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any of various stones or fossils formerly thought to be fallen thunderbolts.
Thunderstone in the sense “thunderbolt” dates from the end of the 16th century; the sense “stone or fossil” dates from the late 17th century.
Palta might not be hidden from the sky; thus the sacred thunder-stone of Terminus at Rome stood under a hole in the roof of Jupiter’s temple …
In Germany until the early 20th century people believed in the magic properties of the devil’s fingers, known also as catstones, thunderstones, wombstones or even candles of the dead. According to ancient lore these strange stones are falling from the sky and witches can use them to cause thunderstorms.
a language and word lover.
Linguist has existed in English since the 16th century. It means “one who is adept at learning and using foreign languages; one who is a student of language or linguistics; a translator or interpreter.” Linguaphile has a somewhat different meaning: “one who loves words or languages.” The originally Greek suffix -phile (“lover of”) is completely naturalized in English. Lingua in Latin means “tongue, language”; its Old Latin form was dingua, from Proto-Indo-European dṇghwā, which is also the source of Germanic (English) tongue, and of Celtic (Old Irish) teng, Baltic inžũ-, and Slavic (Polish) język (with Baltic and Slavic loss of initial d-; ę represents a nasalized vowel). Linguaphile entered English in the late 20th century.
The collection has so many good passages — whole paragraphs that move into pages with never a misstep — that any linguaphile could spend a great afternoon in a little spasm of dazzle.
In the story “Entourage,” a linguaphile travels to Poland, Denmark, Germany, Turkey, and more, collecting suitcases full of books in their original languages.
a casual, amateurish chess player.
Patzer was first recorded in 1955–60. It is probably from German Patzer “bungler,” equivalent to patz(en) “to bungle” (compare Austrian dialect Patzen “stain, blot,” patzen “to make a stain”).
Anatoly Karpov, the champion before Kasparov, once said the only difference between a prodigy and a patzer was how far into the future a player could look.
You’re a patzer. Look that up in your dictionary.
polished metal parts, as on a ship or automobile.
Brightwork is an Americanism dating back to 1835–45.
One other mode of passing time while in port was cleaning and polishing your bright-work; for it must be known that, in men-of-war, every sailor has some brass or steel of one kind or other to keep in high order …
Under the unblinking gaze of the sun, windshields blazed and brightwork gleamed.
a back door or gate.
English postern comes from Old French posterne, originally “a concealed exit from a fort, a sally port,” later “a small door, a back door.” Posterne is an alteration of Old French posterle “a back door, back way,” from Late Latin posterula “a small back door or gate; back way, byway,” a diminutive noun formed from the adjective posterus “(coming or being) after or in the future” and -ula, the feminine form of the common diminutive noun suffix -ulus. The -n- in posterne is likely due to the influence of the Old French adjectives interne (from Latin internus) and externe (from Latin externus). Postern entered English in the early 14th century.
It was the second gate, a postern in the north wall, that accounted for the most noticeable change.
A practicable postern was ajar on the yellow wood of the studded gates.
Chiefly Scot., Irish. a professional storyteller of family genealogy, history, and legend.
There are several English spellings, e.g., shanachie, seannachie, for the exotic Irish and Scottish noun meaning “storyteller, oral historian, genealogist.” The word in Scots Gaelic is seanachaidh (seanachaidhe in Irish) meaning “historian, antiquarian, chronicler,” from sen “old, ancient” and cūis “matter, affair.” Sen is from Proto-Indo-European sen(o)- “old,” most obvious in Latin senex “old man,” senātus “senate,” and senectūs “old age.” Senos appears in Greek in the noun hénos “year,” and the adjective hénos “last year’s”; and in Baltic (Lithuanian) as sẽnas “old,” and sẽnis “old man.” Sennachie entered English in the 16th century.
… I do not think he could falsify a folk-tale if he tried. At the most he would change it as a few years’ passing from sennachie to sennachie must do perforce.
My schoolfellows like my stories well enough-better at least, on most occasions, than they did the lessons of the master; but, beyond the common ground of enjoyment which these ex-tempore compositions furnished to both the “sennachie” and his auditors, our tracts of amusement lay widely apart.
any musical instrument having a keyboard, especially a stringed keyboard instrument, as a harpsichord, clavichord, or piano.
English clavier comes from Old French clavier “keyholder, keybearer,” as if from Medieval Latin clāviārius (formed from clāvis “key,” which becomes clef or clé in French, and the common noun suffix -ārius, which becomes -ier in Old French). French clavier also meant “a bank or row of keys on a musical instrument, a keyboard,” which is the first sense of the word in English, dating from the early 18th century. German and the other Germanic languages specialized the meaning to “keyboard instrument with strings (particularly the clavichord),” which English adopted in the mid-19th century.
Herr Gleissner composed twelve songs with clavier accompaniment.
An engraved portrait that a German artist made of Buchinger, in 1710, includes thirteen surrounding vignettes that picture him at tables, bearing his instruments and props, but just one depicts him in action, playing a hammered clavier.