The huge Amazon Alexa hit Word of the Day is now available as a podcast!
Word of the Day teaches you a useful word, its definition, etymology, and gives you examples of how to use it in a sentence. A new word each and every day! Perfect for those looking to expand their vocabulary, learning English and looking for a boost and anyone who loves words.
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The huge Amazon Alexa hit Word of the Day is now available as a podcast!
Word of the Day teaches you a useful word, its definition, etymology, and gives you examples of how to use it in a sentence. A new word each and every day! Perfect for those looking to expand their vocabulary, learning English and looking for a boost and anyone who loves words.
Desuetude is a noun that means discontinuance from use or exercise.
Our word of the day is a distant relative of the Latin verb suescere (sue ay SHARE ay) meaning ‘to accustom.’ With the prefix DE — which means ‘away’ — the word later evolved to mean ‘a state of not being used.’ Desuetude is a synonym of disuse, but its more ‘old world’ sound may make it a more appropriate word when you need something more sentimental. For example:
In my younger days, I rode my bike all the time. But since buying my car a few years ago, my reliable old 10-speed has fallen into desuetude.
Celerity is a noun that refers to swiftness or speed.
The Latin word celer (SAY lare) means ‘swift’ or ‘speedy.’ Its distant relative, celerity is best used in a context that refers to the speed of motion. For example: I always suspected Susan would have the necessary skills to be a great basketball player. The celerity of her movements are perfect for the sport.
Probative is an adjective that means done for the purpose of testing or trying.
Probative is derived from the Latin word probare (pro BAR ay) meaning ‘to prove’ or ‘to test.’ Depending on its context, it can either be a synonym of exploratory or it can mean ‘intending to confirm.’
An example of the first meaning would be: After our probative additions to the menu, we determined that our customers didn’t like curly fries with their meal, after all.
For the second meaning an example is: The doctors were fairly certain that I was fine. After a few probative tests, they confirmed that I was.
Rebus is a noun that refers to a representation of a word using pictures or symbols.
In Latin, rebus is the plural of res (RACE) meaning ‘thing’ or ‘object.’ This later came to refer to the objects that appear in ancient writing such as hieroglyphics. But it may also refer to more recent puzzle games where players try to guess a word by glancing at objects.
Being a very visual person, I love playing rebus games. It’s always challenging to guess a word’s meaning from visual clues.
Derogate is a verb that means to belittle or disparage.
Derogate’s roots are similar to that of the word derogatory, which means ‘showing a critical or disrespectful attitude.’ Both words are derived from the Latin derogare (dare oh GAR ay) meaning ‘to detract.’ But derogate is a more appropriate word when looking for a verb instead of an adjective. For example: I hope Lester didn’t feel I was trying to belittle his contribution to the company. My intention was to encourage him to do better, not to derogate him.
Brio is a noun that means enthusiasm or vigor.
Our word of the day is what is known as a loan word, meaning ‘a word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification.’ Brio is from Italian, and in English it maintains its meaning of ‘vivacity’ or ‘enthusiasm.’
The band director felt I my performance was flat and unenthusiastic. He encouraged me to bring more brio into my playing.
Herculean is an adjective that means requiring great strength.
Those familiar with Greek mythology may have heard of the son of Zeus named Hercules known for his extraordinary strength. Our word of the day is often used to describe a task that requires such extraordinary strength, for example: I wasn’t prepared for how heavy Martha’s harp was. After trying to lift it, I soon discovered what a herculean task it was.
Endogenous is an adjective that means originating from within.
The Greek prefix E-N-D-O means ‘from within.’ And Genous (JEN ose) means ‘producing.’ Endogenous is frequently — but not exclusively — used in a scientific or medical context.
The patient didn’t seem to pick up the illness from any outside sources. So we surmised that an endogenous virus was the cause.
Atrophy is a noun that refers to a wasting away. It can also serve as a verb that means ‘to waste away.’
The literal translation of our word of the day, from the Greeks is ‘lack of nourishment.’ But in more recent years, atrophy often takes on a more metaphorical meaning that has nothing to do with actual food. A person’s muscles can atrophy if they haven’t been used for a while and the same can happen to job skills that have been dormant.
As a kid I spoke fluent Italian. But it’s been so long since I’ve spoken any of the language that my Italian has atrophied a great deal.
Excursus is a noun that refers to a digression on a particular point.
From Latin, we get the word excurrere (EKS coo air ay) which refers to a digression. Our word of the day has undergone a number of changes, but its meaning remains the same. Don’t be put off by the formal sound of excursus. It’s a perfect word to use when talking about something written or expressed by a formal lecturer or writer.
Professor Mitchel’s history lecture was lovely except for the excursus about president Cleveland’s policies. That kind of lengthy digression on politics can often be a distraction.
Inveterate is an adjective that means stubbornly established by habit.
The Latin word vetus (VAY toos) means ‘old.’ In the past, our word of the day was simply a synonym of ‘long-standing’ or ‘old,’ but in more recent years, its meaning has shifted to refer to something that remains around because of habit.
Shaking hands when meeting someone is an inveterate gesture in our society. But the centuries of habit that created this custom has not been as common in other cultures, which is why some third world countries find this greeting strange.
De rigueur is an adjective that means required by custom or etiquette.
Coming directly from French, de rigueur’s literal translation is ‘of strictness,’ but a better way to understand it is to think of it as meaning ‘according to obligation or convention.’
There was a time when wearing a hat in public was de rigueur for men. There was really no reason for this except for social custom.
Devolve is a verb that means to transfer or be passed on to another.
Our word of the day is often thought of as the opposite of the word evolve, and it is true that, like evolve, its origin is in the Latin word volvere (VOL vair ay) meaning ‘rolling.’ The addition of the prefix D-E, meaning ‘down’ gets us a word that means ‘rolling down.’ So devolve may mean ‘to degenerate through change or evolution.’ And it also refers to a right or responsibility that ‘rolls down’ from one person to the next. For example: Handling the Johnson account has devolved from my boss to me. I am now accountable for whatever happens in this case.
ntractable is an adjective that means not easily managed or controlled.
The Latin word tractabilis (tract uh BEEL us) roughly translates to ‘manageable.’ With the addition of the prefix I-N, meaning ‘not’ we get ‘that which can not be managed. Our word of the day has a wide range of uses and may refer to people, ideas or even policies: The intractable economic changes created by Senator Blair have thrown our society into chaos. We’d be far better off with policies that are easily managed.
Mercurial is an adjective that means characterized by rapid, unpredictable change.
Our word of the day shares its roots with a planet and a Roman god. Mercury was Rome’s equivalent to the Greek god Hermes, and was known for being eloquent and ingenious. When mercurial entered the English language in the 14th century, the word was used to describe someone possessing these qualities. In time its meaning shifted to ‘unpredictable’ and ‘changeable’ in reference to the chemical used in thermometers, known for its quick changes as it rises and falls to reflect the temperature.
I was hoping we could hire a basketball coach who was a little more predictable and stable than our previous one. Coach Derringer’s mercurial nature was a real detriment to the team.
Vacuous is an adjective that means empty or lacking content.
Coming from the Latin word vacuus (vah KOOS) meaning ‘empty’ our word of the day shares its roots with words like vacuum, evacuate and vacant. It often refers to ideas or thoughts that are empty in a metaphorical sense, meaning they have no intelligent content behind them.
I was disappointed by professor Harold’s lecture. It contained mostly vacuous catchphrases but very few actual ideas.
Bugbear is a noun that means an object of fear or dread.
Our word of the day entered English in the 16th century where it was used by writers of scary tales. It combined the word ‘bug,’ which referred a goblin and ‘bear’ to conjure up an imaginary creature designed to scare children.
These days it refers to anything that serves as an object that is feared or dreaded. Example: Trips to the dentists have always been Chad’s bugbear. He’s so afraid of them that he hasn’t seen one for years.
Solecism is a noun that means a blunder in speech.
The city of soloi was known for the bad grammar of its inhabitants known as solikos (SO loy kos). This gave birth to the word soloikismos (solo KIZZ moss) meaning, ‘an ungrammatical combination of words,’ which later became the basis for our word of the day. In more recent years, solecism has also come to refer to a social blunder as well as a verbal blunder.
Being the press secretary for a politician who commits many solecisms can be a thankless job. It usually means making lots of apologies for a wide range of blunders.
Yeasayer is a noun that means someone with a positive attitude.
You may have heard of the word naysayer, a noun referring to a person constantly denying or opposing things. Conversely, a yeasayer may refer to an upbeat, positive person known for saying ‘yes’ to things. Its less flattering meaning is a person always agreeing with or being submissive to other people, as in: It makes sense that Dennis would hire a yeasayer like Chuck as his assistant. There is nothing he loves more than having someone cater to all his wishes.
Niveous is an adjective that means related to or resembling snow.
The Latin word ‘nix’ (NEEKS uh) means snow. Niveous, a word that entered English in the early 17th century, may refer either to a large quantity of snow or something that resembles snow. The niveous look of dad’s graying beard gives him a Santa Claus look. If his beard were any whiter we might be tempted to shovel his face.
Aver is a verb that means to declare.
Our word of the day is a combination of the Latin words ‘ad,’ meaning ‘to’ and verus (VARE oos) meaning ‘real’ or ‘true.’ To aver something is to declare it to be true, for example: my client will aver that he is innocent of all charges. I’m confident that the jury will be moved by this declaration of his innocence.
Inexorable is an adjective that means not to be persuaded, moved or stopped.
The Latin word exorabilis (ex or uh BEE lees) means flexible or lenient. If we add the prefix I-N, for ‘not,’ we get a word that means ‘inflexible’ or ‘unyielding.’ The word is more frequently used to describe things than people, for example: The inexorable trend of bigger budgets in movies has made things difficult for a low budget producer. Much as Max would like the days of lower budgets to return, that seems an impossible dream.
Velutinous is an adjective that means soft and smooth like velvet.
The Latin word for velvet is velutum (vel LOOT oom), which also provides the origin for our word of the day, velutinous. Something described as velutinous isn’t necessarily connected to velvet though. It may simply be soft and smooth like velvet.
I always seem to fall asleep in those movie theater seats. Something about that velutinous cover on them just sends me to dreamland in a few minutes.
Fussbudget is a noun that refers to a person who worries about unimportant things.
Our word of the day is a combination of the words ‘fuss,’ meaning ‘to show unnecessary concern’ and ‘budget,’ which refers to ‘an estimate of income and expenditures needed for a period of time.’ Together they create a word for somebody who worries needlessly about minor things — like a budget.
My grandpa can be a fussbudget at times. When I took him to lunch he spent the whole time fretting about how much cheaper the meal would have been if we had eaten it at his favorite diner in Miami.
Newspeak is a noun that means deliberately ambiguous language designed to deceive.
Author George Orwell first coined the word newspeak for his dystopian novel nineteen eighty four. It described a new language designed to manipulate people into believing lies. Today the word isn’t generally used to refer to a new language but simply to mean words meant to deceive.
Carl can’t bear to watch the news on that channel. He insists that their newscasters are speaking in newspeak.
Inscape is a noun that refers to a person's inner character.
Our word of the day combines the prefix I-N, for ‘inner’ and the suffix ‘scape’ which refers to a specific kind of scene, as in ‘landscape,’ ‘moonscape,’ or ‘cityscape.’ Inscape was first coined in the mid-19th century by a writer named Gerald Manley Hopkins in reference to poetry. The word is still often used to describe works of art: I loved the character of Marlene in your play. I felt she beautifully captured the inscape of a young woman coming of age in Victorian England.
Impend is a verb that means to be about to happen.
It may surprise you to learn that our word of the day is a close relative of the word pendant. Both words came from the Latin word pendere (PEN dare ay) which means ‘to hang.’ The best way to sort this confusion out is to consider that a pendant hangs from a chain that hangs around a neck, while something that impends hangs metaphorically over your head in a threatening way.
I get more and more stressed out as the deadline approaches. Feeling it impend that way makes me nervous.
Obvert is a verb that means to turn so as to present a different view.
Our word of the day combines the prefix O-B meaning ‘toward’ with the Latin word vertere (Vare TEAR ay) meaning ‘to turn.’ The result gives us a word to describe turning to display another angle. It may also mean ‘to alter the appearance of’ as in: Cindy was almost unrecognizable after her trip to the spa. I didn’t expect them to obvert her so dramatically.
Mooncalf is a noun that means a foolish or absent-minded person.
The exact origin of our word of the day is something of a mystery, but some believe it may have been derived from the German word Mondkalb (MOON kype) which means a ‘fleshy mess.’ It was also believed that a mooncalf was deformed because of the influence of the moon. Regardless of its origin, the word came to mean an idiotic person, a meaning it continues to hold on to today.
Bridget may be smart, but she has moments where she can really be a mooncalf. The other day, for example, she asked me what night Monday night football was on.
Quiescent is an adjective that means
The Latin quiēscere (kwee ACE sare ay) means ‘to be quiet’ or ‘to rest.’ A person or thing that quiescent is at rest or dormant.
Don’t worry about that grizzly bear out back. He’ll be quiescent for the next few hours, so he won’t be able to bother you.
Stolid is an adjective that means not easily moved.
Don’t be misled by out word of the day’s origin. It comes from the Latin stolidus (STOW lee doos) which means stupid. But a stolid person isn’t necessarily lacking in intelligence. Instead it referred to people who appear stupid because they say nothing. More recently the word has shed any connection to stupidly and is more likely to be used as a synonym of ‘unemotional’ or ‘stoic.’
Kevin’s demeanor remained stolid throughout the movie. I got the impression that he wasn’t moved by it at all.
Bogart is a verb that means to bully or take more that ones fair share.
Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart was known for playing rough, highly intimidating characters. In recent years his name has become a verb to describe the behavior befitting such characters.
Charles tried to Bogart his way into the restaurant. But unfortunately, the restaurant security would not allow themselves to be bullied.
Highbinder is a noun that means a swindler or gangster.
Not much is known about the exact origin of our word of the day, but, highbinder seems to have been the name of a 19th century gang. Our word of the day may refer specifically to a professional killer operating in the Chinese quarter of an American city or it may refer, more broadly to a person — usually a politician — who has engaged in some form of corruption.
George’s reputation as a highbinder could cause problems in the next election. Voters may be cautious of someone with a history of corruption.
Copper-bottomed is an adjective that means reliable.
Our word of the day combines two common English words ‘copper’ and ‘bottomed.’ In a literal sense it simply refers to something that is coated with copper — a very firm metal — on the bottom. But in a more metaphorical sense it refers to something that is solid like Copper and that comes with a guarantee.
I was told I had just purchased a copper-bottomed stock. As guaranteed, the stock shot up shortly after my buying it.
Senectitude is a noun that refers to old age.
Our word of the day is an appropriately old word. The Latin word senectus (SEN eck toos) means old age.
As my parents near their senectitude, we are contemplating the best way to take care of them. These are the kinds of decisions that must be made for the elderly.
Satisfice is a verb that means to accept an available option as satisfactory.
Our word of the day is a blend of satisfy and suffice, two English words of Latin origin.Understanding satisfice as a mix of these words may help understand its best use.
I told my kids never to safistice with their education. They should always press to learn way more than the bare minimum.
Superlunary is an adjective that means beyond the moon.
From the Latin Luna (LOO nah) we get moon. And from the Latin super (SOO pair) we get ‘above’ or ‘beyond.’
As a kid, I wondered if we’d ever put an astronaut any place beyond the moon. Today superlunary space travel is very much within reach.
Argot is a noun that refers to the jargon or slang of a particular group.
Borrowed from the French in the mid 19th century, our word of the day refers to the ‘language’ of a particular group. But don’t be misled by the term ‘language.’ German is not an argot, but cyberspeak is.
Ed tends to get confused by the argot his grandkids use. When he heard that Tommy’s house was ‘lit,’ he called the fire department.
Nisus is a noun that refers to a mental or physical effort to attain an end.
Nisus comes directly from the Latin (NEEZ zoos) where its pronunciation may differ a little from its English descendant, but its meaning has remained roughly the same. A nisus is an effort, but more specifically, it one to reach a particular goal.
No matter what nisus he employed, Larry simply couldn’t finish the race. It bothered him to fall short of his goal in spite of his best efforts.
Evince is a verb that means to display.
Our word of the day comes from the Latin word vincere (VEEN chair ay) which means ‘conquer’ or ‘win.’
But before you get carried away, keep in mind that the victories evince indicates take place not on a battlefield, but in the realm of a conversation or perhaps a legal trial. A person may ‘win’ a dispute when information is evinced.
When those cookies went missing, we weren’t sure who the culprit was. But the smell of chocolate chip on our little puppy’s breath evinced his guilt.
Fulgurant is an adjective that means flashing like lighting.
The Latin fulgur (FOOL goor) means ‘lightning.’ Our word of the day is usually used metaphorically to refer to a powerful brilliant flash — but not necessarily to refer to actual lightning.
The coach’s words struck me with fulgurant force. Those five words — ‘you’re cut from the team’ — didn’t take long to say, but their powerful impact wounded me deeply.
Edenic is an adjective that means Like a paradise.
Coming from Hebrew, our word of the day has its origin in the Biblical Garden of Eden, a place of great happiness and unspoiled paradise. Our word of the day may describe something that refers specifically to the Garden of Eden, or more broadly, to anything that resembles paradise.
I found that beach property to be edenic. Everything about it was perfect in every way.
Sinewy is an adjective that means tough or forceful.
In anatomy, a sinew is a piece of tough fibrous tissue uniting muscle to bone or bone to bone. When used figuratively, sinewy may simply mean ‘lean’ or ‘spare’ as in the novelist’s writing wasn’t littered with unnecessary words. When done well, hat type of sinewy prose can captivate a reader.
Bromidic is an adjective that means commonplace or trite.
The chemical bromide’s etymology is of unknown origin, but we do know that bromide is a sedative used medicinally. When used metaphorically, something bromidic may not actually put you to sleep, but it may bore you — as trite, cliche things often do.
Our coach loved to deliver these bromidic speeches consisting of tedious cliches. Far from inspiring us, those speeches just bored us.
Osmotic is an adjective that means having the properties of osmosis (a gradual assimilation of knowledge).
The Greek word Omos (OSE mose) means ‘thrusting’ or ‘pushing.’ You could say that when something osmotic is taking place, it is being thrust or pushed in some sense or other. When the word is used in a medical sense, it refers to something being pushed through a membrane. But used in an everyday context, an osmotic process may simply be something effortlessly or unconsciously assimilated, for example: Cheryl never took a music lesson. But there is something osmotic about the way she learned to play the violin as a result of growing up in a musical family.
Actuate is a verb that means to put into action or motion.
The Latin word actus (OCK toos) meaning ‘a doing’ is parent to many English words including act, actor, actual and activate, a word similar to our word of the day. It’s often used to describe the act of putting machinery into motion.
I think the copy machine is broken. When I tried to actuate it, it didn’t do anything.
Catchpenny is an that means using sensationalism for appeal.
First coined in the 18th century, catchpenny may be best understood as a synonym of sensationalistic. For example: My grandfather was an writer of catchpenny biographies. His books were poorly researched and not very skillfully written, but they made money because of the popular subjects.
Nephalism is a noun that refers to the total abstinence from alcohol.
The Greek word nēphein (NEF fine) means ‘drink no wine.’ From this beginning our word of the day was born.
All of the free drinks on the cruise will make it difficult to maintain nephalism. I’m not sure I can make it eleven days without a drop of alcohol.
Ben Trovato is an adjective that means characteristic and appropriate even if untrue.
Ben Trovato comes directly from Italian where its words mean ‘well found.’
The fact that the accusations against Carl were Ben Trovato made no difference in the courtroom. That they accurately summed him up didn’t change the fact that they weren’t strictly true.
Effrontery is a noun that means insolent and impertinent behavior.
Our word of the day is derived from the Latin word frons (fronce) which means ‘brow’ or ‘forehead’ combined with the prefix E-F, meaning ‘without.’ If this seems like an unlikely origin of a word for insolent behavior, keep in mind that the Romans thought of the brow as the seat of a person’s modesty much in the same we think of the heart as the seat of a person’s love life. So effrons (EE Fronce) meant ‘without shame.’
I can’t the effrontery Erica’s children showed in front of her. I hate to think how my mother would have reacted if me or my sister behaved that way.
Cutpurse is a noun that refers to a pickpocket.
A combination of the English words ‘cut’ and ‘purse,’ our word of the day has been around since the 14th century. Its origin refers to the practice of stealing by cutting purses suspended from a waistband. But the term may be used to describe any pickpocket — regardless of their method of thievery.
I was victimized by a cutpurse at the fair last summer. Prior to that I had always assumed by wallet was safe in public.
Piecemeal is an adjective that means one at a time or gradually.
At first glance our word of the day may seem to be simply a combination of the words ‘piece’ and ‘meal.’ But its origin is a little more complicated than that.
The word’s second syllable — meal — has nothing to do with ‘food consumed on regular occasions,’ but the similarity stems from their Old English origin, meaning taken one at a time.’
It took several operations, but gradually, the surgeon removed every remnant of metal from the patient’s leg.
Gerent is a noun that means one who rules or manages.
The Latin gerere (Jair RAY ray) means ‘to carry’ or ‘bear,’ most likely used in a military sense initially. Today a gerent is someone who rules or manages, be it in the military or otherwise.
In sandlot football, I was the gerent of my team. I called the plays, assigned the positions and took all the credit when our team won.
Olid is an adjective that means having a strong, disagreeable smell.
The Latin word olere (oh LARE ay) means ‘to smell.’ Somewhere before reaching English, the word acquired a more specific meaning and came to refer to a strong, unpleasant smell.
Kevin had been stashing milk in his closet again. I could track the bottles down through the olid scent that spread down the hallways.
Tradecraft is a noun that means the techniques and procedures of espionage.
Our word of the day combines two common English words — ‘trade’ and ‘craft’ — to get a word that may refer broadly to the skills acquired through the experience of any trade, or more specifically, the skills of espionage.
My little sister could pursue a career with the FBI when she gets older. With all of the Tradecraft she’s learned from spying on me, should would be a top notch secret agent.
Bibliolater is a noun that refers to one who is excessively devoted to books.
You may recognize the word ‘bible’ in bibliolater. That’s because both words come from the Greek biblion (BEE bee yon) meaning ‘book.’ In addition to referring to a person highly devoted to books, our word of the day may also describe someone with an excessive reverence to the letter of the Bible.
My son is quite a bibliolater. I’ve seen him read as many as three books a week.
Reveille is a noun that means a signal to get out of bed.
In addition to providing the origin of our word of the day, Latin word vigilare (vij uh ARE ay) meaning ‘to keep watch’ and ‘to stay awake’ has given us vigil, vigilant and vigilante.
In the armed forces, our word of the day refers to a bugle whose sound is intended to wake up the soldiers from sleep. But the civilians among us may also get a reveille in the form of a wake-up phone call or the ring of an alarm clock.
Jason’s call at four am may not have been intended as a reveille, but it certainly served that purpose. After hearing his loud, hostile voice, I was awake for the day.
Hortative is an adjective that means strongly urging.
Hortari (hor TAR ee) is Latin for ‘exhort’ or ‘urge.’ Actions that strongly urge people are deserving of our word of the day, hortative.
It will take more than gentle persuasion to get Melanie to change her mind on this issue. She’ll require a hortative speech that stresses the need to act immediately.
Coming from the Latin word preada, (PRY duh) meaning ‘to prey’ (as in ‘prey on a weak victim),’ our word of the day may be used to describe a number of our friends — or enemies — of the animal kingdom. It my also be used to describe the behavior or demeanor of humans.
At first JR struck me as a guy who would never take advantage of another person. It wasn’t until later that I would see how predacious his behavior could be.
Alliciency is a noun that refers to the power of attracting.
Our word of the day has evolved from the Latin allicere (all ee CHAIR ay) meaning ‘to allure.’ It may be used simply to refer to attractiveness, but is best understood as a power that some have over others.
We’re seeking a model with just the right alliciency. After all, we need to attract people to this product they’ve been neglecting for years.
Imperious is an adjective that means arrogant or commanding.
The Latin word imperare (im pair RAWR ay) means ‘to rule or command.” A person described as imperious isn’t necessarily a ruler, but they earn the adjective by behaving as if they should be.
I’ve learned that acting in an imperious way doesn’t work in our industry. It’s best to handle artistic types with a gentle hand instead of a commanding one.
Gloaming is a noun that refers to twilight or dusk.
Related to the word ‘glow,’ our word of the day is of Germanic origin and now refers to a glow taking place at a specific time of the day, dusk. It is sometimes called ‘the gloaming.’
Dusk in the country feels very different than in a big city. There’s something romantic about the gloaming in an open meadow that is not dwarfed by giant skyscrapers.
Acumen is a noun that refers to the ability to make good judgements.
Coming from the Latin, acuere (ah kware ay) meaning ‘to sharpen,’ our word of the day came to refer to a mental sharpness or shrewdness.
Jeff was a great football player, but he simply lacks the acumen to be an effective head coach. We need someone with a sharper, more keen mind.
Alacrity is a noun that refers to brisk and cheerful readiness.
The Latin word alacritas (ah lah CREE toos) means ‘liveliness’ or ‘animation.’ From this origin our word of the day emerged, retaining the same meaning.
Rachel’s ability to meet all kinds of challenges with alacrity makes her an ideal employee. The guy who previously held the position was far more sluggish and that’s why he only lasted a week.
Bravura is a noun that means a display of daring.
Coming from the Italian word bravo (BRAH voe) our word of the day emerged in the mid 18th century to describe a great technical skill and brilliance shown in a performance or a display of daring.
I hadn’t seen the circus in years. I had forgotten how much bravura there was in the trapeze artists.
Rewild is a verb that means to restore to its natural state.
The word wild, meaning ‘a natural, uncultivated state,’ is of Old English and German origin. Our word of the day adds the prefix ‘re’ and creates a verb that means to return a region to this state.
I can barely recognize the area where the mall used to be. It looks as though their efforts to rewild the area have been successful.
Natant is an adjective that means swimming or floating.
The Latin word natare (nah TAR ay) means ‘to swim,’ but our word of the day is distinguished from swim, because it's more likely to be used in a scientific context to describe plants or inanimate objects.
Doctor Hemming’s team found a large amount of fauna natant in the lake. To this day they are not sure why it didn’t simply remain at the lake’s bottom.
Donnish is an adjective that means bookish.
Derived from the Latin word dominus (DOME ee noos) meaning ‘lord or master,’ a ‘don’ came to refer to leader in a number of very different contexts. It sometimes refers to a high-ranking member of the mafia, as in Don Corleone from the movie the Godfather. But it may also mean a senior professor at a college or university.
This academic meaning provides the origin of our word of the day. Donnish is an adjective that describes someone who behaves in a highly educated or bookish manner. I was surprised to learn that Jerry was a car mechanic. His donnish demeanor suggested he was some kind of scholar.
Appurtenant is an adjective that means belonging or pertinent.
Coming from the Latin word pertinere (per tin AIR ay) meaning ‘to pertain’ or ‘concern’ our word of the day is similar to the words ‘pertaining’ or ‘appertaining,’ but is more likely to be used in reference to real estate to describe properties that ‘belong’ with other properties. For example: The appurtenant gazebo in the front yard added greatly to the home’s aesthetic value. Unfortunately, it also added greatly to the home’s price.
Fatuous is an adjective that means silly or foolish.
Fatuus (fah TOOS) means ‘fool’ in Latin. While our word of the day is pretty much never used in a flattering context, it often simply means ‘silly’ or ‘pointless’ as opposed to downright ‘wrong.’
As usual our weekly meeting was not every productive. It mostly consisted of fatuous observations about Saturday’s softball game.
Caducity is a noun that means frailty.
The Latin word cadere (cah DARE ay) means ‘to fall.’ Over the years, our word of the day would come to mean ‘liable to fall.’ Today caducity may refer to any kind of frailty, physical or otherwise.
At Edwin’s age, it’s a struggle to compete with the younger athletes. His caducity has greatly limited his physical prowess.
Leporine is an adjective that means resembling a rabbit or a hare.
The Latin word lepus (LAY poos) means rabbit. A person described as leporine would probably not be flattered by the word.
Shaving his head bald caused an awkward emphasis on Chuck’s large ears. It gave him a leporine look he probably wasn’t hoping for.
Palmy is an adjective that means prosperous or flourishing.
Palm trees may seem like an unlikely origin for word that means ‘prosperous or flourishing,’ but it would help to know that our word of the day began life because the branch of a palm tree in 14th Century England had traditionally been used as a symbol of triumph.
After years of struggle, my uncle found the palmy days he’d always been seeking. It’s wonderful to seem him finally achieve success.
Literatim is an adjective that means letter for letter.
Literatim comes directly from Latin. Originally meaning ‘literature,’ its meaning has shifted a little over the years and now means ‘word for word,’ as in: Our English teacher demanded that we recite the introduction to Romeo and Juliet literatim. Even the tiniest deviation from the text would not be tolerated.
Widdershins is an adverb that means in a contrary direction.
Our word of the day is of German origin. It evolved from the word widersinnen (VEE der sin en) which means ‘against the way.’ In this case, the ‘way’ is clockwise, so widdershins first meant ‘counterclockwise.’ As it evolved through 16th century Scottish and eventually English, its meaning broadened a little into: ‘in a contrary direction.’
Harry has always been a contrarian. He seems to go through his daily life widdershins.
Abdicate is a verb that means to give up a position of power.
The king refused to abdicate his position in spite of protests from the people. It would take much more to get him to give up that kind of power.
Thaumaturge is a noun that refers to a worker of miracles or a magician.
The Greek word thaumatourgos (THOU mah too gose) refers to a ‘conjuror or worker of wonders.’ The word’s meaning has remained more or less the same, but today we’re less likely to believe in the idea of someone working miracles. Still our word of the day is always handy when a miracle worker does emerge.
The medication took away my swollen feet immediately. It seemed to me that the doctor was something of a thaumaturge.
Cogitation is a noun that refers to the action of thinking deeply about something.
The Latin word cogitare (KOE gee tar ay) means ‘to think’ and has given birth to a number of related English words like recognize, cognizant and cogitate, a verb that means ‘to think deeply.’ Our word of the day is a noun that is derived from cogitate.
Kevin wanted to contemplate things before calling the police, but I made it clear that we needed to act immediately. This wasn’t the time for quiet cogitation.
Paradisical is an adjective that means related to or befitting paradise.
The concept of paradise is old as time itself. But the word paradise comes from the Greek word paradeisos (par uh DASE ose) meaning ‘royal park.’ Our word of the day is simply a derivative that means related to paradise.
There was something paradiscal about that beach. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place.
Burgeon is a verb that means to grow or flourish rapidly
The Latin word burra (BOO rah) means ‘wool.’ From there it evolved into the French word bourgeonenner (BOOGH ah nay) meaning to ‘put out buds.’ This gave birth to our word of the day, which is often used as the adjective burgeoning.
We thought the controversy would harm the sales of our t-shirt. It turned out to create a burgeoning demand.
Orgulous is an adjective that means haughty or full of pride.
Our word of the day emerged from Old French and gained popularity when used by 19th century historical novelist Sir Walter Scott. It has an old wold sound that may sound a little affected if used too casually.
The Queen’s orgulous behavior puzzled many in the court. They’d never before seen her act in such a haughty manner.
Reticular is an adjective that means having a netlike structure.
The Latin word rete (RAY tay) means ‘net.’ Something reticular resembles a net in some sense. The word is frequently used in science to describe cells that arranged in a net-like fashion. But may also be used in an everyday manner.
When I saw those reticular patterns on my legs, I panicked. But the doctor told me it was perfectly normal for someone of my age.
Coriaceous is an adjective that means resembling or having the texture of leather.
Corium (CORE ee oom) is the Latin word for leather or hide. This is the ancestor of our word of the day which may refer literally to something made of leather or figuratively to something that resembles the texture of leather.
I usually prefer having something soft against my skin, but with winter approaching, I love the coriaceous feel of my new jacket. It’s not leather, but thankfully, it feels like it.
Volition is a noun that refers to the power of choosing or determining.
The Latin word volo (VOE low) means ‘I wish’ or ‘I want.’ It would be helpful to think of a person’s volition as the ability to act as they want. At first it seemed that Sarah was forced to leave school by the administration. But we later later learned she was leaving of her own volition.
Esemplastic is an adjective that means moulding into one or unifying.
There’s a good chance you recognize the word ‘plastic’ in our word of the day. Esemplastic emerged in the early 19th century by combining plastic — from the Greek plassein (PLASS ain) meaning ‘to mold’ with ‘es’ and ‘en’ meaning ‘into one.’
We needed somebody to unify our tech work with our philanthropic efforts. Fortunately we found someone with a very esemplastic mind who was able to fulfill that role.
Alameda is a noun that refers to a public walkway shaped with trees.
Our word of the day comes directly from Spanish, where it referred to a poplar grove. It entered English in the late 18th century with basically the same meaning. It’s also a common baby name as well as a name of a city in north central California.
The alameda looks lovely this time of year. It’s wonderful to stroll along those trees just as they beginning to bloom.
Stellate is an adjective that means star-shaped.
The Latin word Stella (STAY la) means star. Over the years it has evolved into a number of English words like stellar, interstellar, constellation and, our word of the day which refers to something shaped like a star.
Those stellate figures under water had me transfixed. It looked as if I was staring into the nighttime sky.
Seriatim is sometimes an adjective and sometimes an adverb that means point-by-point.
Related to the word series, our word of the day comes from the Latin phrase ‘one after another.’ The lawyer’s closing argument was perfect. He refuted every accusation made by the other side seriatim.
Burnish is a verb that means to polish or shine.
The French word brun (brahh) means brown. Our word of the day came about with the French word for brown was turned into a verb, meaning to ‘shine something until it became brown.’
Those old trophies in my dad’s closet look pretty worn out now, but after I burnish them, they’ll look as good as new.
Consanguinity is a noun that means close relationship or connection.
Our word of the day’s first three letters C-O-N is a prefix meaning ‘with’ or ‘together.’ sanguineus (san GWEEN ee oos) on the other hand is the Latin word for ‘blood.’ When combined, they mean ‘from the same blood’ or from a common ancestor.
After years of research, we discovered the consanguinity between the King and his highest ranking general. Keeping power in the family was very common in those days.
Piquant is an adjective that means having a pleasantly sharp or spicy taste.
Piquant is a direct loan from our French friends. The word piquer (PEE kay) means ‘stinging or prickling.’ When the word shifted into English, its meaning shifted along with it. Now piquant had come to mean ‘pleasantly stinging.’ For context, something like mustard might be described as piquant, but not, say cornbread.
I usually prefer foods with a sweet as opposed to a piquant taste. But I enjoyed the meal just the same.
Wayfaring is an adjective that means (of a person) traveling on foot.
Derived from the Old English words ‘way’ and ‘fare’ wayfaring has been around since the 14th century. It has a literary sound to it, but don’t be intimidated. It sounds right at home when used in a historical context.
In Medieval times, wayfaring peoples often visited villages across the river. For many of them, walking was their only option.
Olfactory is an adjective that means related to the sense of smell.
The Latin word olfacere (ol fah CHAIR ay) meant ‘to smell.’ Coming direction from this origin is our word of the day which refers to anything related to the sense of smell.
When Kari told me she didn’t smell anything unusual in the stockroom, I began to wonder if her olfactory skills were okay. I could smell the strange smell in that room well before I walked inside.
Trouvaille is a noun that means a lucky find.
Our word of the day comes to us directly from the French word trouver (true VAY) meaning ‘find.’ But a trouvaille is lucky, which in some cases means something found that wasn’t being looked for.
The old book I found at the yard sale turned out to be quite a trouvaille. I later discovered it was worth thousands of dollars.
Eleemosynary is an adjective that means related to charity.
The Greek word eleimosýni (el lee Moe SEE nee) means alms or charity. From there we get our word of the day which may refer to charity in a neutral sense or it may mean ‘dependent on charity.’
The church’s eleemosynary work is usually taken care of during the summer. There’s something about that warm weather that puts people in a charitable mood.
Mien is a noun that means a person's appearance or manner.
Mien originated in Middle French, where it meant “appearance” or “facial expression.” As the word shifted to modern English, its spelling changed a little, but its definition is roughly the same. A person’s mien is basically a reference to their manner — physically and otherwise.
I could somehow tell that Andrew wasn’t guilty of the crimes he was accused of. There was something in his mien that suggested a man to innocent to have committed fraud.
Effigy is a noun that refers to a sculpture or a model of a person.
Our word of the day began with the Latin effingere (EFF in jare ay) meaning ‘to shape.’ In time effigy came to refer something being shaped, namely a sculpture designed to resemble something else.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the statue, it just doesn’t resemble the General as it was intended to. It’s lovely, but as an effigy, it has failed.
Cachet is a noun that means prestige or the state of being respected or admired.
The Latin word for ‘constrain’ or ‘press’ is (co act TEAR ay). As our word of the day evolved through French it came to refer to a ‘stamp’ or ‘seal’ — as in a stamp or seal of approval.
My big sale on Monday earned me lots of cachet in the office. From that point on, I had the respect and admiration of all the senior salesmen.
Harlequin is an adjective that means of varied colors.
Based on an obsolete French word, harlequin got its name from the leader of a legendary troop of demon horsemen. Soon it became a name used for a character in traditional pantomime. A harlequin was usually masked and dressed in a diamond-patterned costume. Its flamboyant, colorful costume gave birth to the word harlequin as an adjective that means ‘in varied colors.’
My daughter loves to decorate things wildly and flamboyant. So when I tasked her with painting the doghouse, she came up with a lovely, harlequin scheme.
Ensconce is a verb that means to establish or settle something in a comfortable place.
The Latin word for hide is abscondere (ab SKON dere ay), but our word of the day isn’t strictly a synonym of hide. When someone or something is ensconced in a comfortable place, it is not necessarily done in secret.
I enjoyed my job at the recording studio. I felt that for the first time in my life, I was making a living while ensconced in a comfortable place.
Miasma is a noun that means an unpleasant smell or vapor.
Our word of the day has been around since the Mid-17th century, but its roots go back to the Greeks. Defilement in Greek is mólynsi moe EES ee). Keep in mind that while miasma means unpleasant smell, it usually represents more than just your ordinary bad smell.
The miasma coming from the dumpster outside was a clue that there were dangerous chemicals around. The smells Mr. Brooks discerned were far more toxic than the typical dumpster scents.
Abditory is a noun that refers to a hiding place.
The Latin word abdit refers to a storage room. An abditory, more specifically refers to a place for hiding things.
When I told Scott about the room in the back, I had no idea he would use it as an abditory. But you wouldn’t believe the things I found in there.
Afflated is an adjective that means inspired, especially by spiritual or divine means.
Our word of the day’s earliest record use is from 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The word afflate — meaning ‘blow up’ as in something done to a balloon — had already been in use, but in Barrett’s hands, the word took on a new spiritual meaning.
I love gospel music. After spending a few hours listening to that divinely inspired music, I feel alllated by a higher power.
Timbre is a noun that refers to the quality of a musical sound or voice.
The Greek word tumpanon (TOOM pan on) means drum, but as tumpanon has evolved into timbre, its meaning has expanded to refer to any kind of sound. You could think of a timbre as a person or thing’s unique sound.
It had been years since I’ve talked to my old history, and yet I recognized Mrs. Hatch’s timbre right away.
Bequest is a noun that means legacy.
The origin of bequest combines the Middle English word for ‘about’ and the Old English word for ‘speech.’ This is also the origin of the word bequeath, meaning to ‘pass something along in one’s will.’ You can think of a bequest as that which gets bequeathed — either literally or figuratively.
My grandfather was a man of immense talents. But because he didn’t manage his money well, he left no bequest apart from all the entertaining stories about him.
Remontant is an adjective that means blooming more than once a season.
The French word remonter (RAY mon tay) means ‘coming up again.’ That’s the origin of our word of the day that refers to a plant that blooms multiple times a season.
When I saw those lovely plants rise up for the third time this year, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I soon realized the plant was remontant.
Amalgam is a noun that refers to a mixture or blend.
The Greek word malaktikos (mal ACT ee kose) means emollient. From here, the word evolved into something referring to a mixture or blend.
My book featured a number of different sources. You might say it’s an amalgam of stories, and unconfirmed rumors by members of the band.
Apotheosis is a noun that means the highest point of development.
Our word of the day comes indirectly from the Ancient Greeks who had the interesting habit of ‘granting’ someone in your bloodline god status. Apparently this was so common, there was a word for it. That word is our word of the day, apotheosis and its literal translation was “making into a god.”
The word’s meaning has evolved over time into its present meaning. But it’s easy to see how “making into a god” could be the basis of “the highest point of development.”
Max’s career peaked in the late eighties. I feel he reached his apotheosis with his seventh album.
Confluence is a noun that means an act or process of merging.
The original meaning of confluence stems referred to a joining of rivers. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the word came from a Latin word confluere (co flew AIR ay) meaning ‘flow together.’ This is helpful to know whether using confluence in the old sense or in a sense such as: the conference was thrilling to attend. I’d never before heard such a brilliant confluence of ideas.
Orotund is an adjective that means resonant and imposing.
Rotund, meaning round, has roughly the same origin of orotund. Both words come from the Latin rotundum (ro TOON doom) meaning rounded. In the case of our word of the day, it refers to the shape of a rounded mouth when making resonant sounds.
I’ve been told I should be an opera singer. I guess I have a very orutund voice.
Otiose is an adjective that means serving no practical purpose.
The Latin word otiosus (oh tee OH soos) meaning leasure, provides the origin of our word of the day. If behavior is otiose, it serves no purpose.
I always wondered why Jimmy would have a beer before completing his assignment. I soon learned that his pre-assignment drinking was purely otiose.
Frippery is a noun that means unnecessary or ornamental in architecture, dress or language.
The French word Fripere (FREE pair ee) refers to old or second hand clothes. As our word of the day evolved, it became a word for unnecessary ornament — in clothing as well as other areas, such as architecture.
Desmond is a nice guy, but his frippery can get a little annoying. He can’t say ‘good morning’ in under three thousand words.
Propagate is a verb that means to spread or promote a theory or idea widely.
The origins of our word of the day are firmly rooted in horticulture. The Latin word propagare (pro puh GAR ay) means to set a small shoot or twig cut for planting or grafting.’ The word was borrowed into the English in the late 16th century, and its earliest uses referred to the reproduction of plants or animals.
But more recently, the word’s meaning can extend to the ‘reproduction’ of something intangible, such as an idea or belief. For example: I don’t know how people at the office got the impression that they’d be reimbursed for lunch. I blame Charlie for propagating the idea.
Compendious is an adjective that means containing all the essential facts, but concise.
The Latin word compendiosus (com PEN dee oh soos) means ‘advantage, brief.’ From there our word of the day was born, eventually evolving into a word for ‘containing all the essential facts, but concise.’
As a young lawyer, I could be a little verbose. Let’s just say my briefs weren’t very compendious.
Bedazzle is a verb that means to greatly impress with skill.
The root word of bedazzle is dazzle, which means to blind someone temporarily. Bedazzle is more likely to be used metaphorically. For example: He bedazzled us with his guitar-playing skill. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
Tenebrous is an adjective that means shadowy or obscure.
Tenebrous has its origin in the Latin noun tenebrae, (TEN ay BRIE aye) meaning ‘darkness.’ It’s been used in English since the 15th century.
Those ghost stories around the campfire were awfully creepy. The tenebrous atmosphere played a big role in setting the scene.
Acuity is a noun that means sharpness of thought, vision or hearing.
Our word of the day means to be sharp, physically and mentally. So it makes sense that acuity would have evolved from the Latin word acurere (ah coo WHERE ay) meaning ‘to sharpen.’
After dad’s accident, we feared his damage would make him less responsive. But to our relief, he maintained a remarkable acuity.
Maculate is an adjective that means spotted or stained.
Maculate comes from the Latin word macula (MA cool ah) meaning spot. You may have noticed the similarity between our word of the day and the word immaculate. Immaculate is the antonym, which means ‘spotless’ or ‘without stain.’
The stuff I found in the attic was pretty dirty. Mostly I found dusty old clothes and maculate portrait of my grandmother.
Ballyhoo is a noun that refers to extravagant publicity or fuss.
The origin of ballyhoo is unclear, but we do know it emerged in the late 19th century. It’s a fun word to use when you want to sound like an old-school Hollywood producer or carnival barker.
The album was a big success thanks to the ballyhoo it was given by the label. Without all that publicity, I don’t think many people would have cared much about it
Procellous is an adjective that means stormy or turbulent.
Procella (pro CHELL uh) is the Latin word for squall or ‘sudden gust of wind.’ From that our word of the day evolved into a synonym of stormy or turbulent.
Driving back from Des Moines was a challenge. The procellous weather wasn’t easy to navigate.
Innumerate is an adjective that means without basic mathematics skills.
The Latin word numero (NEW mare oh) means number. By adding the prefix I-N, we get a word that means ‘not numerate.’ The best way to think of innumerate is as the math equivalent of illiterate. A person who is illiterate cannot read. A person who doesn’t have basic math skills is innumerate.
When I was two, I found a dollar and thought I could buy a car. I suppose that was just a matter of being an innumerate child.
Agglomeration is a noun that means a large collection.
Our word of the day comes from the Latin agglomerare (a glom ay RAR ay) meaning ‘to wind or add into a ball.’ It may help to think of a ball of yarn as an agglomeration of yarn.
It was difficult to collect all of my old childhood items from my closet. It took a while to gather such a huge agglomeration of stuff.
Emissive is an adjective that means having the power to radiate light.
The Latin prefix E-M-I-S-S refers to something that is ‘emitted’ or ‘sent out.’ Emissive may be used in a scientific context to refer to radiating light, or more informally it may simply refer to something like colors being emitted. For example: The cinematography of that film is stunning. I like the emissive qualities of that scene where the red lights shine through the dark sky.
Galvanic is an adjective that means sudden and dramatic.
An 18th century Italian physicist Luigi Galvini made a number of key discoveries in the field of biolelectricity. The French word gavanique (gal van EEK) was first coined in his honor. It may help to think of a galvanic experience as sudden like a charge of electricity.
I was stunned by Tyler’s announcement that we had won first prize. The news hit my like an electrical shock.
Rigmarole is a noun that means a lengthy or complicated process.
In the Mid 18th century, a document that contained a list of offenses was referred to as a ragman’s role. In time, this evolved into our word of the day that has evolved into having a broader meaning.
I can’t believe how long it took to have my name legally changed. The rigmarole I went through was endless.
Orbicular is an adjective that means having a rounded shape.
The Latin word orbiculus (OR bee coo loose) translates roughly to ‘ball.’ And its descendant, our word of the day may refer to anything rounded in shape. Orbicular is often used by geologists to refer to rocks that are spherical in shape, but the word may be used in more informal contexts.
As a kid, I always wondered how planets developed their orbicular nature. Now as an astrophysics major, I’m getting closer to an answer.
Convoke is a verb that means to call together or summon.
Our word of the day combines the prefix C-O-N meaning ‘together’ with the Latin vocare (vo CAR ay) which means ‘call.’Convoke is typically used in a formal sense. A person is more likely to convoke a meeting or a council than, say, a party.
We knew something important was happening when the head of the department convoked an emergency conference. The need to summon those people urgently indicated something dire.
Capacious is an adjective that means roomy or having a lot of space.
Capacious comes from the Latin word capax (cap AXE) which roughly translates to ‘capacity.’ It may help to think of a large room as having a capacity to hold many people or things, so a capacious room would be a room with lots of space.
I love the capacious kitchen in my new apartment. It’s so nice to have enough space for everything I need to cook.
Gustatory is an adjective that means related to the sense of taste.
The Latin word gustare (goo STAR ay) means ‘to taste’ and it has given us many words related to tasting, including our word of the day. Gustatory is a neutral word that refers to anything involving the sense of taste.
Whenever I taste seafood, I’m reminding of my childhood in New Orleans. Those gustatory sensations of fried shrimp on French bread immediately take me back to my favorite cafe on bourbon Street.
Pangloss is a noun that refers to a person who is optimistic regardless of the circumstances.
Panglass was a character in an 18th century novel by Voltaire called Candide. The character was known for remaining upbeat and optimistic even when things were going catastrophically wrong. It’s important not to use the word to describe an ordinary optimist, but someone whose optimism has reached foolish levels.
I like Janet, but she can be something of a pangloss. No matter how badly things are going, she always thinks they’ll work out for the best.
Galumph is a verb that means to move in a clumsy way.
19th century English author Lewis Carrol is best known for the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but he’s also widely been credited with adding to the vernacular by combining common words in a humorous way.
In the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland called Through the Looking Glass, he created the word ‘galumph’ by apparently combining Gallup and triumph. The result is our word of the day and although its meaning has shifted a little over the years to mean ‘to move in clumsily,’ it’s still almost never used as flattery.
I can hear Jimmy galumph into the office all the way from my cubicle. That kind of clumsiness is hard to keep quiet.
Raconteur is a noun that refers to a skilled storyteller.
Raconteur comes directly from the French word raconter (RACK on tay) meaning ‘relate.’ But don’t let the word’s simple origin trick you. A raconteur isn’t just someone who relates a story. They do so in an engaging, entertaining way.
Some people doubted the veracity of Eddie’s wild stories, but personally, I found him such an extraordinary raconteur that I didn’t care whether his tales were true or not.
Enigmatic is an adjective that means mysterious.
Enigma comes to us directly from Greece, where it means ‘riddle.’ Comic book fans may recall a character named Ed Nygma, the alter ego of the Batman villain known as The Riddler. Not everyone called enigmatic has such a direct connection to riddles, but the word generally refers to those who are — like a riddle — difficult to figure out.
Having Eric as a boss can be a challenge. It’s hard to figure out the needs of someone so enigmatic.
Aeonian is an adjective that means everlasting.
The word aeon comes from Greek, meaning ‘age,’ as in a period of time like The Stone Age. When used in geology, aeon specifically refers to a thousand million years. Aeonian may mean lasting an aeon or it may simply mean everlasting or eternal, as in: the time Aurora and I spent was limited but our love is aeonian.
Pellucid is an adjective that means clear or easily understood.
The Latin word lucere (LOO chair ay) means shine. Combined with per, for ‘through,’ we get shine through, meaning clear. Our word of the day may be used to describe something like water that is clear in a literal sense, or something like an idea or a passage of writing that is clear in a figurative sense.
The film critic’s writing was awfully clever, but I couldn’t understand what he was actually trying to say about the movie. I would have preferred he express himself with more pellucid prose.
Extemporize is a verb that means to perform without preparation.
Ex tempore (ecks TEM poor ay) is a Latin phrase that means ‘done instantly.’ From this origin we get a word that is often used when describing speeches or musical performances performed instantly as opposed to written out in advance.
After getting in trouble for making highly controversial statements, the Senator’s aides recommended that he not extemporize his speeches anymore. Planning his words out in advance made more sense.
Salient is an adjective that means most noticeable or important.
The most common use of salient is to describe something that stands out or is most obviously noted. But it may also be used to describe an animal standing on its hind legs as if leaping. This explains why our word of the day comes from the Latin Salire (say LEER ay) meaning to leap.
Jeff’s observation about the house’s strange smell was pretty salient. That odd odor was the first thing that stood out when we entered it.
Tumult is a noun that means a loud, confused noise.
Our word of the day’s origin begins with the Latin word tumultus (too MOOL toos) meaning ‘uprising.’ An uprising is one of many things that may cause the loud, confusing noise of a tumult.
I woke up to the sound of tumult outside. I later found out a fight had broken out in the street.
Surreptitious is an adjective that means done in secret.
Surreptitious comes from surripere (soo re PEER ay) the Latin word for ‘seizing or stealing secretly.’ Surreptitious behavior doesn’t necessarily involve stealing, but it typically involves doing things in secret because they are not approved of.
When we found out about those surreptitious meetings at the office, we wondered what was happening in there. As we suspected, they were discussing plans to embezzle millions
Ebullience is a noun that means a quality of being full of energy; cheerful.
Ebullience is a quality that may be described as ‘bubbling over’ with enthusiasm or joy. So it makes sense that our word of the day would come from the Latin word ebullire (eb ooh LEER ay)which means to ‘bubble out’ or ‘boil.’
Rhonda announced to her co-workers that she was pregnant. That immediately explained the ebullience on her face all week.
Omnishambles is a noun that refers to a situation where poor judgement results in chaos.
Emerging in the early 21st century, our word of the day is a very recent addition to English language, combining the Latin omnis, (OME nees) meaning ‘all’ with shambles, meaning total disorder. Craig thought he had control of the plumbing, but he returned home to find an omnishambles unfolding on his bathroom floor.
Demotic is an adjective that means colloquial.
The greek word demos (DEM ose) refers to ‘the people.’ It’s the same word that gave us words like democratic and demographic. Demotic refers to language used by ordinary people.
People found the mayor’s speech off-putting. They would have preferred he speak in more demotic terms.
Equable is an adjective that means not easily disturbed or angered.
Aequabilis (EYE kway beel es) is Latin for ‘make equal.’ Similarly, a person with an equable personality has an ability to make their temperaments equal.
The doctor’s equable nature made him ideal for the job. His ability to remain calm in stressful situations came in handy.
Atemporal is an adjective that means existing without relation to time.
The word temporal comes from the Latin temporailis (tem poor AL is) meaning transitory. The addition of A as a suffix implies the opposite, so atemporal means ‘not transitory.’ Or ‘not limited to time.
The album was released thirty years ago, but its quality is atemporal. It sounds as fresh today as it did when it was first recorded.
Equipoise is a noun that means balance of forces or interests.
Equipoise combines E-Q-U-I meaning equal and P-O-I-S-E meaning balance and gives us something that means balance of interests.
The deal struck between me and the law firm was hardly a deal between equals. It could have used a little more equipoise.
Digerati is a noun that refers to people with expertise or personal involvement with information technology.
Our word of the day is a portmenteau, meaning a combination of two words that forms another word. Digerati combines digital — meaning related to computer technology — with literati — meaning a group of people involved in the literary world — and gives us a word that means ‘people involved with the world of digital technology. The word emerged during the 1990s.
I had a feeling the digerati would enjoy my latest novel. Its themes of digital technology seemed likely to resonate with those in the tech world.
Kenspeckle is an adjective that means easily recognizable.
The exact origin of kenspeckle is uncertain, but the word appears to have Scandinavian roots, perhaps through the Old Norse words ‘Kenna’ which means ‘to know or perceive’ and spak which means ‘wisdom.’
I could still identify the old football stadium after twenty-five years. There was something kenspeckle about those rusted old benches.
Alimentary is an adjective that means related to nourishment or sustenance.
Alimentum (ah lee MENT oom) is Latin for nourishment. After morphing a little, the word entered English in the late 16th century.
After running a marathon, the body craves something alimentary. Soda pop and crackers just won’t do.
Sanative is an adjective that means conducive to good health and well-being.
Sanative came to us from Late Middle English, but has its origin in Latin. The word Sanare (sah NAR ay) means ‘to cure.’ Our word of the day is often used to refer to diets or exercise that may have healing or healthy qualities.
Since catching a cold, I’ve been eating lots of chicken soup. According to urban lore, it has sanative powers.
Improbity is a noun that means a lack of honesty or integrity.
The Latin word probus (PRO boos) means upright or generous. By adding the prefix ‘I-M’ we get the opposite meaning or ‘wicked.’
That story on the news about the horrific behavior taking place at the factory put chills through my body. I’d never before seen that kind of improbity in the workplace.
Nubilous is an adjective that means cloudy or foggy.
Our word of the day is a direct descendent of the Latin word nubes (NOO bess) which means cloud. Nubilous may be used literally to refer to actual clouds or figuratively to mean vague or hazy, as in: I didn’t have a notion of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I just had a nubilous idea of doing something in law enforcement.
Exonerate is a verb that means to absolve of blame.
The Latin verb exonerare (ecks on air RAHR ay) means ‘freed from a burden.’ Our word of the day is often used in a legal sense, as in: Charles assured us that the DNA would exonerate his client. And sure enough, the blood sample revealed that the defendant was not guilty of the crime.
Minutiae is a noun that means small precise details.
Minutiae is from Latin. Minutias (mi NOOT ee us) means ‘smallness.’ Our word of the day refers to smallness not in physical size but importance. I’ve got important things to worry about. I don’t have to concern myself over the minutiae of my cat’s food preferences.
Ardor is a noun that means great passion and enthusiasm.
The Latin word ardere (ARE dare ay) means ‘to burn.’ It wasn’t far from there to get to a word that referred to a ‘burning passion.’
Working at the car wash for me, was just another job. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t say I had an ardor to clean hub caps.
Cloister is a verb that means to seclude or hide.
The Latin word claudere (klow ooh DARE ay) means ‘shut’ or ‘lock’ as in something you’d do to a door. From there, the word cloister was born, originally meaning a place of ‘religious seclusion,’ then, more specifically to a monastery or convent. It may also be used metaphorically to mean ‘shut off’ as if in a monastery or convent.
Jane can be something of an introvert. She has a tendency to cloister herself away for days.
Salvific is an adjective that means related to the power of salvation.
The Latin word salvus (SOL voos) means safe. Our word of the day emerged in the late 16th century, taking on a theological connotation, as in: ‘the salvific power of the Lord.’ Today the word is still used almost entirely in a religious context.
Ellen treated the concert tickets as if they were religious artifacts. The way she revered them, you’d think those tickets had salvific powers.
Paseo is a noun that refers to a leisurely stroll.
The Spanish word ‘paseo’ means ‘step.’ When imported into English maintained the meaning of meaning ‘a casual stroll,’ especially in the evening.
I’m too tired to do my usual workout routine today. Instead I think I’ll just have a little paseo after dinner.
Raffish is an adjective that means unconventional.
The Old French words rif and raf mean, ‘one and all.’ This phrase gave birth to the term riffraff as well as our word of the day. But the two words aren’t exactly synonyms. Referring to someone as raffish is not as insulting as calling them riffraff.
When I played in a rock band, I often wore tattered clothes. They gave me the raffish look I was seeking.
The Latin word elido (el EE doe) means ‘to dash to pieces.’ The word elide first came to mean ‘omit’ in reference to a sound or syllable being omitted from a word. As time went be, the word took on another meaning. Omitting a sound or syllable often meant joining other sounds. For example, if we take ‘I will’ and omit the W and I sound, we join I and LL together to get ‘I’ll.’ To this day, elide can either mean ‘omit,’ in reference to a sound or syllable or ‘merge.’ But when it means ‘merge,’ it may refer to anything, for example: I was hoping my teacher would elide both classes. It would be nice to spend some time from the kids in room 23.
Precipice is a noun that means a steep cliff.
The Latin word praeceps (PRY ay cheps) means ‘steep and headlong.’
I had an accident while climbing a mountain last year. I lost my grip of the rope and tumbled down the precipice.
Tertiary is an adjective that means third in order or level.
Our word of the day comes almost directly from Latin. The word tirtius (TEAR tee oos) means third. Tertiary is most commonly used when listing items. The first of a series would be primary. The second, secondary and the third tertiary.
The weather was the tertiary reason for my relocation to Florida. The first was my new job, and the second was the opportunity to live close to family.
Igneous is an adjective that means related to fire.
The Latin word ignis (EEN yeece) means fire. Today igneous is often used by geologists to refer to volcanoes. But it may also be used as a synonym of fire, as in: I was stunned by Irene’s igneous temper. I had never seen that fiery side of her temperament before.
Metamorphic is an adjective that means ‘related to a change or a metamorphosis.’
Our word of the day combines the Greek prefix ‘meta’ meaning ‘change’ with ‘morph’ meaning ‘form.’ This is a also where the term metamorphosis comes from. Metamorphic is simply an adjective to describe a metamorphosis or change.
Winning the lottery seemed to have a metamorphic impact on Chuck’s personality. All the money clearly changed him into a very different person.
Polysemy is a noun that means possibility of many meanings for a word.
Our word of the day has a fairly recent origin. It combines the Greek prefix ‘poly’ for ‘many’ and the Greek ‘simadi’ (see MA dee) meaning ‘sign.’
I encourage my students to use simple words in their writing. Polysemy can often cause unintended ambiguity.
Bevy is a noun that refers to a large gathering of people or things of a particular kind.
The precise origin of bevy is unknown, but it came to refer to a group of birds — especially quail — just as a ‘pack’ refers to a group of wolves. It may also refer to a group of people, for example: I was stunned by the bevy of movie stars I saw at the party that night. I’d never seen such a breathtaking collection of celebrities.
Aplomb is a noun that means self-confidence.
Aplomb comes from French, where it means, ‘according to a plumb line.’ A plumb line refers to a line dipped into water to determine the water level. It is steady and solid — just like a person with aplomb.
Diana’s unwavering aplomb was a great source of comfort for us. Because she didn’t lack confidence, neither did we.
Ameliorate is a verb that means to make something better.
The French word meilleur (me YARE) beans ‘better.’ This is where our word of the day comes from. Ameliorated is often, but not always, used in a medical context.
When I was ill, I found that chicken soup ameliorated my cold. With every sip, I could feel my symptoms slowly fade away.
Swimmingly is an adverb that means smoothly or without problems.
The Dutch word zvem (ZVEM) is where we get swim from, but how do we get from that to a synonym of smoothly? Swimming suggests gliding motions and that suggests smooth or without problems.
Everything was going swimmingly with our experiment until the beaker exploded. After that, we had some serious problems.
Belie is a verb that means to fail to give a true impression of.
In Old English the word Leogan (LEE oh gan) means to lie. It’s basically an ancestor of the current word ‘lie.’ To belie something means to make something untrue or a lie.
Ross’ brand new wardrobe belies his claims of financial hardship. There’s no way a poor person could afford such extravagant clothes.
Variegated is an adjective that means exhibiting different colors.
The Latin word varius (VAR ee oos) means various, and it’s given birth to many words like variety, varied, and of course, variegated. The term is frequently used by botanists to describe leaves that contain multiple colors, but there’s a wide variety of ways our word of the day may be used.
If you ask me, Troy’s car looks a little tacky. The variegated hub caps are a bit much.
Animus is a noun that refers to hostility or ill will.
Our word of the day comes directly from Latin, but the word has shifted meaning a little. In Latin animus (AHN ee moos) means spirit or soul. Once imported to English, animus came to mean hostility or ill feeling.
It’s unlikely that Larry harbors any animus toward me. He doesn’t seem like the type to be angry over such a minor affair.
Sillage is a noun that refers to a scent that lingers in the air.
Sillage comes directly from French where it means ‘trail,’ but unlike ‘trail’ which has a broader meaning, our word of the day almost always refers to a scent.
Finding my old lucky horseshoe in the basement wasn’t difficult. I just had to follow that unmistakable sillage of rusted metal.
Coterie is a verb that means an inner circle or clique.
In Middle Low German the word kote (KOE tuh) refers to an association of tenants. Over the years the word’s definition has broadened to mean an association of just about anyone, but usually with the implication of exclusivity.
Those guys seemed to enjoy having me around, but I never felt a part of their coterie. I guess I just wasn’t cool enough to truly be one of them.
Stentorian is an adjective that means loud or powerful in sound.
Our word of the day is one of many words that have its origin in Greek mythology. In the classic work known of The Iliad, Stentor was the herald, or bringer of news, for the Greek forces. He was noted for his loud, thunderous voice.
I had a feeling James wouldn’t work out as a kindergarten teacher. Something about his stentorian nature tends to frighten children.
Nonpereil is an adjective that means without equal.
In French, the prefix non simply means ‘not’ and pareil means ‘equal.’ Together they refer to a person or a thing that is without equal.
Any comparisons between this grilled cheese sandwich and any others is pointless. This grilled sandwich is simply nonpereil.
Oeuvre is a noun that means the collective works of an artist.
Oeuvre comes directly from the French word for ‘work.’ It's often used by art or movie critics when describing the entire output of an artist.