Word of the Day

Friday, October 12, 2018

sennachie

[ sen-uh-kee ]

noun

Chiefly Scot., Irish. a professional storyteller of family genealogy, history, and legend.

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What is the origin of sennachie?

There are several English spellings, e.g., shanachie, seannachie, for the exotic Irish and Scottish noun meaning “storyteller, oral historian, genealogist.” The word in Scots Gaelic is seanachaidh (seanachaidhe in Irish) meaning “historian, antiquarian, chronicler,” from sen “old, ancient” and cūis “matter, affair.” Sen is from Proto-Indo-European sen(o)- “old,” most obvious in Latin senex “old man,” senātus “senate,” and senectūs “old age.” Senos appears in Greek in the noun hénos “year,” and the adjective hénos “last year’s”; and in Baltic (Lithuanian) as sẽnas “old,” and sẽnis “old man.” Sennachie entered English in the 16th century.

how is sennachie used?

… I do not think he could falsify a folk-tale if he tried. At the most he would change it as a few years’ passing from sennachie to sennachie must do perforce.

William Butler Yeats, "Irish Folk Tales," The National Observer, 1891

My schoolfellows like my stories well enough-better at least, on most occasions, than they did the lessons of the master; but, beyond the common ground of enjoyment which these ex-tempore compositions furnished to both the “sennachie” and his auditors, our tracts of amusement lay widely apart.

Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters; or, The Story of My Education, 1854
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

clavier

[ kluh-veer, klav-ee-er, kley-vee- ]

noun

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
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

vulgarian

[ vuhl-gair-ee-uhn ]

noun

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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