Word of the Day

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

riant

[ rahy-uhnt, ree- ]

adjective

laughing; smiling; cheerful.

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What is the origin of riant?

The rare adjective riant is a direct borrowing from the French present participle riant “laughing,” from the verb rire, ultimately from Latin rīdēre “to laugh,” which comes from a very complicated Proto-Indo-European root wer- “to twist, bend” (rīdēre would mean “twist the face or mouth”). Wer- has many suffixes and extensions that form some startling words. The meaning of the root extended with the suffix -t is clearly seen in Latin vertere “to turn,” with its many English derivatives, e.g., revert, convert, invert. The Germanic form of wert- is werth-, source of the English suffix -ward(s), as in homeward(s), toward(s). A variant form of wer- with the suffix -m forms Latin vermis “worm” (from its twisting) and Germanic wurmiz (Old English wyrm “dragon, serpent”; English worm). Finally, somewhat related to rīdēre is the Latin noun rictus “wide open mouth, gaping jaws” (English rictus). Riant entered English in the 16th century.

how is riant used?

Mistress Marjory bent her head with a murmured assurance of “giving him small trouble,” but again the riant eyes belied the lips …

Sara Beaumont Kennedy, "Sweet Marjory," Outing, Volume XXVII, January 1896

At the head of that open and legal agitation, was a man of giant proportions in body and mind; … a humor broad, bacchant, riant, genial and jovial …

John Mitchel, Jail Journal; or, Five Years in British Prisons, 1854
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Monday, August 13, 2018

laeotropic

[ lee-uh-trop-ik, -troh-pik ]

adjective

oriented or coiled in a leftward direction, as a left-spiraling snail shell.

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What is the origin of laeotropic?

The adjective laeotropic “turning leftward” is restricted to describing snail shells. The second element, -tropic “turning (to),” is common enough in the physical sciences, e.g., geography, meteorology, chemistry. The first element laeo- is rare. It comes from the Greek adjective laiós “left, on the left” (there is one ancient lexicographical reference implying the form laiwós). Laiwós is all but identical to Latin laevus and pretty close to Slavic (Polish) lewy. Outside these three branches of the Indo-European languages (and possibly also Lithuanian, among the Baltic languages), laiwo- does not occur. Laeotropic entered English in the 19th century.

how is laeotropic used?

The arms of the cross are slightly oblique; and it is worthy of note that the direction of their inclination is laeotropic, while in Crepidula and Ischnochiton the arms show a slight dexiotropic twist.

Samuel J. Holmes, "The Early Development of Planorbis," Journal of Morphology, Volume XVI, February 1900

… the direction of corresponding cleavages is the same, i.e., the second cleavage is laeotropic and the third dexiotropic, and so on …. Why should this constancy occur?

C. M. Child, "The Significance of the Spiral type of Cleavage and Its Relation to the Process of Differentiation," Biological Lectures from the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Holl, 1899
Sunday, August 12, 2018

Perseid

[ pur-see-id ]

noun

Astronomy. any of a shower of meteors appearing in August and radiating from a point in the constellation Perseus.

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What is the origin of Perseid?

Perseid may have been introduced into English from Italian Perseidi, coined by the distinguished Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), who is unfortunately best remembered today for the mistranslation into English of Italian canali “channels” on Mars as “canals,” which has inspired decades and decades of science fiction. Perseid ultimately comes from Greek Perseídēs “offspring or daughters of Perseus,” because the meteors appear to be coming from the constellation Perseus. Perseid entered English in the 19th century.

how is Perseid used?

Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by Earth; its nucleus is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide. It last passed nearby Earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126. But it won’t be forgotten in the meantime, because Earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower.

Sarah Lewin, "Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where & How to See It," Space.com, July 9, 2018

The Perseids also feature “fireballs,” which are meteors of bright color and longer streaks that sometimes have “magnitudes greater than -3.”

Aimée Lutkin, "How to Watch the Perseids Meteor Showers This Season," Lifehacker, July 9, 2018
Saturday, August 11, 2018

decorous

[ dek-er-uhs, dih-kawr-uhs, -kohr- ]

adjective

characterized by dignified propriety in conduct, manners, appearance, character, etc.

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What is the origin of decorous?

The English adjective decorous ultimately derives from Latin decōrus “acceptable, fitting, proper.” The adjective decōrus is a derivative of the noun decus (inflectional stem decor-) “esteem, honor.” The Latin words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root dek-, dok- “to accept, take,” from which Latin also derives the verb decēre “to be acceptable, be fitting,” whose present participle stem decent- is the source of English decent. From the root dok- Latin forms the verb docēre “to teach (i.e., to make acceptable, make fitting).” The English derivatives of docēre include doctrine and docent. The same root appears in Greek dokeîn “to expect, suppose, imagine, seem, seem good,” and its derivative nouns dógma “what seems good, opinion, belief,” source of English dogma, and dóxa “expectation, opinion, estimation, repute,” and in the Septuagint and the New Testament, “glory, splendor,” which forms the first element in doxology “hymn of praise.” Decorous entered English in the 17th century.

how is decorous used?

If you think British historical dramas are all decorous whisperings about how one should behave upon meeting the queen, this mini-series is here to prove that notion wrong …

Joanna Scutts, "The Very Real Story Behind A Very English Scandal," Slate, July 4, 2018

The normally decorous Senate has been rocked by heated confrontations this week as fellow Republicans have traded personal and profane insults over how much loyalty to show President Trump.

Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, "Animosity in the Senate as GOP trades insults over criticism of Trump," Washington Post, June 14, 2018
Friday, August 10, 2018

agora

[ ag-er-uh ]

noun

the place where a popular political assembly met in Ancient Greece, originally a marketplace or public square.

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What is the origin of agora?

In Greek agorá originally meant “assembly,” especially of the common people, not of the ruling class. Agorá gradually developed the meanings “marketplace, the business that goes on in the marketplace, public speaking.” The Greek noun is a derivative of the verb ageírein “to gather,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ger-, gere- “to gather, collect,” source also of Latin grex “flock, herd,” with its English derivatives aggregate, egregious, and gregarious. Agora entered English in the late 16th century.

how is agora used?

In the fall of 1964, left-wing students at U.C. Berkeley demanded the right to hand out antiwar literature on Sproul Plaza, the red brick agora at the center of the campus.

Andrew Marantz, "How Social-Media Trolls Turned U.C. Berkeley Into a Free-Speech Circus," The New Yorker, July 2, 2018

… it has become a commonplace among ancient historians to single out the agora as the political centre of the polis where the people met to make all important decisions or, in oligarchies and tyrannies, to rubber stamp the decisions made by the rulers.

, "The Agora as the Political Centre of the Polis," The Polis as an Urban Centre and as a Political Community, Symposium, August 29–31, 1996
Thursday, August 09, 2018

littoral

[ lit-er-uhl ]

adjective

of or relating to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean.

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What is the origin of littoral?

English littoral comes from the Latin adjective littorālis (lītorālis is more correct), a derivative of littor- (lītor-), the inflectional stem of lītus (littus) “shore, shoreline.” In general littoral is used for technical subjects, e.g., geography, biology. The one exception is the common noun lido meaning “fashionable beach resort,” and the somewhat less fashionable “public open-air swimming pool.” Lido comes directly from Venetian Italian Lido (di Venezia) (from Latin lītus), the name of a sandbar or chain of sandy islands between the Lagoon of Venice and the Adriatic, the site of the annual Venice Film Festival. Littoral entered English in the 17th century.

how is littoral used?

The Center for Advanced Studies would be built–perhaps there was still some virgin littoral stretch and the building he envisaged could be nestled somewhere along this lake or the other–but there would be modifications in the plan.

Ralph McInerny, The Green Revolution, 2008

In another hour the horns of motors began to blow down from the winding road along the low range of the Maures, which separates the littoral from true Provençal France.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night, 1934
Wednesday, August 08, 2018

calescent

[ kuh-les-uhnt ]

adjective

growing warm; increasing in heat.

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What is the origin of calescent?

The English adjective calescent comes directly from Latin calescent-, the inflectional stem of calescēns, the present participle of the verb calescere “to become warm or hot,” a verb derivative of calēre “to be warm or hot.” In Latin the element -sc- in the present tense has inceptive force (i.e., “I am beginning to x”); thus the present tense of noscere (also gnoscere) means “I get to know, I find out” and is the source of English recognize, cognition, and other words. Calescent entered English in the early 19th century.

how is calescent used?

I’ve tested the misting fan’s potency in several clammy places, from subway stations to the congested, calescent queues at Disney World (where, on a stinking-hot day, I’d unwisely worn a boiler suit).

Laura Bannister, "The Misting Fan That Kept Me Cool at Disney World," New York, June 12, 2017

Otis’ earlier statements had been calm, but calescent anger foamed in him and was soon to explode.

Arelo C. Sederberg, The Dynamite Conspiracy, 2001

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