Word of the Day

Friday, June 07, 2019

virtuoso

[ vur-choo-oh-soh ]

noun

a person who excels in musical technique or execution.

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What is the origin of virtuoso?

We might refer to a gifted violinist, for instance, as a virtuoso. First recorded in English in the early 1600s with a now-obsolete sense of “learned person,” virtuoso is borrowed from Italian virtuoso “a person with exceptional skill in the arts or sciences,” in Italian used especially of musicians by the latter part of the 1500s. Italian virtuoso is a noun form of the adjective virtuoso “skilled, virtuous.” English virtuous (via Anglo-French) and virtuoso are indeed related. Both ultimately derive from Late Latin virtuōsus, which joins the Latin adjective-forming suffix –ōsus “full of” with Latin virtūs (inflectional stem virtūt-). Latin virtūs means “manliness, strength, courage.” Apparently due to associations with honor and bravery (as of soldiers), the meaning of Latin virtūs was extended to “moral excellence,” hence English virtue. The root of virtūs is vir “man,” which yields virile “manly” and virago, which evolved from “heroic woman, female warrior” to the unsavory “scolding woman, shrew.” The Proto-Indo-European root wi-ro-, the source of Latin vir, resulted in Old English wer “man,” which survives in werewolf, literally “man-wolf,” a virtuosic vocalist, perhaps, in its own howling way.

how is virtuoso used?

What was it like to be the first pop virtuoso of the recorded era—the man whose earliest releases set the tune for America’s love affair with modern black music, and who went on to become one of history’s most famous entertainers?

Giovanni Russonello, "Louis Armstrong's Life in Letters, Music and Art," New York Times, November 16, 2018

… he is a literary virtuoso who understands the charisma needed to make songs you can play in a club.

Doreen St. Félix, "What Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Means for Hip-Hop," The New Yorker, April 17, 2018
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Thursday, June 06, 2019

bastion

[ bas-chuhn, -tee-uhn ]

noun

anything seen as preserving or protecting some quality, condition, etc.: a bastion of solitude.

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What is the origin of bastion?

The English noun bastion still looks French. It comes from Middle French, from Upper Italian bastione “rampart, bulwark, bastion,” an augmentative noun formed from bastita “fortified,” from the verb bastire “to build,” from Medieval Latin bastīre, possibly of Germanic origin and akin to bastille “tower, small fortress, bastion.” Bastion entered English in the late 16th century.

how is bastion used?

… Notre Dame went from being a football school to being not just academically respected but a bastion of intellectual freedom and ideological pluralism ….

Ann Hornaday, "The timely documentary 'Hesburgh' looks back fondly on a great conciliator," Washington Post, May 1, 2019

… he’d seen it as a bastion of the familiar and orderly, where negotiations took place the way they were supposed to, in high-backed chairs, with checkbooks and contracts and balance sheets.

T. C. Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain, 1995
Wednesday, June 05, 2019

appellative

[ uh-pel-uh-tiv ]

noun

a descriptive name or designation, as Bald in Charles the Bald.

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What is the origin of appellative?

Appellative comes from the Late Latin grammatical term appellātīvus “pertaining to a common noun” and nōmen appellātīvum “a common noun” (in contrast to nōmen proprium “a proper noun”). Appellātīvus is a derivative of the verb appellāre “to speak to, address, call upon, invoke.” Appellative in the sense “descriptive name,” as Great in Alfred the Great, is a development in English dating from the first half of the 17th century. Appellative in its original Latin sense entered English in the early 16th century.

how is appellative used?

In connection with this appellative of “Whalebone whales,” it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature may be convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales, yet it is in vain to attempt a clear classification of the leviathan …

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

In addition too to this almost Cimmerian gloom was the agrément of a penetrating rain, known perhaps to some of my readers by the gentle appellative of a Scotch mist …

"Goodwood Races", The Sporting Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 144, September 1829

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