• Word of the day
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    Sunday, September 16, 2018

    tunesmith

    noun [toon-smith, tyoon-]
    Informal. a person who composes popular music or songs.
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    What is the origin of tunesmith?

    Tunesmith was originally an Americanism, dating from the Jazz Age (roughly from the 1918 Armistice to the stock-market crash of 1929). Fittingly enough, an early citation for tunesmith (1923) is attributed to the American bandleader Paul Whiteman (1890–1967), who debuted George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924).

    How is tunesmith used?

    The monthly pay Walnut Records offered me as a tunesmith would barely amount to enough for rent and groceries, but held the promise of royalties should one of my songs get recorded. Kenny Rogers with Mike Blakely, What Are the Chances, 2013

    Granted, the limited palette of film scores sometimes results from the limited abilities of the practitioners, but almost any Hollywood tunesmith could achieve more distinctive results if the iron fist of cliché were to relax just a little. Alex Ross, "Composing for Hollywood," The New Yorker, February 27, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 15, 2018

    piacular

    adjective [pahy-ak-yuh-ler]
    expiatory; atoning; reparatory.
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    What is the origin of piacular?

    Piacular comes directly from the Latin adjective piāculāris “(of a rite or sacrifice) performed or offered by way of atonement; expiatory.” Piāculāris is a derivative of the noun piāculum “a sacrificial victim or expiatory offering,” itself a derivative of the verb piāre “to propitiate a god, remove or avert by expiation.” Finally, piāre is a derivative of the adjective pius “faithful, loyal, and dutiful to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred and friends.” Pius is one of the most potent words in Latin and typical of the Romans. The phrase pius Aenēās “loyal, faithful, dutiful Aeneas” occurs 17 times in the Aeneid. Piacular entered English in the 17th century.

    How is piacular used?

    T. S. Eliot made a fetish of using long-dormant adjectives like defunctive, anfractuous, and polyphiloprogenetive; he apparently felt piacular (meaning something done or offered in order to make up for a sin or sacrilegious action) was too run-of-the-mill, so he made up a new form: piaculative. Ben Yagoda, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It, March 11, 2007

    Sacrifices have generally been divided into three classes of (1) honorific, where the offering is believed to be in some sense a gift to the deity; (2) piacular, or sin-offerings, where the victim was usually burnt whole, no part being retained for eating ... W. Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, 1911

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, September 14, 2018

    interregnum

    noun [in-ter-reg-nuhm]
    any period during which a state has no ruler or only a temporary executive.
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    What is the origin of interregnum?

    Interregnum, a straightforward borrowing from Latin, applies far back in Roman history, to the period of kings (traditionally, 753 b.c.–509 b.c.). An interregnum was the period between the death of the old king and the accession of the new one. During the time of the Roman Republic (509 b.c.–27 b.c.), an interregnum was a period when both consuls or other patrician magistrates were dead or out of office. The Roman Senate then appointed from among themselves an interrex (or a series of interregēs) with consular powers for five-day terms whose principal duty was to supervise the election of new consuls. Interregnum entered English in the 16th century.

    How is interregnum used?

    But now, he has been on the job for two decades, save for a brief interregnum when he switched posts with his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Michael McFaul, "I've been in meetings with Putin. Here's what Trump can expect." Washington Post, July 15, 2018

    During the two years of interregnum, during Dr. Aagaard's administration and in the year of two following his resignation to accept a similar position at the University of Washington, all major clinical chairmanships fell vacant and new appointments had to be made. John S. Chapman, "The Cinderella School of Medicine," The Alcalde, January 1962

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, September 13, 2018

    exoteric

    adjective [ek-suh-ter-ik]
    popular; simple; commonplace.
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    What is the origin of exoteric?

    Exoteric, the opposite of esoteric, comes from Latin exōtericus “popular (e.g., of books); not overly technical or abstruse,” a borrowing of Greek exōterikós “external, outside, popular.” The first element of the Greek word is the adverb éxō “out, out of, outside”; the last element, -ikós, is a typical adjective suffix. The middle element, -ter-, is usually called a comparative suffix, which is only one of its functions. The suffix -ter is also used in Latin and Greek to form natural or complementary pairs, e.g., Latin nōster “our” and vester “your,” and dexter “right (hand)” and sinister “left (hand).” The Latin adjectives correspond with Greek hēméteros “our” and hyméteros “your,” and dexiterós “right (hand)” and aristerós “left (hand).” Aristerós is a euphemism meaning “better (hand)” (áristos means “best” in Greek, as in aristocracy “rule of the best”). Exoteric entered English in the 17th century.

    How is exoteric used?

    I was on a holiday, and was engaged in that rich and intricate mass of pleasures, duties, and discoveries which for the keeping off of the profane, we disguise by the exoteric name of Nothing. G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles, 1909

    Practical or exoteric alchemy was concerned chiefly with attempts to prepare the philosopher's stone, a hypothetical transmuting and healing agent capable of curing the imagined diseases of metals and the real ones of man. John Read, "A grandiose philosophical system," New Scientist, February 21, 1957

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 12, 2018

    reticulation

    noun [ri-tik-yuh-ley-shuhn]
    a netlike formation, arrangement, or appearance; network.
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    What is the origin of reticulation?

    Reticulation Is a derivative of the adjective reticulate (and the noun suffix -ion), of Latin origin. Reticulate comes from Latin rēticulātus “covered with a net, having a netlike pattern,” a derivative of the noun rēticulum “small net, a network bag,” itself a derivative of rēte “net (for hunting, fishing, fowling).” Reticulation entered English in the 17th century.

    How is reticulation used?

    ... Ralph Marvell, stretched on his back in the grass, lay gazing up at a black reticulation of branches between which bits of sky gleamed with the hardness and brilliancy of blue enamel. Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country, 1913

    Her appearance has changed as well, and I don't mean just the intense reticulation of lines and wrinkles, the true stigmata of life. Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, September 11, 2018

    atweel

    adverb [uh-tweel, at-weel]
    Scot. surely.
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    What is the origin of atweel?

    Atweel is an alteration and contraction of Scots (I) wat weel, (I) wot well in standard if archaic English, meaning (I) know well in modern standard English. Unsurprisingly, atweel is found only in Scottish authors, the two most famous being Robert Burns (1759–1796) and Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832). Atweel entered English in the 18th century.

    How is atweel used?

    Atweel, I can do that, and help her to buy her parapharnauls. John Galt, The Entail, 1823

    Atweel, I dinna ken yet. George MacDonald, Robert Falconer, 1868

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, September 10, 2018

    tautology

    noun [taw-tol-uh-jee]
    needless repetition of an idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness, as in “widow woman.”
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    What is the origin of tautology?

    Tautology comes from Late Latin tautologia, a borrowing of a Hellenistic Greek rhetorical term tautología “repetition of something already said.” The second half of tautology is clear enough, being the same suffix as in theology or philology. The first element tauto- needs some clarification: it comes from tò autó “the same,” formed from the neuter singular of the definite article and the third person pronoun (the combination of tò autó to tautó is called krâsis “mixture,” which appears in idiosyncrasy “personal temperament”—a “personal blend” as it were. Tautology entered English in the 16th century.

    How is tautology used?

    Take away perspective and you are stranded in a universal present, something akin, weirdly, to the unhistoried — and, at the risk of tautology, perspective-less — art of the Middle Ages. Geoff Dyer, "Andreas Gursky's photos visually articulate the world around us, framing modern society," Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2015

    ... the central moral question is whether we are going to use the language of tautology and self-justification – one that gives us alone the right to be called reasonable and human – or whether we labour to discover other ways of speaking and imagining. Rowan Williams, "What Orwell can teach us about the language of terror and war," The Guardian, December 12, 2015

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