Word of the Day

Saturday, December 01, 2018

shrievalty

[ shree-vuhl-tee ]

noun

the office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff.

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What is the origin of shrievalty?

Shrievalty, “the office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff,” is a rare word. Shrieve is one of many, many spelling variants of the Late Middle English compound noun shire-reeve. A shire is “the office of administration, jurisdiction of an office or county,” and a reeve is “a high official in charge of an administrative district.” Sheriff is an ordinary outcome of shire-reeve. The suffix -alty is taken from such political and legal terms as mayoralty (from mayoral and the suffix -ty, from Old French -tet, ultimately from Latin -tās, a suffix for forming abstract nouns from adjectives). The equally rare but more transparent noun sheriffalty was also formed from sheriff and -alty. Shrievalty entered English in the 16th century.

how is shrievalty used?

You must give up your shrievalty immediately and I will get the Shire Court to appoint a caretaker sheriff in your place until the will of the King is known.

Bernard Knight, Witch Hunter, 2004

Judges, small magistrates, officers large and small, the shrievalty, the water office, the tax office, all were to come within its purview.

Theodore Dreiser, The Titan, 1914
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Friday, November 30, 2018

modish

[ moh-dish ]

adjective

in the current fashion; stylish.

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What is the origin of modish?

The adjective modish is formed from the noun mode “fashion, current fashion” and the suffix -ish. Modish, very common in the 17th and 18th centuries, entered English in the 17th century.

how is modish used?

It’s a work both modish and antique, apparently postmodern in emphasis but fed by the exploratory energies of the Renaissance.

James Wood, "'Flights,' A Novel That Never Settles Down," The New Yorker, October 1, 2018

Describing hairstyles is not my forte, I lack the vocabulary, but there was something of the fifties film star to it, what my mother would call ‘a do’, yet it was modish and contemporary too.

David Nicholls, Us, 2014
Thursday, November 29, 2018

keek

[ keek ]

verb

Scot. and North England. to peep; look furtively.

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What is the origin of keek?

Keek “to peep” is a verb used in Scotland and northern England. It does not occur in Old English but is related to, if not derived from, Middle Dutch and Middle Low German kīken “to look.” Keek dates from the late 14th century, first appearing in The Canterbury Tales.

how is keek used?

I will be near by him, and when he keeks round to spy ye, I will bring him such a clout as will gar him keep his eyes private for ever.

Alfred Ollivant, "Danny," Everybody's Magazine, Volume 6, January to June, 1902

And at that he keeks out o’ the wee back window, plainly fearing that old Hornie himself was on the tracks o’ him.

Michael Innes, From London Far, 1946
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

atelier

[ at-l-yey, at-l-yey ]

noun

a workshop or studio, especially of an artist, artisan, or designer.

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What is the origin of atelier?

The English noun atelier, not quite naturalized, comes from French atelier “workshop,” from Old French astelier “pile of wood chips, workshop, carpenter’s workshop,” a derivative of Old French astele “chip,” which comes from Late Latin astella “splinter,” a variant of astula, assula “splinter, chip,” diminutives of Latin assis, axis “plank, board.” Atelier entered English in the 19th century.

how is atelier used?

Upon his arrival she began by introducing him to her atelier and making a sketch of him.

Kate Chopin, The Awakening, 1899

The secret atelier is the pezzo forte of the place, a beautifully cluttered warren of objects, art pieces and ephemera.

Chiara Barzini, "The Secret Atelier Behind a Roman Boutique," New York Times Style Magazine, May 16, 2018
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

tsuris

[ tsoor-is, tsur- ]

noun

Slang. trouble; woe.

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What is the origin of tsuris?

Tsuris is from Yiddish tsures, tsores. This, in turn came from Hebrew ṣarā, plural ṣarōth meaning “troubles.” Tsuris entered English in the 1970s.

how is tsuris used?

Graham, I want Jack’s work in the show, don’t give me any tsuris on this.

Marc Olden, Wellington's, 1977

Initially, the series only broadly winked at the reasons for Jack’s slow-burning tsuris.

Manohla Dargis, "Patriarch Faces Future: Who to Lead Nutty Clan When He Is Gone?" New York Times, December 21, 2010
Monday, November 26, 2018

misinformation

[ mis-in-fer-mey-shuhn ]

noun

false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead: In the chaotic hours after the earthquake, a lot of misinformation was reported in the news.

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What is the origin of misinformation?

Misinformation simply means wrong or false information; it does not necessarily imply deception or lying. Indeed, it is often difficult to determine from the context whether the misinformation is simply a mistake or a deliberate lie. Misinformation is a compound formed from the Germanic prefix mis– (also miss-) “wrong, bad.” (Mis– does not occur in Latin or Greek: in Latin misinformation would be something like mala nuntiātiō; the Greek would be kakḕ angelía.) Information comes ultimately from Late Latin informātiō (stem informātiōn-), one of whose meanings is “instruction, teaching.” Disinformation on the other hand, is deliberately false and meant to deceive. English disinformation is a calque, a loan translation of Russian dezinformátsiya, which is based on the French verb désinform(er) “to misinform.” Misinformation entered English in the 16th century (disinformation entered English in the mid-20th century).

how is misinformation used?

Facebook and other social platforms have been fighting online misinformation and hate speech for two years.

Barbara Ortutay, AP News, November 3, 2018

We’ve got Pinkerton so full of misinformation now that he truly thinks General Lee has a million men under arms, and that we’re fixing to kidnap Lincoln.

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984
Sunday, November 25, 2018

serry

[ ser-ee ]

verb

Archaic. to crowd closely together.

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What is the origin of serry?

The uncommon verb serry has always had a military sense “to press close together in ranks.” Serry comes from French serré, the past participle of serrer “to press together, crowd.” French serrer comes from Italian serrare “to close ranks,” from Vulgar Latin serrāre, from Latin serāre, “to lock, bolt.” Serry entered English in the 16th century.

how is serry used?

Serry your ranks, there,” said the Major amiably as they edged past.

Edmund Crispin, The Glimpses of the Moon, 1977

Fish laid to serry like roofing tiles, glinting in their own oils.

Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, 1999

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