Word of the Day

Thursday, September 03, 2020

verisimilitude

[ ver-uh-si-mil-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability: The play lacked verisimilitude.

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What is the origin of verisimilitude?

Verisimilitude, “the appearance or semblance of truth; probability,” comes via French similitude from Latin vērīsimilitūdō (also written as an open compound vērī similitūdō), an uncommon noun meaning “probability, plausibility,” literally “resemblance to the truth.” Similitūdō is a derivative of the adjective similis “like, resembling, similar,” which governs the genitive case. Vērī is the genitive singular of vērum, a noun use of the neuter gender of the adjective vērus “true, real.” Vera, the female personal name, is the feminine singular of vērus and is related to the Slavic (Russian) female name Vera, which is also used as a common noun (vera) meaning “faith, good faith, trust.” The Latin and Slavic forms come from a Proto-Indo-European root wer-, werǝ-, wēr– “true, trustworthy.” In Germanic wērā became Vār in Old Norse, the goddess of faithful oaths. Verisimilitude entered English in the early 17th century.

how is verisimilitude used?

Every beast you see here, from elephant to elephant shrew, and every square inch of habitat, from desert sand to belching mud, is computer-created, and one can but marvel at the verisimilitude.

Anthony Lane, "Does 'The Lion King' Need C.G.I.?" The New Yorker, July 19, 2019

According to O’Brien, artificial intelligence will soon push the verisimilitude of computer-generated fake images and videos beyond what even skilled human editors can produce.

Emma Grey Ellis, "How to Spot Phony Images and Online Propaganda," Wired, June 17, 2020

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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

legerity

[ luh-jer-i-tee ]

noun

physical or mental quickness; nimbleness; agility.

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What is the origin of legerity?

Legerity, “mental or physical agility,” comes from Middle French legereté “lightness, thoughtlessness,” a derivative of leger, liger “light (in weight).” Leger is a regular French phonological development of Vulgar Latin leviārius “light (in weight),” equivalent to Latin levis. The original and now obsolete English meaning of legerity was “lack of seriousness, frivolity” (its French sense). The current sense “nimbleness, quickness” dates from the end of the 16th century.

how is legerity used?

Alighting with the legerity of a cat, he swerved leftward in the recoil, and was off, like a streak of mulberry-coloured lightning, down the High.

Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson, 1911

With such legerity of mind, how could I not study physics?

Jordana Jakubovic, "Physics to Go, and Hold the Math," New York Times, March 21, 2004

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Tuesday, September 01, 2020

scofflaw

[ skawf-law, skof- ]

noun

a person who flouts rules, conventions, or accepted practices.

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What is the origin of scofflaw?

Scofflaw, a transparent compound of the verb scoff “to deride, mock” and the noun law, was originally an Americanism coined during Prohibition. In 1923 Delcevare King, a wealthy prohibitionist from Quincy, Massachusetts, offered $200 in a contest for a word that best described “a lawless drinker of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor.” On January 15, 1924, the Boston Herald declared scofflaw the winner. Scofflaw had been submitted by Henry Dale and Kate Butler, two of the 25,000 contestants, who shared the prize.

how is scofflaw used?

Even then, he had a reputation as a scofflaw. He had exaggerated his war record. He first ran for Senate (and lost) while he was still in uniform, which was against Army regulations, and he ran his second Senate campaign while he was a sitting judge, a violation of his oath.

Louis Menand, "Joseph McCarthy and the Force of Political Falsehoods," The New Yorker, July 27, 2020

Larry David identified this breed of scofflaw [the two-space parker] as the “pig parker.”

Ray Gustini, "Pig Parkers, Parrot Talk, and Dustin Hoffman Heroics," The Atlantic, May 8, 2012

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