Word of the Day

Word of the day


[ vol-tey-ik, vohl- ] [ vɒlˈteɪ ɪk, voʊl- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


noting or pertaining to electricity or electric currents, especially when produced by chemical action, as in a cell; galvanic.

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More about voltaic

Voltaic “pertaining to electric currents” is the namesake of Alessandro Volta (1745–1827), an Italian physicist who experimented with electricity and is credited with inventing the battery. The Italian surname Volta has multiple possible origins, though many of the most popular hypotheses all circle back to the noun volta “turn; vault.” The noun volta ultimately comes from the Latin verb volvere “to roll, wrap,” which is the source of the elements containing vol- in evolution, involve, revolt, and volume. Another option is that the surname Volta derives from volpe “fox,” from Latin vulpēs. Voltaic was first recorded in English circa 1810.

how is voltaic used?

The gas battery’s real history begins in October 1842, when Grove, newly appointed professor of experimental philosophy at the London Institution, penned a brief note …. “I have just completed a curious voltaic pile which I think you would like to see,” he wrote …. Grove had invented a battery which turned hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water.

Iwan Morus, “How a Victorian lawyer from Wales invented the hydrogen fuel cell,” Conversation, October 27, 2017

What really powers a battery is the difference in electronegativity between the materials its electrodes are made of. Take the voltaic pile, for example, the first battery in history, invented around 1800 by Alessandro Volta. The pile’s negative electrode is made of zinc (30) and the positive electrode is made of copper (29). Copper is slightly more electronegative than zinc. Thus, if you put the two metals next to each other (or if you connect them by a wire), some electrons will move from the zinc to the copper.

Davide Castelvecchi, “The Periodic Table, and Why Batteries Don't Work the Way You Think,” Scientific American, October 13, 2011
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[ mon-soon ] [ mɒnˈsun ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the season during which the southwest wind blows, commonly marked by heavy rains; rainy season.

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More about monsoon

Monsoon “rainy season” is a borrowing by way of obsolete Dutch monssoen from Portuguese monção (earlier moução), and prior to Portuguese, the term arose as Arabic mawsim “season.” Mawsim is a noun formed from the verb wasama “to mark,” which comes from an ancient Semitic root meaning “to become fitting.” This root also appears in Sivan, a month of the Jewish calendar that tends to overlap with May and June. Sivan (Hebrew sīwān) is adapted from the Akkadian word for “season,” so the similarity between Sivan and English season is merely a happy coincidence. Monsoon was first recorded in English circa 1580.

how is monsoon used?

If you’ve never lived in or visited the U.S. Southwest, you might picture it as a desert that is always hot and dry. But this region experiences a monsoon in the late summer that produces thunderstorms and severe weather, much like India’s famous summer deluges …. This year’s monsoon is the third-wettest ever in Tucson, with 12.80 inches (325 millimeters) of rain.

Diana Zamora-Reyes and Christopher L. Castro, “Monsoons make deserts bloom in the US Southwest, but climate change is making these summer rainfalls more extreme and erratic,” Conversation, October 1, 2021

The Indian monsoon, a seasonal event that brings key moisture to an agricultural region where about 20 percent of the world’s population resides, is getting more extreme, researchers report …. The frequency and intensity of extreme events within the monsoon are important, as periods of intense rainfall can lead to floods, while periods of extreme dryness can lead to crop failures, particularly at certain growth states when crops are particularly vulnerable.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn, “Indian Monsoons Are Becoming More Extreme,” Scientific American, April 29, 2014
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Word of the day

mano a mano

[ mah-noh uh mah-noh ] [ ˈmɑ noʊ ə ˈmɑ noʊ ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a direct confrontation or conflict; head-on competition; duel.

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More about mano a mano

Mano a mano “a direct confrontation” is a loanword from Spanish, in which it means “hand to hand”—not “man to man,” per the common misconception. Spanish mano “hand” comes from Latin manus “hand,” which is also the source of a wide variety of English words, from manicure (“hand care”) and manuscript (“handwritten”) to maintain (“to hold with the hand”) and both maneuver and manure (“to work by hand”). Latin manus and Spanish mano are grammatically feminine nouns with masculine endings. This means that a “bad hand” in Latin is a manus mala (Spanish mano mala), with feminine mala agreeing only in grammatical gender with manus. In contrast, to use the masculine Latin noun lupus “wolf,” a “bad wolf” is a lupus malus (Spanish lobo malo), with masculine malus agreeing in gender and spelling with lupus. Mano a mano was first recorded in English in the early 1950s.

how is mano a mano used?

Let’s be clear, though: an air fryer would be flattened in a mano-a-mano with a real Fryalator and its big tub of hot oil. Few of us deep fry at home, though, as it involves that huge amount of hot oil which you have to deal with after dinner. So does air frying bring us close enough to the ideal to take the plunge?

Joe Ray, “Are Air Fryers Worth It?” Wired, May 10, 2018

This is a tale of two former bodybuilders, facing off in court—over a patent. And not just any patent: Based on federally funded research, this one has a pedigree that links back to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And this kind of legal mano a mano raises questions about the role of universities in the patent system.

Laura Sydell, “Bodybuilders Beef Over A Workout Supplement—And A Stanford Patent,” NPR, July 8, 2016
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