Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, October 04, 2021

Weltanschauung

[ velt-ahn-shou-oong ]

noun

a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity's relation to it.

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What is the origin of Weltanschauung?

Weltanschauung “a comprehensive conception or image of the universe” is a direct borrowing from German, in which the term is a compound of Welt “world” and Anschauung “perception.” Welt is a cognate of the English word world, and both come from a Germanic term, reconstructed as wer-ald-, that likely meant “age of man.” The first half of wer-ald- can be found today in werewolf, literally “wolf man,” and derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root as Latin vir “man,” the source of virile “manly” and triumvirate “a group of three men.” The second half of wer-ald- is related to old and elder and is distantly related to the first element of the recent Word of the Day alma mater. Weltanschauung was first recorded in English in the 1860s.

how is Weltanschauung used?

Holmes handles the tension successfully not only by applying his scientific principles to a case but also by seeing the case through the perspective of his Weltanschauung. He takes the crime, the criminal, the victim, the motive, the circumstances, and the other characters involved who gain or suffer from the crime, and he puts them all into the cauldron of his world-view. The product of that mixture emerges as his unique brand of justice.

Diane Gilbert Madsen, Cracking the Code of the Canon: How Sherlock Holmes Made His Decisions, 2016

The first immigrant organizations in my town—even before there was a church—were all Azorean Holy Ghost fraternal societies. That they still thrive is one of the things pointing to the century long love affair that Falmouth has had with the Azores and helps craft the Weltanschauung of the immigrants, their children, and even non-Portuguese in my town. It is a love affair that may not be symmetrical, but it is one that burns brightly from the side of those of us in Falmouth.

Dr. Miguel Moniz, “Drawing Lines around my Bairro. The Azores Unbound,” Herald News, September 22, 2021

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Word of the day

Sunday, October 03, 2021

fetching

[ fech-ing ]

adjective

charming; captivating.

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What is the origin of fetching?

Fetching “charming; captivating,” a participle of the verb fetch, derives from Old English fecc(e)an, a variant of fetian “to bring back; to take.” Fetian, in turn, comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ped- “foot,” or by extension, “to walk,” which is the source of dozens of words related to the lower extremities and how we use them. Because Proto-Indo-European p- and d- often become f- and t- in English and other Germanic languages, the root ped- is recognizable in the words foot, fetter, and (via German) foosball. By way of the Latin derivative pēs (stem ped-) “foot,” we have pedal, pedestrian, expedite, and impede, and via Ancient Greek poús (stem pod-) “foot,” we have octopus and podium. Fetching as an adjective was first recorded in English in the late 1870s, but the verb fetch, with the sense “to captivate,” was first recorded in the early 1600s.

how is fetching used?

Aphids, those sap-sucking foes of gardeners, come in a variety of colours. We usually think of them as green, but pea aphids sometimes wear a fetching red ensemble. That may not strike you as anything special; after all, lots of animals are red. But the aphid’s colour is unique in a couple of extraordinary ways.

Ed Yong, “Aphids got their colours by stealing genes from fungi,” National Geographic, April 30, 2010

“Audrey bought me this getup at the new mall in Roanoke Rapids. She says it’s the latest in fetching attire for elderly gents. Don’t tell me she’s wrong.” Mabry did his best to match the grin. “Not wrong at all.”

Reynolds Price, The Good Priest's Son, 2005

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Word of the day

Saturday, October 02, 2021

dolmen

[ dohl-men, -muhn, dol- ]

noun

a structure usually regarded as a tomb, consisting of two or more large, upright stones set with a space between and capped by a horizontal stone.

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What is the origin of dolmen?

Dolmen “a structure consisting of upright stones capped by a horizontal stone” is possibly a borrowing from Cornish, the Celtic language once spoken in Cornwall, a region of southwest England. Beyond this point, the history of dolmen becomes muddled; the word could be a corruption of tolmên, as used in William Borlase’s 1754 collection of essays Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall, in which Borlase implies that the word derives from a local name, mên an tol or maen tol “the holed stone,” corresponding to Cornish toll “hole” and men “stone.”  Dolmen was first recorded in English in the late 1850s.

how is dolmen used?

When I get up close to a dolmen, I often have a bit of a sit-down inside and commune with my ancestors, keeping an ear out. It was on a rainy day … in County Donegal—when the Irish air was soft with mist and the green hills were dotted with lambs—that the portal tomb in a nearby pasture called to me.

Jim Richardson, “The Art and Craft of Tomb Bagging,” National Geographic, June 7, 2010

I found the dolmen before I knew it: a curiosity in the center of a field, strewn about with small stones like a gaggle of offspring. It was a knock-kneed little tomb, its two supports leaning together but the flat capstone still firmly in place, level as a tabletop. All three megaliths were fuzzy with golden lichen, and radiated the morning’s sun.

Pamela J. Petro, "Ancient Tombs in Timeless Landscapes," New York Times, October 13, 2002

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