Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, October 08, 2021

vespertine

[ ves-per-tin, -tahyn ]

adjective

of, relating to, or occurring in the evening.

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What is the origin of vespertine?

Vespertine “of, relating to, or occurring in the evening” derives from Latin vesper “evening,” which comes from a Proto-Indo-European root with the same sense. Through this root, vesper is a cognate of the English term west, with a shift in definition because of the direction of the sunset. As we learned with the recent Word of the Day aureate, which may be related to east and Latin aurōra “dawn,” there is often an overlap between the cardinal directions and the location of the sun. Another distant relative of vesper is Ancient Greek hésperos “evening,” and its derivative Hesperus “evening star” is a nickname for the planet Venus. Vespertine was first recorded in English at the turn of the 16th century.

how is vespertine used?

A bluish evening moved in, almost as if the quietened sun wanted to aid the approaching transaction, which Schumann felt in his bones might offer an answer or at least redefine the question. An un-fog-like mist came in from the Thames and mated with the vespertine light. The millions of bricks that defined, that contained the institution tried to absorb it, and some part of them did.

Brian Catling, The Erstwhile, 2016

Up Broadway Chandler moved with the vespertine dress parade. For this evening he was an exhibit as well as a gazer. … [H]e was a true son of the great city of razzle-dazzle, and to him one evening in the limelight made up for many dark ones.

O. Henry, "Lost on Dress Parade," The Four Million, 1906

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Word of the day

Thursday, October 07, 2021

pariah

[ puh-rahy-uh ]

noun

any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided.

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What is the origin of pariah?

Pariah “a social outcast” is at its core a term for a member of a low caste in the traditional cultures of the southern Indian subcontinent. The word was adapted from Tamil paṟaiyan, literally meaning “drummer” because of that low caste’s hereditary duty. Paṟaiyan, in turn, derives from paṟai “drum.” While the majority of people from India speak an Indo-European language, such as Hindi and Bengali, the Dravidian family is predominant in southern India. Dravidian languages include Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada—each spoken by tens of millions of people. Pariah was first recorded in English in the early 1600s.

how is pariah used?

In February 1956, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted King and dozens of other boycott leaders for unlawful conspiracy. Gilmore was among those who testified at King’s trial .… The testimony made Gilmore a hero to local Blacks, [John T.] Edge says. But “in the white world she became a pariah.”

Maria Godoy, “Meet The Fearless Cook Who Secretly Fed—And Funded—The Civil Rights Movement,” NPR, January 15, 2018

Before his death, [D. H.] Lawrence was a pariah, living outside the herd and throwing bombs into it. After his death, he was reborn as a Byronic hero: W. H. Auden described the carloads of women who, having lurched across the Taos desert and up the Rocky Mountains, stood in reverence before a memorial chapel to Lawrence[.]

Frances Wilson, "The D. H. Lawrence We Forgot," The New Yorker, October 8, 2020

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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

gramarye

[ gram-uh-ree ]

noun

occult learning; magic.

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What is the origin of gramarye?

Gramarye “occult learning” is a doublet of grammar, and both derive via Old French gramaire and Latin gramatica from Ancient Greek grammatikḕ (téchnē) “grammatical (art),” from grammatikós “knowing one’s letters” and earlier grámma “letter, something drawn; small weight.” The story of how an ancient word for “letter” evolved into gramarye, grammar, and even glamour (via Scots) is full of semantic twists and turns. The sense “knowledge of letters” shifted to the broader definition of “the study of how a language’s sentences are constructed,” and this is the definition of grammar today. In the Middle Ages, because grammar was taught only among the upper classes, grammar became a symbol of general “higher” learning, which also included subjects such as astrology, magic, and the occult at the time. Glamour and gramarye are simply variants of grammar that kept this connection to magic, though glamour later shifted again to refer to enchantingly good looks. Gramarye was first recorded in English in the early 1300s.

how is gramarye used?

[W]ater turned to fire and fire to water. He levitated without a … harness. He seemed aflame, he walked through fire unscathed. He performed feats of gramarye that left his audience gawping. In short, he was astounding. A bell tolled eleven. On the eleventh stroke, the wizard vanished for the last time, leaving a rain of gold, silver, and scarlet sparks to descend slowly into the foggy Hall.

Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Ill-Made Mute, 2001

“Know’st thou what thou look’st like, Sir Conrade, at this moment? Not like the politic and valiant Marquis of Montserrat—not like him who would direct the Council of Princes, and determine the fate of empires—but like a novice, who, stumbling upon a conjuration in his master’s book of gramarye, has raised the devil when he least thought of it, and now stands terrified at the spirit which appears before him.”

Sir Walter Scott, “The Talisman,” Waverly Novels, Vol. 39, 1827

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