Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

rout

[ rout ]

noun

a defeat attended with disorderly flight; dispersal of a defeated force in complete disorder.

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What is the origin of rout?

Rout “a defeat attended with disorderly flight” derives via Anglo-French from Old French route “fraction, detachment,” from Latin rupta “(having been) broken.” Rupta is the feminine past participle of the verb rumpere (stem rupt-) “to break,” which is the source of words such as abrupt, interrupt, erupt, and bankrupt. The Latin phrase rupta via “broken road” is the ultimate source of route, a type of roadway or course. Rumpere derives from the Proto-Indo-European root reup- “to break; snatch.” Rout was first recorded in English in the early 1200s.

how is rout used?

At first, the rout was slow, and as many men died trying to get away as pressed forward from behind. The Mongols fired methodically at anything they could see. The officers went down quickly and Kachiun shouted wildly as he saw the rout spread. Those who had not come near the front ranks were knocked aside and infected by fear and blood.

Conn Iggulden, Genghis: Lords of the Bow, 2008

They entered a crowded long room just as a man was saying, “It was a clear defeat for our army, but it wasn’t a rout. Retired in good order, they did.” “And still between the British and Philadelphia,” another assured the audience.

John Conradis, A Vagabond Army: A Novel of Maryland in the American Revolution, Vol. 2, 2008

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Word of the day

Monday, September 27, 2021

chernozem

[ chur-nuh-zem, chair- ]

noun

a soil common in cool or temperate semiarid climates, very black and rich in humus and carbonates.

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What is the origin of chernozem?

Chernozem “a soil common in cool or temperate semiarid climates, very black and rich in humus” is a borrowing from Russian chernozëm, a compound of chërnyĭ “black” and zemlyá “earth.” The first element derives from a root also found in the Slavic names Chernobog “black god” (also spelled Chernabog and Czernobog), one of two gods of fate in Slavic mythology, and Chernobyl, the site of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine, whose name derives from Russian chernobyl “wormwood” or, literally, “black herb.” This same root also appears in Sanskrit as the Hindu god Krishna, whose name means “black.” The latter part of chernozem derives from the Proto-Indo-European root dhghem- “earth,” which is the source of several land-related words, such as chthonic (from Ancient Greek khthōn “earth”), exhume and humble (from Latin humus “earth”), and chameleon and chamomile (from Ancient Greek chamaí “on the ground”). Further derivatives of this root include person-related terms such as bridegroom (from Old English guma “man”), hominid (from Latin homō “man”), and human (from Latin hūmānus, of the same meaning). Chernozem was first recorded in English in the mid-1800s.

how is chernozem used?

The temperate climate of the Ukraine, which lies south of Russia, is similar to that of France and the American Midwest. Here, rainfall is well distributed, and we’ll be riding with heads bowed under a drizzle every other day. As we advance, the earth turns black; this is the famous chernozem that nourishes this lush and grassy country and enables it to support many species of wildlife flying, grazing, and crawling in every direction.

Bjarke Rink, The Rise of the Centaurs, 2013

Two thirds of Ukrainian land, or 42.7 million hectares, is made up of chernozem, the legendary black earth that is widely regarded as the world’s most fertile soil. This is almost exactly the same size as the US state of California. Ukraine’s remarkable land bank makes the country a potential agricultural superpower.

Roman Leshchenko, "Land reform can make Ukraine an agricultural superpower," Atlantic Council, June 22, 2021

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Word of the day

Sunday, September 26, 2021

perfidy

[ pur-fi-dee ]

noun

deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery.

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What is the origin of perfidy?

Perfidy “deliberate breach of faith or trust” derives from Latin perfidia “faithlessness,” from the adjective perfidus, literally meaning “through faith” but more accurately translated as “beyond the limits of faith.” The base of perfidus is fidēs “trust, honesty, faith,” which is related to the verb fīdere “to trust,” and both terms are the source of numerous trust-related words, such as confidence, defiance, fealty, and fidelity. Perfidy was first recorded in English in the late 1500s.

how is perfidy used?

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat [sic] the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Thomas Jefferson, et al., The Declaration of Independence, July, 4, 1776

Perhaps the only thing stranger than my circuitous locution in English is my sheepishness in ordering General Tso’s in Chinese in front of other Chinese people, uttering a name that is simultaneously so evidently Chinese and not-Chinese that its very pronunciation presents, at least to this neurotic immigrant, a paralyzing problem of cultural fidelity and perfidy.

Jiayang Fan, "Searching for America with General Tso," The New Yorker, March 12, 2015

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