Word of the Day

Friday, May 18, 2018

spagyric

[ spuh-jeer-ik ]

adjective

pertaining to or resembling alchemy; alchemic.

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What is the origin of spagyric?

The rare adjective spagyric comes from New Latin spagiricus “alchemical; alchemy; an alchemist” and was first used and probably coined by the Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus (c1493–1541). There is no trustworthy etymology for the word. Spagyric entered English in the late 16th century.

how is spagyric used?

He saw the true gold into which the beggarly matter of existence may be transmuted by spagyric art; a succession of delicious moments, all the rare flavours of life concentrated, purged of their lees, and preserved in a beautiful vessel.

Arthur Machen, The Hill of Dreams, 1907

I fear that many a practitioner of the spagyric art has perished handling it without due respect.

Jacqueline Carey, Miranda and Caliban, 2017
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

paraph

[ par-uhf, puh-raf ]

noun

a flourish made after a signature, as in a document, originally as a precaution against forgery.

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What is the origin of paraph?

A paraph is the flamboyant flourish at the end of a signature to prevent forgery. The most famous and perhaps only paraph familiar to modern Americans is the one at the end of John Hancock’s signature on the Declaration of Independence. Paraph comes from Middle French paraphe or paraffe “abbreviated signature,” which is either a shortening of Late Latin paragraphus “a short horizontal line below the beginning of a line and marking a break in the sense,” or Medieval Latin paraphus “a flourish at the end of a signature.” Paraph entered English in the late 14th century.

how is paraph used?

Between you and me pivotal affinities occlude such petty tics as my constant distinctive signature with its unforgeable paraph

Joseph McElroy, Ancient History: A Paraphrase, 1971
[Frédéric] Chopin signed in a compact and bold hand. His signature exhibits choppy letter construction and is typically finished off with a bold paraph.

Ron Keurajian, Collecting Historical Autographs, 2017
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

bezonian

[ bih-zoh-nee-uhn ]

noun

Archaic. an indigent rascal; scoundrel.

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What is the origin of bezonian?

The root of the archaic English noun bezonian is the Italian noun bisogno “need, lack,” also in the late 16th century, “raw, needy recruit (newly landed in Italy from Spain).” In English bezonian has always had this meaning, but also, by an easy extension, ”poor beggar, indigent rascal.” Bezonian entered English in the late 16th century.

how is bezonian used?

Great men oft die by vile bezonians

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, 1623

To Juan, who was nearest him, address’d / His thanks, and hopes to take the city soon / Not reckoning him to be a “base Bezonian” / (As Pistol calls it) but a young Livonian.

Lord Byron, Don Juan, 1819–24

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