Word of the Day

Saturday, June 16, 2018

stanchless

[ stawnch-lis, stahnch-, stanch- ]

adjective

incessant: a stanchless torrent of words.

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What is the origin of stanchless?

English stanchless is an awkward, uncommon word. Its meaning is obvious: “unable to be stanched.” Stanch comes from the Old French verb estanchier “to close, stop” and is probably from an unattested Vulgar Latin verb stanticāre, equivalent to Latin stant- (stem of stāns, the present participle of stāre “to stand”) and the causative suffix -icāre; stanticare means “to make stand or stop.” Stanchless entered English in the 17th century.

how is stanchless used?

The flow of his language was slow, but steady and apparently stanchless.

Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, 1939

The machine can only repeat, and if we repeated we should be machines and untrue to the stanchless creative mystery of the life within us.

H. F. Heard, "Wingless Victories," The Great Fog and Other Weird Tales, 1944
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Friday, June 15, 2018

nacreous

[ ney-kree-uhs ]

adjective

resembling nacre or mother-of-pearl; lustrous; pearly.

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What is the origin of nacreous?

The English adjective nacreous is a derivative of nacre “mother-of-pearl.” Nacre comes from Middle French nacre, from Medieval Latin nacchara, nacara, nacrum. Other Romance languages have similar forms: Old Italian nacacra, nacchera, Catalan nacre, and Spanish nácar, all meaning “mother-of-pearl.” The further origin of nacre is uncertain: the most common etymology is that it comes from Arabic naqqāra “small drum,” or from Arabic naqur “hunting horn,” a derivative of the verb nakara “hollow out,” from the shape of the mollusk shell that yields mother-of-pearl. Nacreous entered English in the 19th century.

how is nacreous used?

Nacreous pearl light swam faintly about the hem of the lilac darkness; the edges of light and darkness were stitched upon the hills.

Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel, 1929

It should not have surprised them to find the angel in that preserved condition. The fingernails, nacreous as the inside of an oyster shell …

Danielle Trussoni, Angelology, 2010
Thursday, June 14, 2018

semaphore

[ sem-uh-fawr, -fohr ]

noun

a system of signaling, especially a system by which a special flag is held in each hand and various positions of the arms indicate specific letters, numbers, etc.

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What is the origin of semaphore?

Semaphore came into English from French sémaphore, a device for making and transmitting signals by line of sight. From the point of view of a purist or pedant, semaphore is a malformed word. The Greek noun sêma means “mark, sign, token,” and its combining form, which should have been used in semaphore, is sēmat-, which would result in sematophore. The combining form -phore comes from the Greek combining form -phoros “carrying, bearing,” a derivative of the verb phérein “to carry, bear.” Semaphore entered English in the 19th century.

how is semaphore used?

The gymnasts were like the diagrams to illustrate the semaphore alphabet, arms thrust firmly out in precise positions, a flag in each hand, the little figures in naval uniform like her brother, Ben, drawn over and over.

Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister, 2005

His younger brother admired his speed and what looked like his precision, though semaphore signals were a closed book to the major.

Harry Turtledove, Fort Pillow, 2006

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