Word of the Day

Monday, September 24, 2018

sibilate

[ sib-uh-leyt ]

verb

to utter or pronounce with a hissing sound.

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What is the origin of sibilate?

Sibilate comes from Latin sībilātus, past participle of the verb sībilāre “to hiss, hiss in disapproval.” From sībilant-, the present participle stem of sībilāre, English has the noun and adjective sibilant, used in phonetics in reference to hissing sounds like s or z. Sibilate entered English in the 17th century.

how is sibilate used?

It may be that there is some mysterious significance in the pitch at which an idea is vocalized; but, as for this writer, we doubt if it makes any difference whether he sibilates his opinions to himself in half-suppressed demi-semiquavers, or roars them to the world through a fog-trumpet–their obliquity may safely be assumed as a constant quantity.

E. L. Youmans, "Herbert Spencer's Sociology," Appletons' Journal, February 21, 1874

“I’ve been in for twenty years,” he sibilates in my ear.

Kevin Dutton, The Wisdom of Psychopaths, 2012
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Sunday, September 23, 2018

legerdemain

[ lej-er-duh-meyn ]

noun

trickery; deception.

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What is the origin of legerdemain?

There are about 50 spellings in Middle English for (modern) legerdemain. The English word most likely comes from a Middle French phrase leger de main “light of hand,” which is unfortunately unrecorded. Middle French has two similar idioms meaning “to be dexterous”: estre ligier de sa main, literally “to be light of his hand” and avoir la main legiere, literally “to have the light hand.” In English, legerdemain first meant “skill in conjuring, sleight of hand” and acquired the sense “trickery, artful deception” in the 16th century. Legerdemain entered English in the 15th century.

how is legerdemain used?

… it was precisely that sort of legerdemain—tapping a dicey loan with the magic wand of financialization—which built the mortgage-securitization industry to begin with.

Tad Friend, "Home Economics," The New Yorker, February 4, 2013

The city today stretches out along the flatlands by the Fyris River, then ripples up a glacial ridge, culminating in a massive sixteenth-century castle painted the color of a poached salmon—a bit of legerdemain by pigment that leavens the bulky fortress considerably.

Emily Hiestand, "The Constant Gardener," The Atlantic, March 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2018

polychromatic

[ pol-ee-kroh-mat-ik, -kruh- ]

adjective

having or exhibiting a variety of colors.

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What is the origin of polychromatic?

English polychromatic is a borrowing from French polychromatique, which comes from Greek polychrṓmatos “many-colored, variegated” and the suffix -ique, from the Greek suffix -ikos or the Latin suffix -icus. Polychromatic is used mostly, but not exclusively, in the physical sciences, e.g., hematology, physics, and formerly in chemistry. Polychromatic entered English in the 19th century.

how is polychromatic used?

… the degreening of leaves is a widely appreciated natural phenomenon, especially in autumn, when the foliage of deciduous trees turns into polychromatic beauty.

S. Hörtensteiner and P. Matile, "How Leaves Turn Yellow: Catabolism of Chlorophyll," Plant Cell Death Processes, 2004

Throughout, Suzy Lee’s polychromatic illustrations astonish. Each page bursts with color.

Carmela Ciuraru, "'A Dog Day,' 'Ask Me' and 'Sidewalk Flowers'," New York Times, July 10, 2015

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