Word of the Day

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

raffish

[ raf-ish ]

adjective

mildly or sometimes engagingly disreputable or nonconformist; rakish: a matinee idol whose raffish offstage behavior amused millions.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of raffish?

Raffish is protean in its meanings and possible origins. Its meanings include “mildly, engagingly nonconformist, rakish; gaudy, vulgar, tawdry.” Raffish is obviously a derivative of the noun raff, but it is with raff that real problems arise. Raff means “rabble, the lower sort of people, riffraff.” Raff may be a shortening of riffraff (earlier riffe raffe), from Middle English rif and raf, a catchall phrase of very uncertain origin meaning “everything, every particle, things of slight value, everyone, one and all.” Related phrases or idioms exist in other languages: Walloon French has rif-raf “fast and sloppy”; Middle Dutch has rijf ende raf “everything, everyone, one and all; Italian has di riffa o di raffa “one way or another.” Raffish entered English in the late 18th century.

how is raffish used?

In trying to look like raffish characters, American men spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on hairpieces, urban cowboy clothes, disco lessons, imported sports cars, aviator glasses, tailored jogging suits or jump suits, health club memberships, and sex manuals.

Mike Royko, "Jay's Bottom Line," Chicago Sun-Times, September 24, 1980

He was wearing a dark suit and a collar and tie, but he had that raffish seediness about him of a newspaper journalist.

M. C. Beaton, The Potted Gardener, 1994
WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ
Put your wits to the test! New quizzes added weekly.
TAKE THE QUIZ
ALEXA, ENABLE DICTIONARY.COM
Now you can ask Alexa what the Word of the Day is at any time.
ENABLE ALEXA

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

kyoodle

[ kahy-ood-l ]

verb

to bark or yelp noisily or foolishly; yap.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of kyoodle?

Kyoodle began as and still may be an Americanism. The word has no distinguished etymology (except for the vague label Imitative), which exactly fits the verb and also one of its noun meanings: mutt, noisy dog. Some distinguished American authors have used the word, however, including John Steinbeck, John O’Hara, and Sinclair Lewis. Kyoodle entered English in the late 19th century.

how is kyoodle used?

No living thing moved upon it, not even a medicine wolf to kyoodle to the invisible moon.

Richard Sale, The White Buffalo, 1975

But the dogs waved their tails happily and sought out a rabbit and went kyoodling after it.

John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat, 1935
Monday, August 20, 2018

squamous

[ skwey-muhs ]

adjective

covered with or formed of squamae or scales.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of squamous?

The adjective squamous is a direct borrowing of Latin squāmōsus “covered with scales, scaly”, a derivative of the noun squāma “scale (on a fish or reptile), metal plate used in making armor.” The ultimate etymology of squāma is unclear, but it is related to squālēre “to be covered or crusted in scales or dirt,” and the derivatives of squālēre include squālidus “having a rough surface” and squālor “roughness, dirtiness, filth.” Squamous entered English in the 16th century.

how is squamous used?

The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certain snakes.

H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror," Weird Tales, April 1929

They speak no known tongue and are said to sacrifice sailors to their squamous, fish-headed gods, likenesses of whom rise from their stony shores, visible only when the tide recedes.

George R. R. Martin, Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire, 2014
Sunday, August 19, 2018

lunula

[ loo-nyuh-luh ]

noun

something shaped like a narrow crescent, as the small, pale area at the base of the fingernail.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of lunula?

The uncommon noun lunula is restricted to anatomy, biology, and archaeology or art history. It’s a straightforward borrowing of Latin lūnula, literally “little moon,” but meaning “crescent-shaped ornament” (one of its senses in English). The only common meaning for this uncommon noun is the pale, crescent-shaped are at the base of a fingernail or toenail. Lūnula is a diminutive of lūna “moon,” which is disconcertingly similar to Russian luná “moon.” (The cognate Polish łuna means “glow.”) Both the Slavic and the Latin nouns derive from the same Proto-Indo-European source, louksnā, the same source as Avestan raoxshna- “shining; a light.” (Raoxshna is also used as a proper female name that in Greek is rendered Rhōxánē “Roxane.” The “original” Raoxshna/Roxane was a Bactrian princess born c340 b.c.; she married Alexander the Great in 327 b.c., and was poisoned in prison in 310 b.c.). Proto-Indo-European louksnā becomes in Old Prussian the plural noun lauxnos “stars,” and Middle Irish luan “moon.” All of these forms derive from the very common Proto-Indo-European root leuk- and its variants louk- and luk- “light, bright.” Lunula entered English in the 16th century.

how is lunula used?

It refuses to grow back, the nail of this one finger, the lunula destroyed, a moon permanently obliterated by one smash of his interrogator’s pistol.

Vaddey Ratner, Music of the Ghosts, 2017

I … wore only a simple shift of amber-and-brown plaid wool, and only ghillies, ovals of calfskin, laced around my feet. No golden tore, no silver lunula, nor am I royal of stature or of mien.

Nancy Springer, “The Kingmaker,” Firebird Soaring, 2009
Saturday, August 18, 2018

prima facie

[ prahy-muh fey-shee-ee, fey-shee, fey-shuh, pree- ]

adjective

plain or clear; self-evident; obvious.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of prima facie?

The English phrase prima facie is obviously Latin: prīmā faciē (ablative singular in form) means “at first sight.” (Faciēs has very many meanings: “physical or outward appearance, looks, sight, scene, good looks,….”) It is not incredible that the English phrase at first blush is a literal translation of the Latin phrase: blush, a noun meaning “glance, sight,” is obsolete except for the phrase at (on) (the) first blush. Prima facie entered English in the 15th century.

how is prima facie used?

McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office.

Hendrik Hertzberg, "Like, Socialism," The New Yorker, November 3, 2008

There was no prima-facie absurdity in his hypothesis—and experiment was the sole means of demonstrating its truth or falsity.

Thomas H. Huxley, "William Harvey," Popular Science Monthly, March 1878
Friday, August 17, 2018

corpocracy

[ kawr-pok-ruh-see ]

noun

a society in which corporations have much economic and political power.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of corpocracy?

Corpocracy is an unlovely compound noun formed from corporate or corporation plus the common combining form -cracy, ultimately from the Greek combining form -kratía, formed from krátos “strength, power,” and the noun suffix -ía. Corpocracy is not a recent word: it first appears in print in 1935, right smack in the middle of the Great Depression, during FDR’s first term.

how is corpocracy used?

Whether you are in business or government, you will be members of the same corpocracy. In the West, there are tensions between government and business elites. In China, these elites are part of the same social web, cooperating for mutual enrichment.

David Brooks, "The Dictatorship of Talent," New York Times, December 4, 2007

… David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” features a futuristic South Korea-inspired “corpocracy,” a hotbed of clones, plastic surgery (“facescaping”), and insurrection.

Ed Park, "Sorry Not Sorry," The New Yorker, October 19, 2015
Thursday, August 16, 2018

anodyne

[ an-uh-dahyn ]

noun

anything that relieves distress or pain: The music was an anodyne to his grief.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of anodyne?

Anodyne has a surprising etymology. Its Greek original, anṓdynos “painless,” breaks down to the elements an-, ṓd-, -yn-, -os-. The first element, an- “not,” is from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Latin in- and Germanic (English) un-. The second to last element -yn- is from the noun suffix -ýnē; the last element, -os, is an adjective ending. The main element odýnē “pain” (édyna in the Aeolic dialect) consists of ṓd-, a derivative of the Greek root ed-, od- from the Proto-Indo-European root ed-, od- “to eat” (source of Latin edere, Germanic (Old English) etan, Hittite et-, Homeric Greek édmenai, all meaning “eat, to eat.”) In Greek odýnē is something that eats you (cf. colloquial English, “What’s eating you?”). The Germanic languages also have the compound verb fra-etan “to eat up, devour,” which becomes in German fressen “devour, gorge, corrode,” and in Old English fretan “to devour,” English fret, which nowadays usually has only its extended sense “feel worry or pain.” Anodyne entered English in the 16th century.

how is anodyne used?

… he realized that then, and now, work had been an anodyne of sorts. It had occupied his mind.

Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Courtship, 2010

… he would run down the great staircase, with its lions of gilt bronze and its steps of bright porphyry, and wander from room to room, and from corridor to corridor, like one who was seeking to find beauty an anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration from sickness.

Oscar Wilde, "The Young King," A House of Pomegranates, 1891

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.