• Word of the day
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    Friday, September 27, 2019

    viridity

    noun [vuh-rid-i-tee]
    youth; innocence; inexperience.
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    What is the origin of viridity?

    English viridity “greenness (as of vegetation); youth and inexperience,” comes via Old French viridité “greenness,” from Latin viriditās (stem viriditāt-) “greenness (as of vegetation); youth and inexperience” (a sense lacking in the French), a derivative of the adjective viridis “green, abounding in vegetation, unripe (vegetables and cereals), clear, fresh (of the air after rain).” Viridity entered English in the 15th century.

    How is viridity used?

    What intellectual viridity that exemplary creature possesses! Theodore Edward Hook, "Passion and Principle," Sayings and Doings, Vol. 2, 1825

    I preface the incident thus abruptly, from a desire to extenuate in some measure at the outset my dear parent's viridity and trustfulness in the matter .... "Watching the Clock," Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts, February 13, 1858

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, September 26, 2019

    simper

    verb (used without object) [sim-per]
    to smile in a silly, self-conscious way.
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    What is the origin of simper?

    The verb simper has an uncertain etymology. It may be related to the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Swiss dialect adjective semper “affected, coy,” German zimpfer “dainty, affected,” and to Middle Dutch zimperlijk “affected, coy.” Further etymology is unknown. Simper entered English in the 16th century.

    How is simper used?

    But still she kept on singing, with twisted lips that strove to simper .... Ottilie A. Liljencrantz, The Ward of King Canute, 1903

    I attended private parties in sumptuous evening dress, simpered and aired my graces like a born beau, and polked and schottisched with a step peculiar to myself—and the kangaroo. Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 25, 2019

    isobar

    noun [ahy-suh-bahr]
    a line drawn on a weather map or chart that connects points at which the barometric pressure is the same.
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    What is the origin of isobar?

    You may see an isobar on your TV screen or hear the word on your local weather channel and already know or deduce that an isobar is "a line drawn on a weather map connecting points where the barometric pressure is the same." The prefix iso- is from the Greek combining form iso- “equal,” from the adjective ísos “equal (in number, size, weight, stature, etc.).” It is used mostly in technical terms, as in another meteorological term isotherm “a line on a weather map connecting points having equal temperature,” or in the geometric term isosceles, “(of a triangle) having two sides equal.” The suffix -bar is interesting: it is a derivative of the Greek noun báros, “weight, heavy weight, heaviness, oppressiveness.” Báros is related to the adjective barýs “heavy (in weight), low (in tone),” as in English baritone. Isobar entered English in the 19th century.

    How is isobar used?

    These are lines of equal pressure known as isobars, which reveal wind speed and direction and allow forecasters to spot features such as highs, lows, troughs and ridges that are associated with particular types of weather. Kirsty McCabe, "Weather charts, fronts and isobars," Weather.com, June 5, 2014

    The isobars (lines of equal pressure) of a weather chart are much like the contour lines of a topo map. Bill Biewenga, "An Onboard Forecaster's Bag of Tricks," Cruising World, November 1995

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, September 24, 2019

    outré

    adjective [oo-trey]
    passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre.
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    What is the origin of outré?

    Outré may bring smiles of recognition to fans of the American writer of horror stories H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), it and nefandous being particular favorites of his. The very French-looking outré, “excessive, extreme, exaggerated,” is indeed a past participle of the French verb outrer “to push or go beyond the limits.” Outrer is a derivative of Old French oultre, ultimately from the Latin preposition and adverb ultrā “on the far side of, beyond.” Outré is also the root of Old French and English outrage, “an act of wanton cruelty.” Students of modern European history will be familiar with the phrase attaque à outrance “an attack to the bitter end, to death,” the ruinous, catastrophic French military policy of World War I. Outré entered English in the 18th century.

    How is outré used?

    A kind of growing horror, of outré and morbid cast, seemed to possess him. H. P. Lovecraft, "Cool Air," Tales of Magic and Mystery, March 1928

    Since the dawn of the millennium, the outré has become ordinary in opera. Elisa Mala, "Opera Inspiration: Books, Film—Even TV Talk Shows," Newsweek, August 1, 2008

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, September 23, 2019

    gossamer

    noun [gos-uh-mer]
    a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn.
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    What is the origin of gossamer?

    The etymology of English gossamer is a little clearer in the alternative Middle English spellings gossomer, gosesomer, gossummer “goose summer,” that is, a late, mild fall when roast goose was a favorite dish (German has the noun Gänsemonat “November,” literally “goose month”). But the etymology of gossamer does not fit its meaning, “a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in the fall.” It may be that the cobwebs resembled goose down, or that the cobwebs appeared in “goose summer,” and the name of the season was transferred to the spider webs. Gossamer entered English in the 14th century.

    How is gossamer used?

    Small, viewless aeronaut, that by the line / Of Gossamer suspended, in mid air / Float'st on a sun beam ... Charlotte Smith, "To the insect of the gossamer," Conversations Introducing Poetry, 1804

    When the early morning sun glints off droplets of dew on the gossamer strands of a spider web, it creates a visual masterpiece. Carrie Arnold, "Spiders Listen to Their Webs," National Geographic, June 5, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, September 22, 2019

    Roscian

    adjective [rosh-ee-uhn, rosh-uhn]
    of, relating to, or involving acting.
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    What is the origin of Roscian?

    The English adjective Roscian comes straight from the Latin proper adjective Rosciānus, coined by and used exclusively by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 b.c.) in honor of his older contemporary, mentor, friend, and client, the actor Quintus Roscius Gallus (ca. 126–62 b.c.). Acting was not a respected profession in Rome, but Roscius dignified it and devoted himself to elocution, gesture, and characterization. The Roman general, reactionary politician, and dictator Sulla (138–79 b.c.) even presented Roscius with a gold ring, a symbol of equestrian rank. Roscius instructed the young Cicero in elocution and delivery; Cicero successfully pleaded Roscius’ cause in a civil suit around 76 b.c. (Cicero’s speech Pro Quinto Roscio Comoedo survives); he and Roscius used to engage in friendly contests to see who could express emotion and character better, the actor or the orator. Roscian entered English in the early 17th century.

    How is Roscian used?

    Because you grace the roscian sphere, / As great in Chalkstone as in Lear .... Samuel Boyce, "The Animal Comedians, A Fable," Poems on Several Occasions, 1757

    I ... found it to be a crumpled play-bill of a small metropolitan theatre, announcing the first appearance, in that very week, of "the celebrated Provincial Amateur of Roscian renown, whose unique performance in the highest tragic walk of our National Bard has lately occasioned so great a sensation in local dramatic circles." Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 21, 2019

    prévenance

    noun [prey-vuh-nahns] French.
    special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.
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    What is the origin of prévenance?

    Every breakroom in every restaurant in the U.S. should have prominently displayed a great big poster in bold sans serif caps: “prévenance, special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.” Prévenance is a French noun meaning “thoughtfulness." Prévenance is a derivative of the verb prévenir, one of whose meanings is “to anticipate.” Prévenir comes from Latin praevenīre "to come before, anticipate," a compound of the preposition and prefix prae, prae- “before, in advance” and venīre “to come.” Praevenīre does mean “to anticipate,” but in the sense “to forestall, prevent.” Prévenance entered English in the 18th century.

    How is prévenance used?

    A much older and far wiser woman would have been persuaded to believe, as she believed, that in all this delicate prévenance for her pleasures and her preferences the tenderest love had spoken. Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé), Princess Napraxine, 1884

    My father I fear, was not remarkable in general for his tenderness or his prévenance for the poor girl whom fortune had given him to protect; but from time to time he would wake up to a downright sense of kinship and duty .... Henry James, "Gabrielle de Bergerac," 1869

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