Word of the Day

Friday, January 31, 2020

sagacious

[ suh-gey-shuhs ]

adjective

having or showing acute mental discernment and keen practical sense; shrewd: Socrates, that sagacious Greek philosopher, believed that the easiest way to learn was by asking questions.

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What is the origin of sagacious?

Sagacious derives straightforwardly from the Latin adjective sagāx (stem sagāc-) “having keen (mental) perception or senses (especially of smell)” and is a derivative of the verb sagīre “to perceive keenly.” The Latin forms come from a Proto-Indo-European root sāg-, “to trace, track down, investigate,” from which Greek derives hēgeîsthai (dialect hāgeîsthai) “to go before, guide,” and English derives “seek.” Sagacious entered English in the early 17th century.

how is sagacious used?

This also preserves the long-standing archetype of the infallible, unflappable and sagacious physician.

Jalal Baig, "Why crying over a terminal patient made me a better doctor," Washington Post, February 24, 2019

It was the service of a trained and sagacious mind, a cool and sure judgment.

"Mr. Root as Secretary of War," New York Times, July 23, 1899
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Thursday, January 30, 2020

mizzle

[ miz-uhl ]

verb (used with or without object)

to rain in fine drops; drizzle; mist.

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What is the origin of mizzle?

The word mizzle, both noun and verb, is dialectal and regional in the U.S. The verb comes from Middle English misellen (missill) “to drizzle,” and is related to Middle Dutch misel “fog, dew” and Dutch dialect miezelen “to rain gently.” The noun sense entered English in the late 15th century.

how is mizzle used?

It had started to mizzle again as a matter of course; that sunshine had been far too fragile; now it had relapsed into a suffused presence behind the ceiling of steady grey.

Alan Hunter, Gently to the Summit, 1961

By the time I left the cathedral it was already dark, mizzling, the kind of rain that looks like mist but drenches you in minutes.

Pat Barker, "Medusa," The New Yorker, April 8, 2019
Wednesday, January 29, 2020

definiendum

[ dih-fin-ee-en-duhm ]

noun

something that is or is to be defined, especially the term at the head of a dictionary entry.

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What is the origin of definiendum?

Definiendum comes straight from Latin dēfīniendum “to be defined.” In Latin grammar, dēfīniendum is a gerundive, a kind of verbal adjective showing, among other things, obligation or necessity. Dēfīniendum derives from the verb dēfīnīre “to fix the limits of, bound, define,” a compound of the preposition and intensive prefix , – and the simple verb fīnīre “to mark out or form the boundaries of,” a derivative of the noun fīnis “boundary (of a territory).” Definiendum is a technical term used in lexicography and logic. A similar gerundive, demonstrandum “to be demonstrated,” appears in Q.E.D., an abbreviation of quod erat dēmonstrandum, “what was to be demonstrated,” used at the end of a proof in geometry. Definiendum entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is definiendum used?

Discussions of definition distinguish between the definiendum (the word or phrase that is to be defined) and the definiens (the word of phrase that is used to define it).

Patrick Hanks, "Definition," The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography, 2016

Don’t make the definiens technical or subtle if the definiendum is not technical or subtle.

Andrew Woodfield, Teleology, 1976
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

canting

[ kan-ting ]

adjective

affectedly or hypocritically pious or righteous: a canting social reformer.

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What is the origin of canting?

Canting comes from one of the senses of the verb cant, “to talk hypocritically or with affected piety.” One of the famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson’s five senses for cant is “A whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant and canting ultimately come from Latin cantāre “to sing.” Cantāre and its derivatives such as cantus “song, chant, chanting” were used contemptuously in Medieval Latin for perfunctory and lackluster liturgical chanting of the hours. In English by the first half of the 18th century, cant also meant “the singsong whining or chants of beggars; the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, or profession,” and “insincere, conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.” Canting entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is canting used?

He’s a villain in disguise; that’s my opinion of him. A low, canting hypocrite.

T. S. Arthur, True Riches; or, Wealth Without Wings, 1852

While conducting a petty, politically motivated trial and listening to a canting, ideological prosecutor, she looks bored and casts her glance aside.

Richard Brody, "The Distasteful Vagueness of 'Ida'," The New Yorker, May 9, 2014
Monday, January 27, 2020

fettle

[ fet-l ]

noun

state; condition: in fine fettle.

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What is the origin of fettle?

The noun fettle is found most often in the stock phrase in fine fettle “in a good state or condition.” Fettle is originally a British dialect word (Lancashire in northwest England), a verb meaning “to shape, prepare, fix, arrange.” Further origin is obscure: fettle may come from Middle English fetlen (fetelen, fatelen, fitelen) “to shape, fix, put, bestow” and be related to the Old English words fetian “to fetch, bring to, marry,” fæt “cup, vessel, vat,” and feter “fetter.” Or fettle may be related to the Old English noun fetel “belt, girdle.” The sense “to shape, prepare” entered English in the 14th century; the metallurgical and ceramics senses entered English in the second half of the 19th century; the sense “state or condition” in the mid-18th century.

how is fettle used?

Bernie Sanders was, as usual, in fighting fettle.

David A. Graham, "Is Sanders Writing Off South Carolina?" The Atlantic, February 22, 2016

Mathilde was in fine fettle. The month in Venice had healed all the wounds.

Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind, 1971
Sunday, January 26, 2020

EGOT

[ ee-got ]

noun

the honor of winning at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony in competitive rather than honorary categories: How many people have won an EGOT?

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What is the origin of EGOT?

The acronym EGOT was coined in 1984 by the American actor Philip Michael Thomas (born 1949) from the initial letters of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. It was later popularized by the TV show 30 Rock. As of 2019, 15 people have accomplished this feat.

how is EGOT used?

Anderson-Lopez’s husband co-created “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q,” and is the youngest person ever to claim the EGOT, or the rare Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony show-biz grand slam.

Jia Tolentino, "How to Follow Your Dreams and Burst Into Song," The New Yorker, December 22, 2016

Porter’s win puts him on the road to EGOT glory.

Sydney Scott, "Billy Porter Makes History with Lead Actor Emmy Win," Essence, September 22, 2019
Saturday, January 25, 2020

murine

[ myoor-ahyn, -in ]

adjective

belonging or pertaining to the rodent subfamily Murinae, which includes more than 500 species of mice and rats.

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What is the origin of murine?

Murine is an uncommon adjective pretty much restricted in zoology to mice and rats and the diseases they cause or transmit. Murine comes straight from the Latin adjective mūrīnus “of mice, mouse-colored,” a derivative of the noun mūs (inflectional stem mūr-). During the 4th century b.c., original intervocalic s in Latin became r; thus the Roman gens name Papīsius became Papīrius, and mūsīnus (if the word already existed) became mūrīnus. Mūs remains unchanged in the Latin derivative noun mūsculus “muscle.” Mūs is identical with the very common Proto-Indo-European noun mūs, which remains mūs also in Germanic (English mouse); mūs becomes mŷs in Greek, mū́ṣ– in Sanskrit, and mysz in Polish. Murine entered English in the early 17th century.

how is murine used?

His estimate of just over two million rats in the city would have been horrifying but for the long-held belief that New York housed equal numbers of rats and humans, as if a municipal sponsor program had assigned each of the eight million New Yorkers a muck-dwelling murine counterpart.

Jelani Cobb, "Donald Trump, Elijah Cummings, and the Definition of a Rodent," The New Yorker, July 29, 2019

But in order to study how that activity affects human brains at the cellular level, researchers at the University of Oregon managed to put murine brains into a somewhat equivalent state.

, "Of Mice and Mindfulness," New York Times, May 18, 2017

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