Start each day with the Word of the Day in your inbox!

Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ yoo-ree-uhs ] [ yʊˈri əs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the sacred asp as represented upon the headdress of divinities and royal personages of ancient Egypt, usually directly over the forehead, as an emblem of supreme power.

learn about the english language

More about uraeus

Uraeus, “the sacred asp on ancient Egyptian headdresses,” comes from Late Greek ouraîos, of the same meaning. This ouraîos appears identical to Ancient Greek ouraîos, “of the tail,” but the two likely do not share a deeper origin; while ouraîos, “of the tail,” comes from ourá, “tail,” and is the source of the English combining form uro- (not to be confused with oûron, “urine,” the source of a different uro-), ouraîos, “uraeus,” comes from Egyptian y’rt, “rearing cobra,” which is also transliterated variously as iaret or jꜥrt. Though uraeuses is the standard plural, the alternative uraei appears in some texts. Uraeus was first recorded in English circa 1830.

how is uraeus used?

The uraeus had wide associations, of which one of the most basic was with the cobra goddess Wadjyt …. In addition, the uraeus was the most characteristic mark of the king. Thus the use of the uraeus by the queen may have carried a range of meanings.

Gay Robins, Women in Ancient Egypt, 1993

In the dim light of the inner temple, we received the symbols of the Pharaoh: the golden crook, the flail, the scepter, robes of linen from Lower Egypt, and ceremonial leather garments. Upon our heads were placed the uraeus of pure gold, Egypt’s guardian serpent.

Margaret George, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, 1997
quiz icon
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
arrows pointing up and down
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day


[ kahn-trip ] [ ˈkɑn trɪp ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a magic spell; trick by sorcery.

learn about the english language

More about cantrip

Cantrip, “a magic spell,” may not be related to the English verbs can and trip, but that doesn’t mean that its origin is any clearer. One possibility is that cantrip is a variant of Old English calcatrippe, “caltrop,” with the shift from l to n resulting from dissimilation, as we learned about from ensorcell. Calcatrippe is equivalent to Latin calx, “spur, heel” (as in calcaneus, a bone of the heel), plus Old English træppe, “step” (compare modern English trap). Another possibility is that the can- element comes from Latin cantāre, “to sing,” (as in enchant, incantation, and past Word of the Day descant), while -trip element is related not to trap but rather to rope because ropelike objects are a common element in sorcery. Cantrip was first recorded in English in the 1710s.

how is cantrip used?

And that old witch, Eliza—I little guessed she’d play this cantrip on me: But what a jest—Jerusalem, what a jest!

Wilfrid Gibson, Krindlesyke, 1922

I murmured a cantrip—a quick, common form of magic—and a ball of butterscotch light manifested above my head. I sent it up a flight of rickety stairs…

K. D. Edwards, The Hanged Man, 2019
Word of the Day Calendar

Word of the day


[ en-sawr-suhl ] [ ɛnˈsɔr səl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used with object)

to bewitch.

learn about the english language

More about ensorcell

Ensorcell, “to bewitch,” comes from Middle French ensorceler, of the same meaning, which is a dissimilated variant of ensorcerer. Dissimilation refers to when one of two identical sounds in a word happens to change, such as how colonel is pronounced “kur-nl” in US English and February often becomes “feb-yoo-er-ee”; without dissimilation, the two l’s in colonel and the two r’s in February would be preserved in speech. Learn more about dissimilation from the Word of the Day porphyry. Ensorcerer ultimately derives from Latin sors (stem sort-), “lot, fate.” Another descendant of sors today is French sortir, “to exit,” which comes via Latin sortīrī, “to cast lots,” perhaps with the influence of surgere (stem surrēct-), “to spring up, arise, stand up.” Ensorcell was first recorded in English circa 1540.

how is ensorcell used?

He was a hoarder who had all the most beautiful crystal and linens—not to mention Truman Capote’s old sofa—but he never entertained. He sometimes wondered why he could ensorcell so many with his wit and style but not have a lover.

Maureen Dowd, “Farewell, André the Glorious,” The New York Times, January 22, 2022
[Shopping] encompasses exploration and frivolity, not just necessity. It can be immersive, too. While computer screens can bewitch the eye, a good shop has four more senses to ensorcell.

“The emporium strikes back,” The Economist, Jul 13, 2013
Word of the Day Calendar
Word of the Day Calendar