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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

serotinal

[ si-rot-n-l, ser-uh-tahyn-l ]

adjective

pertaining to or occurring in late summer.

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What is the origin of serotinal?

Serotinal “pertaining to or occurring in late summer” describes the midpoint that neither estival “pertaining or appropriate to summer” nor autumnal “belonging to or suggestive of autumn” can completely cover. The term derives from the Latin adverb sērō “late,” from the adjective sērus “late, slow, tardy.” Sērō and the feminine form of sērus, sēra, later became the sources of the word for “evening” in many Romance languages, such as French soir, Italian sera, and Portuguese serão. Serotinal was first recorded in English in the late 1890s.

how is serotinal used?

Here in North America, the serotinal season is that marvelous time, in early September, when the monarch butterflies start to migrate, the lakes are still warm enough for swimming, and the resorts are empty. As Helen Hunt Jackson writes in her poem “September,” “By all these lovely tokens / September days are here, / With summer’s best of weather / And autumn’s best of cheer.”

Christopher Dewdney, 18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather, 2018

Released this past summer, Beyond Eyes is an utterly gorgeous game that captures the very earliest stages of fall in a way few games even attempt, blending serotinal greens with the slow incursion of rusty reds. It’s still a rather summery-looking game, but depending on where you live in the world it may be a pretty darn accurate representation of your own experiences with fall.

Janine Hawkins, "10 Autumn Games For Your Virtual Leaf Peeping," Paste, October 5, 2015

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Word of the day

Monday, September 20, 2021

iridescent

[ ir-i-des-uhnt ]

adjective

displaying a play of lustrous colors like those of the rainbow.

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What is the origin of iridescent?

Iridescent “displaying a play of lustrous colors like those of the rainbow” is a combination of the Ancient Greek word îris (stem irid-) “rainbow” and the Latin inceptive infix -sc- “the process of becoming.” In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of rainbows and sometimes functioned as the messenger of the gods, serving as a link between the heavens and the mortal realm, similar to the rainbow bridge Bifrost in Norse mythology. Îris is often considered to derive from the Proto-Indo-European root wei- “to turn, twist,” which is also found in wire (from Old English) and Latin vītis “vine,” but other linguists have proposed a pre-Greek origin. Iridescent was first recorded in English in the 1790s.

how is iridescent used?

A halo of multicolored mist floats over an ominous storm. At first glance it looks like an angelic mural or even extraterrestrial activity. But this breathtaking photo is neither manipulated nor paranormal. It’s an iridescent cloud, a phenomenon occurring right in our own atmosphere.

Lara Sorokanich, “A Rare Look at an Iridescent Cloud,” National Geographic, July 18, 2013

The sun had just gone down outside a soundstage 40 miles north of Los Angeles when a shimmering celestial being appeared. With blond tendrils, iridescent lips, and an hourglass figure, she radiated power, wisdom, and kindness—Oprah Winfrey, in a dress covered with lights.

Rebecca Keegan, "Celestial Navigation," Vanity Fair, March 2018

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Word of the day

Sunday, September 19, 2021

freebooter

[ free-boo-ter ]

noun

a person who goes about in search of plunder; pirate; buccaneer.

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What is the origin of freebooter?

Freebooter may appear to be an English-language compound, but in fact, it’s Anglicized from the Dutch term vrijbuiter, a combination of vrij “free” and buit “booty”—a compound word about treasure that is well suited for a pirate-related term. Buit and its English cognate booty derive from a Germanic source meaning “exchange” or “sharing of the spoils.” Freebooter has one other relative in English, and an unexpected one: filibuster, in the historical sense of “unauthorized military adventurer.” While freebooter is a direct borrowing from Dutch, plus a spelling change, filibuster is a borrowing of Spanish filibustero, one of several words meaning “pirate,” via French from the same Dutch term, vrijbuiter. Freebooter entered English in the late 1500s.

how is freebooter used?

[A]lmost as soon as the larger world became aware of Tribeca, in rushed developers and syndicators and builders and realtors … A certain type of family arrived, drawn by that safety and the faux-bohemianism of Downtown, driving out the actual bohemians. … We are cosseted, a warm little precinct, connected to the rest of the city, but for all our interaction with it, it feels as if there are drawbridges that keep out the would-be brigands and freebooters.

Karl Taro Greenfeld, Triburbia, 1995

Buccaneers were adventurers who settled in Hispaniola, the island today divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They lived off the meat of wild cattle, which they preserved using an Indigenous smoking method called bouccan. In the mid-17th century they started to engage in piracy, just like the freebooters, a term deriving from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, “a person who freely takes booty.”

María Lara Martínez, "Ahoy! It's the real pirates of the Caribbean—and the Carolinas," National Geographic, July 2, 2020

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