Word of the Day

Sunday, August 02, 2020

sororal

[ suh-rawr-uhl, -rohr- ]

adjective

of, relating to, or characteristic of a sister or sisters; sisterly.

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What is the origin of sororal?

Sororal means simply “relating to one’s sister or sisters; sisterly.” It derives from the Latin noun soror “sister” and the English adjective suffix -al, which ultimately comes from the Latin suffix -ālis. Soror comes from Proto-Indo-European swésor- “sister,” in Latin going through the stages from swesor to swosor to sworor to soror. Swésor- appears in Sanskrit as svásar-, in Greek as éor (Greek from preliterate times has had trouble with initial and intervocalic s and w, let alone the cluster sw-, all of which usually became h in classical Greek and disappeared in Hellenistic and later Greek). The form swésōr becomes siur in Old Irish and chwaer in Welsh. The Germanic variant swestar yields Gothic swistar, Old Norse systir, which influenced Old English sweostor and suster to become English sister. Sororal entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is sororal used?

Greta Gerwig’s take on Louisa May Alcott’s novel is intelligent and fleet, refreshing if not radical, and as organic in its feminist convictions as it is in its depiction of close-knit sororal love.

Philippa Snow, "The Reinvention of Little Women," The New Republic, January 1, 2020

Eva Kor describes having the same sort of sororal telepathy with her twin, Miriam Czaigher. … each seemed to know when the other was in special need.

Winifred Gallagher, "To the Manner Born," Rolling Stone, November 19, 1987

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Saturday, August 01, 2020

bonanza

[ buh-nan-zuh, boh- ]

noun

a source of great and sudden wealth or luck; a spectacular windfall: The play proved to be a bonanza for its lucky backers.

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What is the origin of bonanza?

Bonanza is a Mexican Spanish noun that entered American English in the early 1840s. In Spanish bonanza means “fair, calm weather (for sailing); prosperity.” Bonanza is a nasalized variant of Vulgar and Medieval Latin bonacia, bonatzia “calm sea,” which is a blend of the Latin adjective bon(us) “good” and Medieval Latin (mal)acia “calm sea,” from Greek malakía “softness.” Bonanza, with a transferred sense “rich vein of ore,” was first applied to the gold mines of Placer County, California (1844), and the silver mines of the Comstock Lode, Nevada (1859).

how is bonanza used?

After Stevie Wonder appeared in a segment, one of his greatest-hits albums jumped to the top of the U.K. iTunes charts, turning “Carpool Karaoke” into a promotional bonanza.

Michael Schulman, "James Cordon's Do-Over," The New Yorker, January 27, 2020

Over the next three weeks they picked up four new clients, a bonanza by Harvey’s standards.

Jonathan Dee, A Thousand Pardons, 2013

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Friday, July 31, 2020

obfuscate

[ ob-fuh-skeyt, ob-fuhs-keyt ]

verb (used with object)

to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.

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What is the origin of obfuscate?

The verb obfuscate comes from Late Latin (especially Christian Latin) offuscāt(us), also obfuscāt(us), the past participle of offuscāre (obfuscāre), literally “to darken, obscure.” Offuscāre is a compound of the preposition and prefix ob, of– “toward, against,” also used as an intensive prefix, as here, and the verb fuscāre “to make dark, become dark.” The Latin root word is the adjective fuscus “dark, somber, dim, drab.” Fuscus is possibly related to Old English dox, dosc “dark,” source of the English noun and adjective dusk. Obfuscate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is obfuscate used?

Of course all this talk of carbon emissions obfuscates the other significant dangers associated with the nuclear cycle.

Mark Dowie, "Nuclear Caribou," Orion, January/February 2009

But it will take moral clarity, which will require both editors and reporters to stop doing things like reflexively hiding behind euphemisms that obfuscate the truth, simply because we’ve always done it that way.

Wesley Lowery, "A Reckoning Over Objectivity, Led by Black Journalists," New York Times, June 23, 2020

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

evanescent

[ ev-uh-nes-uhnt ]

adjective

vanishing; fading away; fleeting.

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What is the origin of evanescent?

The adjective evanescent, “vanishing, fading,” comes via the French adjective évanescent, from Latin ēvānēscēns (inflectional stem ēvānēscent-), the present participle of the verb ēvānēscere “to disappear, vanish, fade away,” whose root word is the adjective vānus “empty, hollow, illusory,” source of English vain (via Old French). Ēvānēscere is a compound of the preposition and prefix ex-, ē- “out, out of, utterly, completely” and the verb vānēscere “to melt into nothing, vanish.” Ēvānēscere becomes esvanir, evanir in Old French, with a present stem esvaniss-, evaniss-, the source of Middle English vanis(s)hen, “to disappear, disappear suddenly,” English vanish. Evanescent entered English in the early 18th century.

how is evanescent used?

Readers, after enjoying a book, are desperate not to let go of the characters, the evanescent feeling of being in the text.

Deirdre Foley Mendelssohn, "Bottling the Book," The New Yorker, July 15, 2010

The pantomime of head-butting and jabbing, with moments when his whole body crumples as if in grief, lasts mere seconds. Every gesture is sharp but evanescent, vanishing as quickly as it takes shape.

Sarah L. Kaufman, "In pain and rage, a protester approached police. And then he danced," Washington Post, June, 6, 2020

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

whinge

[ hwinj, winj ]

verb (used without object)

British and Australian Informal.

to complain; whine.

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What is the origin of whinge?

The verb whinge, “to complain, whine,” occurs in just about every national variety of English—British, Irish (James Joyce, Samuel Beckett), Scottish (Robert Burns), Australian, New Zealand—but remains lesser known in US English. Indeed, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s address at the Dursleys (4 Privet Drive / Little Whinging / Surrey), Whinging had to be glossed for American readers. Whinge comes from Scots and northern England dialect quhynge (these varieties of Middle English often use qu- for standard English wh-, as in quat for what, quere for where); hence quhynge is pronounced whinge. Quhynge comes from Old English hwinsian “to complain” and is related to whine, whisper, and whistle, all of which come from a Germanic root hwei– “to whistle, whisper.” Whinge entered English in the mid-12th century.

how is whinge used?

When an Ohio second grader joins in to whinge about achy pen-holding fingers, handwriting … becomes as hot a topic as in Erasmus’s day.

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, "The Story of How Handwriting Evolved, and May Soon Die Off," New York Times, August 25, 2016

I wrote in my diary: ‘Here I am in Paris with dreams fulfilled and I whinge because my back hurts! But it bloody does.’

Patti Miller, Ransacking Paris, 2015

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

verecund

[ ver-i-kuhnd ]

adjective

Archaic.

bashful; modest.

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What is the origin of verecund?

The uncommon adjective verecund, “bashful, modest,” comes straight from Latin verēcundus “restrained by or sensitive to scruples or feelings of modesty, shame, or self-respect.” Verēcundus is a compound of the verb verērī “to fear, show reverence for, be in awe of” and the adjective suffix –cundus, which indicates inclination or capacity. Verērī is the root in the very common verb revere (and its derivatives reverent, reverend, and reverence). Verecund entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is verecund used?

Our politics is speckled with men who are so diffident and verecund they never say a word about themselves or their achievements.

"Who's Who—And Why," Saturday Evening Post , February 10, 1912

If there is any perceptible shift between early and later Dickens, then that transition seems to be one where the verecund persona gives way to a performance imbued with Pancksian relish in the double face of wonder and monstrosity.

Julian Wolfreys, Writing London: the trace of the urban text from Blake to Dickens, 1998

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Monday, July 27, 2020

scattergood

[ skat-er-good ]

noun

a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; spendthrift.

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What is the origin of scattergood?

The rare noun scattergood is a compound of the verb scatter and the noun good in the sense “possessions, personal property” (the plural form goods is the usual, modern form). An early, pungent citation of scattergood appears in the works of a 17th-century Anglican priest, William Brough, “If the first heir be not a Scattergood, the third is commonly a Lose-all” (spelling slightly modernized). Scattergood entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is scattergood used?

they are a pleasant couple, but it would be folly to bequeath the whole of my estate to a pair of such scattergoods.

"A Striking Legacy," Truth, August 25, 1881

And now, my lords, there is that young scattergood the Laird of Bucklaw’s fine to be disposed upon. I suppose it goes to my Lord Treasurer?

Sir Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, 1819

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