Word of the Day

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


[ kwod-luh-bet ]


a subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological or scholastic subject.

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What is the origin of quodlibet?

The Latin indefinite pronoun and adjective quodlibet is the neuter singular of quīlibet (also quīlubet) “who(m)/what it pleases, who(m)/what you like, whoever, whatever.” Latin libēre, lubēre “to be dear, be pleasing” is related to English love and to Slavic (Polish) lubić “to like, enjoy.” By the 14th century, medieval scholars used the noun quodlibētum “whatever (subject or topic) you like,” as in disputātiō dē quodlibētō “a debate on any topic one likes.” Quodlibet entered English in the 14th century.

how is quodlibet used?

And his majesty drove off, very much delighted with his last quodlibet upon the duke, whom he really hated.

Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870), The Memoirs of a Physician, translated 1910

The hexahemera of the fathers and the works of Albertus Magnus would be the text-books in natural science, while theology and philosophy would be nothing but a rehash of the quiddities and quodlibets of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.

E. P. Evans, "Recent Recrudescence of Superstition," The Popular Science Monthly, October 1895


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Tuesday, January 23, 2018


[ mal-uh-droit ]


unskillful; awkward; bungling; tactless; lacking in adroitness: to handle a diplomatic crisis in a very maladroit way.

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What is the origin of maladroit?

English maladroit is a direct borrowing from French. The first element, mal-, is from the French adverb and combining form mal- “badly, ill,” from the Latin adverb male with the same meaning. The second element is the French adjective adroit “skillful, deft,” in origin a prepositional phrase à droit (also à dreit) “by or according to right; correctly.” The element à is from Latin ad “to, up to, towards.” Dreit (droit) is the French development of Vulgar Latin drēctum, drictum “straightened, straight,” from Latin dīrectum, dērectum “straight, right.” Maladroit entered English in the 17th century.

how is maladroit used?

He asked a thousand pardons of Madame la Duchesse for being so maladroit.

William Makepeace Thackeray, The Newcomes, 1855

Nixon’s maladroit attempt to be one of the boys indicates an important advance that shows up in the taping.

Clive Irving, "Watergate Didn't Reveal Nixon's Demons—David Frost Did," Daily Beast, May 27, 2017
Monday, January 22, 2018


[ feet-lee ]


neatly; elegantly.

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What is the origin of featly?

Featly is an archaic word, used mostly as an adverb and occasionally, since the 19th century, as an adjective. The word derives from the Middle English adverb feetly, fetly “properly, suitably,” from the Old French adjective fait, fet “made (for something),” from the Latin adjective factus “made.” The English suffix -ly is the usual suffix for forming adjectives and adverbs of manner. Featly entered English at the beginning of the 15th century.

how is featly used?

Foot it featly here and there …

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1623

For so featly came riding in to the humble prosaic precincts of the cow-pens and into their hearts the vernal beauty of Spring herself … that the ranchmen were bewitched and dazed, and knew no more of good common-sense.

Mary Noailles Murfree, The Frontiersmen, 1904
Sunday, January 21, 2018


[ vuhl-nuh-rer-ee ]


used to promote the healing of wounds, as herbs or other remedies.

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What is the origin of vulnerary?

The Latin adjective and noun vulnerārius first appears in the writings of the Roman polymath Pliny the Elder (23–79 a.d.), who perished in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 a.d. while trying to observe the eruption). As an adjective, vulnerārius means “(bandage) for dressing wounds”; as a noun, it means “surgeon.” Vulnerary entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is vulnerary used?

She was now in an apartment of the castle, anxiously superintending the preparation of vulnerary herbs, to be applied to the wounded …

Sir Walter Scott, A Legend of Montrose, 1819

Formerly country people cultivated Comfrey in their gardens for its virtue in wound healing, and the many local names of the plant testify to its long reputation as a vulnerary herb …

Maud Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 1931
Saturday, January 20, 2018


[ dood-l-sak ]


a bagpipe.

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What is the origin of doodlesack?

Doodlesack, a respelling of German Dudelsack “bagpipe,” literally “bagpipe sack,” is a rare word in English. The German word is, or seems to be, a derivative of dudeln “to tootle” (unless the verb is a derivative of the noun). Even in German Dudelsack appears not to be a native word but is likely to be a borrowing from a Slavic language, e.g., Polish and Czech dudy “bagpipe.” Doodlesack entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is doodlesack used?

You wouldn’t happen to have brought a shawm or a doodlesack with you, by any chance? Or even a kazoo?

Charlotte MacLeod, The Silver Ghost, 1988

Kurdis put his hands to his kannel, the piper blew into his doodle sack and the assembled crowd moved across the courtyard.

Friedebert Tuglas (1886–1971), "The Mermaid," The Poet and the Idiot And Other Stories, translated by Eric Dickens, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2018

enfant terrible

[ ahn-fahn te-ree-bluh ]


French. an outrageously outspoken or bold person who says and does indiscreet or irresponsible things.

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What is the origin of enfant terrible?

In French enfant terrible means “terrible child,” one whose language and behavior are embarrassing to adults. From the beginning of the appearance of enfant terrible in English in the mid-19th century, the phrase has also referred to adults who embarrass or compromise their party or faction by outrageous speech or behavior, especially artists or other creative people notorious for their unconventional lifestyle.

how is enfant terrible used?

I am the enfant terrible of literature and science. If I cannot, and I know I cannot, get the literary and scientific big-wigs to give me a shilling, I can, and I know I can, heave bricks into the middle of them.

Samuel Butler, The Notebooks of Samuel Butler, 1912

In fact, he closely resembled Mrs. Littlejohn’s uncle, Jeremy Uprichard, the obstinate and domineering enfant terrible of an otherwise charming and happy family.

George Bellairs, Death in the Night Watches, 1946
Thursday, January 18, 2018


[ hahrt-suh m ]


Chiefly Scot. giving cheer, spirit, or courage: a heartsome wine.

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What is the origin of heartsome?

Heartsome was first recorded in the 1560s.

how is heartsome used?

… Pauline … ended with a silvery laugh that made the silence musical with its heartsome sound.

Louisa May Alcott, Pauline's Passion and Punishment, 1863

As he looked, the warm, red sun came out lighting up with a heartsome warmth the whole gray day.

Rebecca Harding Davis, Margret Howth, 1861


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