Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

ravenous

[ rav-uh-nuhs ]

adjective

extremely hungry; famished; voracious.

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What is the origin of ravenous?

Ravenous “extremely hungry” is a borrowing from Old French that derives ultimately from the Latin noun rapīna “plunder, robbery, pillage”; the sense shifted in Old French from “plunder” to describe people who are likely to plunder and then to the associated personality traits of plunderers, such as “violent” and “greedy,” and eventually came to mean “hungry.” Rapīna comes from the verb rapere “to seize,” which is the source of words such as rapacious, rapid, rapt, ravish, surreptitious, and usurp. A common misconception is that ravenous is related to raven, the black-feathered bird, but raven is of Germanic origin, from Old English hrǣfn, and may be a distant relative of Latin corvus “raven” and Ancient Greek kórax “raven, crow.” (In addition, despite the similar spelling and meaning, crow is not related to corvus—though crows and ravens are part of the genus Corvus.) Ravenous was first recorded in English in the late 1300s.

how is ravenous used?

Locusts are ravenous eaters. An adult desert locust that weighs about 2 grams (a fraction of an ounce) can consume roughly its own weight daily. And they’re not picky at all.

Pranav Baskar, “Locusts Are A Plague Of Biblical Scope In 2020. Why? And ... What Are They Exactly?” NPR, June 14, 2020

The merest suggestion of mouth and I was ravenous—I filled the house with chocolate, chestnuts, strudel, blood sausage; I bathed in butter.

Rynn Williams, “Appetite,” Adonis Garage, 2005

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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

revenant

[ rev-uh-nuhnt ]

noun

a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.

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What is the origin of revenant?

Revenant “a person who returns as a spirit after death” is a direct borrowing from French, in which the word is a present participle meaning “coming back, returning.” The infinitive, revenir, is a combination of the prefix re- “back, again” and venir “to come,” the latter from Latin venīre, of the same meaning. Venīre is the source of English terms such as adventure, avenue, convenient, eventual, and invention, all of which originally related to movement, gathering, or discovery (i.e., coming across something); the Latin verb derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root, gwā- “to go, come,” that gives us come, become, welcome, and the Ancient Greek-derived terms acrobat and basis (from baínein). Revenant was first recorded in English in the 1820s.

how is revenant used?

Greek literature has often referenced the rising of the undead, like in Homer’s Odyssey, when Odysseus sacrifices a ram and an ewe to convince the dead to appear for his service. Since the concept of death was viewed as more fluid than concrete in ancient Greece, the belief that the dead could rise as revenants to fulfill their own agendas or the agendas of a conjurer was not uncommon.

Lindsay N. Smith, “Where to Travel if You’re Obsessed With Zombies,” National Geographic, March 29, 2017

One afternoon I was over at my friend Rudd’s. We were in his studio, a rough space framed out above the garage. Rudd is a contractor and photographer, and we were looking at his landscape photos. We’d been talking about a picture of a barren tree in a field burning with red brush. I said something about haunted landscapes, revenants, and he grabbed a crate off a bookcase. ‘Now this here’ll haunt you. This is a real ghost from the past.’

Jennifer Kabat, "Ghostlands," Granta, March 14, 2019

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Word of the day

Monday, October 25, 2021

Faustian

[ fou-stee-uhn ]

adjective

sacrificing spiritual values for power, knowledge, or material gain.

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What is the origin of Faustian?

Faustian “sacrificing spiritual values for power, knowledge, or material gain” is derived from the name of the part-historical, part-legendary figure Johann Georg Faust, whose surname often appears instead as the more Latin-sounding Faustus. The surname Faust is of uncertain origin but may derive either from the Latin adjective faustus “fortunate, lucky,” a cognate of favorable and favorite, or from the German noun Faust “fist.” Faust’s first notable appearance in the English-speaking world was as the main character of Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, in which Faust makes a deal with the Devil that leads to an unfortunate end. Though originally written in German, another famous play featuring this character was Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which was published almost 200 years after Marlowe’s earlier work. Faustian was first recorded in English in the late 1870s.

how is Faustian used?

The Ogallala Aquifer, the vast underground reservoir that gives life to these fields, is disappearing …. This is the breadbasket of America—the region that supplies at least one fifth of the total annual U.S. agricultural harvest .… With a liquid treasure below their feet and a global market eager for their products, farmers here and across the region have made a Faustian bargain—giving up long-term conservation for short-term gain. To capitalize on economic opportunities, landowners are knowingly “mining” a finite resource.

Jane Braxton Little, “The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U.S. Water Source,” Scientific American, March 1, 2009

I always wanted to do a show about a couple that’s on a honeymoon—a thing about money, and someone marrying into money, and realizing what she may have lost. The Faustian bargain that happens when you want a life style, but you also want to retain your independence and power. And so I thought that was a good place to start.

Mike White, as quoted in "Mike White on Money, Status, and Appearing on 'Survivor,'" The New Yorker, July 18, 2021

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