Word of the Day

Saturday, September 26, 2020

supernumerary

[ soo-per-noo-muh-rer-ee, -nyoo- ]

adjective

being in excess of the usual, proper, or prescribed number; additional; extra.

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What is the origin of supernumerary?

Supernumerary comes from the Latin adjective supernumerārius “(of soldiers) appointed to a legion after its numbers have been completed,” a compound of the preposition and prefix super, super– “above, higher, more than,” the noun numerus “numerical sum, number,” and the adjective and noun suffix –ārius. In Late Latin (St. Augustine of Hippo), supernumerārius also meant “additional” (adjective) and finally the noun “an additional person.” The English sense “extra person; employee, crew member, or officer” dates from the 17th century; the English sense “person appearing on stage in a nonspeaking role” dates from the mid-18th century. Supernumerary entered English in the early 17th century.

how is supernumerary used?

But our century’s revelations of unthinkable largeness and unimaginable smallness, of abysmal stretches of geological time when we were nothing, of supernumerary galaxies and indeterminate subatomic behavior, of a kind of mad mathematical violence at the heart of matter have scorched us deeper than we know.

John Updike, "Books: Evolution Be Praised," The New Yorker, December 30, 1985

So the housekeeper (it’s usually a she) will stack up the dishes, put the cart in the hallway, clean up the toast crumbs, and then proceed to the rest of her work of stripping the beds, picking up the supernumerary pillows on the floor, wiping the butter stains off the remote, and leaving the bathroom, now with coffee spills, gleaming.

Margaret Carlson, "Tip Your Hotel Maid," The Atlantic, June 16, 2019

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Friday, September 25, 2020

whillikers

[ hwil-i-kerz, wil- ]

interjection

Informal.

(used as an intensive after gee or golly gee to express astonishment, delight, etc.)

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What is the origin of whillikers?

Whillikers and its variant whillikens are used only in the exclamatory phrase (golly) gee whillikers (whillikens). There is no satisfactory etymology for whillikers or whillikens. Gee whillikens first appeared in print in 1851.

how is whillikers used?

“Why,” she gasped, “It’s money!” “Gee whillikers—ten bucks!” Jason echoed.

Peggy Dern, Peddler of Dreams, 1940

We’re all going to look at the things that are thrilling and exciting for him and say, ‘But that music sucks!’ Gee whillikers, guess who else said that? Every generation ever.

Ada Calhoun, "The Many Lives of St. Marks Place," The New Yorker, October 30, 2015

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

cachinnate

[ kak-uh-neyt ]

verb (used without object)

to laugh loudly or immoderately.

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What is the origin of cachinnate?

Cachinnate, “to laugh loudly or immoderately,” comes straight from Latin cachinnātus, the past participle of the verb cachinnāre “to laugh boisterously, guffaw.” Cachinnāre is a verb of imitative origin that even has its own Proto-Indo-European root: khakha– (who knew that primitive Indo-Europeans laughed?). The root khakha– yields Greek kakházein, kakkházein, and kankházein, Old Church Slavonic xoxotati, Old High German kachazzwen, and Sanskrit kákhati “he laughs.” Cachinnate entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is cachinnate used?

She does not laugh so much as cachinnate, finding at least one thing hysterical in every episode.

Philippa Snow, "Like Proper Sexual: On Too Hot to Handle," Los Angeles Review of Books, August 7, 2020

Just don’t expect to guffaw or cachinnate, and forget all about busting a gut. It’s not that kind of comedy.

Mick LaSalle, "Review: 'Little' Is the Opposite of 'Big,' but Not in a Funny Way," San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2019

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