Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, October 25, 2020

wherewithal

[ hwair-with-awl, -with-, wair- ]

noun

that with which to do something; means or supplies for the purpose or need, especially money.

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What is the origin of wherewithal?

The noun wherewithal, “the means or supplies for a need, especially money,” is composed of the adverbs where and withal “with, by means of which.” The oblique sense “money” seems to be from a phrase such as “the X by means of which to do something,” the unexpressed X being money. Wherewithal entered English in the 16th century.

how is wherewithal used?

In Los Angeles and Oakland, it became a status symbol to have the wherewithal to take in roomers.

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, 2010

Most new nonprofits do not have the financial wherewithal to use direct mail, which is expensive, and thus rely on e-mail and other technology-based means of communication.

Stephanie Strom, "Answers to Questions on Philanthropy," New York Times, November 12, 2009

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

indelible

[ in-del-uh-buhl ]

adjective

impossible to eliminate, forget, or change.

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What is the origin of indelible?

Most people probably learn the word indelible in grammar school (a.k.a. primary school, elementary school, lower school) specifically and only referring to permanent ink, which cannot be easily erased or removed. The modern spelling, indelible, arose in the second half of the 17th century, replacing the earlier, more etymologically correct indeleble. Indelible comes from Medieval Latin indēlibilis and is equivalent to Latin indēlēbilis “indestructible, imperishable.” Indēlēbilis is a compound of the Latin negative prefix in– (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-) and the adjective dēlēbilis “that can be defaced or obliterated,” a derivative of the verb dēlēre “to destroy, annihilate.” Cato the Elder fought in the Second Punic War as a private soldier, and many Americans will remember the sentence with which Cato ended every speech in the Senate: Carthāgō dēlenda est “Carthage must be destroyed.” Indeleble entered English in the second half of the 16th century, indelible in the second half of the 17th century.

how is indelible used?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made an indelible mark on the law as an advocate for gender equality long before she became an icon on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robert Iafolla, "Ginsburg championed gender equality before joining Supreme Court," Tampa Bay Times, September 19, 2020

There in a classroom, amid a cohort of presumed losers and layabouts, I took my lessons in the great sin of idleness. The venue at least felt appropriate: the classroom had always been the site of my most indelible failures and losses.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Notes from the First Year," We Were Eight Years in Power, 2017

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Friday, October 23, 2020

supercilious

[ soo-per-sil-ee-uhs ]

adjective

haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression.

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What is the origin of supercilious?

Supercilious comes from the Latin adjective superciliōsus, which has only one meaning, “full of stern or disapproving looks.” Superciliōsus is a derivative of the noun supercilium “eyebrow; the eyebrow and its underlying ridge; the eyebrow as used in expressing haughtiness, disapproval, sternness.” Supercilium is a compound of the preposition and prefix super, super– “above, beyond,” and cilium “eyelid” (unless cilium is a back formation from supercilium). At any rate, cilium is a derivative of the verb cēlāre “to hide,” that is, the eyelid hides the eye. Supercilious entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is supercilious used?

Culkin inhabits space with a squalid sort of entitlement, and he employs a supercilious side-eye as if twirling a mustache.

Troy Patterson, "'Success,' Reviewed: An Irresistible Family Power Struggle, Told Through Soap and Satire," The New Yorker, June 1, 2018

For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

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