Word of the Day

Saturday, May 23, 2020

syncopate

[ sing-kuh-peyt, sin- ]

verb (used with object)

to place (the accents) on beats that are normally unaccented.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of syncopate?

Syncopate comes from Late Latin syncopātus, the past participle of the verb syncopāre, a derivative of the noun syncopa or syncopē, which has two senses: a grammatical sense “the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle, as never becoming ne’er,” and a medical sense “swooning, fainting away.” Syncopa and syncopē come from the Greek noun synkopḗ, which has the same meanings as the Latin, developments of its basic meaning “a cutting up into small pieces.” Syncopate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is syncopate used?

I juxtapose the rhythms, and I syncopate them to make the piece create the jazz feeling that I’d like to get.

"All Things Considered," NPR, December 1996

Finding syncopation in jazz is about as difficult as finding water in the ocean. It is the cornerstone of one of the principal sources of jazz rhythm, ragtime melody, so much so that to “rag a melody” and (a decade or so later) to “jazz up a melody” meant, in part, to syncopate it.

Barry Kernfeld, What to Listen for in Jazz, 1995

Listen to the word of the day

syncopate

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
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

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.
Friday, May 22, 2020

soupçon

[ soop-sawn, soop-sawn ]

noun

a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of soupçon?

To the Frenchless, soupçon looks as if it means “soupspoon.” In fact soupçon means “a hint, trace,” from Old French soupeçon, souspeçon, literally “suspicion, anxious worry,” from Late Latin suspectiōn– (stem of suspectiō), for Latin suspīciōn– “distrust, mistrust, suspicion.” Soupçon entered English in the 18th century.

how is soupçon used?

First, she repeated it rapturously in an enthusiastic contralto with a soupçon of Southern accent … 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920

big summer movies, even the successful ones, are designed to be forgettable, passing through our system at precisely the same rate as a pint of Pepsi. Nothing is left but fizzing nerve ends and a sugary soupçon of rot.

Anthony Lane, "Men at Sea," The New Yorker, May 28, 2007

Listen to the word of the day

soupçon

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Thursday, May 21, 2020

jawbone

[ jaw-bohn ]

verb (used with or without object)

to attempt to influence or pressure by persuasion rather than by the exertion of force or one's authority, as in urging voluntary compliance with economic guidelines.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of jawbone?

The slang use of jawbone, “to attempt to influence or pressure by persuasion rather than by force or authority as in urging voluntary compliance with economic guidelines,” originated in the U.S. Students of political history will associate it Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was a master of jawboning when he was Senate majority leader. Jawbone, a compound of jaw and bone meaning “a bone of the jaw,” entered English in the late 15th century.

how is jawbone used?

Johnson had a legendary ability to “jawbone” members of Congress into accepting his positions ….

Donald M. Snow, Patrick J. Haney, U. S. Foreign Policy: Back to the Water's Edge, 5th edition, 2018

And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them.

Attorney General William Barr, as reported in, "Lawsuits Pile Up Against Coronavirus," Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2020

Listen to the word of the day

jawbone

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

eftsoons

[ eft-soonz ]

adverb

Archaic.

soon after.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of eftsoons?

For some of us, our first (and only) encounter with eftsoons is in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), line 12, to be exact (if you get that far): “Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!” Eftsoons his hand dropt he.” Eftsoons (also eftsoon), a very rare word, is a compound of the archaic adverb eft “again, a second time” and the adverb soon, expanded by the adverbial genitive -s (as in backwards and forwards). Eftsoons entered English before 1000.

how is eftsoons used?

Eftsoons he made known his wants to the churl behind the desk, who was named Gogyryan. And thus he spake: “Any rooms?”

Robert Benchley, "Suppressing 'Jurgen,'" Love Conquers All, 1922

I am of this mind with Homer, that as the snail that crept out of her shell was turned eftsoons into a toad, and thereby was forced to make a stool to sit on disdaining her own house, so the traveller that straggleth from his own country is in short time transformed into so monstrous a shape that he is fain to alter his mansion with his manners, and to live where he can, not where he would.

John Lyly, Euphes and His England, 1580, edited by Leah Scragg, 2003

Listen to the word of the day

eftsoons

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, May 19, 2020

indemnity

[ in-dem-ni-tee ]

noun

compensation for damage or loss sustained.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of indemnity?

Indemnity comes from Middle French indemnité, from Late Latin indemnitās (inflectional stem indemnitāt-) “security from financial loss.”  Indemnitās is first recorded in the writings of the Imperial Roman jurists Sextus Pomponius and Ulpian. The root word of indemnitās is the noun damnum “financial loss, deprivation of possessions or property, a sum to be paid in restitution.” Damnum comes from an unrecorded dapnom, a noun derivative of the extended root dap-, from the Proto-Indo-European root – “to apportion in exchange.” The same root yields Latin daps “sacrificial meal, banquet,” Old Norse tafn “sacrificial animal, meal” (also from dapnom), Greek dapánē “cost, expenditure” and dáptein “to devour, consume,” Sanskrit dāpayate “he divides,” and Armenian tawn “feast” (from dapni-). Indemnity entered English in the 15th century.

how is indemnity used?

I promise you indemnity for your loss, and an apology that shall, I trust, satisfy your feelings ….

George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 1859

On his arrival, as an indemnity for alleged insults offered to the flag of his country, he demanded some twenty or thirty thousand dollars to be placed in his hands forthwith ….

Herman Melville, Typee, 1846

Listen to the word of the day

indemnity

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, May 18, 2020

weal

[ weel ]

noun

well-being, prosperity, or happiness: the public weal; weal and woe.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of weal?

The history of weal is complicated and confusing. The Middle English spellings include wele, wel(le), weil(e), weal(le) “worldly wealth, riches; possessions, goods; prosperity, good fortune; well-being, welfare; happiness, joy.” These exuberant Middle English spellings come from Old English wela, weola, weala “wealth, riches; prosperity.” The English meanings have always been influenced by the related adverb wellwel, wel(l)e in Middle English, and wel, weol, woel in Old English—which in general signifies successful accomplishment of the action of the verb. Weal entered English before 900.

how is weal used?

They did not consider a commitment to the public good, the common weal, to be at odds with the desire for prosperity.

Jill Lepore, These Truths, 2018

I will not arise from this spot, O valorous and redoubtable knight, until your benevolence and courtesy vouchsafe me a boon that will redound to the honor and glory of your person and to the weal of the most disconsolate and aggrieved damsel that ever the sun beheld.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000

Listen to the word of the day

weal

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Sunday, May 17, 2020

dishabille

[ dis-uh-beel, -bee ]

noun

the state of being dressed in a careless, disheveled, or disorderly style or manner; undress.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of dishabille?

Dishabille or deshabille “the state of being dressed in a careless, disheveled, or disorderly style or manner,” comes from French déshabillé, the noun use of the past participle of the verb déshabiller “to undress.” The French prefix dés– is a regular development of the Latin prefix dis-, which often has, as here, a reversing force (like un– in the English pair tie and untie). The French verb habiller “to dress,” originally “to trim and smooth (a log for working), to arrange, prepare,” comes from Vulgar Latin adbilāre, abbilāre, a derivative of bilia “log, tree trunk” (originally a Gaulish word). The h– in habiller comes from the French noun habit “clothing” (from Latin habitus “physical condition, appearance, dress”). Dishabille entered English in the 17th century.

how is dishabille used?

It is daylight; is, then, the carriage to open and the empress to alight with one slipper on her feet, to be triumphantly conducted into the house? Ah, my friend, all Europe would smile at the idyllic empress who accompanied her husband on his journey in such a dishabille.

Luise Mühlbach (1814–1873), Napoleon and the Queen of Prussia, translated by F. Jordan, 1906

Yes, there are town houses, and yes, many prominent people hold the deeds to them because they don’t want to be seen in dishabille scooping up the morning paper ….

Joanne Kaufman, "Stargazing in the Elevator," New York Times, November 2, 2012

Listen to the word of the day

dishabille

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.