Word of the Day

Monday, July 20, 2020

singularity

[ sing-gyuh-lar-i-tee ]

noun

a hypothesized future era or event when exponential improvements in computer intelligence and advances in technology will result in an acute change in human society and evolution.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of singularity?

Singularity comes from Middle English singularite, singulerite “solitude, solitary living; personal gain or advantage; individual or particular things; singleness of purpose,” from Old French singulerte, singulariteit “singular character or quality; peculiarity” or from Late Latin singulāritās (inflectional stem singulāritāt-) “a being alone or by oneself,” a derivative of the adjective singulāris “alone, alone of its kind, one by one, singular.” The computer or technological sense, “a hypothesized future in which exponential improvements in computer intelligence and technological advances result in an acute change in human society and evolution,” is closely associated with the computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who popularized this sense in his writings, most notably in his 1986 novel Marooned in Realtime, and later in an article titled “Technological Singularity” published in Whole Earth Review in 1993. Singularity entered English in the 14th century.

how is singularity used?

A lot of smart people are thinking about the singularity, when the machines grow advanced enough to make humanity obsolete.

Matt Simon, "The WIRED Guide to Robots," WIRED, April 16, 2020

But fulfilling the wishes of a revered biological legacy will occupy only a trivial portion of the intellectual power that the Singularity will bring.

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, 2005

Listen to the word of the day

singularity

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.
Sunday, July 19, 2020

fain

[ feyn ]

adverb

gladly; willingly: He fain would accept.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of fain?

The word fain is very old, indeed: It first appears in English as an adjective about 888 in King Alfred the Great’s translation of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy (Dē Cōnsōlātiōne Philosophiae, ca. 532). Fain comes from Old English fægen, fægn “glad, joyful, rejoicing.” Fægen is cognate with Old Norse feginn, Old Saxon fagan, fagin, Old High German fagin, all meaning “happy, glad,” and related to the Old English verb geféon, gefeohan, gefeagan “to be glad, rejoice,” from the Germanic verb stem fagin-, fagan– “to enjoy,” derived from the root fag-. From the same root fag– is derived the adjective stem fagra-, as in Gothic fagrs “fit for, beautiful,” Old Icelandic fagr “fine, fair, beautiful,” and Old English fæger “beautiful, joyous, pleasant,” English fair.

how is fain used?

It is rather sad to think that their revels now are ended, that the happy woods (where I would fain be, wandering in pensive mood) where they held high holiday will soon be a silent grove.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, "Patrick Leigh Fermor to Enrica (Ricki) Huston,  August 11, 1961," Patrick Leigh Fermror: A Life in Letters, 2016

What a poor soul it is that has not some secret chamber, sacred to itself; where one can file away the things others have no right to know, as well as things that one himself would fain forget!

Charles Wadell Chestnutt, House Behind the Cedars, 1900

Listen to the word of the day

fain

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, July 18, 2020

catalyst

[ kat-l-ist ]

noun

a person or thing that precipitates an event or change: His imprisonment by the government served as the catalyst that helped transform social unrest into revolution.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of catalyst?

Catalyst was originally (at the beginning of the 20th century) a technical term used in chemistry, meaning “a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.” By the early 1940s, the English poet and critic Sir Herbert Read extended the sense to a poet as a person who precipitates an event or change: “The catalyst [the poet] is unchanged, unabsorbed; its activity therefore not acknowledged.” Catalyst is irregularly formed from the Greek noun katálysis “dissolution, tearing down (especially of governments), a derivative of the verb katalýein “to pull down, destroy, dissolve (a political system), and the (originally Greek) agent suffix –ist. Katalýein is a compound of the Greek preposition and prefix katá, kata– “down, against, back” (usually spelled cata– in English) and the simple verb lýein “to loose, untie, release, solve, resolve.”

how is catalyst used?

What happened in Ferguson is often described as a catalyst—the beginning of a social justice movement that would sweep the nation.

Timothy Williams and , "The Lives of Ferguson Activist, Five Years Later," New York Times, August 9, 2019

On the heels of the Free-Soil convention in Buffalo, three hundred women and men held a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Margaret Fuller was still in Italy, but it was her work that had served as a catalyst.

Jill Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

catalyst

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.