Word of the Day

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

timeserver

[ tahym-sur-ver ]

noun

a person who shapes his or her conduct to conform to the opinions of the time or of persons in power, especially for selfish ends.

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What is the origin of timeserver?

Timeserver was first recorded in 1565–75.

how is timeserver used?

He was labeled unreliable. He could even be thought a double-dealer or timeserver.

Eitaro Ishizawa, "Too Much About Too Many," Ellery Queen's Japanese Golden Dozen, 1978

“I couldn’t marry Belinda to a time-server or a palace-worshipper,” said the King decidedly.

Edith Nesbit, The Magic World, 1912
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

kismet

[ kiz-mit, -met, kis- ]

noun

fate; destiny.

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What is the origin of kismet?

The English noun kismet “fate” comes straight from Turkish kismet, which in turn comes from Persian qismat, from Arabic qisma, qismat- “lot,” from qasama “(he) divided,” from the (West) Semitic root qsm- “to divide, allot.” Long before the arrival of Islam, Persian was used as an imperial administrative and literary language, contributing to the vocabulary of neighboring languages, especially the Turkic languages of Anatolia, central Asia, and some Indo-Aryan languages of the Indian subcontinent, especially Urdu. These languages received terms relating to Islam indirectly via Persian rather than directly from Arabic. Kismet entered English in the 19th century.

how is kismet used?

In the way that a randomly shuffled song on your headphones can feel like thrilling kismet, suddenly, this semi-animate speaker seemed to belong in my home.

Sarah Larson, "Yelling at Amazon's Alexa," The New Yorker, October 6, 2016

It was kismet that it happened with you, and today!

Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book, translated by Güneli Gün, 1994
Monday, March 26, 2018

genethliac

[ juh-neth-lee-ak ]

adjective

Astrology. of or relating to birthdays or to the position of the stars at one's birth.

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What is the origin of genethliac?

If any word occurs exclusively in grad school seminars, papers, theses, and dissertations, genethliac is that word. The Latin adjective and noun genethliacus “pertaining to one’s hour of birth or a birthday; an astrologer who calculates such an hour or day,” is an extension of the Greek adjective genethliakós “pertaining to a birthday.” Latin also possesses a noun genethliacon “birthday poem,” derived from but not existing in Greek. Birthdays and birthday celebrations were bigger affairs among Roman men than among the Greeks because one’s birthday also involved the cult of the genius, the attendant spirit or “guardian angel,” so to speak, of every freeborn male but especially of the paterfamilias. Latin genethliaca “birthday poems” arose as a distinct genre in the first century b.c. Genethliac entered English in the 16th century.

how is genethliac used?

… the mathematicians allow the very same horoscope to princes and to sots: whereof a right pregnant instance by them is given in the nativities of Æneas and Choræbus; the latter of which two is by Euphorion said to have been a fool; and yet had, with the former, the same aspects and heavenly genethliac influences.

François Rabelais, The Third Book of Pantagruel, translated by John Ozell, 1738

… Augustine particularly insists on the case of twins, whose fates ought to be identical, if the genethliac theory were true …

Sir George Cornewall Lewis, An Historical Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients, 1862

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