Word of the Day

Saturday, May 02, 2020

sedentary

[ sed-n-ter-ee ]

adjective

accustomed to sit or rest a great deal or to take little exercise.

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What is the origin of sedentary?

There is unfortunately no more apt a word right now than sedentary, “accustomed to sit or rest a great deal or to take little exercise.” Sedentary comes via Middle French sédentaire from Latin sedentārius “sitting, sedentary.” Sedentārius is a derivative of sedēns (stem sedent-), the present participle of sedēre “to sit,” and the very common adjective and noun suffix –ārius, which becomes -aire in French and French borrowings into English (as in doctrinaire, millionaire) and –ary in English (as in complimentary, visionary). Sedentary entered English in the 16th century.

how is sedentary used?

Picture yourself, Jack, a confirmed home-body, a sedentary fellow who finds himself walking in a deep wood.

Don DeLillo, White Noise, 1985

His love of books, his sedentary habits, and quick wit on matters of learning, led those interested in his fate to consider him fitted for the church, and therefore, he took priest’s orders. 

Mary Shelley, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, 1830

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Friday, May 01, 2020

inflorescence

[ in-flaw-res-uhns, -floh-, -fluh- ]

noun

a flowering or blossoming.

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What is the origin of inflorescence?

Inflorescence, “the arrangement of flowers on the axis, a flower cluster; a flowering or blossoming,” is a term used mostly in botany. Inflorescence comes straight from New Latin inflōrēscentia, a noun coined by the great Swedish botanist and zoologist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), who formalized the system of binomial nomenclature used in the biological sciences. Inflōrēscentia is a derivative of the Late Latin verb inflōrēscere “to put forth flowers, bloom.” Inflōrēscere is a compound verb formed with the preposition and prefix in, in– “in, into,” but also, as here, used as in intensive prefix, and the verb flōrēscere “to begin flowering, increase in vigor.” Flōrēscere in turn is a compound of flōrēre “to be in bloom, be covered with flowers,” a derivative of the noun flōs (inflectional stem flōr-) “flower, blossom,” and the verb suffix –escere, which in Latin often has an inchoative sense, that is, it indicates the beginning of an action, as in rubescere “to become or turn red.” Inflorescence entered English in the 18th century.

how is inflorescence used?

To the amateur this opens a field of very interesting amusement: … watching every moment of the plant till it develops its beauties of inflorescence, which, if it prove of new character, is an ample compensation for the time spent upon the process.

Robert Buist, The Rose Manual, 1844

During fall and winter starch-grains … form the basis for that lavish expenditure of plant-force by which our orchards and woods are made glorious in the sudden inflorescence of spring.

T. H. McBride, "Plant Cells and Their Contents," Popular Science Monthly, July 1882

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

saponaceous

[ sap-uh-ney-shuhs ]

adjective

resembling soap; soapy.

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What is the origin of saponaceous?

Saponaceous, “soapy,” comes straight from the New Latin adjective sāpōnāceus. (New Latin, also called Modern Latin, is Latin that developed after, say, 1500; it is used especially and typically in the physical sciences, such as zoology, botany, and anatomy.) Sāpōnāceus is formed from the Latin sāpō noun (inflective stem sāpōn-) and the adjectival suffix –āceus, meaning “made of, resembling.” Sāpō means “a preparation for drying or coloring one’s hair,” and it is one of the relatively few words in Latin borrowed from Germanic (as compared to the many, many words in Germanic borrowed from Latin). Saponaceous also has the uncommon sense “slippery, unctuous,” which appeared in the 19th century: “This… judgment was… so oily, so saponaceous, that no one could grasp it.” Saponaceous entered English in the early 18th century.

how is saponaceous used?

The fruit of this plant is about the size of a large gooseberry, the outer covering or shell of which contains a saponaceous principle in sufficient abundance to produce a lather with water and is used as a substitute for soap.

"Report of the Chief of the Division of Gardens and Grounds," Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1890

The yolk contains natural food for the hair, iron and sulphur; while the white, being a mild alkali, finds its congenial mate in the oil from the sebaceous glands, and they mingle in a saponaceous lather.

Ella Adelia Fletcher, The Woman Beautiful, 1899

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