Word of the Day

Friday, May 29, 2020

unctuous

[ uhngk-choo-uhs ]

adjective

excessively smooth, suave, or smug.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of unctuous?

Unctuous comes from Medieval Latin unctuōsus, “full of grease or soft fat,” a derivative of Latin unguen. All of the Middle English meanings pertain to grease, oil, or fat. It is only in the 18th century that the sense “marked by spiritual unction or holy oil” developed into the extended sense “smooth, suave, or smug,” the most common meaning of the word today. Unctuous entered English in the 14th century.

how is unctuous used?

Dwight Schrute, when last we left him, was regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pa. … He was vainglorious, unctuous, gullible, humorless, vulnerable, fascistic.

Louis Bayard, "'The Bassoon King' review: There's more to Rainn Wilson than Dwight Schrute," Washington Post, December 7, 2015

His style, moreover, struck her as being far too unctuous and effusive to be sincere.

William Edward Norris, "Citizens of the World," An Octave, 1900

Listen to the word of the day

unctuous

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ
Put your wits to the test! New quizzes added weekly.
TAKE THE QUIZ
ALEXA, ENABLE DICTIONARY.COM
Now you can ask Alexa what the Word of the Day is at any time.
ENABLE ALEXA

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Thursday, May 28, 2020

doover

[ doo-ver ]

noun

Australian Slang.

thingamabob; thingamajig.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of doover?

Doover is an Australian slang word for thingamabob, thingamajig “something whose name is unknown.” As with many slang terms, an etymology (literally “true story”) for doover does not exist. The Hebrew noun dābhār “word, thing, matter” has been suggested as a source; an alteration of “do for (now)” is more likely.

how is doover used?

I carefully take little plastic doovers from the handle and top, and plier off the frame’s metal retainers without damaging them.

Cameron Woodhead, "Appetite for destruction: the art of smashing things and putting them back together," The Age, March 12, 2018

Well, not unlike my husband, who haunts hardware stores for ever newer and more complicated devices and doovers, I have become addicted to shops selling sewing bits and bobs.

Susan Kurosawa, "Toko Central: sew happy to be in Bali," The Australian, January 20, 2017

Listen to the word of the day

doover

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

scilicet

[ sil-uh-set ]

adverb

to wit; namely.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of scilicet?

The English adverb scilicet “namely, specifically, to wit” comes from Latin scīlicet, a contraction of the phrase scīre licet “it is permitted to know, one may be sure, of course, naturally.” The infinitive of the impersonal verb licet is licēre “to be allowed,” the source of licentia “freedom, freedom to do what one wants, lack of restraint, license” (as in English). The infinitive scīre “to know” was translated into Old English as (hit is tō) witanne “That is to know, to wit,” a gerund phrase from the verb witan “to know,” which became in Middle English it is to wite “it is to be noted,” and survives in current English as to wit. Scilicet entered English in the late 14th century.

how is scilicet used?

this universal world contains other guess sorrows than yours, Viscount,—scilicet than unvarying health, unbroken leisure, and incalculable income.

Charles Reade, Christie Johnstone, 1853

Marqueray like most men kept his work and play, scilicet his political intrigues and his pursuit of Phyllida, in separate compartments.

Anthony Pryde, Marqueray's Duel, 1920

Listen to the word of the day

scilicet

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

celestial

[ suh-les-chuhl ]

adjective

pertaining to the sky or visible heaven, or to the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of celestial?

Celestial has always had several meanings, beginning with Latin caelestis, “being in, happening in, or coming from the sky or heavens,” ranging from the physical, astronomical, and navigational to the supernatural and divine, including the pagan Roman reference to emperors posthumously deified. Caelestis is an adjective derived from the noun caelum “heaven, sky,” whose etymology is unclear. The adjective celestial entered English in the late 14th century, the noun in the second half of the 16th.

how is celestial used?

Located deep in the disk of the Milky Way, the dense, dead celestial body had been slinging high-energy radiation into the cosmos for a week or so, as a rare class of objects called soft gamma-ray repeaters are known to do.

Nadia Drake, "'Magnetic Star' Radio Waves Could Solve the Mystery of Fast Radio Bursts," Scientific American, May 5, 2020

Of all the celestial bodies, the moon is closest to the matters of this lower world.

Jokha Alharthi, Celestial Bodies, translated by Marilyn Booth, 2018

Listen to the word of the day

celestial

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Monday, May 25, 2020

salute

[ suh-loot ]

verb (used with object)

to express respect or praise for; honor; commend.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of salute?

Of the verb and the noun salute, the verb is earlier, appearing in the late 14th century, the noun appearing between 1400 and 1450. The Middle English verb was saluten “to greet courteously or respectfully,” from the Latin verb salūtāre “to greet, hail, salute.” (In older English usage I salute you means “I send you respectful greetings.”) Salūtāre is a derivative of the noun salūs (inflectional stem salūt-) “health, safety, personal safety.” Salūs in its turn is derived from the adjective salvus “safe, safe and sound” (Salvus sum in colloquial Latin means “I’m all right”).

how is salute used?

Arlington, Va.’s Boy Scout Troop 164 helped to salute the fallen from that famous Army unit, whose history spans from World War I to the war in Iraq.

Michael E. Ruane and Antonio Olivo, "On Memorial Day, honoring the fallen and those who contributed," Washington Post, May 27, 2019

DiMaggio attended the post-game ceremony not only to remember Gehrig, his former teammate, but to salute the game’s new Iron Horse.

Claire Smith, "The Game Gets Together To Salute Favorite Son," New York Times, September 7, 1995

Listen to the word of the day

salute

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Sunday, May 24, 2020

whelked

[ hwelkt, welkt ]

adjective

ridged like the shell of a snail: a whelked horn.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of whelked?

Whelked, “having ridges like the shell of a snail,” is an adjective derived from the noun whelk “a large, spiral-shelled, marine gastropod.” Whelk comes from Middle English welk, welke, wilk, wilke, from Old English weoloc, weluc, wiolc, wulloc. The modern spelling whelk, with initial wh-, first appears about 1425 in a cookbook.

how is whelked used?

As I stood here below, methought his eyes Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses, Horns whelked and waved like the enridged sea.

William Shakespeare, King Lear, 1608

Alice puckered her old whelked face into a thousand deeper wrinkles ….

George Soane, The Frolics of Puck, 1834

Listen to the word of the day

whelked

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, May 23, 2020

syncopate

[ sing-kuh-peyt, sin- ]

verb (used with object)

to place (the accents) on beats that are normally unaccented.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of syncopate?

Syncopate comes from Late Latin syncopātus, the past participle of the verb syncopāre, a derivative of the noun syncopa or syncopē, which has two senses: a grammatical sense “the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle, as never becoming ne’er,” and a medical sense “swooning, fainting away.” Syncopa and syncopē come from the Greek noun synkopḗ, which has the same meanings as the Latin, developments of its basic meaning “a cutting up into small pieces.” Syncopate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is syncopate used?

I juxtapose the rhythms, and I syncopate them to make the piece create the jazz feeling that I’d like to get.

"All Things Considered," NPR, December 1996

Finding syncopation in jazz is about as difficult as finding water in the ocean. It is the cornerstone of one of the principal sources of jazz rhythm, ragtime melody, so much so that to “rag a melody” and (a decade or so later) to “jazz up a melody” meant, in part, to syncopate it.

Barry Kernfeld, What to Listen for in Jazz, 1995

Listen to the word of the day

syncopate

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.