Word of the Day

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

rhubarb

[ roo-bahrb ]

noun

a quarrel or squabble.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of rhubarb?

Rhubarb has a complicated origin. There are several odd Middle English spellings (as one would expect), e.g., reubarb, reubard, reubarbe, etc., from Anglo-French or Middle French reubarbe, rubarbe, reu barbare, all from Late Latin reubarbarum, rheubarbarum. The Latin forms are probably from Greek rhêon bárbaron “foreign rhubarb.” Rhêon is a variant of rhâ “the dried root of rhubarb used as a medicine,” perhaps ultimately related to Persian (an Iranian language) rewend “rhubarb.” Ancient Greek authors also associated rhâ (or Rhâ) with the Scythian (another Iranian language) name for the Volga River. The baseball slang meaning of rhubarb “a loud quarrel on the field, especially between a player and an umpire,” dates from about 1938. Rhubarb entered English in the late 14th century.

how is rhubarb used?

Power, newly acquired from the Minnesota Twins, was accused of the action during a rhubarb with the umpire on a play at third base.

Jet, "'Spitting' Accusation May Cost Vic Power $1,750," July 30, 1964

… Tom Meany stopped in a tavern the day after this thing happened … and the bartender said, “We had quite the rhubarb last night, Mr. Meany.”

Red Barber and Robert Creamer, Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat, 1968

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, April 23, 2019

bardolatry

[ bahr-dol-uh-tree ]

noun

great or excessive adoration of or reverence for William Shakespeare: I crossed the line into bardolatry halfway through my thesis on the psyche of Lady Macbeth.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of bardolatry?

Bardolatry, an excessive devotion to “the Bard” (William Shakespeare), is a combination of bard, from common Celtic bardos (Old Irish bard, Welsh bardd), and the combining form –latry, from Greek latreía “service, worship.” Bardolatry was coined by George Bernard Shaw in 1901.

how is bardolatry used?

So much for Bardolatry!

George Bernard Shaw, "Better Than Shakespear?" Three Plays for Puritans, 1901

… a fellow who’d been sizing up Aaron’s Bardolatry credentials had boasted that he himself had disproven all three leading theories about the identities of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady and Fair Youth, and would soon be the one to unearth the true identities of Shakespeare’s female and male paramours.

Rachel Kadish, The Weight of Ink, 2017
Monday, April 22, 2019

Anthropocene

[ an-thruh-puh-seen, an-throp-uh‐ ]

noun

Geology.

a proposed epoch of the present time, occurring since mid-20th century, when human activity began to effect significant environmental consequences, specifically on ecosystems and climate.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of Anthropocene?

Anthropocene is a compound of Greek ánthrōpos “human being, man (as opposed to an animal or a god)” and the English combining form –cene, which was extracted from words like Miocene, Pliocene, and Oligocene, names of geological strata and epochs. The combining form –cene ultimately comes from the Greek adjective kainós “new, recent”; it was coined by the English geologist Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875). Anthropocene entered English in the 20th century.

how is Anthropocene used?

He proposed that humans had so throughly altered the fundamental processes of the planet—through agriculture, climate change, and nuclear testing, and other phenomena—that a new geological epoch had commenced: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.

Robinson Meyer, "Geology's Timekeepers Are Feuding," The Atlantic, July 20, 2018

The meetings addressed ideas including how to accessibly present complex data, and grappled with many aspects of life in the Anthropocene age—today’s geological era, marked by human domination of the environment.

Kimberly Bradley, "The End Is Nigh. Can Design Save Us?" New York Times, March 20, 2019
Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter egg

[ ee-ster eg ]

noun

a hidden message, as a cryptic reference, iconic image, or inside joke, that fans are intended to discover in a television show or movie.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of Easter egg?

Easter egg, in the sense “a hidden message, reference, or inside joke that fans are intended to discover in a piece of software, television show, or movie,” is meant to invoke the traditional Easter egg hunt and dates from the mid-1980s. The original sense of Easter egg dates from the 16th century.

how is Easter egg used?

Peele, who also wrote the film, also packed his film with funny, bizarre, and meaningful Easter eggs and references.

Yohana Desta, "5 Chilling Things You Didn't Notice About Get Out the First Time Around," Vanity Fair, March 6, 2017

Wade is one of the many, likely millions, who take part in a new game for earnest stakes: a competition to find three Easter eggs, or embedded tricks, in a virtual game.

Richard Brody, "Steven Spielberg's Oblivious, Chilling Pop-Culture Nostalgia in 'Ready Player One'," The New Yorker, April 2, 2018
Saturday, April 20, 2019

exodus

[ ek-suh-duhs ]

noun

a going out; a departure or emigration, usually of a large number of people: the summer exodus to the country and shore.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of exodus?

Exodus dates from Old English times: the English abbot and scholar Aelfric Grammaticus (“Aelfric the Grammarian,” c955–c1020) writes the sentence sēo ōther bōc is Exodus gehāten “The second book (of the Bible) is called Exodus.” The Old English noun comes straight from Latin Latin exodus, a direct borrowing of Greek éxodos “a going out, a march, military expedition.” Éxodos is the Greek title, not a translation, of the opening words of the Hebrew text, wě ʾēlleh shěmōth “And these (are) the names.”

how is exodus used?

The California exodus has been far more significant in the more lightly populated states of the West, where people born in California now represent a huge share of the population.

Nate Cohn, "The California Exodus," New York Times, August 14, 2014

Signs point to an exodus. A study published earlier this month suggests that senior civil servants leave in droves during the first year of a new administration.

Andrew McGill, "The Coming Exodus of Career Civil Servants," The Atlantic, December 28, 2016
Friday, April 19, 2019

yealing

[ yee-lin ]

noun

Scot.

a person of the same age as oneself.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of yealing?

Yealing “a contemporary, a coeval” is a word of uncertain etymology, used by only three Scottish poets: Allan Ramsay (1686–1758), Robert Burns (1759–1796), and Robert Couper (1750–1818). Yealing entered English in the 18th century.

how is yealing used?

Oh ye, my dear-remember’d ancient yealings, / Were ye but here to share my wounded feelings!

Robert Burns, "The Brigs of Ayr," Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Edinburgh Edition, 1787

His bonny, various, yeelin‘ frien’s / Cam a’ in bourrochs there ….

Robert Couper, "Macguldrochiana," Poetry Chiefly in the Scottish Language, 1804
Thursday, April 18, 2019

facultative

[ fak-uhl-tey-tiv ]

adjective

left to one's option or choice; optional: The last questions in the examination were facultative.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of facultative?

The adjective facultative comes via the French adjective facultatif (masculine), facultative (feminine) “conveying or granting a right or power,” from the noun faculté “knowledge, learning, physical or moral capacity.” French faculté is ultimately from Latin facultāt-, the stem of facultās “ability, power, capacity” (originally a doublet of the noun facilitās “ease, ease of performance or completion, facility”). The French adjective suffix –atif, –ative comes from the Latin suffix –ātivus; the English suffix –ative comes from both French and Latin. Facultative entered English in the 19th century.

how is facultative used?

I cannot but be conscious, when this toast of “Science and Literature” is given, that in what tends to become the popular view it is Sir William Grove and Science who are obligatory; it is I and Literature who are facultative.

Matthew Arnold, "Banquet at the Royal Academy," The Times, May 2, 1881

From the facultative point of view, Poe thinks of poetry as a rhythmic and musical use of language which is the province of Taste alone, and which aspires to Beauty.

Richard Wilbur, "Terror Wasn't His Only Talent," New York Times, September 9, 1984

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.