Word of the Day

Saturday, February 08, 2020

tantivy

[ tan-tiv-ee ]

adverb

at full gallop: to ride tantivy.

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What is the origin of tantivy?

Tantivy, whether in its sense as an adverb “at a gallop,” adjective “quick,” noun “a gallop or rush,” or interjection “a hunting cry when the chase is on,” has no reliable etymology. The only etymology suggested is that tantivy is onomatopoeic, supposedly representing the sound of horses galloping. Tantivy entered English in the 17th century.

how is tantivy used?

He was of a nature to ride tantivy into anything that promised excitement or adventure.

Henry Handel Richardson, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, 1930

… he supposes himself as a wolf actually to have been galloping tantivy over hill and dale, through forest and bosky dingle ….

Montague Summers, The Werewolf, 1933
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Friday, February 07, 2020

zephyr

[ zef-er ]

noun

a gentle, mild breeze.

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What is the origin of zephyr?

The noun zephyr “west wind, the west wind personified, the god of the west wind” comes from Latin Zephyrus, a borrowing of Greek Zéphyros “(any) westerly wind, the west wind.” Greek poets conceived the winds as minor deities who live and feast in their own palaces or as unruly elemental forces controlled by the god Aeolus. For the Greeks, Zéphyros was the bringer of gentle spring and early summer breezes. Since at least the time of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, zephyrs have been associated with mild, gentle weather. Traditional etymology connects Zéphyros with zóphos “the west, darkness,” but there is no further etymology for either word. Zephyr entered English before a.d 1000.

how is zephyr used?

There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds …

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876

Isaac had dunked from the foul line, moving through the air with such power, authority and grace that he looked like a seasoned professional. Or a prehistoric bird riding a zephyr.

Floyd Skloot, "The Wings of the Wind," Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1997
Thursday, February 06, 2020

vis-à-vis

[ vee-zuh-vee; French vee-za-vee ]

preposition

in relation to; compared with: income vis-à-vis expenditures.

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What is the origin of vis-à-vis?

The mere fact that vis-à-vis functions as an adverb, adjective, preposition, and noun all but guarantees many meanings, all semantically related: as an adverb the phrase means “face to face”; as an attributive adjective “face-to-face”; as a preposition “compared with; in relation to”; and as a noun “a person face to face with or opposite another one; a date at a social affair; a person of equal rank or authority.” The still obviously French term vis-à-vis has at least as many meanings as the English one. The French noun vis comes from Vulgar Latin vīsus “face,” from Latin vīsus “sight, vision, faculty of sight, form, appearance.” Vīsus is a derivative of the verb vidēre “to see, see with the mind’s eye, notice.” Vis-à-vis entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is vis-à-vis used?

Until recently, at least in the United States, our notions of privacy have been rooted in the Fourth Amendment’s delineation of the federal government’s powers vis-à-vis the individual citizen.

Glenn S. Gerstell, "I Work for N.S.A. We Cannot Afford to Lose the Digital Revolution." New York Times, September 10, 2019

I’m a stockbroker, and … my timing has been off lately vis-a-vis the market …

Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, 1994

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