Word of the Day

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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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

grok

[ grok ]

verb

Slang. to understand thoroughly and intuitively.

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What is the origin of grok?

Grok was coined by Robert A. Heinlein in the science-fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

how is grok used?

Digital utopians have come in for criticism (sometimes in these pages) for failing fully to grok the messy realities of politics and the virtues of old-fashioned shoe leather in political protest …

Ben McGrath, "Nerd Parade," The New Yorker, January 30, 2012

Our gray matter is so complex, scientists lament, that it can’t quite understand itself. But if we can’t grok our own brains, maybe the machines can do it for us.

Robbie Gonzalez, "AI Just Learned How to Boost the Brain's Memory," Wired, February 6, 2018
Monday, April 23, 2018

Falstaffian

[ fawl-staf-ee-uhn ]

adjective

of, relating to, or having the qualities of Falstaff, especially his robust, bawdy humor, good-natured rascality, and brazen braggadocio: Falstaffian wit.

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What is the origin of Falstaffian?

The adjective Falstaffian derives from Falstaff, the family name of Sir John Falstaff, a fictional character in two of Shakespeare’s historical plays (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) and in the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. His death is briefly treated in Henry V. Falstaff as a character is fat, vain, boastful, cowardly, bibulous; he lives on stolen or borrowed money and consorts with petty criminals. He has always been a favorite character among playgoers. Falstaffian entered English in the early 19th century.

how is Falstaffian used?

You couldn’t see the top of the harvest table for all the dishes and wine bottles, but I could see Paul presiding at the far end: bawdy, Falstaffian.

Robert Hellenga, The Confessions of Frances Godwin, 2014

To it would his wholesome and happy mind revert, how often! to rest there for the space of a smile, at least, and sometimes long enough for a full, oceanic commotion of mirth, a perfected soul-delivery of Falstaffian laughter.

William MacDonald, "General Preface: A Discourse of Editions Past and Present," Essays of Elia, 1903

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