Word of the Day

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

thigmotropism

[ thig-mo-truh-piz-uhm ]

noun

Biology. oriented growth of an organism in response to mechanical contact, as a plant tendril coiling around a string support.

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What is the origin of thigmotropism?

Thigmotropism is a very rare word, restricted to biology, especially botany. All three of the components of the word come from Greek: thígma means “a touch”; trópos and tropḗ are both nouns meaning “a turning, turn”; and -ism comes from the Greek suffixes -ismós, isma, used to form nouns denoting the result of an action. Thigmotropism entered English in the early 20th century.

how is thigmotropism used?

When touch is the stimulus, the response is thigmotropism. Positive thigmotropism occurs when a tendril touches an object and, by growing toward it, wraps around it.

James D. Mauseth, Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology, 2009

Thigmotropism is what makes a vine curl around a stake or an epiphyte cling to a branch in the wild.

Deb Wandell, "Flora Grubb reinvents the plant stand with Thigmotrope Perch," San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2015
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

turophile

[ toor-uh-fahyl, tyoor-, tur- ]

noun

a connoisseur or lover of cheese.

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What is the origin of turophile?

Turophile a rare word not only in meaning but also in its spelling. The combining form -phile is very common in English, but the combining form turo- is unique: it comes from the Greek noun tȳrós, which is nearly always Romanized as tyro-, as in the technical term tyrosine (an amino acid). Tȳrós comes from a complicated Proto-Indo-European root tēu, tewe, teu, “to swell, coagulate, be or become thick”: for the Greeks cheese was “thickened milk.” The Latin word būtȳrum “butter” is a borrowing from Greek boútyron “butter,” literally “cow cheese.” Būtȳrum “butter” was adopted by the West Germanic languages, e.g., Old English butere, English butter, Dutch boter, Old High German butera, and German Butter. Turophile entered English in the 20th century.

how is turophile used?

For any New York turophile … there is irritation, frustration and dismay when visiting most of the town’s restaurants whether grand luxe or bistro. The cheeses, if available at all, are more often than not overripe or underaged, too cold or too few …

Craig Claiborne, "Cheese Lover Dismayed by Restaurant Selection," New York Times, October 12, 1965

… as any turophile knows, microbes are the source of cheese’s vast diversity of flavors, textures, and smells.

Casey Quackenbush, "The FDA Is Coming Around to the Idea That Cheese, Microbes, and Mold Can Work Just Fine," Time, September 22, 2017
Monday, June 18, 2018

day-tripper

[ dey-trip-er ]

noun

a person who goes on a trip, especially an excursion, lasting all or part of a day but not overnight.

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What is the origin of day-tripper?

Day-tripper has been used in English since the mid-1800s.

how is day-tripper used?

… he seized on the word as if it might somehow help to plug him into German culture, rather like a day-tripper to Boulogne trying to convince himself that he has explored France.

William McIlvanney, The Kiln, 1996

Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book.

Anthony Lane, "Space Case," The New Yorker, May 23, 2005
Sunday, June 17, 2018

paragon

[ par-uh-gon, -guhn ]

noun

a model or pattern of excellence or of a particular excellence: a paragon of virtue.

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What is the origin of paragon?

The English noun paragon comes from Middle French, from Old Italian paragone “touch stone,” a derivative of the verb paragonare “to test on a touchstone or whetstone.” The Italian words perhaps derive from Greek parakonân “to sharpen, whet,” formed from the prefix and preposition para-“beside, alongside” and akonân “to sharpen, whet,” a derivative of akónē “whetstone, bone.” Paragon entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is paragon used?

As that paragon of fatherhood Homer Simpson once told his brood, “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family.”

Andy Simmons, "People Shared Their Funniest Family Stories and It Got Heartwarming Real Fast," Reader's Digest, April 2018

He has variously been considered a military icon who won a total victory; a presidential model for overcoming his own considerable flaws and a tragic weakness for scoundrels to achieve fame and glory; a literary phenomenon who crafted the most famous deathbed writing in American letters; and a celebrity who was a paragon of humility and modesty.

David W. Blight, "The Silent Type," New York Review of Books, May 24, 2018
Saturday, June 16, 2018

stanchless

[ stawnch-lis, stahnch-, stanch- ]

adjective

incessant: a stanchless torrent of words.

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What is the origin of stanchless?

English stanchless is an awkward, uncommon word. Its meaning is obvious: “unable to be stanched.” Stanch comes from the Old French verb estanchier “to close, stop” and is probably from an unattested Vulgar Latin verb stanticāre, equivalent to Latin stant- (stem of stāns, the present participle of stāre “to stand”) and the causative suffix -icāre; stanticare means “to make stand or stop.” Stanchless entered English in the 17th century.

how is stanchless used?

The flow of his language was slow, but steady and apparently stanchless.

Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, 1939

The machine can only repeat, and if we repeated we should be machines and untrue to the stanchless creative mystery of the life within us.

H. F. Heard, "Wingless Victories," The Great Fog and Other Weird Tales, 1944
Friday, June 15, 2018

nacreous

[ ney-kree-uhs ]

adjective

resembling nacre or mother-of-pearl; lustrous; pearly.

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What is the origin of nacreous?

The English adjective nacreous is a derivative of nacre “mother-of-pearl.” Nacre comes from Middle French nacre, from Medieval Latin nacchara, nacara, nacrum. Other Romance languages have similar forms: Old Italian nacacra, nacchera, Catalan nacre, and Spanish nácar, all meaning “mother-of-pearl.” The further origin of nacre is uncertain: the most common etymology is that it comes from Arabic naqqāra “small drum,” or from Arabic naqur “hunting horn,” a derivative of the verb nakara “hollow out,” from the shape of the mollusk shell that yields mother-of-pearl. Nacreous entered English in the 19th century.

how is nacreous used?

Nacreous pearl light swam faintly about the hem of the lilac darkness; the edges of light and darkness were stitched upon the hills.

Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel, 1929

It should not have surprised them to find the angel in that preserved condition. The fingernails, nacreous as the inside of an oyster shell …

Danielle Trussoni, Angelology, 2010
Thursday, June 14, 2018

semaphore

[ sem-uh-fawr, -fohr ]

noun

a system of signaling, especially a system by which a special flag is held in each hand and various positions of the arms indicate specific letters, numbers, etc.

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What is the origin of semaphore?

Semaphore came into English from French sémaphore, a device for making and transmitting signals by line of sight. From the point of view of a purist or pedant, semaphore is a malformed word. The Greek noun sêma means “mark, sign, token,” and its combining form, which should have been used in semaphore, is sēmat-, which would result in sematophore. The combining form -phore comes from the Greek combining form -phoros “carrying, bearing,” a derivative of the verb phérein “to carry, bear.” Semaphore entered English in the 19th century.

how is semaphore used?

The gymnasts were like the diagrams to illustrate the semaphore alphabet, arms thrust firmly out in precise positions, a flag in each hand, the little figures in naval uniform like her brother, Ben, drawn over and over.

Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister, 2005

His younger brother admired his speed and what looked like his precision, though semaphore signals were a closed book to the major.

Harry Turtledove, Fort Pillow, 2006

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