Word of the Day

Monday, March 30, 2020

transliterate

[ trans-lit-uh-reyt, tranz- ]

verb (used with object)

to change (letters, words, etc.) into corresponding characters of another alphabet or language: to transliterate the Greek Χ as ch.

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What is the origin of transliterate?

The verb transliterate is formed from the Latin preposition and prefix trans, trans- “across, on the other side of” and the noun lītera (littera) “letter.” Transliteration is only changing the letters of one alphabet into those of another, for example, from Greek δόγμα into Latin dogma. Transliteration does not provide a pronunciation or a translation. Transliterate entered English in the 19th century.

how is transliterate used?

Up on the bridge, Captain Orlova was looking thoughtfully at a dense mass of words and figures on the main display. Floyd had painfully started to transliterate them when she interrupted him.

Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two, 1982

In many of the early stories Chekhov uses proper names that sound comic, carry comic allusions, or are in other ways meaningful. Simply to transliterate such names fails to convey to the English reader an element that is present in the original and sometimes extremely important.

Patrick Miles and Harvey Pitcher, "Notes," Early Stories by Anton Chekhov, 1982

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

apoplectic

[ ap-uh-plek-tik ]

adjective

extremely angry; furious: He became apoplectic at the mere mention of the subject.

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What is the origin of apoplectic?

Apoplectic, “stricken with apoplexy,” comes from Late Latin apoplēcticus (also apoplēctus), from Greek apoplēktikós “paralyzed” and apóplēktos “disabled by a stroke.” Apoplēktikós and apóplēktos are derivatives of the verb apoplēssein (also apoplēttein) “to cripple by a stroke, disable in body or mind,” a compound of the prefix apo-, here with an intensive force, and the verb plēssein, plēttein, plēgnýnai “to strike, hit, thrust at.” By the 19th century apoplectic developed the sense “furiously angry,” as in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814), “A short-necked apoplectic sort of fellow,” and Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (1837), “A gentleman with an apoplectic countenance.” Apoplectic entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is apoplectic used?

At the White House, Washburne was apoplectic. “Of all the times to let him go, this is the worst!” Washburne marched about the room waving his arms ….

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

Lenders were apoplectic. They warned CFPB officials that such a tight restriction, however well-intentioned, could cut off access to mortgages for many home buyers and damage the housing market further.

Damian Paletta, "Federal government has dramatically expanded exposure to risky mortgages," Seattle Times, October 2, 2019

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

wont

[ wawnt, wohnt, wuhnt ]

adjective

accustomed; used (usually followed by an infinitive): He was wont to rise at dawn.

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What is the origin of wont?

The history of the adjective, noun, and verb wont is as confused as its three modern pronunciations. The Middle English adjective has many variant spellings, among them wont, woned, wonde (the root vowel is short, as in one of the modern pronunciations). Wont, woned, and wonde (and many other variants) are the past participle of the verb wonen (with many variant spellings) “to inhabit, live (somewhere); to continue to be (in a state or condition); to be accustomed.” Wonen comes from Old English (ge)wunod, past participle of (ge)wunian, (ge)wunigan “to dwell, inhabit, remain, be (in a certain condition).” Old English (ge)wunian is akin to Old High German wonēn “to dwell, remain” and German gewöhnen “to accustom.” Wont (adjective) first appeared in writing in the 9th century; the noun wont in the 14th century; and the verb wont in the first half of the 15th century.

how is wont used?

Ahab was wont to pace his quarter-deck, taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle and mainmast ….

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

Young people are the primary drivers of language change, but even we “olds”—as the young are wont to put it—like to change things up now and then.

John McWhorter, "Why Grown-Ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids," The Atlantic, May 2019

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