Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, March 06, 2020

tantamount

[ tan-tuh-mount ]

adjective

equivalent, as in value, force, effect, or signification: His angry speech was tantamount to a declaration of war.

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What is the origin of tantamount?

In contemporary English tantamount is an adjective meaning “equivalent,” an adjective use of the obsolete noun tantamount “something equivalent, an equivalent,” which, in its turn, is a development of the somewhat earlier verb tantamount “to amount to as much” (all three parts of speech are recorded between 1628 and 1641). Tantamount comes from Anglo-French tant am(o)unter or Italian tanto montare “to amount to as much.” Tant and tanto come from the neuter Latin adjective tantum “so much”; am(o)unter “to add up to, ascend” comes from the Old French adverb amont “up, upward,” from Latin ad montem “(up) to the hill.”

how is tantamount used?

It was a daring move in those days; most men of the countryside feared the city, clung to what was safe and familiar, teaching their sons that leaving the land was tantamount to dying.

Bina Shah, A Season for Martyrs, 2014

Recovering a diamond at Karowe is tantamount to finding a needle in a haystack, in a barn full of other haystacks without needles.

Ed Caesar, "The Woman Shaking Up the Diamond Industry," The New Yorker, January 27, 2020

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Thursday, March 05, 2020

cacoethes

[ kak-oh-ee-theez ]

noun

an irresistible urge; mania.

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What is the origin of cacoethes?

The rare noun cacoethes, “irresistible urge, mania,” comes from the Latin neuter noun cacoēthes “malignant tumor at an early stage, incurable disease (of character),” from Greek kakóēthes “malice, wickedness,” neuter singular noun use of the adjective kakóēthes, “ill-disposed, malicious, malignant,” a compound of kakós “bad, wretched” and the noun êthos “custom, habit, character, usage.” Cacoethes in the sense “irresistible urge, mania” comes from the Roman satirist Juvenal’s phrase insānābile scrībendī cacoēthes “incurable urge to write.” Cacoethes entered English in the 16th century.

how is cacoethes used?

We must talk, think, and live up to the spirit of the times, and write up to it too, if that cacoethes be upon us, or we are nought.

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, 1857

“Malachi has caught cacoethes scribendi, the scribbling craze, and is writing more sermons,” Turlow reported.

Sam Pickering, Indian Summer, 2005

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Wednesday, March 04, 2020

sic

[ seek; English sik ]

adverb

Latin.

so; thus: usually written parenthetically to denote that a word, phrase, passage, etc., that may appear strange or incorrect has been written intentionally or has been quoted verbatim: He signed his name as e. e. cummings (sic).

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What is the origin of sic?

People may be familiar with the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Sic semper tyrannis “Thus ever to tyrants.” Usually, English sic appears alone, usually written in italics within square brackets, [sic], showing that the preceding misused or misspelled word is correctly cited, as, for instance, “marshal [sic] law” for “martial law.” Sic comes straight from the Latin adverb sīc “thus, so,” which is the source of Italian , Spanish and Catalan , and French si, all meaning “yes.” A related Latin word, the conjunction “if,” is the source of Italian se, Spanish and Catalan si, and French si, all meaning “if.” Sic entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is sic used?

Would love to take a new look at you’re (sic) new book. … Is Clint Reno still you’re (sic) agent?

Ted Heller, Pocket Kings, 2012

In her remarks, she flattered her audience as “smart people who also happens [sic] to be rich and powerful.”

Avi Steinberg, "Can a Robot Join the Faith?" The New Yorker, November 13, 2017

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