Word of the Day

Saturday, June 08, 2019

stymie

[ stahy-mee ]

verb

to hinder, block, or thwart.

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What is the origin of stymie?

The verb stymie has an obscure origin. It may be a golfing term, a noun referring to an opponent’s ball that lies closer to the hole than one’s own and is in the line of play, from which the slightly later verb sense in golf developed. By the beginning of the 20th century, the verb stymie had a generalized sense “to impede, hinder, thwart.” Stymie may come from Scots stymie “a person with poor eyesight,” a derivative of stime, styme “a glimmer, glimpse.” Stymie in the sense of “a person with poor vision” entered English in the early 17th century, the golfing sense in the first half of the 19th century.

how is stymie used?

This kind of leader would have little to no incentive to work with the Board of Supervisors and could easily stymie much of the progress the county is making on critical problems.

Alice A. Huffman, "Sacramento's plan to expand the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has nothing to do with diversity," Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2017

Astronomers concluded that the gas was being blasted out by winds from newly formed stars, a huge loss of starmaking material that could stymie the galaxy’s future growth.

Yudhijit Battacharjee, "Cosmic Dawn," National Geographic, April 2014
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Friday, June 07, 2019

virtuoso

[ vur-choo-oh-soh ]

noun

a person who excels in musical technique or execution.

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What is the origin of virtuoso?

We might refer to a gifted violinist, for instance, as a virtuoso. First recorded in English in the early 1600s with a now-obsolete sense of “learned person,” virtuoso is borrowed from Italian virtuoso “a person with exceptional skill in the arts or sciences,” in Italian used especially of musicians by the latter part of the 1500s. Italian virtuoso is a noun form of the adjective virtuoso “skilled, virtuous.” English virtuous (via Anglo-French) and virtuoso are indeed related. Both ultimately derive from Late Latin virtuōsus, which joins the Latin adjective-forming suffix –ōsus “full of” with Latin virtūs (inflectional stem virtūt-). Latin virtūs means “manliness, strength, courage.” Apparently due to associations with honor and bravery (as of soldiers), the meaning of Latin virtūs was extended to “moral excellence,” hence English virtue. The root of virtūs is vir “man,” which yields virile “manly” and virago, which evolved from “heroic woman, female warrior” to the unsavory “scolding woman, shrew.” The Proto-Indo-European root wi-ro-, the source of Latin vir, resulted in Old English wer “man,” which survives in werewolf, literally “man-wolf,” a virtuosic vocalist, perhaps, in its own howling way.

how is virtuoso used?

What was it like to be the first pop virtuoso of the recorded era—the man whose earliest releases set the tune for America’s love affair with modern black music, and who went on to become one of history’s most famous entertainers?

Giovanni Russonello, "Louis Armstrong's Life in Letters, Music and Art," New York Times, November 16, 2018

… he is a literary virtuoso who understands the charisma needed to make songs you can play in a club.

Doreen St. Félix, "What Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Means for Hip-Hop," The New Yorker, April 17, 2018
Thursday, June 06, 2019

bastion

[ bas-chuhn, -tee-uhn ]

noun

anything seen as preserving or protecting some quality, condition, etc.: a bastion of solitude.

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What is the origin of bastion?

The English noun bastion still looks French. It comes from Middle French, from Upper Italian bastione “rampart, bulwark, bastion,” an augmentative noun formed from bastita “fortified,” from the verb bastire “to build,” from Medieval Latin bastīre, possibly of Germanic origin and akin to bastille “tower, small fortress, bastion.” Bastion entered English in the late 16th century.

how is bastion used?

… Notre Dame went from being a football school to being not just academically respected but a bastion of intellectual freedom and ideological pluralism ….

Ann Hornaday, "The timely documentary 'Hesburgh' looks back fondly on a great conciliator," Washington Post, May 1, 2019

… he’d seen it as a bastion of the familiar and orderly, where negotiations took place the way they were supposed to, in high-backed chairs, with checkbooks and contracts and balance sheets.

T. C. Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain, 1995

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