Word of the Day

Monday, November 04, 2019

Sprachgefühl

[ shprahkh-guh-fyl ]

noun

German.

a sensitivity to language, especially for what is grammatically or idiomatically acceptable in a given language.

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What is the origin of Sprachgefühl?

If you have sufficient Sprachgefühl for German, you’ll know that this noun is a great example of how that language can form compounds that capture very specific concepts. Sprachgefühl combines German Sprache “speech, language” and Gefühl “feeling.” Literally meaning “speech-feeling,” this term was borrowed into English by the early 1900s to convey the idea of “a sensitivity to language, especially for what is grammatically or idiomatically acceptable in a given language,” that is, an intuitive sense of how a language works. For instance, native English speakers understand (usually without being explicitly taught about adjective order) that a phrase like the green big book is incorrect in English. (The correct construction would be the big green book.)

how is Sprachgefühl used?

He displays an extraordinary range of what Germans call Sprachgefühl, an infectious love of language that inspires his readers and illuminates the nooks and crannies of the English language.

George Thomas Kurian, "Safire's Political Dictionary," The Reference Librarian's Bible, 2018

The test of vocabulary is important, but subordinate to that of “Sprachgefühl.”

Mary Anna Sawtelle, quoted in Report of the Third Annual Meeting of the New England Modern Language Association, May 12, 1906
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Sunday, November 03, 2019

obumbrate

[ ob-uhm-breyt ]

verb (used with object)

to darken, overshadow, or cloud.

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What is the origin of obumbrate?

The Latin root of obumbrate helps clarify this verb meaning “to darken, overshadow, or cloud”: umbra, “shadow, shade.” Obumbrate comes from Latin obumbrāre “to overshadow, shade, darken.” Obumbrāre combines the prefix ob– “on, over” (among other senses) and umbrāre “to shade,” a derivative of umbra. English owes many other words to Latin umbra, including adumbrate, penumbra, umbrage, and umbrella, the latter of which can be literally understood as “a little shade.” Obumbrate entered English in the early 1500s.

how is obumbrate used?

… that solemn interval of time when the gloom of midnight obumbrates the globe ….

, The Summer Miscellany; or, A Present for the Country, 1742

It requires no stretch of mind to conceive that a man placed in a corner of Germany may be every whit as pragmatical and self-important as another man placed in Newhaven, and withal as liable to confound and obumbrate every subject that may fall his way ….

, General Advertiser, September 3, 1798
Saturday, November 02, 2019

squee

[ skwee ]

verb (used without object)

to squeal with joy, excitement, etc.

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What is the origin of squee?

Squee! It’s easy to hear how this word imitates the sound of a high-pitched squeal. As an expression of joy, excitement, celebration, or the like, squee originates as a playful, written interjection in digital communications in the late 1990s, as in “OMG is in the dictionary. Squee!” By the early 2000s, squee expanded as a verb used to convey such excited emotions: “The students squeed when they learned the Word of the Day.”

how is squee used?

I squeed in happiness when I stole a warrior’s Whirlwind attack and used it against him.

Carol Pinchefsky, "A 'World of Warcraft' Player Reviews 'Guild Wars 2'," Forbes, August 26, 2012

… we’re also going to take a moment to squee about the possibility of Martian microbes.

Michelle Starr, "Giant Lake of Liquid Water Found Hiding Under Mars' South Pole," Science Alert, July 25, 2018

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