Word of the Day

Sunday, August 11, 2019

utopian

[ yoo-toh-pee-uhn ]

adjective

founded upon or involving idealized perfection.

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What is the origin of utopian?

The English adjective and noun utopian comes from New Latin Ūtopiānus, an adjective derived from the noun Ūtopia, a quasi-Greek noun meaning “no place,” formed from the negative adverb and particle ou “not” (“quasi-Greek” because in Greek ou cannot be used as a prefix for nouns), top-, the stem of the noun tópos “a place,” and the noun suffix –ia (the adjective suffix –ānus is purely Latin). Ūtopia is a coinage of Sir Thomas More’s in his 1516 satire Dē optimō reīpublicae statū dēque novā insulā Ūtopiā (“Concerning the Best State of a Republic [Commonwealth] and Concerning the New Island Utopia”). In English, but not in other languages, the first syllable of Ūtopia rhymes with the prefix eu– (as in Euclid or Eucharist); thus in English there is a confusion between Ūtopia “no place” and Eutopia “good place, a place of happiness and felicity.”

how is utopian used?

For its proponents, it offered a utopian vision of an art world in which color and class barriers were finally dismantled.

Holland Cotter, "Beyond Multiculturalism, Freedom?" New York Times, July 29, 2001

At a time of such social, political and ecological upheaval, it’s natural to dream of a utopian world in which these problems are no more—in fact, people have been doing it for centuries.

Heather Alberro, "Utopia isn't just idealistic fantasy—it inspires people to change the world," The Conversation, June 21, 2019
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Saturday, August 10, 2019

shivaree

[ shiv-uh-ree ]

noun

a mock serenade with kettles, pans, horns, and other noisemakers given for a newly married couple; charivari.

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What is the origin of shivaree?

The etymology of shivaree is obscure. Most authorities consider it to be a Mississippi Valley French alteration (or a vulgar corruption) of French charivari, a noun of obscure origin, said to be from Late Latin carībaria “headache,” from Greek karēbaría, equivalent to karē-, a combining form of kárā, kárē “head,” and the noun suffix –baría “heaviness” (from barýs “heavy” and the abstract noun suffix –ía). Supposedly such a racket would give someone a headache.

Other authorities claim that shivaree comes from French chez vous “at your home” and list many variants in spelling (and presumably in pronunciation): chevaux, cheveaux, chev-ho, chivoo, shavoo, sheave-o, sheavo, sheevo, shevoo, shivaree, shivaroo, shiveree, shiverree, shivoe.

Vulgar or not, shivaree was noble enough for Mark Twain to use it (in that spelling) in A Tramp Abroad (1880): “… she turned on all the horrors of the ‘Battle of Prague,’ that venerable shivaree, and waded chin deep in the blood of the slain.” Charivari entered English in the first half of the 19th century. Shivaree seems to have entered English in 1875.

how is shivaree used?

“Let’s give the governor and his lady a real shivaree!” Nearly a hundred drunks assembled outside the tavern with horns and drums and washboards and bugles and tin pots.

James A. Michener, Texas, 1985

Encouraging cake mashing, like a host of other awful wedding customs, from shivaree (a noisy mock serenade on the wedding night) to tying a tin can to the newlyweds’ getaway car, is one last chance for the couple’s friends to indulge in the game of “X and Y, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

Charles Perry, "Cake Smashing," Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1997
Friday, August 09, 2019

fascicle

[ fas-i-kuhl ]

noun

a section of a book or set of books being published in installments as separate pamphlets or volumes.

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What is the origin of fascicle?

The noun fascicle “a bunch, bundle” has always been a technical term, restricted to botany and anatomy. Even in its publishing sense, “a section of a book or set of books published in installments as separate pamphlets or volumes,” fascicle is a technical term. Fascicle comes from Latin fasciculus (also the source of fascicule) “a small bundle, packet, parcel,” a diminutive of the noun fascis “a bundle (e.g., of sticks, wood, books). The fascēs, the plural of fascis, were the bundle of rods about five feet long, bound by red leather bands around an ax that in Republican times was used as an instrument of execution. The fascēs were the primary visible symbol of a higher Roman magistrate’s power and authority. They were carried by lictors: twelve fascēs for consuls and proconsuls (and for kings in the regal period); six fascēs for praetors and Masters of the Horse; and twenty-four fascēs for dictators. Fascis or fascēs becomes fascio in Italian, meaning “bundle of sticks.” The Roman fascēs were adopted as the symbol of the Partito Nazionale Fascista (“National Fascist Party”) organized by Benito Mussolini in 1919, the same year as the appearance of the English noun fascists. Fascicle entered English in the 17th century.

how is fascicle used?

… she gathered her poems into forty homemade books, known as “fascicles,” by folding single sheets of blank paper in half to form four consecutive pages ….

Dan Chiasson, "Emily Dickinson's Singular Scrap Poetry," The New Yorker, November 27, 2016

… he knew what he sought, and found exactly that, the fascicles dwindling like melting ice-shards, verso words showing through ….

William T. Vollmann, "The Cemetery of the World," Last Stories and Other Stories, 2014

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