Word of the Day

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

quiddity

[ kwid-i-tee ]

noun

the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing.

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What is the origin of quiddity?

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.

how is quiddity used?

… that gift for creating idioms may be a clue to the quiddity of his genius.

Adam Gopnik, "The Pleasure and Pain of Being Cole Porter," The New Yorker, January 13, 2020

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.

Henry Duff Traill, "The Future of Humour," The New Fiction, 1897
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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

blench

[ blench ]

verb (used without object)

to shrink; flinch; quail: an unsteady eye that blenched under another's gaze.

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What is the origin of blench?

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.”

how is blench used?

But art historians should not blench at the sight of dreadful paintings, any more than doctors should blench at the sight of blood.

John Russell, "Art: Symbolists In America at Grey," New York Times, November 30, 1979

… the actor blenches as he reads the instruction ….

Susannah Clapp, "The week in theatre: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other and more—review," The Guardian, January 27, 2019
Monday, February 10, 2020

grandstand

[ gran-stand, grand- ]

verb (used without object)

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.

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What is the origin of grandstand?

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.

how is grandstand used?

The debt limit debate allows politicians to grandstand on fiscal responsibility.

Donald Marron, "America doesn't need a debt limit," Christian Science Monitor, July 18, 2011

He used his political platform to grandstand over Italy’s Catholic identity and repeatedly found ways to poke European Union officials in the eye.

Ishaan Tharoor, "Italy's political crisis marks a populist failure," Washington Post, August 20, 2019

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