• Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Friday, August 02, 2019

    slake

    verb (used with object) [sleyk]
    to lessen or allay (thirst, desire, wrath, etc.) by satisfying.
    Look it up

    Get to know dictionary.com

    Sign up for our Newsletter!
    Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    What is the origin of slake?

    Slake means "to lessen or allay something by satisfying it." While we can slake our curiosity, desire, hunger, or anger, we most commonly say we slake our thirst. Slake comes from Middle English slaken “to mitigate, allay, moderate, lessen one’s efforts,” from Old English slacian “to slacken.” Old English slacian is a verb based off the adjective sleac, slæc, variously meaning “loose, lazy, careless, sluggish, lax (of conduct),” which by Middle English (as slac, slak) narrowed to the sense of “loose, not tight,” the principal sense of its modern form, slack, today. Old English sleac (via Germanic slak-) derives from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)lēg-, which, in its Latin variants, ultimately yielded such English words as languid,  languish, lax, lease, release, and relax. Once again, etymology offers an important life lesson: it’s best not to languish, so slake your thirst—with a beverage of your choice—and relax, but don’t be too lax about it and slack off.

    How is slake used?

    The desperate elephants dig a well in order to slake the thirst of their little calf. Sonia Saraiya, "Staggering, Marvelous Our Planet Is the Nature Show We've Been Waiting For," Vanity Fair, April 9, 2019

    He could not slake his thirst; he kept going into the kitchen and ladling more water out of the bucket that stood on a bench under the window facing the large moonlit yard. Péter Nádas, Parallel Stories, translated by Imre Goldstein, 2011

    Get to know dictionary.com

    Sign up for our Newsletter!
    Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Thursday, August 01, 2019

    august

    adjective [aw-guhst]
    inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic: an august performance of a religious drama.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of august?

    The English adjective august ultimately derives from the Latin adjective augustus, an uncommon, quasi-religious adjective originally meaning “venerable, solemn,” first used by the Roman poet and playwright Ennius (239-169 b.c.). Augustus also means “majestic (in appearance), dignified,” as used in authors who lived before the emperor Augustus or were contemporary with him. The etymology of augustus is unclear: it may be related to the verb augēre “to increase, enlarge, grow,” or it may be related to the noun augur, a noun of unknown etymology meaning “a Roman official who observes the flight of birds and interprets the omens.” Finally, it may be related to auspex, a synonym of augur but with an excellent etymology: avis “bird” and -spex “watcher,” from the verb specere “to observe.” It is also unclear why Octavian (the English short form of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus), the sole head of the Roman state after the Battle of Actium (31 b.c.), selected the old, obscure title Augustus for himself. Octavian had also styled himself Rōmulus, the legendary founder and first king of Rome, and Octavian, perhaps wishing to avoid associations with the monarchy, settled upon Augustus. On January 16, 27 b.c., the Senate bestowed upon Octavian the titles Augustus and Princeps (Civītātis) “First Citizen (of the State), First Man (of the State),” and Augustus became the emperor’s official title. After Augustus’s time, the title Augustus was applied to succeeding emperors; the feminine title Augusta was given to the emperor’s wife (and occasionally to other close female relatives, such as a mother, grandmother, sister, or daughter). August entered English in the late 16th century.

    How is august used?

    We have before observed, that there is generally in nature something more grand and august than what we meet with in the curiosities of art. Joseph Addison, "No. 414, Paper IV: On the Pleasures of the Imagination," The Spectator, June 25, 1712

    At that time, a debate was raging in European scientific circles, one that was roiling the august halls of the French Academy of Sciences. Robert Whitaker, The Mapmaker's Wife, 2004

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Wednesday, July 31, 2019

    dumbledore

    noun [duhm-buhl-dawr]
    a bumblebee.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of dumbledore?

    Dumbledore is a British dialect word, a compound of dumble, which is onomatopoeic, occurring variously as bumble-, dumble-, humble-, and the noun dor (also dorr) “an insect that makes a buzzing noise as it flies.” For her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling selected Dumbledore as the surname of the headmaster of Hogwarts because dumbledore is a dialect word for “bumblebee,” Albus Dumbledore loved music, and she imagined him walking around "humming to himself.” Dumbledore is recorded in English by the late 1700s.

    How is dumbledore used?

    The dumbledore proper is Emerson's "burly dozing humblebee," in American prose always a bumblebee. Charles P. G. Scott, "English Words which hav Gaind or Lost an Initial Consonant by Attraction," Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 23, 1892

    Any Humble-bee, no matter what species, is known as a Bumble-bee, a Foggie, a Dumbledore, or a Hummel-bee, according to the peculiar dialect of the locality .... John George Wood, Homes Without Hands, 1866

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Tuesday, July 30, 2019

    dégringolade

    noun [dey-gran-gaw-lad]
    a quick deterioration or breakdown, as of a situation or circumstance.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of dégringolade?

    The rare noun dégringolade “a quick deterioration or breakdown,” comes unchanged from French. The French noun is a derivative of the verb dégringoler (earlier désgringoler) “to tumble down.” The prefix - (dés-) comes from the Latin prefix dis- “apart, asunder.” The French noun suffix -ade ultimately comes from the Latin past participle suffix -ātus (-āta, -ātum). The verb gringoler may be a borrowing of Middle Dutch crinkelen ”to curl, meander.” Dégringolade entered English by the second half of the 19th century.

    How is dégringolade used?

    The economically combatant nation entrenched themselves behind tariffs, played each other tricks with loans, repudiations, sudden inflations and deflations, and no power in the world seemed able to bring them into any concerted action to arrest and stop their common degringolade. H. G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, 1933

    What’s more, they believe that things cannot go on as they are: That the trajectory we’re on will end in crisis, disaster, dégringolade. Ross Douthat, "Pope Francis' Call to Action Goes Beyond the Environment," New York Times, June 20, 2015

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Monday, July 29, 2019

    nisus

    noun [nahy-suhs]
    an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of nisus?

    The rare noun nisus, a technical word used in various branches of philosophy and theology, comes directly from Latin nīsus, a derivative of the verb nītī and meaning “a resting of one’s weight on the ground, planting one’s feet firmly, a strong muscular effort, pressure (of forces), an endeavor, strong effort.” Nisus in the sense "effort" first appears at the end of the 17th century in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In later usage nisus simply means "impulse."

    How is nisus used?

    The accumulation of wealth into a few hands is the nisus of all bad governments ... "Ireland in 1832," The Metropolitan, Vol. 5, No. 18, October 1832

    ... in Aristotle's teleological universe, every human being ... has a kind of inner nisus toward a life of at least civic virtue ... Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, 1985

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Sunday, July 28, 2019

    fulgurant

    adjective [fuhl-gyer-uhnt]
    flashing like lightning.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of fulgurant?

    Fulgurant comes straight from Latin fulgurant-, the inflectional stem of fulgurāns, the present participle of the verb fulgurāre, originally an impersonal and intransitive verb meaning “it lightens,” then becoming personal and applied to Jupiter or the sky, and finally being applied generally (such as to orators) and meaning “to shine, glitter.” There are many Latin words for lightning, e.g., the noun fulmen (from an unrecorded fulgmen), which has its own derivative verb fulmināre (like fulgurāre, originally an impersonal and intransitive verb), whose past participle fulminātus is the source of the English verb fulminate. And its present participle fulmināns (inflectional stem fulminant-) is the source of the uncommon adjective fulminant, which has largely been replaced by fulminating. Fulgurant entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

    How is fulgurant used?

    To the left the draw-bridge slowly raised its broken span, the soft edges illumined by fulgurant lights of red and green. Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

    The comedy has to arise from the daily disparities in which the playwright made her nest, from the way an irreverent mutter or a fulgurant non sequitur rends the conventional fabric of existence with a lightninglike tear. John Simon, "Pathetic and Peripatetic," New York, August 16, 1993

    Previous Day Load More
  • Word of the day
    Previous Week Next Week
    Saturday, July 27, 2019

    heterography

    noun [het-uh-rog-ruh-fee]
    the use of the same letter or combination of letters to represent different sounds, as, in English, the use of s in sit and easy.
    Look it up

    What is the origin of heterography?

    Orthodoxy "correct belief" is to heterodoxy as orthography "correct writing" is to heterography. The combining form hetero- comes from the Greek adjective héteros “one of two, the other, different.” (Even in ancient authors, words prefixed with hetero- were ambiguous: heterodoxía could mean “difference of opinion” and “error in opinion.”) Heterography originally meant “misspelling, incorrect spelling, bad spelling” (like awsome, kat, miniscule), then “irregular or inconsistent spelling,” which is usual in English: consider the value of c in call and cell, or of -ough in bough, cough, rough, though, or through. Heterography entered English in the late 18th century.

    How is heterography used?

    ... the whole world lies in heresy or schism on the subject of orthography. All climates alike groan under heterography. Thomas De Quincey, "Orthographic Mutineers," Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 14, March 1847

    Of course everybody recollects the great phonetic mania of some years ago,—and how Mr. Pitman and his followers denounced English spelling as heterography, and organized an orthography of their own ... "Visible Speech," Littell's Living Age, Vol. 83, October 15, 1864

    Previous Day Load More
Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.