• Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 07, 2019

    rarefied

    adjective [rair-uh-fahyd]
    extremely high or elevated; lofty; exalted: the rarefied atmosphere of a scholarly symposium.
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    What is the origin of rarefied?

    The adjective rarefied “elevated, lofty, exalted,” only first appears in this sense in English in the second half of the 17th century. In origin, rarefied is the past participle of the Middle English verb rarefien “to reduce the density of, thin, soften,” first recorded at the end of the 14th century. Rarefien comes from Old French rarefier, from Medieval Latin rārēficāre, from Latin rārēfacere “to make less solid, rarefy,” a Latin technical term occurring first and only in Lucretius’s Dē Rērum Nātūrā, a long Epicurean didactic poem aimed at freeing human beings from the scourge of superstition, religion, and the fear of death.

    How is rarefied used?

    The country gentry of old time lived in a rarefied social air: dotted apart on their stations up the mountain they looked down with imperfect discrimination on the belts of thicker life below. George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872

    In his 30s, breathing rarefied air, Mr. Coppola made two decisions that changed his career’s trajectory. R. T. Watson, "Francis Ford Coppola's New Visions," Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, September 06, 2019

    chirography

    noun [kahy-rog-ruh-fee]
    handwriting; penmanship.
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    What is the origin of chirography?

    Chirography, an expensive word for “handwriting, penmanship,” comes from Greek cheirogaphía “written report, testimony in writing.” The first element, cheiro-, is a combining form of the noun cheír “hand,” which has many dialect forms (chérs, chḗr, chérr-). Cheír comes from the uncommon Proto-Indo-European root ghesor-, ghesr- “hand,” the source of Hittite kessar, Armenian jeṙ-, and Tocharian tsar, all meaning “hand.” The combining form -graphy, naturalized in English, is a derivative of the verb gráphein “to write,” from a Proto-Indo-European root ghrebh-, ghrobh- “to scratch, dig, bury,” the source of English grave (burial place), grub (to dig), and groove. Chirography entered English in the 17th century.

    How is chirography used?

    Miss Kate S. Chittenden's hand is bold, fearless, and masculine, and there are decided indications that her temperament resembles her chirography in these respects. "Character in Writing," New York Times February 22, 1891

    “Three hours of hand-shaking is not calculated to improve a man’s chirography,” he [Lincoln] said later that evening. Louis P. Masur, Lincoln's Hundred Days, 2012

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, September 05, 2019

    magnanimous

    adjective [mag-nan-uh-muhs]
    generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness: to be magnanimous toward one's enemies.
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    What is the origin of magnanimous?

    Magnanimous comes from the Latin adjective magnanimus “noble in spirit, brave, generous.” Magnanimus is a loan translation of the Greek adjectives megáthymos, megalóthymos “great hearted,” and megalópsychos “generous, high-souled.” Magnanimus was used especially in translations of the Aristotelian term megalópsychos. Magnanimous entered English in the 16th century.

    How is magnanimous used?

    ... if he would ... discharge his heart of its hoarded bitterness—forgive the world, for having turned his head; and for not keeping it turned, by main force; become a little more magnanimous; and, a little less unhappy and suspicious ... I do almost believe that he might do something decent, to be remembered by. John Neal, Randolph, 1823

    As a master of symbolism, Mandela supported his strategy by being magnanimous towards his former enemies. Paul Schoemaker, "The 3 Decisions That Made Mandela a Truly Great Leader," Inc., July 28, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 04, 2019

    daffing

    noun [daf-ing] Scot. and North England.
    merriment; playful behavior; foolishness.
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    What is the origin of daffing?

    Daffing, “merriment, playfulness,” also “insanity,” is a British dialect word used in northern England and Scotland (the only two writers of note to use the word are the Scotsmen Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson). Daffing is a derivative of the Scottish verb daff “to play, make sport,” from the obsolete noun daff “fool, idiot, coward,” from the Middle English adjective dafte “well-mannered, gentle, humble,” and “uncouth, boorish, dull” (possibly from the sense “humble, good-natured”). Dafte is also the source of daft “senseless, stupid, crazy,” from Old English dæfte, defte “gentle.” Daffing entered English in the 16th century.

    How is daffing used?

    "Hoot-toot! hoot-toot!" said Cluny. "It was all daffing; it's all nonsense." Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped, 1886

    He must have had a mind full of variety and wide human sympathy almost Shakespearian, who could step from the musings of Windsor ... to the lasses in their gay kritles, and Hob and Raaf with their rustic " daffing," as true to the life as the Ayrshire clowns of Burns .... Margaret Oliphant, Royal Edinburgh, 1890

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, September 03, 2019

    hive mind

    noun [hahyv mahynd] Psychology, Sociology.
    a collective consciousness, analogous to the behavior of social insects, in which a group of people become aware of their commonality and think and act as a community, sharing their knowledge, thoughts, and resources: the global hive mind that has emerged with sites like Twitter and Facebook.
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    What is the origin of hive mind?

    The meaning of the term hive mind, “a collective consciousness, analogous to the behavior of social insects,” is pretty creepy to most of us. The phrase, appropriately enough, first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction, an American pulp science fiction magazine, in 1950.

    How is hive mind used?

    When I searched, I always selected the videos with the most views first. The wisdom of the so-called hive mind would guide me .... Dana Spiotta, "Down the Rabbit Hole of D.I.Y.," The New Yorker, August 28, 2017

    ... it also has an exceptionally well-organized reference section, summarizing the conclusions of the hive mind on ingredients, the identification and treatment of certain skin conditions, the best products, and how to build an effective routine with them. Julie Beck, "How Skin Care Became an At-Home Science Experiment," The Atlantic, March 9, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, September 02, 2019

    operose

    adjective [op-uh-rohs]
    done with or involving much labor.
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    What is the origin of operose?

    Operose is a borrowing from the Latin adjective operōsus “busy, active, painstaking, taking or involving much care.” Operōsus is a derivative of the noun opus (stem oper-) “labor, work, a work” and the adjective suffix -ōsus, meaning “full of, abounding in.” Opus comes from an uncommon Proto-Indo-European root op- “to work, produce in quantity.” In Oscan, the most conservative of the Italic languages, the root appears in the verbal adjective úpsannam (in form equivalent to Latin operandam, and both derived from Italic opesandam) “to be built, to be made.” Sanskrit derives the noun ápas “work” from op-, and Avestan the compound hvapah- “good work.” Operose entered English in the 16th century.

    How is operose used?

    In reality no problem can be imagined more operose, than that of decomposing the sounds of words into four and twenty simple elements or letters, and again finding these elements in all other words. William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 1793

    So long as we insist upon approaching them through the operose and roundabout method of dead-language studies, schooldays will flee away, and the object will not be accomplished. William P. Atkinson, "Liberal Education of the Nineteenth Century," Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 4, November 1873

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, September 01, 2019

    elide

    verb (used with object) [ih-lahyd]
    to suppress; omit; ignore; pass over.
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    What is the origin of elide?

    Elide comes straight from the Latin verb ēlīdere “to strike out, crush, smash,” a compound of the preposition and prefix ē, ē-, a variant of ex, ex-, here indicating deprivation or loss, and the combining form -līdere, from laedere “to wound, injure, damage.” Ēlīdere and elide both have the legal sense “to nullify, invalidate,” and the grammatical or prosodic sense “to omit a vowel or syllable in pronunciation,” as formerly in English th’embattled plain, and in French l’homme, or Italian l’uomo. Laedere has no known etymology. Elide entered English in the 16th century.

    How is elide used?

    These videos slyly elide the long hours that lie between seeing how something is done and knowing how to do it. Dan Brooks, "The Pleasure of Watching Others Confront Their Own Incompetence," New York Times Magazine, May 15, 2019

    They confused her, made her angry, as though the whole middle section of her life—the part where she was supposed to grow to adulthood, bear children, be a young mother, and watch her children grow to adulthood—had simply been elided. Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation, 2003

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