Word of the Day

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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Friday, November 01, 2019

Lilliputian

[ lil-i-pyoo-shuhn ]

adjective

extremely small; tiny; diminutive.

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What is the origin of Lilliputian?

In the first of the four adventures of his 1726 satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift has his narrator, Lemuel Gulliver, shipwrecked on the invented island of Lilliput. Its residents, the Lilliputians, are under six inches high—and their smallness is widely interpreted as a commentary on the British politics of Swift’s day. Lilliputian was quickly extended as an adjective meaning “extremely small; tiny; diminutive,” often implying a sense of pettiness. In the second adventure, Gulliver voyages to an imaginary land of giants, the Brobdingnagians, whose name has been adopted as a colorful antonym for Lilliputian.

how is Lilliputian used?

The Lilliputian vest was over-the-top ’00s style at its finest ….

Liana Satenstein, "Is Fashion Ready for the Return of the Tiny Little Vest?" Vogue, September 25, 2019

… miniature things still have the power to enthrall us …. That, at least, is one theory as to why people obsessively re-create big things in Lilliputian dimensions.

Belinda Lanks, "'In Miniature' Review: Let's Get Small," Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2019
Thursday, October 31, 2019

ghost word

[ gohst wurd ]

noun

a word that has come into existence by error rather than by normal linguistic transmission, as through the mistaken reading of a manuscript, a scribal error, or a misprint.

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What is the origin of ghost word?

Ghost word is a term coined by the great English philologist and lexicographer Walter Skeat in an address he delivered as president of the Philological Society in 1886. One amusing example that Skeat mentioned in his address comes from one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, The Monastery (1820), “… dost thou so soon morse thoughts of slaughter?” Morse is only a misprint of nurse, but two correspondents proposed their own etymologies for morse. One proposed that it meant “to prime (as with a musket),” from Old French amorce “powder for the touchhole” (a touchhole is the vent in the breech of an early firearm through which the charge was ignited). The other correspondent proposed that morse meant “to bite” (from Latin morsus, past participle of mordere), therefore “to indulge in biting, stinging, or gnawing thoughts of slaughter.” The matter was finally settled when Scott’s original manuscript was consulted, and it was found that he had plainly written nurse.

how is ghost word used?

Your true ghost word is a very rare beast indeed, a wild impossible chimera that never before entered into the heart of man to conceive.

Philip Howard, A Word in Your Ear, 1983

Spookily enough, phantomnation itself is a “ghost word” originating in a 1725 translation of Homer’s Odyssey by Alexander Pope.

Paul Anthony Jones, Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities, 2016

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