Word of the Day

Thursday, November 08, 2018

volute

[ vuh-loot ]

noun

a spiral or twisted formation or object.

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What is the origin of volute?

Volute is a technical word, a noun used in architecture, ornamental decoration, and marine biology. It comes from French volute or from Latin volūta “scroll.” Volūta is a noun use of volūtus, the past participle of volvere “to turn.” Volute entered English in the late 17th century.

how is volute used?

The interior of the tiny temple was dim, and wisps of incense smoke made graceful volutes in the air.

John Maddox Roberts, SPQR IX: The Princess and the Pirates, 2005

My, how light this Alonso de Avila was, forced to walk on mere earth only because of the richness and gravity of his damask and jaguar-skin suits, his gold chains, and his tawny mantle decorate with a reliquary–all of it lightened, let me assure you, by the feathers in his cap and the volutes of his mustache, the wings of his face.

Carlos Fuentes, The Orange Tree, translated by Alfred Mac Adam, 1994

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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

dissemble

[ dih-sem-buhl ]

verb

to conceal one's true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically.

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What is the origin of dissemble?

Dissemble comes from late Middle English dissemile, dissimill, an alteration of the verb dissimule (from Old French dissimuler “to keep one’s intentions hidden,” from Latin dissimulāre, “to disguise or conceal one’s thoughts”), and associated in form with the noun semblance and the obsolete verb semble (from Old French sembler, from Latin similāre and simulāre “to pretend”). Dissemble entered English in the sense “to pass over, ignore, neglect” in the 16th century.

how is dissemble used?

He counted heavily on his ability to dissemble, knowing that every decent lawyer had at least several drops of dissimulation in his blood.

Elizabeth George, Missing Joseph, 1993

I didn’t know how to dissemble, I quite openly acknowledged the mistakes I made, and didn’t try hard to hide them.

Johann Michael von Loën, The Honest Man at Court, 1748, translated by John R. Russell, 1997
Tuesday, November 06, 2018

dopester

[ dohp-ster ]

noun

a person who undertakes to predict the outcome of elections, sports events, or other contests that hold the public interest.

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What is the origin of dopester?

The dope at the heart of this Americanism refers to information, data, or news. This slang term dates to 1905–10.

how is dopester used?

The 1954 season for predicting the Congressional elections is now in full swing and the political dopesters will be hard at it from now until Nov. 2, when the voters will select more than one-third of the Senators and all of the Congressmen who will sit in the Eighty-fourth Congress.

Ruth Silva, "A Look Into a Crystal Election Ball," New York Times, October 10, 1954

We make no prediction, not being either a dopester or an expert.

Ernest C. Hastings, "Stock the Goods That Women Want," Dry Goods Economist, October 21, 1922
Monday, November 05, 2018

bewhiskered

[ bih-hwis-kerd, -wis- ]

adjective

ancient, as a witticism, expression, etc.; passé; hoary: a bewhiskered catchword of a bygone era.

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What is the origin of bewhiskered?

Bewhiskered is first recorded in 1755–65. It combines be-, a prefix used in the formation of verbs, with whiskered.

how is bewhiskered used?

That bewhiskered saying that “pride goeth before a fall” is true only in the case of ignorant people, says The International Lifeman.

, "Stick Up Your Chin," The Spectator: Life Insurance Supplement, January 7, 1915

Good things come in small packages. … This wrinkled and bewhiskered expression haunts our editorial vision when we pause to contemplate the career of a life, progressive citizen of the gopher state, a man small in stature but big in brain.

, "Sidelights on Men in the Trade," Domestice Engineering, October 3, 1914
Sunday, November 04, 2018

fillip

[ fil-uhp ]

noun

anything that tends to rouse, excite, or revive; a stimulus: Praise is an excellent fillip for waning ambition.

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What is the origin of fillip?

Fillip is imitative, or onomatopoeic, in origin. Earlier forms include filip, fylippe, philip, and phillip. Fillip looks like a variant of flip, but flip is first recorded in the late 17th century, whereas fillip dates from the 16th.

how is fillip used?

It is so pleasant to receive a fillip of excitement when suffering from the dull routine of everyday life!

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, 1857

His ordinary government allowance of spirits, one gill per diem, is not enough to give a sufficient fillip to his listless senses …

Herman Melville, White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War, 1850
Saturday, November 03, 2018

grumphie

[ gruhm-fee, groom-pee ]

noun

Chiefly Scot. a familiar name for a pig.

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What is the origin of grumphie?

Grumphie is an exclusively Scottish word, first used by Robert Burns (1759-96). Grumphie is formed from the verb grumph “to grunt” and is imitative of the typical sound pigs and some humans make. The suffix -ie is a spelling variant of -y, one of whose functions is to form endearing or familiar names like Billy, doggy (doggie), and sweetie. Grumphie entered English in the late 18th century.

how is grumphie used?

Grumphie smells the weather, / An’ grumphie sees the wun’; / He kens when clouds will gather, / An’ smoor the blinikin’ sun.” This extravagant tribute to the pig as a weather prophet is typical of a large number of proverbs, though, perhaps no other animal has been credited with actually seeing the wind.

W. J. Humphreys, "Some Weather Proverbs and Their Justification," The Popular Science Monthly, January 1911

If ye’re proud to be a grumphie clap yer trotters!

Alastair D. McIver, Glasgow Fairytale, 2010
Friday, November 02, 2018

univocal

[ yoo-niv-uh-kuhl, yoo-nuh-voh- ]

adjective

having only one meaning; unambiguous.

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What is the origin of univocal?

Like its cousin equivocal, univocal derives from the Latin vōx meaning “voice.” Whereas the prefix equi- means “equal,” uni- means “one.” Univocal dates to 1535–45.

how is univocal used?

When then-Fox News chief Roger Ailes was presented with allegations of sexual harassment — first in a bombshell lawsuit, later in published reports — his response was univocal: Deny, deny, deny.

Erik Wemple, "Harvey Weinstein's puzzling legal threat against the New York Times," Washington Post, October 6, 2017

For any given element–event, character, development–is never simply univocal or one-sided but generally has two or more valences: it is serious and ironic, pathos-charged and parodic, apocalyptic and farcical, critical and self-critical.

Dominick LaCapra, History, Politics, and the Novel, 1987

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