Word of the Day

Saturday, February 16, 2019

snowbird

[ snoh-burd ]

noun

Informal. a person who vacations in or moves to a warmer climate during cold weather.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of snowbird?

Snowbird has three distinct meanings. The original meaning, “a bird that spends winters in a cold climate,” dates from the late 17th century; the second, “a person who travels from the cold north to spend the winter in the warm, sunny south,” dates from the mid-1920s; the third sense, “a person addicted to heroin or cocaine,” dates from around 1915.

how is snowbird used?

I don’t know if I can be a snowbird every year… But I’m going to try, even if it’s only for a week or two: for more winter sunrises, for more sunlight, and even for more — why not? — joyful crying.

Jen A. Miller, "How I Became a 37-Year-Old Snowbird," New York Times, February 23, 2018

As the temperature drops and months of cold weather loom ahead, snowbirds pack up for warmer climates, anticipating sunny days free of freezing ice, snow shoveling and other winter worries.

Mary Kane, "Prep Your House for Snowbird Season," Kiplinger's Retirement Report, January 2018

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Friday, February 15, 2019

onomastic

[ on-uh-mas-tik ]

adjective

of or relating to proper names.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of onomastic?

English onomastic comes straight from the Greek adjective and noun onomastikós, which has quite a few meanings: “pertaining to a name, naming, special name; (in grammar) nominative (case); vocabulary (organized by subject and not by letter).” Onomastikós is a derivative of the verb onomázein “to name, call by name,” itself a derivative of the noun ónoma, the Greek development of Proto-Indo-European nomen-, which appears in Latin as nōmen, Germanic (English) name, and Sanskrit nā́ma. One of the things that make Greek Greek is the presence of prothetic vowels (prothetic means “put in front”) at the beginning of a word, such as the o- in ónoma, the a- in ástron “star” (akin to English star and Latin stella, from assumed sterla), the e- in ennéa “nine” (Latin novem, Sanskrit náva). Some of the prothetic vowels can be explained according to Indo-European linguistics, others not; they are a source of endless research and speculation. Onomastic entered English in the 18th century.

how is onomastic used?

Today’s baseball rosters are filled with names, not nicknames, not like the ones that used to be. The N.B.A. playoffs are equally devoid of onomastic pleasures, just cheap echoes of Magic and the Mailman, Tiny and Tree, Chief and Cornbread.

John Branch, "Like Magic, Great Sports Nicknames Are Disappearing," New York Times, May 10, 2011

… the survey found that mothers’ top reason for onomastic discontent was that they hadn’t been bold enough …

Ruth Graham, "A Lot of Mothers Regret the Names They Gave Their Children, According to a New Survey," Slate, September 1, 2016
Thursday, February 14, 2019

attractancy

[ uh-trak-tuhn-see ]

noun

the capacity, especially of a pheromone, to attract.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of attractancy?

Attractant is to attractance and attractancy as repellent is to repellence and repellency. Both sets of words are used mostly in biochemistry to describe chemicals, such as pheromones or insectifuges, that attract, drive away, or affect the behavior of other creatures. Attractancy entered English in the 20th century.

how is attractancy used?

From these various investigations it became very clear that numerous components of the cotton plant had some attractancy for the boll weevil, although their effects were often short-ranged.

Richard L. Ridgway, May N. Inscoe, and Willard A. Dickerson, "Role of the Boll Weevil Pheromone in Pest Management," Behavior-Modifying Chemicals for Insect Management, 1990

The attractancy of the brown-rot fungus was discovered by Dr. Glenn Esenther, an entomologist at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.

T. Allan Wolter, "Your Wayne National Forest," Sunday Times-Sentinel, July 27, 1975
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

synastry

[ si-nas-tree, sin-uh-stree ]

noun

Astrology. the comparison of two or more natal charts in order to analyze or forecast the interaction of the individuals involved.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of synastry?

English synastry is an astrological term coming ultimately from Greek synastría, a noun compounded of the Greek preposition and prefix syn, syn- “with,” completely naturalized in English, the Greek noun ástro(n) “star,” familiar in astronomy, astronaut, and astrology, and the abstract noun suffix -ia, which is also native to Latin, becoming the noun suffix -y in English. Synastry entered English in the 17th century.

how is synastry used?

… she matches people according to chart comparison, a branch of astrology called Synastry.

Rick Smith, "Astrologer makes matches in heavens," The Daily Reporter, April 9, 1984

I find this sad because the synastry was really pretty good.

Eugenia Last, "The Last Word in Astrology," The Register-Guard, June 7, 1997
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

marvy

[ mahr-vee ]

adjective

Slang. marvelous; delightful.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of marvy?

Marvy is in origin an American slang term, a shortening of marvelous and the very common adjective suffix -y. Marvy first entered English in the 1930s.

how is marvy used?

You havent heard of privatizing? That’s this fantastically with-it idea the Reagan circle has for getting the government out of government. Isn’t that too marvy?

Russell Baker, "Such a Marvy Idea," New York Times, January 8, 1986

The 22-way adjustable driver seat was marvy.

Dan Neil, "Bentley Bentayga: The Ultimate Luxury SUV," Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2016
Monday, February 11, 2019

amphiscians

[ am-fish-ee-uhnz, -fish-uhnz ]

plural noun

Archaic. inhabitants of the tropics.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of amphiscians?

Amphiscians is an altogether strange word, at least in its meaning. The English word, a plural noun, comes from Medieval Latin Amphisciī “those who cast a shadow on both sides,” i.e., in the tropics a person’s shadow will fall towards the north or towards the south depending on whether the sun is above or below the equator. Amphisciī is a straightforward borrowing of Greek amphískioi (a plural adjective used as a noun) “casting a shadow or shadowy on both sides,” formed from the preposition and prefix amphí, amphi- “around, about” (akin to Latin ambi- with the same meaning) and the noun skiá “shadow, shade, specter” (from the same Proto-Indo-European root from which English has shine). (Heteroscians is, of course, the opposite of amphiscians.) Amphiscians entered English in the 17th century.

how is amphiscians used?

The amphiscians, whose noon shadows fall on both sides, are the people who live between the two tropics, in the region which the ancients call the middle zone.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), On the Revolutions, translated by Edward Rosen, 1978

Are we not similar to those amphiscians / whose shadows fall at one season to the north, / but at another to the south?

Evan S. Connell, Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel, 1962
Sunday, February 10, 2019

prebuttal

[ pri-buht-l, pree- ]

noun

an argument constructed in anticipation of a criticism: The alderman began his speech with a question-answer style prebuttal.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of prebuttal?

Prebuttal is a clever combination of the prefix pre- “before” and (re)buttal. It is equivalent to the Latin rhetorical term prolēpsis “anticipation in the form of a brief summary” or Late Latin procatalēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments,” a borrowing from Greek prolēpsis “(in rhetoric) anticipation” and prokatálēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments.” Former Vice President Al Gore seems to be the first person to use prebuttal in 1996.

how is prebuttal used?

President Clinton’s White House and campaign team have been drawing favorable reviews for their rapid response operation and penchant for picking off issues before Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) even gets his TelePrompTer warmed up. Vice President Gore calls it “prebuttal.”

Dan Balz, Washington Post, May 26, 1996

Both in the short term and for posterity, Sotomayor’s work will serve as a prebuttal to what Chief Justice John Roberts and company are poised to do.

Andrew Cohen, "Sonia Sotomayor and the Real Lessons of Affirmative Action," Atlantic, January 11, 2013

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.