Word of the Day

Thursday, March 11, 2021

waesucks

[ wey-suhks ]

interjection

alas.

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What is the origin of waesucks?

Waesucks or waesuck, “alas, woe (is me),” is a Scots word composed of wae, the Scots form of woe, and suck or sucks, Scots variants of the noun sake, now used only in the expression “for the sake of X, for X’s sake.” But Robert Burns uses waesucks in The Holy Fair (1786), which makes waesucks a keeper.

how is waesucks used?

Waesucks! For him that gets nae lass, / Or lasses that hae naething!

Robert Burns, "The Holy Fair," Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1786

But waesucks! night cam’ on at last, / And fiercely raged the furious blast; / And, what made waur his piteous case, / The storm blew keenly in his face … 

Alexander Rodger, Peter Cornclips: a tale of real life; with other poems & songs, 1827

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

pleonasm

[ plee-uh-naz-uhm ]

noun

the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy.

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What is the origin of pleonasm?

Pleonasm, “the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy,” may be annoying or foolish, as in “free gift” or “true fact,” but not so in emphatic expressions such as “I saw it with my own eyes.” Pleonasm comes via Late Latin pleonasmus (where it is only a term in rhetoric), from Greek pleonasmós “redundancy, surplus, superabundance, (rhetoric) use of redundant words, lengthening of clauses, repetition,” a derivative of pleonázein “to be or have more than enough,” which is itself derivative of pleíōn, the comparative degree of polýs “much, many.” Pleonasm entered English in the early 17th century.

how is pleonasm used?

Federal foreign policy is a pleonasm. What foreign policy can a federal nation have except a national policy?

9th Circuit Judge John T. Noonan, United States v. State of Arizona, 641 F.3d 339 (9th Cir. 2011)

Like most writers, I can be a stickler about language, but anyone who hangs out with me for long enough will learn that I favor a certain ungrammatical turn of phrase: “true fact.” Technically speaking, that expression is a pleonasm—a redundant description—since all facts are, by definition, true.

Kathryn Schulz, "The Best Facts I Learned from Books in 2018," The New Yorker, December 19, 2018

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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Panglossian

[ pan-glos-ee-uhn, -glaw-see-, pang- ]

adjective

characterized by or given to extreme optimism, especially in the face of unrelieved hardship or adversity.

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What is the origin of Panglossian?

Panglossian, “extremely optimistic, especially in the face of unrelieved hardship or adversity,” comes from Dr. Pangloss (Panglosse in French), an old, incurably optimistic tutor in Voltaire’s philosophical satire Candide. Pangloss comes from Greek panglossía “garrulousness, wordiness,” which also may suggest a certain amount of glibness. Candide, the name of the eponymous hero, comes from Latin candidus “bright, shining, pure, clean, good-natured, innocent,” perhaps also a comment on the hero’s naiveté. Panglossian entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is Panglossian used?

Kraft sets to work making a case for Panglossian optimism while his marriage crumbles and his money problems worsen.

Rob Doyle, "For Ideologues in Silicon Valley, Everything Is Just Right," New York Times, November 10, 2020

Burnett had developed a Panglossian confidence in the power of branding. “I believe we’re going to see something like the Microsoft Grand Canyon National Park,” he told the New York Times in 2001.

Patrick Radden Keefe, "How Mark Burnett Resurrected Donald Trump as an Icon of American Success," The New Yorker, December 27, 2018

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