Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, July 12, 2021

velleity

[ vuh-lee-i-tee ]

noun

a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.

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What is the origin of velleity?

Just the mere sound of velleity makes one loath to leave one’s hammock. A velleity is a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it, too weak even to be a desire, a perfect word for a July afternoon. Velleity comes from Medieval Latin velleitās (inflectional stem velleitāt-), a noun made up of the Latin verb velle “to be willing, want to” (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English will) and the abstract noun suffix –itās, which via Old French –ité becomes the naturalized English suffix –ity. The odd thing about velleity is that its earlier occurrences, from the first half of the 17th century through the mid-18th, are in theological controversies, gradually yielding to philosophical arguments during the early 18th. Velleity entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is velleity used?

Kim felt a desire to sail the little boat. It was one of those desires doomed to remain a velleity.

Monica Quill, And Then There Was Nun, 1984

To want to in that way is to have a desire without attaching it to any foreseeable action—desire without hope, I guess it is. I believe the word for that sort of desire is velleity.

Sam Savage, Glass, 2011

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Word of the day

Sunday, July 11, 2021

gormless

[ gawrm-lis ]

adjective

lacking in vitality or intelligence; stupid, dull, or clumsy.

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What is the origin of gormless?

The British adjective gormless, “lacking in vitality or intelligence; stupid, dull, or clumsy,” with the variant spellings gaumless and gawm(b)less, is probably a respelling of gaumless by r-less speakers. Gaumless comes from the Northern English and Scots noun gaum “heed, attention,” from Old Norse gaumr, with the same meaning. Gormless entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is gormless used?

[Matilda’s] mind was so nimble and she was so quick to learn that her ability should have been obvious even to the most half-witted of parents. But Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood were both so gormless and so wrapped up in their own silly little lives that they failed to notice anything unusual about their daughter.

Roald Dahl, Matilda, 1988

Lockdown is lifting—hooray. But oh, no. Back come the phombies, and more gormless than ever. You remember the phone zombies. Maybe you call them wexters, people who walk and text simultaneously, oblivious to traffic or the old ladies they knock into bus shelters because they must reply to “U out l8er?” right here, right now.

Carol Midgley, "The phone zombies are back, dafter than ever," The Times, April 17, 2021

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Word of the day

Saturday, July 10, 2021

droke

[ drohk ]

noun

a valley with steeply sloping sides.

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What is the origin of droke?

The rare noun droke has two meanings: “a valley with steeply sloping sides” and “a thicket of small trees or bushes.” Droke is restricted pretty much to Canada—the Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) and the Northwest Territories. Droke has no established etymology; but the dialects of the West Country, a loosely defined area of southwest England comprising Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset (at least), record the nouns drock “a wooden part of a plow” and droke “a furrow or ditch; an underground watercourse.” Droke entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is droke used?

We sometimes went berry picking in nearby areas, but we were cautioned not to wander too far because in certain drokes, small valleys, lived fairies who might spirit us away.

"Johnny Miller: A dance or ring game from Brigus, 1971," manuscript collection, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive

There’s more, but they’re not all worth a mention. Except for me and Mom over in Frogmarsh. And Jas Kelly, he’s up the droke a piece.

Michael Winter, The Big Why, 2004

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