Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, September 13, 2021

testudinate

[ te-stood-n-it, -eyt, -styood- ]

adjective

formed like the carapace of a tortoise; arched; vaulted.

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What is the origin of testudinate?

Testudinate derives from the Latin adjective testūdinātus, of the same meaning, from the noun testūdō “tortoise.” Testūdō, in turn, derives from testa “earthenware vessel; shard of baked clay; shell of a crustacean.” It is possible that testa comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ters- “dry,” which would make testa cognate to the words thirst (from Old English thurst “dryness”), terrain and terrestrial (from Latin terra “(dry) land”), and toast and torrid (from Latin torrēre “to burn”). In Late Latin, testa gained the additional sense of “skull” and developed into the word for “head” in several Romance languages (such as French tête and Italian testa). Testudinate entered English in the early 1700s.

how is testudinate used?

[A]t Marzabotto, a working-class Etruscan town in what is now the province of Bologna … the houses are of good size, but not palaces, and seemed stamped out as if from a cookie-cutter, with slight variations .… Each house was almost 800 square meters in size and featured an atrium that was likely testudinate or fully roofed over so that the beams rested directly onto the walls and there were no interior columns.

Claudio Bizzarri and David Soren, "Innovations and Legacy to Rome," A Companion to the Etruscans, 2016

At every little clearing through the thorny path great horseflies flew Like aces taking bits and bites of me as I futilely swiped Then low tunnels testudinate respite from those winged furies gave Only to find that those ruelles I tread were rife with walking shells

Ken Gremillion, The Velocity of Falling Bodies, 2007

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Word of the day

Sunday, September 12, 2021

spelunk

[ spi-luhngk ]

verb (used without object)

to explore caves, especially as a hobby.

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What is the origin of spelunk?

Spelunk comes via Latin spēlunca from Ancient Greek spêlunx, one of several similar words for “cave” (along with spéos and spḗlaion) a term that is likely of Pre-Greek origin. While Ancient Greek is an Indo-European language and inherits its grammar and most of its vocabulary from Proto-Indo-European, Ancient Greek contains over a hundred words and names that linguists hypothesize to have once been loanwords from a pre-Greek substrate, a lost language spoken in the Aegean Sea prior to the arrival of the Greeks that influenced the development of Ancient Greek. Spelunk first entered English in the 20th century.

how is spelunk used?

Confined to a narrow metal walkway … and limited to using nonprofessional cameras, Herzog and a few scientists cheerfully spelunk through the Stone Age. While the geologists marvel at the rocks and the historians assess cave-bear footprints and abandoned skulls, Herzog’s steady stream of typically bizarre observations ensure that the claustrophobia and gloominess don’t send us to sleep.

Jeannette Catsoulis, “Werner Herzog, Plumbing Time And ‘Dreams,’” NPR, April 28, 2011

On the Travel Channel, we spelunk the caverns of Callao, explore the garish catacombs of the Great Barrier Reef, learn about the medicinal benefits of turmeric.

Jonathan Evison, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, 2012

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Word of the day

Saturday, September 11, 2021

yclept

[ i-klept ]

verb

called; named.

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What is the origin of yclept?

The archaic English verb yclept is the past participle of the equally archaic verb clepe “to call, name.” This initial y- derives from Old English ġe-, a prefix used to mark past participles; while ge- eventually fell out of use in English, many other Germanic languages, such as Dutch and German, still use ge- and similar prefixes to mark past participles. Even though ge- and y- are no longer used in English verbs, the prefixes have lived on in secret as the a- in words such as afford, aswoon, aware, and even dialectal ascared. Yclept was first recorded in the first millennium AD.

how is yclept used?

About the sixth hour, when beasts most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper. So much for the time when. Now for the ground which—which, I mean, I walked upon. It is yclept thy park.

William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost, c1590

A tenured Pat, my name’s Tom Brady; Foes have oft yclept me shady. Should my post I abdicate, New England hearts will fast deflate.

Matt Monitto, "Style Invitational Week 1376: Get thee to a funnery," Washington Post, March 19, 2020

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