Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, July 18, 2021

toplofty

[ top-lawf-tee, -lof- ]

adjective

condescending; haughty.

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What is the origin of toplofty?

Toplofty, “condescending; haughty,” is a back formation of earlier toploftical, of similar meaning. Both adjectives are humorous colloquialisms. The underlying phrase is top loft, “the uppermost story, topmost gallery.” Toploftical appears, sort of, in everyone’s favorite bedtime reading, Finnegans Wake (1939): “…celescalating the himals and all, hierarchitectitiptitoploftical, with a burning bush abob off its baubletop…” Toplofty entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is toplofty used?

Newcomers to the Examiner who feared that the rich senator’s son might be a painful popinjay were charmed by his quaint courtesy and the absence of anything toplofty of condescending about him.

W. A. Swanberg, "Brash Beginning of a Sensational Career," Life, August 25, 1961

If this should fall through, dear, you must write to your Aunt Vic. You must eat humble pie. You were too toplofty with her as it was.

Basil King, The Street Called Straight, 1912

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Word of the day

Saturday, July 17, 2021

encomium

[ en-koh-mee-uhm ]

noun

a formal expression of high praise.

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What is the origin of encomium?

Encomium, “a formal expression of high praise,” comes via Latin encōmium from Greek enkṓmion “a laudatory ode for a conqueror, a eulogy or panegyric for a living person.” Enkṓmion is composed of the preposition and prefix en, en– “in,” the noun kômos “revel making, carousal, company of men participating in a Dionysiac procession and celebration” (the ancient Greeks did nothing to excess unless they were absolutely nuts about it). The further etymology of kômos is disputed; the word appears as the first element of kōmōidoí “revel singers,” from which the noun kōmōidía “a humorous spectacle” derives, becoming comoedia in Latin, and comedy in English. Encomium entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is encomium used?

The latter film took a British miniseries that cast a sardonic, frequently scathing eye upon newspapering, and turned it into an encomium for the Great American Investigative Reporter.

Christopher Orr, "The Movie Review: 'The Soloist'," The Atlantic, April 24, 2009

Since Mr. Trebek announced his diagnosis, his admirers have flooded the internet and elsewhere with encomiums.

Katharine Q. Seelye, "Alex Trebek, Longtime Host of 'Jeopardy!,' Dies at 80," New York Times, November 8, 2020

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Word of the day

Friday, July 16, 2021

flapdoodle

[ flap-dood-l ]

noun

nonsense; bosh.

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What is the origin of flapdoodle?

Flapdoodle, “nonsense; bosh,” is a colloquialism that first appeared in print in 1834 along with a definition: “It’s the stuff they feed fools on.” Flapdoodle has no reliable etymology; the meaning of flap is pure conjecture, but some scholars suggest that doodle has its archaic sense “a fool, silly person.” Mark Twain uses flapdoodle in chapter 25 of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884): “…[the King] works himself up and slobbers out a speech, all full of tears and flapdoodle about its being a sore trial for him and his poor brother….”

how is flapdoodle used?

But Shlaes suavely dismisses the notion that Coolidge bears responsibility for the Great Depression and suggests his work was “complete, ready as a kind of blessing for another era.”

This is flapdoodle. No, Coolidge was not single-handedly culpable for the economic calamity of the 1930s. But neither can he be safely extracted from the ruin that followed his presidency.

Jacob Heilbrunn, "The Great Refrainer," New York Times, February 14, 2013

At home, a day later, too jet-lagged to think straight, I watch the “Da Vinci Code” movie for the first time. Now, I remember some silly flapdoodle about vessels and chalices and secret societies, but not much else. Nothing, it seems, rubbed off on me.

Philip Kennicott, "I had never seen Leonardo's 'Last Supper.' A quick visit left a lasting impression." Washington Post, May 2, 2019

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