Word of the Day

Monday, August 19, 2019

xeric

[ zeer-ik ]

adjective

of, relating to, or adapted to a dry environment.

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What is the origin of xeric?

Xeric is an adjective used in ecology, botany, and biology in general to characterize a very dry environment or an organism that can grow in such an environment. Xeric comes from Greek xērós “dry, withered,” and it appears to be obviously related to the Greek noun xerón “dry land, mainland,” but the long ē and the short e are problematic. If xērós and xerón are related, they will come from the Proto-Indo-European root kser– (also ksēr-) “dry,” source of Latin serescere “to become dry,” serēnitās “dry, bright, clear weather or sky” (English serenity), and serēnus “clear, cloudless, fine” (English serene). Xeric entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is xeric used?

At the island’s opposite end is the Southeast Peninsula, a wilderness of salt ponds and xeric vegetation.

Kenneth Brower, "Legacy Isles of the Caribbean," Islands, March 2003

These increasingly xeric (hot and dry) conditions restricted the range of large game animals and this, coupled with human predation and environmental stress, drove many game species … to extinction.

W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, "Foreword," People of the Earth, 1992
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Sunday, August 18, 2019

luminary

[ loo-muh-ner-ee ]

noun

a person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others: one of the luminaries in the field of medical science.

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What is the origin of luminary?

English luminary comes from Middle English luminari(e) “light (especially of the sun or moon), lamp, source of spiritual light, shining example of holiness, earthly glory,” from Old French luminarie, luminaire, from Medieval Latin lūmināria (plural of lūmināre), from Late Latin lūmināria “lights, lamps,” used in the Vulgate for the lights in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and in Christian churches. (The Vulgate is the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by St. Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d.). In Latin of the classical period, lūmināre meant merely “window, window shutter.” Luminary entered English in the late 15th century.

how is luminary used?

I have been accustomed to consider him a luminary too dazzling for the darkness which surrounds him ….

Percy Bysshe to William Godwin, January 3, 1812, in The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Vol. 1, 1912

She had been a luminary of the British folk revival in the nineteen-fifties and sixties—a ballad singer with a steady, almost austere approach to melody, a demure presence, and a true, heartbreaking voice.

, "What We're Reading This Summer," The New Yorker, June 20, 2018
Saturday, August 17, 2019

redoubtable

[ ri-dou-tuh-buhl ]

adjective

that is to be feared; formidable.

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What is the origin of redoubtable?

English redoubtable comes from Middle English redoutable “terrible, frightening, worthy of honor, venerable,” ultimately from Old French redotable, redoubtable, a derivative of the verb redouter “to fear, dread.” Redouter is formed from a French use of the prefix re– as an intensive (for instance, in refine), a use that Latin re– does not have, and from Latin dubitāre “to doubt, hesitate, waver” (but not “to fear”). Redoubtable entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is redoubtable used?

Isabelle may not realize it for a while, but she’s become a redoubtable opponent, Vincent.

Jonathan Carroll, Glass Soup, 2005

“They are as redoubtable a gang of pirates as ever sailed the Spanish Main,” Cannon said in introduction to his remarks about the Florida delegation.

Keith Wheeler, Henry Suydam, Norman Ritter, Bill Wise, and Howard Sochurek, "Now—See the Innards of a Fat Pig," Life, August 16, 1963

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