Word of the Day

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

quondam

[ kwon-duhm, -dam ]

adjective

former; onetime: his quondam partner.

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What is the origin of quondam?

The Latin adverb quondam, “formerly, anciently, once (upon a time),” has been used in English as a noun, “the former holder of an office,” as an adverb meaning “formerly, at one time,” and, currently and solely, as an adjective meaning “former, onetime.” All three usages in English occur close together in the first half of the 16th century. Quondam breaks down to the adverbial conjunction cum or quom “at the time that, when.” The particle –dam, however, is of uncertain origin.

how is quondam used?

A few hundred pages after faintly praising me as “a nice enough fellow and I’m sure a very smart guy for a hack,” the book’s narrator (a quondam critic with nothing nice to say about Charlie Kaufman) challenges me to a barroom argument about cinema.

A. O. Scott, "'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' Review: Where to Begin?" New York Times, September 1, 2020

So much has been written of late years about Wordsworth and Shelley, while their quondam rival has been treated with much contumelious silence, that the disdainers of Byron had begun to feel that the ground was entirely their own; and the faithful few, who in secret handed down the old Byron cult, must have fallen into desperation …

Paul Elmore More, "The Wholesome Revival of Byron," The Atlantic, December 1898

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

spang

[ spang ]

adverb

Informal.

directly, exactly.

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What is the origin of spang?

The adverb spang, “directly, exactly, right-on,” dates from the second half of the 18th century. All of its etymologies are speculative. Most has all the markings of an Americanism, but its first (and clearest) occurrence is in a burlesque version of the Iliad by English humorist Thomas Bridges: “Sometimes a brickbat with a bump, / Came spang against his heavy rump.”

how is spang used?

I put down a franc and flew like the wind, the hair on my back standing as high as Queen Anne’s ruff! And I didn’t stop until I found myself spang in the middle of the Musée de Cluny, clutching the rack.

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, 1936

When a man takes off some three hundred square miles of territory spang in the center of Europe in an atomic explosion, you can’t blame the rest of the world for being a bit skittish about atomic power research.

John W. Campbell, The Planeteers, 1966

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Monday, September 14, 2020

blatherskite

[ blath-er-skahyt ]

noun

a person given to voluble, empty talk.

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What is the origin of blatherskite?

Blatherskite “one who is given to voluble, empty talk,” which dates from the middle of the 19th century, was originally and remains mostly an Americanism. Blatherskite is a variant of Scottish bletherskate, which dates from the mid-17th century and is a compound of the verb blether or blather “to talk nonsense” and the Anglo-American slang word skate “person, contemptible person, broken-down horse.” Another variant, bladderskate, appears in the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder,” which was popular among American soldiers during the American Revolution.

how is blatherskite used?

This appeared to deeply offend Deputy Gregorig, who shouted back at Iro, “You cowardly blatherskite, say that again!”

Mark Twain, "Stirring Times in Austria," Harper's Magazine, March 1898

Ms. Murphy had already developed, for one reason or another, a reputation for fragility, and the blatherskites around Broadway began whispering.

Campbell Robertson, "No Ill Feelings: Producers Bet on a 'Superwoman,'" New York Times, April 30, 2007

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