Word of the Day

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

swivet

[ swiv-it ]

noun

a state of nervous excitement, haste, or anxiety; flutter.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of swivet?

Swivet “nervous excitement, haste, anxiety” usually occurs in the phrase in a swivet, or in such a swivet. Swivet is an American colloquialism of unknown origin, first appearing in 1890 in the Vermont Journal.

how is swivet used?

On the night of their 10th anniversary, he’d been in such a swivet about what to give her that he locked himself in his bedroom trying to choose the right gift.

Caitlin Flanagan, "Jackie and the Girls," The Atlantic, July/August 2012

Here in the valley of my mid-50s, I try not to get into a swivet over my occasionally faulty memory: Sometimes the mind has a mind of its own.

Henry Alford, "Total Recall: A Reader's Guide to Memory Gain," New York Times, January 7, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

swivet

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Monday, December 21, 2020

brumal

[ broo-muhl ]

adjective

wintry.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of brumal?

The adjective brumal “wintry” ultimately comes from Latin brūmālis “pertaining to the winter solstice, or to the winter,” a derivative of the noun brūma “the day of the winter solstice, the position of the sun on the solstice, midwinter” (both the noun and the adjective are very restricted in their usage). Brūma comes from breuma, a contraction of brevi-ma “shortest” (Latin v is pronounced like English w). The ending –ma is an old superlative ending (usually replaced in Latin by –issima; brevissima is standard Latin). Brevi– is the inflectional stem of brevis “short, low, shallow, stunted,” and the source of English breve and brief. Brumal entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is brumal used?

Our motley platoon of snowmobiles was chewing up a rippled meadow high on the southwestern flanks of the Gore Range near Vail, Colo., four bundles of motorized mayhem zigzagging across a brumal landscape.

Rick Lyman, "It's Vail in the Winter. Who Needs Skis?" New York Times, January 26, 2003

Operated under the Antarctic Treaty System, the South Pole is meant to be a brumal Eden of science, where research centers are freed from the political binds that exist in the world above.

B. David Zarley, "In Ashley Shelby's South Pole Station, a Climate Change Denier Rocks Antarctica's Research Community," Paste, July 6, 2017

Listen to the word of the day

brumal

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Sunday, December 20, 2020

snuggery

[ snuhg-uh-ree ]

noun

British.

a comfortable or cozy room.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of snuggery?

Snuggery “a comfortable, cozy room” is a transparent derivative of the adjective snug “comfortably warm and cozy,” as in Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823), “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, / While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.” The origin of snug is uncertain: it may be of Scandinavian origin, related to Old Norse snøggr “short, short-haired, sudden, brief,” Old Danish snøg, and Swedish snygg, both meaning “neat, trim, tidy.” Snuggery entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is snuggery used?

On the top of the house was a snuggery, into which he retired when he wanted to be entirely alone, and this he called his Syracuse, or workshop.

Sabine Baring-Gould, The Tragedy of the Caesars, 1892

No wonder, then, that Phra-Alack experienced an access of gratitude for the privilege of napping for two hours in a snuggery of sunshine.

Anna Leonowens, "The English Governess at the Siamese Court," The Atlantic, April 1870

Listen to the word of the day

snuggery

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, December 19, 2020

cordate

[ kawr-deyt ]

adjective

heart-shaped.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of cordate?

Cordate, now used only in botany and biology in the meaning “heart-shaped,” comes from the Latin adjective cordātus “intelligent, sensible,” a derivative of the noun cor (inflectional stem cord-) “the heart” (the organ, also considered the seat of one’s conscience, will, and emotions). In English the senses “intelligent, prudent” became obsolete during the first half of the 18th century; Latin cordātus never had any biological senses. Cordate in the sense “intelligent, prudent” entered English in the mid-17th century; its modern sense in the second half of the 18th century.

how is cordate used?

He also wrote, at 15, his first poem after seeing a raindrop cause a cordate leaf to flutter.

Alden Whitman, "Vladimir Nabokov, Author of 'Lolita' and 'Ada,' Is Dead," New York Times, July 5, 1977

Its leaves are variable in shape, as are those of most ivies, but generally cordate, or heart-shaped, and very dark green, larger than the Irish ivy, which is the ivy you see most often in Washington.

Henry Mitchell, "Getting Down to Steel and Stem," Washington Post, December 11, 1988

Listen to the word of the day

cordate

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Friday, December 18, 2020

eleemosynary

[ el-uh-mos-uh-ner-ee, -moz-, el-ee-uh- ]

adjective

of or relating to alms, charity, or charitable donations; charitable.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of eleemosynary?

Eleemosynary “relating to alms or almsgiving” comes from the Medieval Latin adjective eleēmosynārius, a derivative of the Late Latin noun eleēmosyna “alms,” used by Christian Latin authors (Tertullian, St. Augustine of Hippo). Latin eleēmosyna is a borrowing from Greek eleēmosýnē “pity, mercy, compassion” (and “alms” in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate), a derivative of the adjective ele(e)inós “rousing compassion.” The Greek forms derive from the noun éleos “pity, compassion,” from which Greek forms the verb eleeîn “to pity, have pity on, feel pity for.” The second singular active aorist imperative, eléēson, as in the phrase from the Christian liturgy (in Latin transcription representing the Late Greek pronunciation) Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy” will be familiar to those who like to listen to or take part in musical settings of the Latin Mass. Eleemosynary entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is eleemosynary used?

It would be fair enough to call Cornelia a power for good. I shared an apartment in New York with her the year before she was married, and I haven’t done so many eleemosynary acts in the whole rest of my life as I did during that time.

Eleanor Gilchrist, "Poor Darling," The New Yorker, February 5, 1944

When a church collects money to then redistribute to the poor in its neighborhood, it performs an eleemosynary function.

Ray Hennessey, "Why Milton Friedman Could Love Social Entrepreneurship," Entrepreneur, September 16, 2013

Listen to the word of the day

eleemosynary

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, December 17, 2020

gravitas

[ grav-i-tahs, ‐tas ]

noun

seriousness or sobriety, as of conduct or speech.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of gravitas?

Gravitas comes straight from the Latin noun gravitās, which has many meanings: “seriousness of conduct, temperament, or speech; solemnity or majesty (of a speaker or writer); authority, influence or importance (of a person or institution).” (The inflectional stem of gravitās is gravitāt-, which by regular phonetic change becomes gravité in French and gravity in English.) Gravitas became necessary in English because during the first half of the 17th century, gravity acquired its physical meanings “force of attraction, heaviness, gravitation,” and a sentence like “The Prime Minister displayed an unusual lack of gravity” would be unintentionally humorous today. Gravitas entered English in the 1920s.

how is gravitas used?

Dad was gearing up to say something, a gradual process that involved shifting around in his chair, some throat-clearing, lifting his tea halfway to his mouth and putting it down again, so Paul and Grandma broke off their staring contest and waited for him to speak. Grief had lent him a certain gravitas.

Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel, 2020

… a growing number of independent research-oriented institutions like his own, Mr. Coogan said, have brought gravitas to a field that once seemed lighter than Spider-Man’s touch.

Michael Cieply, "Even at Comic-Con, You Can't Defy Gravitas," New York Times, July 13, 2012

Listen to the word of the day

gravitas

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

scintillating

[ sin-tl-ey-ting ]

adjective

witty; brilliantly clever.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of scintillating?

Scintillating “witty, brilliantly clever” ultimately derives from the Latin noun scintilla “glittering speck, spark.” Scintilla and its few derivatives refer generally only to physical phenomena; the only metaphorical sense that scintilla has is of eyes flashing in anger or passion, not the sense of sparkling or flashing wit. Scintilla comes from the Proto-Indo-European root skai– (and its variants) “to glow dully, reflect,” as in Greek skiā́ “shadow,” Gothic skeinan “to light, shine,” and Old English scīnan (English shine). Finally, Tocharian B skiyo “shadow, shade,” is exactly equivalent to Greek skiā́. Scintillating entered English in the second half of the 17th century in its literal sense; the sense “witty, clever” dates from the end of the 18th century.

how is scintillating used?

Across the crowded living room, where all the clever, scintillating talk and noise of a cocktail party seem nervous and inane, a boy and a girl suddenly see each other.

Thomas Williams, The Hair of Harold Roux, 1974

What had once seemed perhaps a bit flat next to the scintillating wit and effervescent sparkle of our mother came to seem the most valuable quality in the world one person could give another, infinite patience and attention ….

Corby Kummer, "About My Father," The Atlantic, December 17, 2009

Listen to the word of the day

scintillating

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.