• Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 08, 2019

    stymie

    verb [stahy-mee]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, June 07, 2019

    virtuoso

    noun [vur-choo-oh-soh]
    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

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, June 06, 2019

    bastion

    noun [bas-chuhn, -tee-uhn]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, June 05, 2019

    appellative

    noun [uh-pel-uh-tiv]
    a descriptive name or designation, as Bald in Charles the Bald.
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    What is the origin of appellative?

    Appellative comes from the Late Latin grammatical term appellātīvus “pertaining to a common noun” and nōmen appellātīvum "a common noun" (in contrast to nōmen proprium “a proper noun”). Appellātīvus is a derivative of the verb appellāre “to speak to, address, call upon, invoke.” Appellative in the sense “descriptive name," as Great in Alfred the Great, is a development in English dating from the first half of the 17th century. Appellative in its original Latin sense entered English in the early 16th century.

    How is appellative used?

    In connection with this appellative of "Whalebone whales," it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature may be convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales, yet it is in vain to attempt a clear classification of the leviathan ... Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

    In addition too to this almost Cimmerian gloom was the agrément of a penetrating rain, known perhaps to some of my readers by the gentle appellative of a Scotch mist ... "Goodwood Races", The Sporting Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 144, September 1829

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, June 04, 2019

    fictioneer

    noun [fik-shuh-neer]
    a writer of fiction, especially a prolific one whose works are of mediocre quality.
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    What is the origin of fictioneer?

    The noun fictioneer is composed of the noun fiction and the noun suffix -eer denoting agency. The suffix is neutral in words like engineer and mountaineer, but it frequently has a pejorative sense, as in profiteer and racketeer. Fictioneer, too, has always had a hint of contempt in it: an early (1901) definition of fictioneer reads “a writer of ‘machine-made’ fiction.” Fictioneer entered English in the early 20th century.

    How is fictioneer used?

    If you were not a fictioneer, if you did not place a monetary value on the efforts of your imagination, I should be inclined to think that you were lying .... Theodore Goodridge Roberts, "The Whisper," Munsey's Magazine, Vol. 54, 1915

    That was long ago, and she's a grandmother today, but still she can toss around the lingo of the Wild West with a fluency that would be the envy of a Hollywood scenarist or a fictioneer of the great open spaces. Jean Ashton, "Revives Glories of 'Wild West'," Windsor Daily Star, August 30, 1941

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, June 03, 2019

    fecund

    adjective [fee-kuhnd, -kuhnd, fek-uhnd, -uhnd]
    very productive or creative intellectually: the fecund years of the Italian Renaissance.
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    What is the origin of fecund?

    The English adjective fecund ultimately comes from Latin fēcundus “fertile, productive,” used of humans, animals, and plants. The first syllable - is a Latin development of the Proto-Indo-European root dhē(i)- “to suck, suckle.” From - Latin forms the derivatives fēlīx “fruitful, productive, fortunate, blessed, lucky” (source of the English name Felix and felicity), fēmina “woman” (originally a feminine participle meaning “suckling”), fētus “parturition, birth, conception, begetting, young (plant or animal), child,” and fīlius and fīlia “son” and “daughter,” respectively (and source of filial). Dhē(i)- appears in Greek as thē(i)-, as in thêsthai “to suckle” and thēlḗ “nipple, teat” (an element of the uncommon English noun thelitis “inflammation of the nipple”). Fecund entered English in the 15th century.

    How is fecund used?

    ... he possesses a fecund imagination able to spin out one successful series after another .... John Koblin, "As the Streaming Wars Heat Up, Ryan Murphy Cashes In," New York Times, February 14, 2018

    He sort of reminded me of Billy Name ... the guy who pretty much functioned as the Factory's foreman during its most fecund years. Mark Leyner, Gone with the Mind, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 02, 2019

    jactation

    noun [jak-tey-shuhn]
    boasting; bragging.
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    What is the origin of jactation?

    Jactation comes straight from the Latin noun jactātiōn- (the inflectional stem of jactātiō) “a flinging or throwing about, a shaking or jolting, tossing of the waves at sea,” and by extension, “frequent changing of one’s mind or attitude, boastfulness, grounds for boasting.” Jactātiō is a derivative of the verb jactāre “to throw, hurl, toss,” a frequentative verb from jacere “to throw, toss, sow (seed), cast (anchor).” Jactation entered English in the 16th century.

    How is jactation used?

    Judge of my mortification, t'other day, when in a moment of jactation, I boasted of being born in that illustrious, ancient, and powerful kingdom! Robert Murray Keith to his sisters, April 10, 1971, in Memoirs and Correspondence of Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., Vol. 2, 1849

    Others see in them merely the jactation of a limited wit, which is nothing more. George Saintsbury, A Short History of French Literature, 5th ed., 1901

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