Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, February 23, 2020

thersitical

[ ther-sit-i-kuhl ]

adjective

scurrilous; foulmouthed; grossly abusive.

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What is the origin of thersitical?

The very rare adjective thersitical “scurrilous, foulmouthed, abusive” derives from the Greek personal name Thersítēs, itself a derivative of the adjective thersiepḗs “bold of speech.” Thersites appears in Book 2 of the Iliad in the assembly of the Achaeans. Homer describes Thersites as lame, bowlegged, with shoulders that sloped inward, and a pointy head covered with tufts of hair—the ugliest man at Troy. Thersites accuses Agamemnon of greed and Achilles of cowardice, for which Odysseus beats him severely about the head and shoulders to the great amusement of the rest of the Achaeans. Thersitical entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is thersitical used?

… there is a pelting kind of thersitical satire ….

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Vol. 2, 1759

These he lists in language so richly thersitical that his English translator, likely Herring himself, must have strained his vocabulary to its limits to do it justice.

Todd H.J. Pettigrew, Stephanie M. Pettigrew, and Jacques A. Bailly, eds., "Introduction," The Major Works of John Cotta, 2018
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Word of the day

Saturday, February 22, 2020

gullywasher

[ guhl-ee-wosh-er, -waw-sher ]

noun

Chiefly Midland and Western U.S.

a usually short, heavy rainstorm.

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What is the origin of gullywasher?

Gullywasher, “a short, heavy rainstorm,” is a dialect and regional word in the U.S. Midwest and West. The first half of the word is a variant pronunciation of gullet “throat, esophagus,” from Middle English golet, gulet, from Old French goulet, from Latin gula “throat.” Gullywasher entered English in the early 20th century.

how is gullywasher used?

I used to have a country neighbor who during drouths would inevitably, when he saw a white rim of cloudiness on the easter horizon, prognosticate a gully-washer, a clod-melter, a frog-strangler within the week.

John Graves, "Weather Between East and West," From a Limestone Ledge, 1977

The rounds of rain and flash flooding Tuesday presented another reminder that 2018 has featured both gullywashers and full-day washouts.

Ian Livingston, "Tuesday's record rainfall catapulted D.C. to its yearly total with four months to go in 2018," Washington Post, August 22, 2018
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Word of the day

Friday, February 21, 2020

farthing

[ fahr-thing ]

noun

something of very small value: I don't care a farthing for your opinion.

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What is the origin of farthing?

A farthing was formerly an English coin of the smallest denomination, worth a quarter of a penny. Originally the coin was made of silver, then of a copper alloy, and finally of bronze. The coin was discontinued in 1961. The Middle English name for the coin was ferthing, farthing (with still more variants), made of silver, and came from Old English fēorthing, fēorthung “a quarter, a fourth part, a farthing.” The Old English forms are derivatives of fēortha “fourth” and the noun suffix –ing “one belonging to, descended from,” sometimes used to form diminutives, as here. Farthing entered English before a.d. 1000.

how is farthing used?

… when he cares not a farthing for the general good, and will sell his vote for a dollar … then his vote becomes a public pest.

Francis Parkman, "The Failure of Universal Suffrage," North American Review, July–August, 1878

Most of the tunes are pegged to the show-within-the-show, which we couldn’t give a farthing about.

Scott Brown, "Theater Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood," New York, November 13, 2012
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