Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

stentorian

[ sten-tawr-ee-uhn, -tohr- ]

adjective

very loud or powerful in sound.

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What is the origin of stentorian?

Stentorian, “extremely loud; having a powerful voice,” comes from Greek Sténtōr (inflectional stem Sténtor-), the name of a Greek (more properly Achaean) warrior who fought at Troy. Stentor is mentioned in the Iliad only once, in book 5, where Hera “took the likeness of great-hearted Stentor of the brazen voice, whose voice is as the voice of fifty other men” to scold the Achaeans. According to a scholium (an ancient comment or annotation on a Greek or Latin text) on this line in the Iliad, Stentor, like several other Greek heroes who came to similar bad ends, challenged the god Hermes to a shouting contest and was killed for his impudence. Sténtōr is a Greek derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root (s)ten-, (s)ton– “to groan” (thus the literal meaning of Sténtōr is “groaner, moaner” from the verb sténein “to moan, groan, lament”). The root appears in Sanskrit as stánati “(it, he) groans, thunders,” Old English stenan “to groan loudly; roar,” and Russian stonát’ “to groan.” The form without the initial s– (i.e. ten-, ton-) appears in Aeolic Greek (the dialect of the lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus) as ténnei “(it, he) thunders,” Latin tonāre “to thunder, roar,” Old English thunor (English thunder), and Old Norse Thōrr “Thor” (the deity, literally, “thunder”). Stentorian entered English in the early 17th century.

how is stentorian used?

You may not know much about helium, except that it fills birthday balloons and blimps and can make even the most stentorian voice sound a bit like Donald Duck.

Henry Fountain, "Scientists Devise New Way to Find an Elusive Element: Helium," New York Times, June 28, 2016

It’s been a few days since I wondered, on the basis of a fabulous pre-World War II film clip about San Francisco, why you never heard modern Americans speaking in the formal, stentorian tones so instantly recognizable from newsreels and movies of that era.

James Fallows, "Catching Up With Language Change," The Atlantic, August 12, 2011

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Word of the day

Monday, July 19, 2021

perambulate

[ per-am-byuh-leyt ]

verb (used without object)

to walk or travel about; stroll.

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What is the origin of perambulate?

Perambulate, “to walk or travel about; stroll,” is in origin a Scots word that meant “to travel through (land) and inspect it for measuring or dividing or determining ownership,” a process called perambulation. Perambulate comes from Latin perambulātus, the past participle of perambulāre “to walk through, walk about, walk around in, tour, make the rounds,” a compound of the preposition and prefix per, per– “through” and the simple verb ambulāre “to walk; go about; travel; march” (source of English amble). Perambulate entered English in the mid-15th century.

how is perambulate used?

Mary and I liked to perambulate along the river Arno in Florence, or through the pedestrianised Roman thoroughfares.

Elizabeth Walsh Peavoy, "Preamble," In A Café: Selected Stories by Mary Lavin, 1995

Mr. Cleese may sometimes perambulate strangely but he still types perfectly fine, and he has agreed to write a book about his life ….

Dave Itzkoff, "And Now for Something Completely Literate: A Memoir From John Cleese," New York Times, October 8, 2012

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Word of the day

Sunday, July 18, 2021

toplofty

[ top-lawf-tee, -lof- ]

adjective

condescending; haughty.

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What is the origin of toplofty?

Toplofty, “condescending; haughty,” is a back formation of earlier toploftical, of similar meaning. Both adjectives are humorous colloquialisms. The underlying phrase is top loft, “the uppermost story, topmost gallery.” Toploftical appears, sort of, in everyone’s favorite bedtime reading, Finnegans Wake (1939): “…celescalating the himals and all, hierarchitectitiptitoploftical, with a burning bush abob off its baubletop…” Toplofty entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is toplofty used?

Newcomers to the Examiner who feared that the rich senator’s son might be a painful popinjay were charmed by his quaint courtesy and the absence of anything toplofty of condescending about him.

W. A. Swanberg, "Brash Beginning of a Sensational Career," Life, August 25, 1961

If this should fall through, dear, you must write to your Aunt Vic. You must eat humble pie. You were too toplofty with her as it was.

Basil King, The Street Called Straight, 1912

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