Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, May 12, 2022

tantivy

[ tan-tiv-ee ] [ tænˈtɪv i ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

interjection

used as a hunting cry when the chase is at full speed.

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What is the origin of tantivy?

Tantivy “used as a hunting cry when the chase is at full speed” is of obscure origin, but the prevailing theory is that the term is of onomatopoeic origin, based on the sound of galloping or blowing a horn. While it may seem odd that a complex word such as tantivy, in comparison to far simpler onomatopoeias such as tap or toot, would result from imitating a sound, tantivy is far from the only term to blaze this trail. Compare the similar interjection tantara, which represents the sound of a trumpet or horn; the noun clippety-clop, which refers to the sound of a horse trotting on pavement; and the noun tarantara, which imitates the sound of a bugle. Tantivy was first recorded in English circa 1640.

how is tantivy used?

Tantivy! Tantivy! Tantivy! He felt now Joe’s pride that he was bringing his coach in on time. How they dashed over the cobbles, how the roans tossed their heads, how through the murk and gloom one could dimly feel figures sliding, horses slipping, voices shouting to be out of the way.

Hugh Walpole, The Fortress, 1932

Whilst cheery sportsmen hunt the fox / As blithely as they can, / ‘Tis mine, as I “Tantivy!” cry, / To hunt the missing Plan!

"The Adventures of Don Joey," Truth: Christmas Number, December 25, 1903

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Word of the day

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

colcannon

[ kuhl-kan-uhn ] [ kəlˈkæn ən ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

an Irish dish made of cabbage, kale, or other greens, and potatoes boiled and mashed together.

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What is the origin of colcannon?

Colcannon “an Irish dish made of cabbage, greens, and potatoes” is an anglicization of the Irish Gaelic term cál ceannann, in which cál means “cabbage” and ceannann means “white-headed.” Cál comes via Old Irish from Latin caulis, of the same meaning, which is the source of cauliflower as well as cole, a catchall term for plants of the mustard family. Ceannann is a compound of ceann “head” and -ann, a weak variant of fionn “white,” and has an unexpected cognate in English: penguin. While ceannann means “white-headed” in Irish Gaelic, penguin may derive from Welsh pen gwyn “white head.” Irish Gaelic and Welsh belong to two different branches of the Celtic group of Indo-European languages: Q-Celtic and P-Celtic, respectively. Many c-words in Q-Celtic correspond to p-words in P-Celtic because of an ancient sound shift; also compare Irish Gaelic cúig to Welsh pump “five.” Colcannon was first recorded in English circa 1770.

how is colcannon used?

This delectable mixture of buttered greens and potatoes is yet another way of foretelling the future at Halloween. A heaped portion is served on each plate. A well is made in the center of the heap to hold a generous lump of butter. The colcannon is eaten from around the outside of the heap, each person dipping his fork first into the colcannon and then into the melting butter. The perfect accompaniment to colcannon is a glass of fresh buttermilk.

Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore, 1961

My instinct at this time of year is to write about colcannon, an ancient pagan dish originally made as a gift for fairies and spirits. I also consider mashed potato rippled with cabbage, with a pool of golden melted butter in the centre, to be an absolute gift. So not much has changed. I have made colcannon many different ways over the years and have shared the recipes, from kale colcannon to a buttery leek and ham hock version. 

Lilly Higgins, “Colcannon potatoes: So good we baked them twice,” Irish Times, October 23, 2019

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Word of the day

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

auriferous

[ aw-rif-er-uhs ] [ ɔˈrɪf ər əs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

yielding or containing gold.

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What is the origin of auriferous?

Auriferous “yielding or containing gold” is based on Latin aurifer “gold-bearing” and the adjectival suffix -ous “full of, containing.” Aurifer is a compound of aurum “gold” and the suffix -fer “bearer,” from the verb ferre “to bear, carry.” As we learned from the recent Word of the Day aureate, aurum is of uncertain origin but may be related to Latin aes “brass, bronze, copper” or aurōra “dawn.” Ferre comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bher-, of the same meaning, which is also the root of Ancient Greek phérein “to carry,” the source of euphoria, metaphor, and phosphorus. The root bher- is also behind the English verb bear; because of Grimm’s law, which changes stop consonants in Germanic languages such as English, German, and Swedish, the Proto-Indo-European sounds bh, dh, and gh—in which the h indicates aspiration, a “puff of air” sound—often become b, d, and g in English. Auriferous was first recorded in English in the 1720s.

how is auriferous used?

When the soil of Happy Rest supported nothing more artificial than a broken wagon wheel, left behind by some emigrants going overland to California, a deserter from a fort near by [sic] discovered that the soil was auriferous …. Within three hours every man within five miles of that barroom knew that the most paying dirt on the continent had been discovered not far away, and three hours later a large body of gold-hunters, guided by the deserter, were en route for the auriferous locality …

John Habberton, Romance of California Life, 1880

Strictly speaking, gold does not belong to the rivers—it was washed into them from the hills; hence it is useless to look for gold at the head of these streams, when the neighbouring hills are not of the auriferous nature; and we find this fact corroborated by our personal examination of the head of streams of the gold region.

William Cornell Jewett, California: Its Present Condition and Future Prospects, 1850

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