Word of the Day

Friday, June 28, 2019

symposiarch

[ sim-poh-zee-ahrk ]

noun

a toastmaster.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of symposiarch?

The uncommon noun symposiarch comes straight from Greek symposíarchos “leader or master of a symposium,” extended in English to “toastmaster.” The suffix –arch (and prefix arch-) “chief, leader, ruler” is naturalized in English. Sympósion “drinking party” breaks down to the prefix syn– “with, together with” and –posion, a derivative of pósis “drinking, a drink,” from pínein “to drink.” Symposiarch entered English in the early 17th century.

how is symposiarch used?

By election, or by some other means, a symposiarch was selected to preside over the mixing and the toasts.

James N. Davidson, Courtesans and Fishcakes, 1997

After dinner, the symposiarch, who acted as master of ceremonies, laid down the rules for the evening and established the order of events.

Michael Norris, Greek Art: From Prehistoric to Classical, 2000
WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ
Put your wits to the test! New quizzes added weekly.
TAKE THE QUIZ
ALEXA, ENABLE DICTIONARY.COM
Now you can ask Alexa what the Word of the Day is at any time.
ENABLE ALEXA

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Thursday, June 27, 2019

strawhat

[ straw-hat ]

adjective

of or relating to a summer theater situated outside an urban or metropolitan area: strawhat theater; strawhat circuit.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of strawhat?

Strawhat used as an attributive or adjective, as in strawhat circuit, was originally an Americanism and referred to the custom, still common, of people wearing straw hats in the summer for comfort. Strawhat entered English in the mid-1930s.

how is strawhat used?

Indeed, the strawhat impresario is not only at the mercy of the the customers but he is also subject to the tribulations and vagaries of the actors ….

Charlotte Harmon, "Confessions of a Strawhat Impresario," New York Times, June 16, 1957

After a million-dollar restoration, the old house reopened as a strawhat theater in 1963 with Price, a recent graduate of the Yale Drama School, as general manager.

Lynne Baranski, "Michael Price's Goodspeed Opera Doesn't Just Try Out Broadway Hits—It Creates Them," People, November 19, 1979
Wednesday, June 26, 2019

minimoon

[ min-ee-moon ]

noun

a short, usually inexpensive honeymoon, often followed by a longer honeymoon later on: They left the courthouse after the ceremony and had a weekend minimoon at The Plaza.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of minimoon?

Minimoon is an obvious blend of the combining form mini– and honeymoon. Minimoon entered English between 2005 and 2010.

how is minimoon used?

She always knew she would take a mini-moon followed by a second, more-elaborate trip because of the sheer effort involved in planning her 500-guest wedding.

Christina Valhouli, "A Little Getaway After the Big Event," New York Times, October 18, 2013

Bask in post-wedding bliss with a brief off-the-grid vacation that’s close to home, then follow it up a few months later with an epic, far-flung adventure that complements your minimoon experience.

Merritt Watts, "The New Way to Honeymoon," Vogue, October 5, 2015
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

venal

[ veen-l ]

adjective

open to bribery; mercenary.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of venal?

The English adjective venal comes from Latin vēnālis “for sale, for hire, susceptible to or obtainable by bribery,” a derivative of vēnus “sale.” Vēnus comes from an unattested noun wesno-, a Latin derivation of wes– (a variant of the Proto-Indo-European root wes-, wos– “to buy, sell”) and the noun suffix –no. Wes– also appears in Hittite washti “thou buyest.” From the variant wos-, Greek (Attic) has the noun ōnḗ “purchase, purchase price” (Homeric Greek has ônos, Aeolic ónna), all from an unrecorded wosnā. Sanskrit vasná “purchase price, wage” may come from either wes– or wos-. Venal entered English in the 17th century.

how is venal used?

… the perfectly balanced tool in his hands that could be used for the bribing of venal politicians, with a limitless fund for the bribery ….

Katherine MacLean, The Man Who Staked the Stars, 1952

Four years after the street protests that ousted the notoriously venal President Viktor Yanukovych, corruption is the wound that won’t stop bleeding.

Daria Kaleniuk and Melinda Harin, "The spirit of reform lives on in Ukraine—but not because of the president," Washington Post, June 27, 2018
Monday, June 24, 2019

ex cathedra

[ eks kuh-thee-druh, kath-i-druh ]

adjective, adverb

from the seat of authority; with authority.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of ex cathedra?

The relatively uncommon English adjective and adverb ex cathedra “from the seat (of authority), with authority” comes directly from the Latin phrase ex cathedrā. Latin cathedra “armchair with cushions, easy chair (especially for women), a teacher’s or professor’s chair, a sedan chair” is a loanword from Greek kathédra “seat, sitting posture, teacher’s or professor’s chair, imperial throne.” From cathedra Medieval Latin derived the adjective cathedrālis “pertaining to the chair or throne (of a bishop)”; the bishop’s church, where his throne was located, was called a cathedral church and later just cathedral. Ex cathedra entered English in the 17th century.

how is ex cathedra used?

There’s no way to maintain an ex cathedra advantage when you’re cavorting in a circus ring.

Virginia Heffernan, "When TV tries out new media, everyone can be a star," New York Times, January 1, 2009

Pope John once said, “I am not infallible. I am infallible only when I speak ex cathedra. But I shall never speak ex cathedra.”

Kati Marton, "The Paradoxical Pope," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1980
Sunday, June 23, 2019

demur

[ dih-mur ]

verb (used without object)

to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object: They wanted to make him the treasurer, but he demurred.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of demur?

The verb demur comes via Old French demorer, demourer, ultimately from Latin dēmorārī “to linger, delay, hold up,” its original, now obsolete meaning in English. In the 17th century demur acquired its usual senses in contemporary English “to object, take exception to,” and especially its legal sense “to make or interpose a demurral,” which is a pleading that admits the facts of an opponent’s proceeding but denies any entitlement to legal relief, and that also causes a delay in the proceedings until the point or pleading is settled. Demur entered English in the 13th century.

how is demur used?

Montague is genial but determined, and before I could demur he had me packed into a two-thousand-dollar Gore-Tex dry suit with an unbearably tight collar, highly insulated rubber bootees, and an electric-blue life jacket.

Michael Specter, "Inherit the Wind," The New Yorker, May 13, 2013

… Sonia had a little changed her mind. Wedge would be very unlikely to demur.

Michael Innes, The New Sonia Wayward, 1960
Saturday, June 22, 2019

apologia

[ ap-uh-loh-jee-uh ]

noun

a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of apologia?

It is unsurprising that the earliest occurrences of apologia “a defendant’s speech in a trial” appear in 5th-century Athens. The Greek verb apologeîsthai “to speak in defense, defend oneself” and its derivative noun apología are first used by such heavy hitters as Thucydides, Euripides, and Plato. Plato’s Apología Sōkrátous “Apology of Socrates” refers to the three speeches Socrates delivered in his self-defense at his trial in 399 b.c. Apologia is similarly used in Cardinal Newman’s religious autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua “Defense of His Own Life” (1864). Apologia entered English in the late 18th century.

how is apologia used?

Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. … “I view it as not an apologia at all,” he says, “but simply: Tell the story.”

Dan Zak, "20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why." Washington Post, September 11, 2018

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of writing a show that’s sort of an apologia for the surveillance state.

Jonathan Nolan, as quoted in "'Person of Interest': The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden," The New Yorker, January 14, 2014

SIGN UP FOR A VOCABULARY BOOST IN YOUR EMAIL

Get the Word of the Day delivered daily
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.