Word of the Day

Friday, August 21, 2020

sobriquet

[ soh-bruh-key, -ket, soh-bruh-key, -ket; French saw-bree-ke ]

noun

a nickname.

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What is the origin of sobriquet?

Sobriquet (also spelled soubriquet), “a nickname,” has an uncertain origin. Most likely it comes from French sobriquet “nickname,” from Middle French soubriquet, also soubzbriquet “a jest or quip”; also “a chuck under the chin, a gentle tap under the chin.” The only recognizable part of soubzbriquet is soubz, sous, from Latin sub “under.” It is possible that the second element is Middle French briquet, also brichet, bruchet, “breast of an animal, cut of meat,” English brisket. Sobriquet entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is sobriquet used?

And never mind the “Greedy McCreadie” sobriquet bestowed on him by former colleagues and workers who testify, with full mockumentary gravitas, to his lack of character.

Ella Taylor, "'Greed': A Scabrous Satire Of A Megalomaniacal Mogul," NPR, February 27, 2020

As with most memorable nicknames, there’s a story behind it: Hya was the sobriquet that stuck after my siblings and I tested out various permutations of Hyderabad, the city she lived in, and a place I thought of as home.

Sarah Khan, "Return to Hyderabad," New York Times, April 21, 2020

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

comity

[ kom-i-tee ]

noun

mutual courtesy; civility.

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What is the origin of comity?

Comity comes from Latin comitās (stem comitāt-) “friendliness, consideration, graciousness,” a derivative of the adjective cōmis “kind, obliging.” Cōmis perhaps comes from earlier cosmis, which occurs only once, in an inscription. If so, the syllable –smi– comes from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)mei-, (s)mei-, (s)mi– “to laugh, smile, wonder at,” which supplies Greek philommeidḗs (from philo-smeides) “laughter-loving,” a Homeric epithet of Aphrodite. (S)mei– yields Latin mīrus ”extraordinary, remarkable (usually in the good sense),” the verb mīrārī “to be surprised, amazed; look in awe or wonder at” (the source of Spanish mirar “to look at”). Also, in German komisch means “comic” and colloquially “strange, funny.” (S)mei– appears in the Germanic languages as smīlan, English smile. Comity entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is comity used?

the funeral underscored how Mr. Lewis believed that his decades-long civil rights fight could be waged in a spirit of comity—and with a belief that the American project was not fatally flawed, but perfectible in the hands of a citizenry willing to go to the polls and engage in nonviolent protest.

Richard Fausset and Rick Rojas, "John Lewis, a Man of 'Unbreakable Perseverance,' Is Laid to Rest," New York Times, July 30, 2020

I believe I had no money to buy them, but there was an open account, or a comity, between the printer and the bookseller, and I must have been allowed a certain discretion in regard to getting books.

William Dean Howells, "Shakespeare," My Literary Passions, 1895

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

zhuzh

[ zhoozh ]

verb

to make (something) more lively and interesting, stylish, or appealing, as by a small change or addition (usually followed by up): These colorful throw pillows are an easy way to zhuzh up your living room.

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What is the origin of zhuzh?

Zhuzh (also spelled zhoosh) as a verb means “to make (something) more lively, interesting, and stylish.” It is a fairly recent slang term, first appearing in the mid-1960s in gay communities in the U.K. in the sense “to improve the look of one’s clothing or outfit”; its current, more general sense dates from the mid-70s. The source of zhuzh, as with most slang terms, is problematic: zhuzh may be purely onomatopoeic, representing the sound of someone rushing around; it may be from Polari, a kind of British slang derived largely from Italian and used since the 18th century among theatrical and circus performers and in some gay and lesbian communities; finally, zhuzh may be from Romani zhouzhou “clean, neat.”

how is zhuzh used?

But don’t just throw some cooked rice into the bottom of a bowl! You’ve got to zhuzh it up before you pile on everything else so that every element is packed with flavor.

Kari Sonde, "Start your grain bowl right with these 5 jazzy rice recipes," Washington Post, August 1, 2019

First up was hairdressing icon Jonathan Van Ness, who wanted to keep the spirit of Gritty — but just zhuzh it up a bit.

James Dator, "Everything about Gritty getting a makeover on Queer Eye is good," SBNation.com, July 1, 2020

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

hortatory

[ hawr-tuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee ]

adjective

urging to some course of conduct or action; exhorting; encouraging: a hortatory speech.

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What is the origin of hortatory?

Hortatory comes from Late Latin hortātōrius “encouraging, cheering,” an adjective that first appears in St. Augustine’s Confessions (a.d. 397–400). Hortātōrius ultimately derives from the verb horī “to urge,” from a Proto-Indo-European root gher-, ghor-, ghṛ– “to like, take pleasure.” From the variant gher-, Oscan, an extinct Italic language related to Latin, has Herentateís súm (“I am of the goddess Venus,” i.e., “I am a dedication to Venus”). Gher– yields Sanskrit háryati “(he) takes pleasure”; ghṛ– yields Greek chaírein “to rejoice” and cháris “grace, favor.” Hortatory entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is hortatory used?

He admired the man’s passion and fighting spirit, his wit, his hortatory style, his good looks and fine speech.

Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, 1969

Other summits serve a similar hortatory function: leading by example and pressuring others to do more.

Jessica F. Green, "The U.N. Climate Summit starts today. Here's what it can—and can't—achieve." Washington Post, September 23, 2019

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Monday, August 17, 2020

limn

[ lim ]

verb (used with object)

to portray in words; describe.

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What is the origin of limn?

Limn is not a misspelling of another word. It comes from the late Middle English verb lymne(n) (also limnen, liminen, limpnen, luminen) “to illuminate (a book, manuscript, or rubric),” a shortening of enlumine, from the Old French verb enluminer. Enluminer comes from Latin illūmināre or inlūmināre “to give light to, brighten, illuminate.” The root of the Latin verb is the noun lūmen (inflectional stem lūmin-) “light, radiance, rays of light,” from an unrecorded louksmen. Louksmen is derived from the common Proto-Indo-European root leuk-, louk-, luk– “white, bright,” which is also the source of Latin lūx (stem lūc-) “a light,” lūna “moon (from louksnā, which is also the source of Russian luná “moon”), Greek leukós “white, bright,” amphilýkē “twilight,” and Old English lēoht, līht (English light). Limn entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is limn used?

What we do as writers, paradoxically, is attempt at one and the same time to summon up the whole of experience, to limn the world at full tilt, and to render some small portion of this world with such specificity that, walking past, the reader feels the grit of it catching in the soles of shoes.

James Sallis, "Introduction," New Orleans Confidential by O'Neil De Noux, 2006

The creators of the blog Tom and Lorenzo limn the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as a window into gay culture and history.

Monica Drake, "New & Noteworthy, From RuPaul to a Nine-Dish Meal," New York Times, March 4, 2020

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

vicarious

[ vahy-kair-ee-uhs, vi- ]

adjective

felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others: a vicarious thrill.

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What is the origin of vicarious?

The adjective vicarious comes from the Latin adjective and noun vicārius “substituting, taking the place of another; one who takes over for or from another, a replacement or successor.” Vicārius is formed from the noun vicis (a genitive singular—the nominative singular does not occur) “a recurring occasion, a turn; an interchange or alternation,” and the adjective suffix –ārius, completely naturalized in English as –ary. Vicārius regularly becomes vicaire, vicar(e) in Old French, and vicar(e), vicair(e) in Middle English, with many meanings, including “one delegated with apostolic authority, such as a priest or the pope; a priest appointed to a parish in place of the regular priest or parson.” Vicarious entered English in the 17th century.

how is vicarious used?

Laying a sleeping bag on the hard metal floor of a rail car as it rumbles down the tracks is not for those accustomed to creature comforts. Yet his photographs of this life-on-the-edge experience illicit a vicarious thrill.

Alexa Keefe, "Not Your Typical Travelogue: A Photographer's Train-Hopping Adventures," National Geographic, September 28, 2015

Track and field are some of the most exciting events in the Olympic Games, but after the weeks of hype, the events themselves are so short … that it seems like they’re over before a casual fan has time to get a vicarious adrenaline rush.

Elspeth Reeve, "Get to Know the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Through GIFs," The Atlantic, July 24, 2012

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

jubilee

[ joo-buh-lee, joo-buh-lee ]

noun

the celebration of any of certain anniversaries, especially the fiftieth (golden jubilee).

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What is the origin of jubilee?

Jubilee comes from Middle English jubilee, jeubile, from Old French jubilee, jubilé, from Late Latin (annus) jūbilaeus “(year) of jubilee,” from the Greek adjective iōbēlaîos, from the noun iṓbēlos “jubilee,” from the Hebrew noun yōbhēl “ram’s horn, jubilee.” The change of the expected Latin spelling jōbēlaeus to jūbilaeus is due to the Latin verb jūbilāre “to shout for joy.” Jubilee first appears in John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible in 1382.

how is jubilee used?

Few British monarchs have reached the 50-year milestone. King George III and Queen Victoria marked their golden jubilees with huge celebrations.

Ceylan Yeginsu, "Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee Takes On Low-Key Tone," New York Times, February 6, 2017

To mark our silver jubilee, we look back at some of the biggest, brightest moments of the past 9,131 days.

"2008: Rachel Maddow Becomes First Queer Woman to Host Prime-Time News," Out, September 29, 2017

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