Word of the Day

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

tussie-mussie

[ tuhs-ee-muhs-ee ]

noun

a small bunch of flowers or herbs.

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What is the origin of tussie-mussie?

There is no clear etymology for tussie-mussie “bunch of flowers, nosegay.” The Middle English form, tusemose, and the 17th-century form tussimussie, suggest an assumed Middle English tus or tusse “cluster of flowers.” Tussie-mussie entered English in the mid-15th century.

how is tussie-mussie used?

The world would be a kinder and gentler place if we all exchanged tussie-mussies instead of badmouthing people behind their backs or unfriending them on Facebook.

Claire Cook, The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track, 2017

When those were finished, they turned to the tussie-mussies–handheld herbal nosegays in which each plant has a special significance–for the women guests.

Susan Wittig Albert, Lavender Lies, 1999

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Machiavellian

[ mak-ee-uh-vel-ee-uhn ]

adjective

characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.

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What is the origin of Machiavellian?

Machiavellian is an adjective derived from Machiavelli, the family name of the Florentine diplomat, historian, and political philosopher Niccolò Bernardo Machiavelli (1469–1527). He wrote his most famous work The Prince (Il Principe) in 1513 while in exile from Florence. Machiavellian entered English in the 16th century.

how is Machiavellian used?

I need to tell you about my shamefully Machiavellian motive for sending her packing and the subdolous way in which her death facilitated my crowning achievement.

Clanash Farjeon, A Handbook for Attendants on the Insane: The Autobiography of 'Jack the Ripper' as Revealed to Clanash Farjeon, 2003

The doctor’s mind pursued its own schemes with Machiavellian subtlety.

Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, 1904
Sunday, April 29, 2018

vagility

[ vuh-jil-i-tee ]

noun

Biology. the ability of an organism to move about freely and migrate.

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What is the origin of vagility?

The rare English adjective vagile is restricted to biology and refers to an organism’s being able to scatter or be scattered in an environment. The English adjective comes from German vagil, of the same meaning. The German adjective derives from Latin vagus “wandering, roaming.” The German suffix -il and the English suffix -ile come directly from Latin -ilis, -ile; the English suffix -ity comes from Latin -itat- (the stem of -itās) via Old French -te (French -té). Vagility entered English in the 20th century.

how is vagility used?

Using the GPS collars that updated an animal’s location regularly and other data, the project found that vagility—the ability of an organism to move—declines in areas with human footprints by as much as half to two-thirds the distance than in places where there is little or no human activity.

Jim Robbins, "Animals Are Losing Their Vagility, or Ability to Roam Freely," New York Times, February 19, 2018

With this combination of low vagility and narrow habitat requirements, the mayfly faunas of islands around New Zealand provide a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of isolation, dispersal ability and the response of communities to reduced diversity.

D. R. Towns, "The mayflies (Ephemeroptera) of Great Barrier Island, New Zealand: macro- and micro-distributional comparisons," Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 17, 1987
Saturday, April 28, 2018

feint

[ feynt ]

noun

a movement made in order to deceive an adversary; an attack aimed at one place or point merely as a distraction from the real place or point of attack: military feints; the feints of a skilled fencer.

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What is the origin of feint?

The English noun feint comes from Old French feinte, a noun use of the feminine past participle of the verb feindre “to feign, pretend, dissemble.” The Old French verb comes from Latin fingere “to shape, form, fashion,” the ultimate source of English faint, fiction, figment, and effigy. Feint entered English in the 17th century.

how is feint used?

Antagonism in my family comes wrapped in layers of code, sideways feints, full deniability.

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves, 2013

… it always had been understood that when the Germans did decide to take the desperate risk of trying to invade England they would make a feint in a couple of places, and, having drawn off the British fleet, would direct their serious attacks somewhere else.

, "Coast Attack Expected," New York Times, December 17, 1914
Friday, April 27, 2018

treen

[ tree-uhn ]

adjective

made entirely of wood.

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What is the origin of treen?

The adjective treen dates to Old English (about 1000). Its original adjective meanings “made of tree (i.e., wood), wooden; pertaining to trees or a tree” are obsolete or rare in standard English. Its current sense as a noun meaning “(small) articles or utensils made of wood, woodenware” dates from the 20th century.

how is treen used?

Much skill had they in runes, and were exceeding deft in scoring them on treen bowls, and on staves, and door-posts and roof-beams and standing-beds and such like things.

William Morris, The Roots of the Mountains, 1889

In old time we had treen chalices and golden priests; but now we have treen priests and golden chalices.

John Jewel (1522–1571), "Sermon on Haggai," The Works of John Jewel, 1847
Thursday, April 26, 2018

frugivorous

[ froo-jiv-er-uhs ]

adjective

fruit-eating.

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What is the origin of frugivorous?

The English adjective frugivorous “fruit-eating” is used mostly in biology to describe animals that eat fruit. The first element, frugi-, is a combining form of Latin frux “fruit, crops, produce” related to the verb fruī “to enjoy the fruits or products or results of.” From the form frūg- English has frugal and frugivorous. From fructus, the past participle of fruī (from an assumed frūguī), English has fruit (from Old French, from Latin frūctus) and fructify (from Old French fructifier, from Latin frūctificāre). The second element, -vorous, ultimately comes from Latin vorāre “to swallow ravenously,” whence English has devour (from Middle French devourer, from Latin dēvorāre “to swallow down,” and voracious (from Latin vorāc-, the stem of vorax “ravenous, insatiable.” Frugivorous entered English in the 18th century.

how is frugivorous used?

… the frugivorous bats, and the fruit-eating quadrumana, including the gorgeous mandrill, are the most highly-coloured of the Mammalia.

Grant Allen, The Colour-Sense: Its Origin and Development, 1879

Fruit, by the way, was all their diet. … while I was with them, in spite of some carnal cravings, I had to be frugivorous also.

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine, 1895
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

velitation

[ vel-i-tey-shuhn ]

noun

a minor dispute or contest.

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What is the origin of velitation?

English velitation comes from Latin vēlitātiōn- (stem of vēlitātiō) “skirmish,” ultimately a derivation of vēles (stem vēlit-) “light-armed foot soldier wearing little armor, skirmisher,” which is a derivative from the adjective vēlox (stem vēlōc-) “quick, rapid, speedy” (and the source of English velocity). The vēlitēs, a specialized unit of soldiers in the ancient Roman army, were armed with swords, javelins, and small round shields and were stationed in front of the legionary lines. Before the main action began, these skirmishers threw their javelins at the enemy lines to break up their formation and then rapidly withdrew to the rear of the legionary lines. Vēlitēs as a type of soldier or unit in the Roman army were relatively brief: they are first mentioned about 211 b.c. in the dark, dark days (for Rome) of the Second Punic War (218–201 b.c.). The vēlitēs were probably formed owing to lowered property qualifications for military service in 214 b.c. and were drawn from the lowest, youngest, and poorest citizens. Vēlitēs are last mentioned in the Jugurthine War of 112-106 b.c.; presumably they were subsumed into the centuries (a company consisting of approximately 100 men) in a later reorganization of the Roman army. Velitation entered English in the 17th century.

how is velitation used?

… let him read those Pharsalian fields fought of late in France for religion, their massacres, wherein by their own relations in twenty-four years I know not how many millions have been consumed, whole families and cities, and he shall find ours to be but velitations to theirs.

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621

While the ladies in the tea-room of the Fox Hotel were engaged in the light snappish velitation, or skirmish, which we have described, the gentlemen who remained in the parlour were more than once like to have quarrelled more seriously.

Sir Walter Scott, St. Ronan's Well, 1823

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