Word of the Day

Friday, October 04, 2019


[ sluhm-ber-land ]


an imaginary land described to children as the place they enter during sleep.

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What is the origin of slumberland?

Slumberland is a humorous, poetic, or childish word. It first appears in the Decadent poet Algernon Swinburne’s Tristram of Lyonesse and other Poems (1882): “The great good wizard … Takes his strange rest at heart of slumberland.” Slumber, “to sleep, doze,” comes from Middle English slumeren, frequentative of slumen “to doze,” itself a derivative of Old English slūma “sleep.”

how is slumberland used?

… Drew Ackerman created a podcast to lead listeners into slumberland.

Pagan Kennedy, "The Insomnia Machine," New York Times, September 17, 2016

Every time the boy thinks he has ushered them into slumberland, with the goal of getting some shut-eye himself, a new obstacle pops up (“Is something wrong?” “I need my coil!”/ “My sensor aches!” “I want more oil!”).

, "Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!" Publishers Weekly, July 6, 2015
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Thursday, October 03, 2019


[ foh-lee-ey-shuhs ]


bearing leaves or leaflike parts.

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What is the origin of foliaceous?

Foliaceous “leaflike, leafy,” is a technical adjective used in botany and other branches of biology. Foliaceous comes straight from Latin foliāceus (with the same meanings), a derivative of the noun folium “leaf.” Folium comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bhel-, bhol-, bhlē-, bhlō– “to bloom, thrive.” The root is the source of Latin flōs (inflectional stem flōr-) “flower,” which through French yields English flower and flour, and Old Irish blāth “blossom, flower.” The Germanic form blō– yields the Old English noun blōstma, blōsma “blossom,” and the verb blōwan “to blow, blossom, flourish.” The Greek noun phýllon “leaf” could be from the same root, except that the y (instead of o) is hard to explain. Foliaceous entered English in the 17th century.

how is foliaceous used?

This Oak presents about the longest trunk of all California foliaceous trees.

Titus Fey Cronise, The Natural Wealth of California, 1868

The autumn dress of the foliaceous forest is much more varied and rich in colour than even that of the Atlantic forests of North America ….

J. J. Rein, The Industries of Japan, 1889
Wednesday, October 02, 2019


[ koh-uh-les ]

verb (used without object)

to unite so as to form one mass, community, etc.: The various groups coalesced into a crowd.

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What is the origin of coalesce?

The English verb coalesce ultimately comes from the Latin compound verb coalescere “to grow together, combine,” formed from co-, a variant of the prefix com– “together, with,” and the verb alescere “to grow up, be nourished.” Alescere is composed of the simple verb alere “to nourish, suckle, feed,” with the inchoative suffix –esc-, which indicates the beginning of an action (sometimes the suffix has lost its original meaning). Alere comes from the Latin root al– “to nourish,” from which Latin also derives alimentum “nourishment” (English aliment and alimentary), alumnus “foster child, nursling” (English alumnus), alimōnium “food, support, cost of support” (English alimony), and alma māter “nourishing mother, kindly mother,” which by the late 14th century came to refer specifically to universities. Coalesce entered English in the 16th century.

how is coalesce used?

Will the new generation of activists rising across the United States coalesce into a movement capable of uniting a deeply polarized country?

Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Djinovic, "Gene Sharp has passed away—but his ideas will go on inspiring activists around the world," Washington Post, February 1, 2018

Most friend groups, however, seemed to coalesce around the segment of L.A. they were from, bonds formed through carpools and neighborhood functions rather than schoolyard commingling.

Samuel Harwood, "L.A. Affairs: A love derailed by staying on track," Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2015
Tuesday, October 01, 2019


[ ik-sten-yoo-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to represent (a fault, offense, etc.) as less serious: to extenuate a crime.

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What is the origin of extenuate?

Extenuate comes from Latin extenuāt-, the past participle of the verb extenuāre “to make thin or narrow, whittle down, contract, reduce.” The only common English meaning of extenuate, “to represent a fault or offense as less serious,” is an extended meaning of one of the Latin senses “to diminish or lessen (in size, quantity, or degree).” The root underlying extenuāre is the Latin adjective tenuis “thin,” a derivative of the very common Proto-Indo-European root ten-, tend-, ton-, tṇ– (and other variants) “to stretch, extend, spin (cloth).” The root appears in Latin tenēre “to hold in the hand, grasp,” tendere “to stretch out, offer”; Sanskrit tanṓti “(he) stretches, spins,” tāna– “thread, tone”; Greek teínein “to stretch, pull tight,” and tónos “tension, sinew, cord, string, tension (in the voice), tone (of the voice).” The Germanic forms thunw– and thunni– yield the Old English verb thenian (also thennan) “to stretch, spread out, bend (a bow),” Old High German dennen “to extend, stretch” (German dehnen), the Old English adjective thynne “thin,” and German dünn “thin.” Extenuate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is extenuate used?

Revelation of embryonic activity in the sixties does not extenuate crimes of more recent vintage, but they will show us how pervasive and dangerous our unconcern has been.

William Safire, "Who Else Is Guilty," New York Times, January 2, 1975

This was what no reasoning, no appeal to the calmer judgment, could ever, in his inmost thoughts, undo or extenuate.

Edith Wharton, The Fruit of the Tree, 1907
Monday, September 30, 2019


[ em-pawr-ee-uhm, -pohr- ]


a large retail store, especially one selling a great variety of articles.

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What is the origin of emporium?

Emporium with its Latin ending –um still looks foreign. In Latin, emporium means “trade center, business district, market town.” The Latin word means something larger and more permanent than the Greek original empórion “trading station, trading post, entrepôt.” Empórion is a derivative of emporía “commerce, trade, business,” itself a derivative of émporos “passenger on a ship, traveler, merchant, trade.” The compound noun émporos breaks down into em-, a variant of en– “in, on,” and póros “way, passage, journey.” Póros derives from the Proto-Indo-European root per-, por-, pṛ– “to lead, pass, pass over.” Per– is the source of English firth and fjord (both from Old Norse fjǫrth, inflectional stem firth-, from Germanic ferthuz “ford”). The variant por– is the source of Old English faran “to go on a journey, get along” (English fare). The suffixed form poreyo– forms the causative Germanic verb farjan “to make go, lead,” which becomes ferian in Old English and ferry in English. The variant – forms the Latin nouns porta “door, gate,” portus “port, harbor,” and the verb portāre “to carry, transport.” Emporium entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is emporium used?

He sold everything in the emporium, from coffee to collar studs, camisoles to cuckoo clocks, candied sugar to collapsible top hats.

W. G. Sebald, The Emigrants, translated by Michael Hulse, 1996

Following a stint as a window dresser at Luisa Via Roma, Florence’s famous fashion emporium, she relocated to Paris, learning tailoring from the French designer Myrène de Prémonville ….

Jessamyn Hatcher, "The Ardent Followers of A Détacher," The New Yorker, August 7, 2017
Sunday, September 29, 2019


[ spit-suhn-burg ]


any of several red or yellow varieties of apple that ripen in the autumn.

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What is the origin of spitzenburg?

A spitzenburg or spitzenberg is a variety of apple from Esopus, New York, a town on the west bank of the Hudson River about 100 miles north of New York City. The full name of the variety of apple is Esopus Spitzenberg, after Esopus, a Lenape (Delaware Indian) word meaning “high banks,” and Dutch spits “point” and berg “mountain” (a seedling was found on a hill near Esopus). This variety of apple was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who had several trees of the variety planted at Monticello. Spitzenburg entered English at the end of the 18th century.

how is spitzenburg used?

… the old gentleman turned in his tracks, looked at me severely, and said, “Young man, the Spitzenburg is the best apple God ever invented.”

Fred Lape, Apples & Man, 1979

Biting into a Spitzenburg produces an explosion of flavor; the yellow flesh is crisp, firm, tender, juicy with an extremely rich, aromatic flavor: the ultimate gourmet apple.

Peter J. Hatch, The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello, 1998
Saturday, September 28, 2019


[ maw-ger ]



in spite of; notwithstanding.

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What is the origin of maugre?

The archaic preposition maugre “in spite of; notwithstanding” shows its origin in some of its other Middle English spellings, e.g., malgrie, malgre, from Old French maugré, malgré, mal gré, malgreit. The open compound mal gré shows the etymology of maugre: the Old French adjective mal “bad, wrongful” (from Latin malus “bad, unpleasant, evil”) and the noun gré, gred, gret “pleasure, goodwill, favor” (from Latin grātum “(something) pleasing,” a noun use of the neuter of the adjective grātus). Old French gré is the source of Middle English gre “goodwill, favor,” from which English has the archaic noun gree in the same sense. Maugre entered English at the end of the 13th century.

how is maugre used?

He had his faults; but maugre them all, I loved him.

Willis Gaylord Clark, "Everard Graham," Atkinson's Casket, July 1831

In his only tender moment, [Shakespeare’s] Aaron promises: ” This before all the world do I prefer, This maugre all the world will I keep safe. “

Mary Wiltenburg, "Acting with conviction," Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 2001

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