• Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 11, 2018

    clavier

    noun [kluh-veer, klav-ee-er, kley-vee-]
    any musical instrument having a keyboard, especially a stringed keyboard instrument, as a harpsichord, clavichord, or piano.
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    What is the origin of clavier?

    English clavier comes from Old French clavier “keyholder, keybearer,” as if from Medieval Latin clāviārius (formed from clāvis “key,” which becomes clef or clé in French, and the common noun suffix -ārius, which becomes -ier in Old French). French clavier also meant "a bank or row of keys on a musical instrument, a keyboard," which is the first sense of the word in English, dating from the early 18th century. German and the other Germanic languages specialized the meaning to “keyboard instrument with strings (particularly the clavichord),” which English adopted in the mid-19th century.

    How is clavier used?

    Herr Gleissner composed twelve songs with clavier accompaniment. Alois Senefelder, The Invention of Lithography, translated by J. W. Muller, 1911

    An engraved portrait that a German artist made of Buchinger, in 1710, includes thirteen surrounding vignettes that picture him at tables, bearing his instruments and props, but just one depicts him in action, playing a hammered clavier. Peter Schjeldahl, "Seeing and Believing," The New Yorker, January 25, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    vulgarian

    noun [vuhl-gair-ee-uhn]
    a vulgar person, especially one whose vulgarity is the more conspicuous because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding.
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    What is the origin of vulgarian?

    The Latin noun vulgus (also volgus) meant simply “common people, general public”; it also meant “crowd” and usually had a derogatory sense, but there was nothing of the flashy, tacky nouveau riche in the noun itself or its derivative nouns, adjectives, and verbs, e.g., vulgāre “to make available to the public,” vulgātus ”popular, common, ordinary,” vulgāris “belonging to the common people, conventional.” The Romans claimed to have invented satire, i.e., the genre did not exist among the Greeks. The Romans also created the (literary) type of the current sense of vulgarian “a vulgar person whose vulgarity is the more striking because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding.” The first example is Trimalchio, a character in the Satyricon, a Latin novel dating from the mid-first century a.d. written by Gaius Petronius (died ca. 66 a.d.). Trimalchio and most of the Satyricon are familiar nowadays from the movie Fellini Satyricon (1969) by the Italian director Federico Fellini (1920–93). Vulgarian entered English in the early 19th century.

    How is vulgarian used?

    "Why, he is a perfect vulgarian," she replied, "and I am astonished at Ethel for allowing him to be so much with her." Rosa Vertner Jeffrey, Woodburn, 1864

    ... the vulgarian's restless jealousy of the class above him made him, on this score, especially intractable and suspicious. Allan McAulay, The Rhymer, 1900

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 09, 2018

    ineluctable

    adjective [in-i-luhk-tuh-buhl]
    incapable of being evaded; inescapable: an ineluctable destiny.
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    What is the origin of ineluctable?

    “Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses, opens with the beautiful but opaque “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.” At least the word ineluctable is easy to analyze, if not the entire sentence. Ineluctable comes directly from Latin inēluctābilis “from which one cannot escape,” which consists of the negative or privative prefix in-, roughly “not” (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-). Ēluctārī is a compound verb meaning “to force one’s way out”; it is formed from the prefix ē-, a form of the preposition and prefix ex, ex- “out of, from within” used only before consonants, and luctārī “to wrestle”; the suffix -bilis is added to verbs and denotes ability. Ineluctable entered English in the 17th century.

    How is ineluctable used?

    The coming of a new day brought a sharper consciousness of ineluctable reality, and with it a sense of the need of action. Edith Wharton, Summer, 1917

    My world, on the contrary, has been thrown into extreme ethical confusion by my ineluctable connection with the crimes of Tsardom, forced on me by my birth into a family belonging to the minor nobility. Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down, 1966

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 08, 2018

    librate

    verb [lahy-breyt]
    to remain poised or balanced.
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    What is the origin of librate?

    The verb librate comes from Latin lībrātus, the past participle of lībrāre “to balance, make level,” a derivative of the noun lībra “a balance, a pound (weight).” The further etymology of lībra is difficult. It is related to Sicilian (Doric) Greek lī́tra “a silver coin, a pound (weight),” also a unit of volume, e.g., English litre (via French litre from Latin). Both lī́tra and lībra derive from Italic līthrā. Lībra becomes lira in Italian, libra in Spanish and Portuguese, French livre (both coinage and weight). The abbreviation for lībra (weight) is lb.; the symbol for lībra (the coinage, i.e., the pound sterling) is £. Librate entered English in the 17th century.

    How is librate used?

    Watching them to the ground, the wings of a hawk, or of the brown owl, stretch out, are drawn against the current air by a string as a paper kite, and made to flutter and librate like a kestrel over the place where the woodlark has lodged ... John Leonard Knapp, Journal of a Naturalist, 1829

    At this period the balance of tropic and pole librates, and the vast atmospheric tides pour their flood upon one hemisphere and their ebb upon another. Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea, translated by William Moy Thomas, 1866

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 07, 2018

    brio

    noun [bree-oh]
    vigor; vivacity.
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    What is the origin of brio?

    The Italian noun brio comes from Spanish brío “energy, determination,” ultimately from Celtic brīgos “strength” (compare Middle Welsh bri “honor, dignity,” Old Irish bríg “strength, power”). Celtic brīgos derives from Proto-Indo-European gwrīgos, a derivative of the very common and complicated Proto-Indo-European root gwer- “heavy,” which has many variations, including gwerə-, gwerəu-, and gwerī-. From gwerə- and its variants, English has “grave, gravid, gravity” from Latin; the prefixes baro- “heavy” and bary- “deep” from Greek; and guru from Sanskrit. From gwrīgos, the same source as Celtic brīgos, Germanic derives krīgaz “fight, strife,” German Krieg “war.” Brio entered English in the 18th century.

    How is brio used?

    Although Stopsack had probably never before directed such an undertaking, he performed his duties with brio, skillfully heaping verbal abuse on the manacled inmates ... James Morrow, Galápagos Regained, 2014

    Her work rustles with the premonition that she was obsolete, that her splendor and style and ferocious brio had been demoted to a kind of sparkling irrelevance. Tobi Haslett, "The Other Susan Sontag," The New Yorker, December 11, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 06, 2018

    axilla

    noun [ak-sil-uh]
    Anatomy. the armpit.
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    What is the origin of axilla?

    Axilla, the Latin word for “armpit,” is a diminutive of āla “wing (of a bird or insect), fin (of a fish), armpit, flank (of an army).” Āla comes from an earlier, unrecorded ags-lā (axla in Latin orthography), one of the Latin reflexes of Proto-Indo-European ages-, aks- “pivot, pivot point.” Another Proto-Indo-European derivative, aks-lo-s, becomes ahsulaz in Germanic, eaxl in Old English, and axle in English. A third derivative noun, aks-is, becomes Latin axis “axle, axletree, chariot, wagon,” assis in Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language), and in Polish. Axilla entered English in the 17th century.

    How is axilla used?

    There is a game of croquet set up on the lawn and my second cousin Sonsoles can be found there any hour of the afternoon, bent over, with a mallet in her hand, and looking out of the corner of her eye, between the arm and the axilla, which form a sort of arch for her thoughtful gaze, at the unwary masculine visitor who appears in the harsh afternoon light. Carlos Fuentes, "La Desdichada," Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, translated by Thomas Christensen, 1990

    He recoiled from one odor to another until, in resignation, he accepted and his nose pumped steadily at the single generalized odor that was a meld of everything from axilla to organic debris and smelled like clam soil. Thomas McGuane, The Sporting Club, 1968

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 05, 2018

    schadenfreude

    noun [shahd-n-froi-duh]
    satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.
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    What is the origin of schadenfreude?

    Schadenfreude is a direct borrowing from German. In German Schadenfreude is a compound noun made up of the nouns Schaden “harm, injury, damage” and Freude “joy.” Schaden is related to English scathe (via Old Norse). Freude is a derivative of the adjective froh “happy,” and is related to English frolic, which comes from Dutch vrolijk “cheerful, gay.” Schadenfreude entered English in the late 19th century.

    How is schadenfreude used?

    Social media exploded with gleeful Schadenfreude. Naomi Fry, "Searching for Meaning in the Leftover Merchandise of Fyre Festival," The New Yorker, May 24, 2018

    It also let Peggy see the sagging flesh under Blanche's chin. Since her own jawline was still pretty good, she soaked up some Schadenfreude on that score. Harry Turtledove, The Big Switch, 2011

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