Word of the Day

Friday, May 28, 2021

skylark

[ skahy-lahrk ]

verb

to frolic; sport.

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What is the origin of skylark?

The verb skylark, “to frolic; sport; have boisterous fun,” dates from about 1771 in Britain. This sense is the same as the verb lark, which comes later, in 1813. How skylark acquired its “fun” sense isn’t clear: some suggest it was a term in sailors’ slang for roughhousing high up in a ship’s rigging, skylarks being known for their singing while hovering high in the air. The earliest occurrences of the verb, however, are from court and police records in London, which seem to indicate that the verb skylark is a city word, not a sailor’s one. Skylark is a favorite word of Mark Twain’s: he used the participle or gerund skylarking four times in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

how is skylark used?

He never backslapped, roughhoused or skylarked with his colleagues, and his statesmanlike calm evoked feelings of awe.

Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., 1998

With all the jocularity of a clambake getting started in bare feet and shallow water, a crew of performers skylarked through a robust performance borrowing impartially from vaudeville, burlesque and backporch conversation last week before a Radio City audience.

R.W. Stewart, "With Bing at Work," New York Times, May 11, 1947

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

bovarism

[ boh-vuh-riz-uhm ]

noun

an exaggerated, especially glamorized, estimate of oneself; conceit.

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What is the origin of bovarism?

Bovarism, “an exaggerated, especially glamorized, estimation of oneself,” also spelled bovarysm and bovarysme (capitalized and uncapitalized), is a borrowing from French bovarysme, a derivative of the family name Bovary, the married surname of Emma Bovary, née Rouault, the eponymous protagonist of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1857) who was prone to escapist daydreaming. The French philosopher Jules de Gaultier is credited with coining the term in his 1902 work, La Bovarysme. Bovarism entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is bovarism used?

Othello succeeds in turning himself into a pathetic figure, by adopting an aesthetic rather than a moral attitude, dramatising himself against his environment. He takes in the spectator, but the human motive is primarily to take in himself. I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.

T. S. Eliot, Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca, 1927

There is a bovarism in the field of hierarchical relationships—the bovarism of the bourgeois snob who imagines himself to be an aristocrat and tries to behave as such.

Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun, 1952

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

peradventure

[ pur-uhd-ven-cher, per- ]

adverb

it may be; maybe; possibly; perhaps.

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What is the origin of peradventure?

As an adverb, peradventure means “maybe, possibly, perhaps”; as a noun, peradventure means “chance, doubt, or uncertainty.” Peradventure comes from Middle English paraventur(e), peradventure (and 20 other spelling variants), from Old French and Anglo-French par aventure, peradventure. Par is an 11th-century development of Latin and Old French per “through, by, by means of.” Adventure comes from Middle English aventure, avento(u)r, adventure, from Old and Middle French aventure “destiny, fate, chance; risk, peril,” from Medieval Latin (rēs) adventūra “(thing) about to come, (thing) going to happen.” Adventūra is the future participle of the Latin verb advenīre “to come to, arrive at, reach; (of conditions) to arise, develop; (of possessions) to come into the hands of.” Peradventure entered English about 1300.

how is peradventure used?

Of a truth the phrase hath a fair and winsome grace, and is prettily worded withal. I will repeat it anon and anon in mine idlesse, whereby I may peradventure learn it.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889

While he mused and traced it and retraced it,
(Peradventure with a pen corroded
Still by drops of that hot ink he dipped for … )

Robert Browning, "One Word More," Men and Women, 1855

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