Word of the Day

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

shibboleth

[ shib-uh-lith, ‐leth ]

noun

a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of shibboleth?

Shibboleth “a peculiarity of pronunciation distinguishing one group of people from another” comes from Biblical Hebrew shibbōleth, which occurs in Judges 12:4-6. The Gileadites used the word shibbōleth as a linguistic test to distinguish themselves from the fleeing Ephraimites, who pronounced shibbōleth as sibbōleth. Shibbōleth is translated in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, and in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, as “ear of grain.” But modern scholars think that shibbōleth means “freshet, a sudden rise in the level of a stream or river, as by heavy rainfall,” because the slaughter of the Ephraimites by the Gileadites took place at the fords of the river Jordan. Shibboleth entered English in the second half of the 14th century in John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible (Wycliffe used the spellings Sebolech and Shebolech).

how is shibboleth used?

The shibboleth persists in politics that government can and should be run “like a business.” … It’s pretty clear that governments do not actually operate like business for a vast number of reasons …

Eric Schnurer, "What Would It Mean for Governments to Compete Like Businesses?" The Atlantic, May 22, 2013

Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome “nerves” or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire.

E. M. Forster, A Room with a View, 1908

Listen to the word of the day

shibboleth

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

grouse

[ grous ]

verb (used without object)

to grumble; complain.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of grouse?

The verb grouse originated as a piece of British army slang, and several of its earliest occurrences are in Rudyard Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballads (1892). Slang terms like grouse are notoriously difficult to etymologize, and grouse is no exception. Scholars have noted, however, a connection between grouse and Old French groucier, groucher, grocier “to grumble, murmur,” source of English grouch, grudge, and grutch (British dialect for grudge). Grouse entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is grouse used?

For everyone who has groused about how slow or spotty their Internet service is at home, William C. Thompson Jr., has a message: Help is on the way.

David W. Chen, "A Thompson Proposal to Grade Web Providers," New York Times, July 22, 2013

They and their peers groused constantly about what teenagers always grouse about: that there is “nothing to do.”

Harold Robbins, The Secret, 2000

Listen to the word of the day

grouse

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, January 25, 2021

ad hockery

[ ad -hok-uh-ree ]

noun

reliance on temporary solutions rather than on consistent, long-term plans.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of ad hockery?

Ad hockery (also spelled ad hocery), “reliance on temporary solutions rather than on consistent, long-term plans,” is a compound of the Latin phrase ad hoc “for this (purpose, occasion)” and the noun suffix –ery; the phrase has an air of frustration or contempt. Ad hockery entered English at the end of the 19th century.

how is ad hockery used?

The house was a ramshackle collection of alterations and renovations, ad hockery gone wild.

Dave Duncan, The Cutting Edge, 1992

This is surely one of the perils of histories of this sort — the scavenger-writer can pick through Plato and Aristotle, Montaigne and Hume, Willy Wonka and the script for “Moonstruck” in search of insights on doubt and happiness, boredom and anger, ankle boots versus sandals, but risks losing any narrative thread to ad hockery.

Alison McCulloch, "Get Happy," New York Times, May 6, 2007

Listen to the word of the day

ad hockery

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.