Word of the Day

Sunday, December 09, 2018

rutilant

[ root-l-uhnt ]

adjective

glowing or glittering with ruddy or golden light.

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What is the origin of rutilant?

It is one thing to see greatly varying descendants of Proto-Indo-European words in its daughter languages, as for instance in the very common (and easy to handle) Proto-Indo-European root bher-, bhor- “to carry, bear, bear children,” which appears as bhar- in Sanskrit, pher- in Greek, fer- in Latin, and ber- in Slavic, Armenian, and Germanic (English bear). It is another thing to see wildly variant forms of a Proto-Indo-European root within one language, but Latin offers a good example from the Proto-Indo-European root reudh-, roudh-, rudh- “red.” (The root variant roudh- becomes raud- in Germanic, rēad in Old English (the ēa is a diphthong from au) and red in English.) Roudh- is also the source of Latin rūfus, a dialect word meaning “red, tawny” and also a proper name “Red” (rufous and Rufus in English). Roudh- also yields Latin rōbus “red (of oxen and other animals),” rōbur “oak, red oak” (the adjective rōbustus “of oak, oaken, strong” becomes robust in English). The root variant rudh- yields Latin ruber “red,” rutilus “glowing red,” with its derivative verb rutilāre “to glow with a bright red or golden color,” whose present participle stem rutilant- becomes English rutilant. Rutilant entered English in the 15th century.

how is rutilant used?

Sometimes, when reading one of his works, I wonder whether Mr. Lawrence has not mistaken his medium, and whether it is not a painter he ought to have been, so significant is for him the slaty opalescence of the heron’s wing and so rutilant the death of the sun.

W. L. George, "Three Young Novelists," Literary Chapters, 1918

She looks up occasionally, between cross stitches, to gaze upon the steady stream of tourists stopping to admire the rutilant, shimmering sandstone folds unfurling 4,000 feet below.

Sam McManis, "Discoveries: Grand Canyon's South Rim crowded but not overbearing," Sacramento Bee, July 25, 2015

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Saturday, December 08, 2018

trimming

[ trim-ing ]

noun

anything used or serving to decorate or complete: the trimmings of a Christmas tree.

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What is the origin of trimming?

It is quite a jump to go from Byrhtnoth, Ealdorman of Essex, arranging his men in battle order (trymian) against the Vikings (recorded in the magnificent Old English poem The Battle of Maldon) to cranberry sauce and creamed onions with the Thanksgiving turkey. The Old English adjective trum “strong, firm” is the source of the verb trymian, trymman “to encourage, strengthen, prepare.” The Old English noun trymming, derived from the verb, means “strengthening, confirmation, edification, establishment.” The modern spelling trimming first appears in the first half of the 16th century with several meanings. One is “the repair or preparation of equipment, especially fitting out of a ship,” e.g., “trimming of the sails.” A second sense, all but contemporaneous with the first, is “adornment, dressing one’s hair or beard, dressing up.” A third sense of trimming, perhaps associated with the notion of dressing (up), is “a rebuke, a beating,” that is, “a dressing down.” In the early 17th century, trimming, especially in the plural, and typically in the phrase “all the trimmings,” meant “ordinary accessories (as for a house or cooked meat).” In the early 19th century, trimming acquired the meaning “pieces cut off, cuttings, scraps.”

how is trimming used?

It was after eleven when William in his socks made his way to the attic where the trimmings for the tree were stored.

Mary Roberts Rinehart, "The Butler's Christmas Eve," Alibi for Isabel, 1944

Painting china, carving wood, button-holing butterflies and daisies onto Turkish towelling, and making peacock-feather trimming, amused her for a time …

Louisa May Alcott, "What Becomes of the Pins," Aunt Jo's Scrap Bag, Volume 5: Jimmy's Cruise in the Pinafore, Etc., 1879
Friday, December 07, 2018

scrooch

[ skrooch ]

verb

Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. to crouch, squeeze, or huddle (usually followed by down, in, or up).

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What is the origin of scrooch?

Scrooch “to crouch, squeeze, huddle” was originally a U.S. colloquial and dialect word. It is probably a variant of scrouge “to squeeze, crowd,” itself a blend of the obsolete verb scruze “to squeeze” and gouge. To make things even more unclear, scruze itself is a blend of screw and bruise. Scrooch entered English in the 19th century.

how is scrooch used?

When you want to get up again, you sort of scrooch forward and the chair comes up straight so you don’t have to dislocate your sciatica trying to get out of the pesky thing.

Charlotte MacLeod, Something the Cat Dragged In, 1984

Myr Korso, please tell him to scrooch down if he has to be there.

James Tiptree, Jr., Brightness Falls from the Air, 1985
Thursday, December 06, 2018

athenaeum

[ ath-uh-nee-uhm, -ney- ]

noun

a library or reading room.

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What is the origin of athenaeum?

Athenaeum ultimately derives from Greek Athḗnaion, the name of the temple of Athena in ancient Athens where poets read their works. It entered English in the 1720s.

how is athenaeum used?

The back of his state-issued S.U.V. is stacked with notebooks filled with ideas and data culled from books and articles and conversations with nearly four hundred experts; it’s a kind of rolling athenaeum.

Tad Friend, "Gavin Newsom, the Next Head of the California Resistance," The New Yorker, November 5, 2018

At the top of the main staircase, with patterned risers and leather-covered treads, a bedroom was turned into the Athenaeum, or classical library.

Julie Lasky, "A Victorian Wonderland in Park Slope," New York Times, March 16, 2018
Wednesday, December 05, 2018

postiche

[ paw-steesh, po- ]

noun

a false hairpiece.

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What is the origin of postiche?

Postiche, like many cultural terms derived from the Romance languages, has a complicated etymology, what with the borrowing and lending of forms and meanings between Latin, Late Latin, Medieval Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The English word postiche, from French postiche, has two original meanings: as an adjective, it is a term used in architecture and sculpture and means “added on, especially inappropriately; artificial, counterfeit”; as a noun, it means “a hairpiece made of false hair.” The French word may come from Spanish postizo “artificial, substitute,” or from Italian posticcio with the same meanings. The Spanish and Italian forms most likely derive from Late Latin apposticius “placed beside or on” (and equivalent to Latin appositus “adjacent, near at hand, suitable”).

how is postiche used?

… the Goulet postiche is guaranteed to blend imperceptibly with the wearer’s own hair, for I refuse to settle for anything less than a perfect match.

Catherine Chidgey, The Transformation, 2003

… when the hair had been thoroughly dyed it could only recover its natural colour by this slow process, but that usually the effect was concealed by a postiche

Laurence Oliphant, Piccadilly, 1870
Tuesday, December 04, 2018

brusquerie

[ broos-kuh-ree ]

noun

abruptness and bluntness in manner; brusqueness.

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What is the origin of brusquerie?

Brusquerie, which still feels like a French word, is a derivative of the adjective brusque. The French adjective comes from Italian brusco “rough, tart,” a special use of the noun brusco “butcher’s broom” (the name of a shrub). Brusco may come from Latin bruscum “a knot or growth on a maple tree”; or brusco may be a conflation of Latin ruscus, ruscum “butcher’s broom” and Vulgar Latin brūcus “heather.” Brusquerie entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is brusquerie used?

… I could see that she was doing her best to irritate me with the brusquerie of her answers.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gambler (1866), translated by C. J. Hogarth, 1917

I hope you have not been so foolish as to take offence at any little brusquerie of mine …

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Gold-Bug," Philadelphia Dollar Magazine, 1843
Monday, December 03, 2018

beanfeast

[ been-feest ]

noun

Chiefly British Slang. (formerly) an annual dinner or party given by an employer for employees.

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What is the origin of beanfeast?

Beanfeast is a perfectly ordinary compound of the humble bean and feast. A beanfeast was originally an annual dinner given by employers for their employees, but the word acquired the sense “festive occasion” by the end of the 19th century. Beanfeast entered English in the early 19th century.

how is beanfeast used?

In August the annual outing, or, as it was called, the bean-feast, at the works took place.

G. A. Henty, Sturdy and Strong, 1888

Why do we come? … Simply from the primordial love of a bean-feast!

W. W. Blair-Fish, "Because We Are Conventional," The Rotarian, June 1930

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