Word of the Day

Saturday, August 03, 2019

vinculum

[ ving-kyuh-luhm ]

noun

a bond signifying union or unity; tie.

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What is the origin of vinculum?

English vinculum comes straight from Latin vinclum, vinculum “a bond, fetter, chain, a force that unites people (as in friendship) or cements a relationship (as in marriage).” The general sense “bond of union, tie,” the original sense of the word in English, dates from the mid-17th century. The mathematical sense of vinculum “a stroke or brace drawn over a quantity consisting of several terms” dates from the early 18th century. Those with an interest in Roman antiquity or early Christianity will be familiar with the Latin phrase Sanctus Petrus in Vinculis (ad Vincula) (Italian San Pietro in Vincoli) “St. Peter in Chains,” a church in Rome originally consecrated in 439 and housing the relics of the chains that bound St. Peter in Jerusalem, as narrated in chapter 12 of the Acts of the Apostles.

how is vinculum used?

While nation clashed against nation, and tribe met tribe in bloody collision, through all ages the scholars have preserved the commune vinculum, and have joined hands in a humane and cosmopolitan union.

, "The London Saturday Review," New York Times, October 14, 1861

… his insistence upon the need to create a vinculum among men and to live in hope arises not from a blindness to human conflict but precisely from a very clear awareness of this very conflict.

Clyde Pax, An Existential Approach to God: A Study of Gabriel Marcel, 1972
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Friday, August 02, 2019

slake

[ sleyk ]

verb (used with object)

to lessen or allay (thirst, desire, wrath, etc.) by satisfying.

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What is the origin of slake?

Slake means “to lessen or allay something by satisfying it.” While we can slake our curiosity, desire, hunger, or anger, we most commonly say we slake our thirst. Slake comes from Middle English slaken “to mitigate, allay, moderate, lessen one’s efforts,” from Old English slacian “to slacken.” Old English slacian is a verb based off the adjective sleac, slæc, variously meaning “loose, lazy, careless, sluggish, lax (of conduct),” which by Middle English (as slac, slak) narrowed to the sense of “loose, not tight,” the principal sense of its modern form, slack, today. Old English sleac (via Germanic slak-) derives from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)lēg-, which, in its Latin variants, ultimately yielded such English words as languid,  languish, lax, lease, release, and relax. Once again, etymology offers an important life lesson: it’s best not to languish, so slake your thirst—with a beverage of your choice—and relax, but don’t be too lax about it and slack off.

how is slake used?

The desperate elephants dig a well in order to slake the thirst of their little calf.

Sonia Saraiya, "Staggering, Marvelous Our Planet Is the Nature Show We've Been Waiting For," Vanity Fair, April 9, 2019

He could not slake his thirst; he kept going into the kitchen and ladling more water out of the bucket that stood on a bench under the window facing the large moonlit yard.

Péter Nádas, Parallel Stories, translated by Imre Goldstein, 2011
Thursday, August 01, 2019

august

[ aw-guhst ]

adjective

inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic: an august performance of a religious drama.

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What is the origin of august?

The English adjective august ultimately derives from the Latin adjective augustus, an uncommon, quasi-religious adjective originally meaning “venerable, solemn,” first used by the Roman poet and playwright Ennius (239-169 b.c.). Augustus also means “majestic (in appearance), dignified,” as used in authors who lived before the emperor Augustus or were contemporary with him.

The etymology of augustus is unclear: it may be related to the verb augēre “to increase, enlarge, grow,” or it may be related to the noun augur, a noun of unknown etymology meaning “a Roman official who observes the flight of birds and interprets the omens.” Finally, it may be related to auspex, a synonym of augur but with an excellent etymology: avis “bird” and –spex “watcher,” from the verb specere “to observe.” It is also unclear why Octavian (the English short form of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus), the sole head of the Roman state after the Battle of Actium (31 b.c.), selected the old, obscure title Augustus for himself. Octavian had also styled himself Rōmulus, the legendary founder and first king of Rome, and Octavian, perhaps wishing to avoid associations with the monarchy, settled upon Augustus.

On January 16, 27 b.c., the Senate bestowed upon Octavian the titles Augustus and Princeps (Civītātis) “First Citizen (of the State), First Man (of the State),” and Augustus became the emperor’s official title. After Augustus’s time, the title Augustus was applied to succeeding emperors; the feminine title Augusta was given to the emperor’s wife (and occasionally to other close female relatives, such as a mother, grandmother, sister, or daughter).

August entered English in the late 16th century.

how is august used?

We have before observed, that there is generally in nature something more grand and august than what we meet with in the curiosities of art.

Joseph Addison, "No. 414, Paper IV: On the Pleasures of the Imagination," The Spectator, June 25, 1712

At that time, a debate was raging in European scientific circles, one that was roiling the august halls of the French Academy of Sciences.

Robert Whitaker, The Mapmaker's Wife, 2004

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