Word of the Day

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


[ shur-tee ]


Informal. bad-tempered; irritable; cranky.

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What is the origin of shirty?

The adjective shirty derives from the phrase “to have one’s shirt out, get one’s shirt out, get someone’s shirt out, to be or become annoyed.” “Getting one’s shirt out” is one possible result of swinging one’s arms in an argument in a pub; a head-butt is another. Shirty entered English in the 19th century.

how is shirty used?

… she was usually all right about most things, if you woke her before she was ready she could get a bit shirty.

Beryl Kingston, London Pride, 1991

There’s no need to get shirty, young man. My ticket is right there.

André Alexis, "Maupassant," Beauty and Sadness, 2010


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Monday, January 21, 2019


[ kreed ]


any system or codification of belief or of opinion.

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What is the origin of creed?

Creed has existed in English since before the year 1000. Its Middle English form crede and its Old English form crēda ultimately derive from Latin crēdō meaning “I believe.”

how is creed used?

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream," delivered August 28, 1963

Blight was most impressed by Douglass’s mental, physical and intellectual endurance, his “ability to still believe, and to demand a place in the country’s creed.

, "Big New Biographies of Two Big American Lives," New York Times, November 9, 2018
Sunday, January 20, 2019


[ awl-til-uh-kwuh nt, al- ]


Archaic. (of language) high-flown or pretentious.

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What is the origin of altiloquent?

Altiloquent, “(in language) high-flown, pretentious,” comes from Latin alti-, a combining form of the adjective altus “high” and loquent-, the stem of the present participle loquēns “speaking, talking, having the power of speech,” from the verb loquī. (The adjective altiloquēns does not exist in Latin.) Altiloquent dates from the 17th century.

how is altiloquent used?

The altiloquent talker may be called a word-fancier, searching for all the fine words discoverable …

John Bate, Talkers, 1878

My altiloquent style takes too much energy. I’m the best in the business, but I’m seven thousand years old and slowing down.

Stanley Elkin, Searches & Seizures, 1973
Saturday, January 19, 2019


[ free-guhn ]


a person who buys as little as possible and makes use of recycled or discarded goods and materials, in an effort to reduce waste and limit environmental impact.

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What is the origin of freegan?

Freegan is a blend of free and vegan. One who practices freeganism is usually also but not necessarily a vegetarian or vegan. Freeganism differs from the usually disparaging term dumpster diving in that freegans are anticonsumerist and anticapitalist in their ideology, but are actively engaged in alternative lifestyles. Freegan entered English in the late 20th century.

how is freegan used?

While Kalish and the freegans work to educate people about the amount of waste we generate, they essentially want to put themselves out of business.

Eillie Anzilotti, "New York's Freegans Expose the Insane Waste of Our Food System," Fast Company, March 30, 2018

Don’t get hung up on the foraging. … Everybody gets all freaked out about the diving, the whole Freegan thing.

Jonathan Miles, Want Not, 2013
Friday, January 18, 2019


[ per-fuhngk-tuh-ree ]


performed merely as a routine duty; hasty and superficial: perfunctory courtesy.

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What is the origin of perfunctory?

Perfunctory comes from the Late Latin adjective perfunctōrius “done carelessly or superficially.” Perfunctōrius is a derivative of the verb perfungī “to carry through, discharge one’s part or duty,” a compound of the prefix per- signifying completeness, thoroughness, or intensity and the verb fungī “to perform, discharge, carry out.” It is therefore curious that the Latin adjective (and its English derivative) means “done carelessly” and not “done thoroughly and completely.” Perfunctory entered English in the 16th century.

how is perfunctory used?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi issued what seemed like a perfunctory statement backing her colleagues in Democratic leadership.

Paul Kane, "House Democratic leaders find strength in numbers to fight challenge to Pelosi," Washington Post, November 20, 2018

… the House whooped through the beer bill with only perfunctory debate.

William F. Kerby, "House Passes 3.2 Per Cent Beer Measure," Berkeley Daily Gazette, March 14, 1933
Thursday, January 17, 2019


[ gad-uh-bout ]


a person who moves about restlessly or aimlessly, especially from one social activity to another.

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What is the origin of gadabout?

Gadabout is a noun use of the verb phrase (to) gad about “to move restlessly or aimlessly from place to place.” The Middle English verb gad, gadden is likely a back formation from the Old English noun gædeling “companion in arms, kinsman, fellow” and in the 16th century, “vagabond, wanderer”). Gadabout entered English in the 18th century.

how is gadabout used?

My mother-in-law calls me … a gadabout? accuses me of going to unheard-of places, and thinks it ought to be joy enough for me to sit at home and count over my ancestors on my fingers.

Henry James, The American, 1877

Oh Dapple, Dapple, you wild gadabout, how footloose you have become!

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000
Wednesday, January 16, 2019


[ uh-kim-boh ]

adjective, adverb

with hand on hip and elbow bent outward: to stand with arms akimbo.

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What is the origin of akimbo?

The origin of English akimbo is disputed. The various Middle English spellings include in kenebowe, a kenbow, on kenbow, a canne-bow…. The Middle English forms look like a prepositional phrase composed of in or on (reduced to a) and another word (or other words) of uncertain origin and meaning. Some authorities consider the rest of the phrase to be native English words meaning “(a) sharp angle,” with keen in the sense of “sharp” and bow in the sense of “angle, bow” (as in elbow). Others consider the source to be Old Norse í keng boginn “bent in a bow or curve,” but the sense “with hand on hip and elbow bent outward” does not occur in Old Norse or Icelandic; yet others go to Old French chane, kane, quenne “pitcher, jug, flagon” and English bow “handle.” Akimbo entered English in the 15th century.

how is akimbo used?

when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd … and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul …

Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, 1819

Placed on top was a primitive wooden statue of the general himself, left arm akimbo and eyes fixed on uptown.

, "Arch of Pride," New York Times, June 1, 1991


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