another's gaze.
The history of the verb blench is complicated. The uncommon Old English verb blencan “to cheat, deceive” is the direct source of Middle English blenchen, blenken, blinchen, blinken “to move suddenly, dodge, avoid, mislead, deceive.” The various Middle English forms yield both English blench “to shrink, flinch” and blink “to wink the eyes, be startled.”
But art historians should not blench at the sight of dreadful paintings, any more than doctors should blench at the sight of blood.
… the actor blenches as he reads the instruction ….
to conduct oneself or perform showily or ostentatiously in an attempt to impress onlookers: The senator doesn't hesitate to grandstand if it makes her point.
The noun grandstand, “the main seating area of a stadium, racetrack, parade route, etc.,” dates from the second half of the 18th century and was originally spelled as two words. The verb grandstand, “to conduct oneself or perform showily or ostentatiously in order to impress onlookers,” was originally used in baseball and dates from the early 20th century.
The debt limit debate allows politicians to grandstand on fiscal responsibility.
He used his political platform to grandstand over Italy’s Catholic identity and repeatedly found ways to poke European Union officials in the eye.
the highest or culminating point, as of success, power, fame, etc.: the pinnacle of one's career.
English pinnacle comes from Middle English pinacle, pinnacle, penacle (and even more spellings) “upright architectural structure terminating in a gable or cone,” from Middle French, Old French pinacle, pinnacle “gable, top,” from Late Latin pinnāculum “peak (of a building), pinnacle.” Pinnāculum comes from pinna, a dialect variation of penna “feather, wing, raised part of a parapet,” and the usually diminutive suffix –(ā)culum. The figurative senses, such as “the highest point of success or power,” developed in the mid-15th century. Pinnacle entered English in the first half of the 14th century.
… the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists.
That little golden statue, which will be handed out on February 9, represents the pinnacle of movie-making.
at full gallop: to ride tantivy.
Tantivy, whether in its sense as an adverb “at a gallop,” adjective “quick,” noun “a gallop or rush,” or interjection “a hunting cry when the chase is on,” has no reliable etymology. The only etymology suggested is that tantivy is onomatopoeic, supposedly representing the sound of horses galloping. Tantivy entered English in the 17th century.
He was of a nature to ride tantivy into anything that promised excitement or adventure.
… he supposes himself as a wolf actually to have been galloping tantivy over hill and dale, through forest and bosky dingle ….
a gentle, mild breeze.
The noun zephyr “west wind, the west wind personified, the god of the west wind” comes from Latin Zephyrus, a borrowing of Greek Zéphyros “(any) westerly wind, the west wind.” Greek poets conceived the winds as minor deities who live and feast in their own palaces or as unruly elemental forces controlled by the god Aeolus. For the Greeks, Zéphyros was the bringer of gentle spring and early summer breezes. Since at least the time of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, zephyrs have been associated with mild, gentle weather. Traditional etymology connects Zéphyros with zóphos “the west, darkness,” but there is no further etymology for either word. Zephyr entered English before a.d 1000.
There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds …
Isaac had dunked from the foul line, moving through the air with such power, authority and grace that he looked like a seasoned professional. Or a prehistoric bird riding a zephyr.
in relation to; compared with: income vis-à-vis expenditures.
The mere fact that vis-à-vis functions as an adverb, adjective, preposition, and noun all but guarantees many meanings, all semantically related: as an adverb the phrase means “face to face”; as an attributive adjective “face-to-face”; as a preposition “compared with; in relation to”; and as a noun “a person face to face with or opposite another one; a date at a social affair; a person of equal rank or authority.” The still obviously French term vis-à-vis has at least as many meanings as the English one. The French noun vis comes from Vulgar Latin vīsus “face,” from Latin vīsus “sight, vision, faculty of sight, form, appearance.” Vīsus is a derivative of the verb vidēre “to see, see with the mind’s eye, notice.” Vis-à-vis entered English in the mid-18th century.
Until recently, at least in the United States, our notions of privacy have been rooted in the Fourth Amendment’s delineation of the federal government’s powers vis-à-vis the individual citizen.
I’m a stockbroker, and … my timing has been off lately vis-a-vis the market …