Word of the Day

Friday, October 26, 2018

timorous

[ tim-er-uhs ]

adjective

full of fear; fearful: The noise made them timorous.

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What is the origin of timorous?

Timorous, “fearful,” has several spellings in Middle English, e.g., tymerous, timerous, temerous, which all come via Old French temeros, timoureus from the Medieval Latin adjective timōrōsus “fearful,” a derivative of the Latin noun timor “fear,” itself a derivative of the verb timēre “to fear, be afraid.” (There is no further reliable etymology for the Latin.) The English and French spellings tim- and tem- betray a confusion going back to at least the 14th century between derivations of the Latin verb timēre “to fear” and adverb temere “rashly, recklessly” (the source of the English noun temerity). From the English variant spelling timerous (“fearful”), English forms the uncommon noun temerity “fearfulness, timidity,” which is also spelled timerite and temerity, the latter spelling continuing that confusion. Timorous entered English in the 15th century.

how is timorous used?

Besides these fearful things, he was expected to do what terrified him into the very core of his somewhat timorous heart.

L. T. Meade, A Little Mother to the Others, 1896

Though the fellow is far from being timorous in cases that are not supposed preternatural, he could not stand the sight of this apparition, but ran into the kitchen, with his hair standing on end, staring wildly, and deprived of utterance.

Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

dirigible

[ dir-i-juh-buh l, dih-rij-uh- ]

noun

an airship.

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What is the origin of dirigible?

Dirigible is a shortening of “dirigible balloon,” a translation of the French ballon dirigeable “steerable balloon.” Dirigible and dirigeable are derivatives of the Latin verb dīrigere “to guide, align, straighten” and the common suffix -ible “capable of, fit for.” Dirigible in its literal sense “capable of being directed” dates from the late 16th century; the sense referring to the balloon or airship dates from the late 19th century.

how is dirigible used?

With gas cells collapsing, framework breaking up, and controls out of order, the great dirigible had reared and plunged and finally had fallen 3,000 feet into the Pacific.

Edwin Teale, "Does Latest Disaster Spell Doom for the Dirigible?" Popular Science Monthly, May 1935

Being up in that tower was like being in a dirigible above the clouds.

Umberto Eco, "The Gorge," The New Yorker, March 7, 2005
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

moonstruck

[ moon-struhk ]

adjective

dreamily romantic or bemused.

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What is the origin of moonstruck?

The original sense of moonstruck, “mentally deranged, insane,” first appears in Paradise Lost (1667) by John Milton (1608–74). Milton was astonishingly learned: he wrote poetry in Latin, Greek, and Italian; he translated Psalm 114 from Hebrew into Greek verse; he was a polemicist (or propagandist) for the English general, Puritan statesman, and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Moonstruck is probably Milton’s own creation, a translation from Greek selēnóblētos “moonstruck, epileptic,” a compound of selḗnē “moon” and blētós “stricken, stricken with palsy,” a past participle of bállein ”to throw, hit (with a missile).” The sense of “dreamily romantic” dates from the mid-19th century.

how is moonstruck used?

He wanted to see her … Otherwise he wouldn’t have waited for nearly an hour like some moonstruck schoolboy and worried all the while about the reception he would receive.

Matt Braun, Indian Territory, 1985

The sonata was originally given the name that’s on your music. But an author renamed it the Moonlight Sonata. I like that name very much. … Because it’s music for a moonstruck man.

Herbjørg Wassmo, Dina's Book, translated by Nadia M. Christensen, 1994

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