Word of the Day

Friday, April 12, 2019

unicorn

[ yoo-ni-kawrn ]

noun

a person or thing that is rare and highly valued, or is a hypothetical ideal.

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What is the origin of unicorn?

Unicorn comes from Old French unicorne, from the Latin adjective ūnicornis “one-horned,” which is used as a noun possibly referring to the rhinoceros in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible as edited or translated by St. Jerome (c347–420). Ūnicornis is a loan translation from the Greek noun and adjective monókerōs “single-horned” (referring to a wild ox or a unicorn), a word that occurs in the book of Psalms in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures). Ūnicornis is a compound of ūni-, the stem of ūnus “one,” and cornū “horn” and the adjective suffix –is. Unicorn entered English in the 13th century.

how is unicorn used?

Are such politically star-crossed lovers as Mary Matalin and James Carville a relationship unicorn?

Jen Doll, "The Trouble with Interpolitical Dating Is Just the Trouble with Dating," The Atlantic (Wire), October 31, 2012

Big N.B.A. trades are always followed by a scramble to label players and teams as winners and losers, but every so often a unicorn of a deal comes together, and everyone involved seems to benefit.

Benjamin Hoffman, "In the Carmelo Anthony Trade, Everyone Wins," New York Times, July 19, 2018
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

alacrity

[ uh-lak-ri-tee ]

noun

cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness: We accepted the invitation with alacrity.

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What is the origin of alacrity?

Alacrity comes from Middle French alacrite from Latin alacritāt-, the stem of alacritās “liveliness, zeal, enthusiasm.” Alacritās is a derivative noun of the adjective alacer “nimble, brisk, enthusiastic, keen.” Latin alacer develops into Italian allegro and Spanish alegre “cheerful, happy.” Alacrity entered English in the 15th century.

how is alacrity used?

Mrs Tulliver was an amiable fish of this kind, and, after running her head against the same resisting medium for fourteen years, would go at it again to-day with undulled alacrity.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

The president has grumbled for months about what he views as Nielsen’s lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.

Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker, "Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say," Washington Post, November 12, 2018
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

flimflam

[ flim-flam ]

verb

to trick, deceive, swindle, or cheat: A fortuneteller flimflammed her out of her savings.

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What is the origin of flimflam?

Flimflam “to trick, deceive, swindle,” shows the same common vowel alteration in a reduplicated word as in mishmash or pitterpatter. Flimflam may possibly be based on a Scandinavian word, e.g., Old Norse flim “a lampoon, mockery.” Flimflam entered English in the 16th century as a noun meaning “idle talk, nonsense; a cheap deception.” The verb sense “to cheat, swindle,” originally an Americanism, arose in the late 19th century.

how is flimflam used?

Slamming my fist on my writing desk I cursed the day a year before that I’d allowed by friend Eddy Dorobek to flimflam me into buying a used laptop from him and giving up my dead father’s rickety old Underwood portable.

Dan Fante,  86'd, 2009

Col. Leonard was there and he knows how they tried to flimflam us.

Charlie Mann, "Evening Session: January 21, 1913," Annual Report of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, 1913

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