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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.
Austral is an adjective that means related to the southern hemisphere.
You may recognize our word of the day as being embedded in the name of the country and continent Australia. This is no coincidence. The Latin word auster (OW ster) means ‘south,’ just perfect for a nation located in the Southwestern Pacific ocean.
I might visit New Zealand the next time I’m in the mood for austral travel. The southern hemisphere is such a lovely place to take photographs.
Misoneism is a noun that refers to a fear of innovation or change.
The Greek word for hatred is misos (ME sose) combined with another Greek word Neos (NAY ose) for ‘new’ and the Italian ismo (EASE moe) meaning ‘a distinctive practice’ we get ‘the hatred of the new. The word can also refer to fear of new things.
I don’t understand why all these parents hate the young people’s music. All this misoneism has a tendency to stagnate progress.
Costive is an adjective that means slow in action or expression.
The Latin word constipare (con stee PAR ay) referred to constipation, the medical condition of being unable to have a bowel movement. As our word of the day evolved its meaning broadened to also refer to being slow in action, regardless of the reason for the slowness.
Kyle’s costive temperament makes her a good judge. A person who is too quick to make decisions has a tendency to make rash moves.
Homologate is a verb that means to sanction or approve of.
Our word of the day combines the Greek Homos (HO mose) which means “alike” with the Greek word for “word” logos (LOW gose). Together they give us a word that refers to bringing words into agreement.
As the league’s commissioner, my job consisted mostly of homologating the deals brokered by the owners of the teams. It wasn’t always easy because sometimes the deals were were illegal, so I couldn’t approve of them.
Byronic is an adjective that means moody and melodramatic.
19th century poet Lord Byron provides the origin of our word of the day. He was a romantic English poet known for poetry that was full of melancholy and intense drama. Byronic may be used to describe poetry of this kind, or can be used more broadly to describe anything, like as a person’s behavior, that fits such a description. For example: Catherine’s been acting more Byronic lately. She’s been in a moody frame of mind all week.
Gimcrack is a noun that refers to something cheap and showy but of little use or an adjective that means showy but worthless.
Our word of the day’s origin is uncertain, but it seems to have common ground with words from Middle English that refer to furniture that is ornamental, but serves no practical purpose. Gimcrack has retained this same meaning today. For example: All those decorative gimcracks on Nigel’s guitar may have looked cute, but they didn’t disguise the fact that he wasn’t a very good player.
Encomium is a noun that refers to glowing praise.
The Greek word kōmos (COE mose) means ‘celebration.’ Enkōmion (en COMB ee um) referred specifically to an expression of praise made to a victor in the olympics. Later, the word was broadened to refer to any ode made is someone’s honor.
We all love the wonderful work Nancy has done since arriving here. She deserves great encomium.
Prestidigitation is a noun that means sleight of hand.
Our word of the day gets its origin by combining presto (PRESS toe) the Italian word for ‘quick’ and digitus (DEE gee toos) the Latin word for ‘finger.’ Often used to describe the work of magicians, prestidigitation can also be used in other contexts, such as: I was fooled by the thief’s prestidigitation. If I hadn’t seem him secretly put a candy bar in his pocket, I would have never known what was happening.
Bowdlerize is a verb that means to expurgate by omit parts considered vulgar.
Our word of the day’s origin begins with a 19th century English physician named Thomas Bowdler. In 1818, Bowdler published a book called “Family Shakespeare” with the intention of omitting “those words which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.” The book was successful with the general public, but literary and theatre critics weren’t as happy with what he’d done to The Bard’s work.
It didn’t take long for the word bowdlerize to enter English as a way of describing the doctor’s act. In fact, it appeared prior to his death in 1825.
I really hope the producers don’t bowdlerize my writing. Omitting vulgar words from it would seriously harm my artistic intentions.
Lucullan is an adjective that means luxurious.
The Roman general Lucius Licinius (loo SIN ee us) Lucullus had a reputation for having a lush lifestyle. From him we get our word of the day.
I wasn’t looking to live a lucullan lifestyle. But now that I’ve won the lottery, I’m happy to live in the kind of luxury I never dreamed about as a younger man.
Indurate is a verb that means to harden or an adjective that means physically or morally hardened.
The Latin word durus (DOO roos) means hard. It has spawned a number of other English words like, durable, endure and duration. As an adjective, If something is indurate is has become hardened over time. To Harden something or someone is to indurate them.
All those years on the police force has indurated Jeff. It has made him indurate to the difficulties of the job.
Geoponic is an adjective that means related to farming.
Derived from the Greek word ponein (POE neen) meaning ‘toil,’ our word of the day’s specific meaning is ‘tillage,’ but its broader meaning is agriculture.
Having grown up on a farm, Mark is a great deal more knowledgeable about geoponic matters than I am.
Nocebo is a noun that refers to a harmless substance that causes harm because it is believed to be harmful.
You may already be familiar with the word placebo, an innocuous substance that people may believe, through the power of suggestion, has the ability to heal. A nocebo is the opposite of a placebo. It is a harmless substance that people may believe, through the power of suggestion, has the power to harm.
Placebo has its origin in the Latin words for ‘I will please.’ Nocebo’s origin is in the phrase “I will harm.”
When Tyler heard the news reports about the recalled aspirin, it turned those pills into a nocebo. Just because he believed the pills would harm him, they did.
Monepic is an adjective that means comprised of one word.
Our word of the day is of Greek origin. The word epos (EP ose) means ‘word’ and combined with the prefix M-O-N, we get a ‘one word.’ A monepic statement simply means ‘a statement consisting of one word.
After years of getting monepic replies from the coach, the reporters were stunned to hear Chuck give such a lengthy answer to their question.
Materfamilias is a noun that refers to the female head of the household.
Our word is a combination of two Latin words. Mater (MAH ter) meaning ‘mother,’ and familia (fa MEEL ee uh) meaning ‘family.’ Together they give us a word for a female who heads the household.
As the materfamilias of a large Greek family, my mother knows a great deal about how to manage people who can be a little wild.
Periphrasis is a noun that means the use of more words than necessary.
The Greek word phrazein (FRAH zeen) provides the origin of our word of the day. It means to point out. This evolved into a word that refers to excessive explanation.
Craig doesn’t like employees who engage in periphrasis. An overly long explanation is simply excessive.
Blench is a verb that means to draw back from lack of courage.
Derived from Old English, our word of the day, blench is similar to the word blanch, which means to grow pale from shock. Both words are used to describe things done in fear.
Karen is a brave lady. She doesn’t blench when faced with a challenge.
Capstone is a noun that refers to a crowning achievement.
Our word of the day combines ‘cap’ with ‘stone’ to refer to the final stone in a construction. As a building’s capstone is usually at or near the top, it makes sense that it would evolve into a word for ‘the highest point.’
I feel Gretchen’s last movie was the capstone of her career. It’s hard to imagine her topping that performance.
Dilapidated is an adjective that means decayed or fallen into partial ruin.
Lapis (LAP eese) is the Latin word for stone. By adding the prefix D-I, we get the word for ‘pelt with stones.’ From there, it evolved into a word that means ‘destroyed from stones.’ More recently, it simply means decayed or destroyed — but not necessarily from stones.
I can’t believe Rosemary wasted her money on that old dilapidated building. Purchasing an old decaying property can only pay off if you invest a lot of time and money into repairing it.
Esprit de corps is a noun that refers to a spirit of solidarity.
Our word of the day comes directly from French. It is often used to describe sports teams, militaries and other endeavors that require great solidarity.
Without any sense of esprit de corps, our teams simply had no inspiration. A spirit of togetherness is very important for a bowling team.
Peremptory is an adjective that means dictatorial or not allowing contradictions.
Our word of the day is derived from Latin. The word perimere (per ee MARE ay) means ‘to take entirely.’ A peremptory ruler is one that does not allow any kind of descent from their rule.
The king’s rule was fully peremptory. Any attempt to oppose him was immediately stopped.
Terrene is an adjective that means earthly or mundane and also a noun that means earth or terrain.
Terra (TEAR uh) is the Latin word for earth. When used as a noun, the word is basically the same as terrain, but with a different spelling. As an adjective it is a synonym of worldly, as in: As a younger person, I focused mostly on terrene matters. But as I’ve gotten older, I realized that there are spiritual matters that are far more important.
Augean is an adjective that means extremely difficult.
Our word of the day is a reference to Augean stable, the cleansing of which was one of the labors of Hercules. According to the legend, the stable had gone uncleansed for thirty years. In some contexts, Augean can mean filthy. But it usually means extremely difficult.
Melanie was faced with the Augean task of putting little Mike to sleep. He’s such a rambunctious kid that no amount of effort will calm him down.
Histrionics is a noun that refers to melodramatic or hysterical behavior.
The Latin word histrio (HISS tree oh) means ‘actor.’ While actors aren’t only ones guilty of using histrionics, they are very much an actor’s stock and trade.
Devin’s histrionics can get a little hard to take. I don’t like it when people can’t tell a simple story without engaging in melodramatic behavior.
Pollyanna is a noun that refers to a naively optimistic person.
Our word of the day comes from a 1913 novel by Elinor Porter. Pollyanna is both the name of the novel and the protagonist who is characterized by an irrepressible optimism and a tendency to see the good in everything. It is best used to refer to people whose optimism is foolish and perhaps dangerous.
I like Karry, but she can be something of a pollyanna. One of these days her optimistic view of life is going to lead her into something horrible.
Bacchanal is a noun that means a wild drunken celebration. It can also be an adjective that means related to the god of wine.
Bacchus is the Greek god of wine and revelry. Our word of the day may be used as an adjective to refer to this deity, but is most frequently used to refer to a party or celebration that is very much in the spirit of Bacchus.
Kevin used to live a pretty wild life. He often spent weeks jumping from one bacchanal to another.
Abet is a verb that means to aid or assist in doing something wrong.
Our word of the day began life in Middle English where it meant, ‘to urge to do something.’ Abet is frequently used in a legal context where the thing one is urged to do is usually illegal. But outside of the legal world, its meaning can be broader, for example: I didn’t want to abet Mike’s unhealthy eating habits. But I figured cooking him a plate of food heavy in carbs every once in a while was a harmless thing to do.
Morphean is an adjective that means related to or producing sleep.
Morpheus was the Greek god of dreams. Our word of the day can, in come cases simply be used to refer to Morpheus or it may mean drowsy, a state that sends us to sleep and, of course, to our dreams.
Something about the movie’s tone had a morphean quality to it. All those tranquil images and sounds made me want to sleep for several hours.
Dearth is a noun that refers to a scarcity.
Derived from a Middle English word that had the same meaning and nearly the same spelling — D-E-R-T-H-E. This word evolved into our word of the day as well as the word dear which once had the same meaning as dearth.
Faced with a dearth of options, Tommy sold his beloved car. It hurt him to do so, but these are the kinds of choices one has to make when alternatives are scarce.
Karuna is a noun that refers to loving compassion.
Our word of the day is of Sanskrit origin and is commonly used among Buddhists to describe a means of attaining a happy life. But it can be used more broadly to simply refer to compassion. For example: The situation calls for a little karuna on both sides. All that bickering and anger only makes things worse.
Lucent is an adjective that means clear or glowing with light.
Our word of the day comes from the Latin word lucēre (LOO chair ray) which means ‘to shine.’ Although, it may refer literally to light or a glowing, it can also be used metaphorically as a synonym of clear.
Tommy’s lucent explanation of the situation helped me understand things better. He made it clear that we needed to act soon.
Prudential is an adjective that means exercising good judgement.
Behavior that be labelled prudential is usually wise and containing foresight. So it makes sense that our word of the day’s origin is from prudentia (proo DENSE ee uh) the Latin word for ‘foreseeing.’
Carly’s prudential guidance has played a giant role in making this company what it is. We needed someone capable of making wise judgement.
Redbrick is an adjective that means working class or lacking prestige.
Our word of the day combines the two common English words, ‘red’ and ‘brick’ in reference to a kind of material used to construct buildings. Because redbrick is a more recent development, it means that a building created from it lacks the prestige of an older building. It is most commonly used to refer to less prestigious colleges or universities.
My father didn’t have the status to attend an older prestigious university like Cambridge or Oxford, so he had to settle for a redbrick school. Attending a more blue color university may have hurt him at the time, but he now has no regrets.
Sycophant is a noun that refers to a flatterer or someone who is servile.
The Greek word sykophantēs (seek oh FANT ace) meant slanderer. Over time this word evolved into sycophant and its meaning has evolved as well. In recent years, it’s come to be defined as a subserviant person who flatters for personal gain. So someone who flatters just for the sake of being nice can’t truly be considered a sycophant.
Many successful movie stars wind up getting surrounded by sycophants. It’s much better to be in the presence of those who genuinely love you.
Pickwickian is an adjective that means innocent or naive.
In the 19th century Charles Dickens novel, the Pickwick Papers, the character named Samuel Pickwick was noted for having a childlike naivete. In the novel, he gets hoodwinked by conmen and imposters.
Try not be so pickwickian in your dealings with the Senate. If your approach is too innocent, you can wind up getting taken to the cleaners.
Contumacious is an adjective that means stubbornly disobedient.
The origin of contumacious is contumax (con TOO mocks) the Latin word for rebellious. In a legal context it can also refer to the charge ‘contempt of court.’ Our word of the day is also used in legal contexts. Its uses can be flexible, but contumacious usually sounds best in a legal or formal context.
The doctor’s patient behaved in a highly contumacious manner. This is why it was necessary to call security on him.
Interdict is a verb that means to prohibit or stop. It can also be used as a noun that refers to a prohibition.
Our word of the day is of Latin origin. It combines the prefix I-N-T-E-R, meaning ‘between’ and
dicere, (DEE chair ay) meaning ‘to say’ or ‘to speak.’
In the past, anyone guilty of violating an interdict was subject to being cut off from having privileges from or attending, the Catholic church. In more recent years the word is used in contexts with less severe punishments.
An example of interdict as a noun would be: The office interdict forbade the use of use cell phones during working hours. As a verb, an example is: I understand why they wouldn’t want people talking excessively on their phone, but it seems a little extreme to interdict cell phone use altogether.
Propinquity is a noun that means nearness or proximity.
The Latin word prope (PRO pay) which means ‘near’ has given birth to our word of the day and its cousin ‘proximity.’ Propinquity is the older member of the family, having entered English in the 14th century.
Both words are roughly translated to ‘nearness’ but propinquity often conveys a sense of being closer than just ‘in the vicinity’ which is what proximity usually means. For example: As much as I loved the proximity of the football stadium a few blocks away, the propinquity of the hammock in the back yard made for a more relaxing afternoon.
Imprecation is a noun that refers to a curse.
The Latin word precari (pray CAR ee) means ‘to pray, ask or request.’ The addition of the prefix I-N gets us a word that can be thought of as the opposite of a prayer — in other words, a curse. The word be used to describe the actions of a figure like a witch or a warlock, but it can also be used more informally. For example: Brenda may have smiled when faced with all the extra work she had to do, but under her breath, she muttered many imprecations to her co-workers whose laziness caused her to work late.
Panoply is a noun that refers to a magnificent or impressive array.
The Greek word panoplia (pan oh PLEE uh) referred the full set of armor worn by Greek infantry guards. It combined the prefix PAN, meaning ‘all’ with hopla (HOPE la) meaning ‘armor.’ By the 17th century the word had entered the English language and its meaning had extended to mean ‘a full set’ of something that may or may not have anything to do with armor.
I was happy to see a panoply of food options at the banquet. With such a dazzling array of choices, I was sure everybody would find something to eat.
Dexterous is an adjective that means skillful or adroit.
Our word of the day comes from the Latin word dexter (DECKS ter) meaning ‘on the rights side.’ Because most people are right-handed and do things more skillfully with the right hand, the word dexterous came to be a synonym of ‘skillful.’
I love watching Amy’s dexterous work on the balance beam. It’s lovely to see that kind of skill.
Phlegmatic is an adjective that means having a calm, composed temperament.
You may recognize the word phlegm, as in the bodily fluid, in our word of the day. It turns out there is a connection. So how did phlegm come to be associated with a synonym of ‘calm’ and ‘stoic?’ The answer goes back to the ancient Greeks. They believed that human personalities were controlled by four bodily fluids called humors: Blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. Those ruled by phlegm were thought of as calm and unemotional. Centuries later, we would refer to such people as ‘the phlegmatic type.’
Charlie’s phlegmatic personality made him an ideal person to be around in times of crises. No matter how crazy things would get, he would remain cool and unemotional.
Cadge is a verb that means to beg.
The linguistic origin of cadge is not known for certain, but we do know that in the 1400s, peddlers who were called cadgers travelled the British countryside with horses and carts. By the 1800s the term was often used to describe people who were beggars posing as peddlers.
I hate having to cadge money from my brother. He always makes me feel bad for having to bed.
Gainly can be an adjective that means graceful. It can also be used as an adverb that means very or completely.
Originating in Middle English, the word gain has many meanings. Among other things it can mean ‘to win.’ You can think of gainly as a synonym of ‘winning’ as in, a ‘winning personality.’
Sheila’s gainly demeanor will get her far in life. Everyone loves to be in the company of someone charming and sweet.
Tweedy is an adjective that means academic or scholarly.
Tweed is a fabric whose name is of Scots origin. Because tweed is commonly worn by academics, our word of the day came to be a term to describe academics or anything associated with them.
You didn’t exactly conjugate that word properly. Sorry to come across tweedy, but as a former college professor, correcting people’s grammar is a habit.
Wieldy is an adjective that means easily handled or managed.
To wield something means to ‘hold’ or ‘use’ it. It is related to the German word Walten (VI uh un).
Once again, wieldy is spelled WIELDY. You may recognize our word of the day as the positive variation of the word unwieldy.
I like how wieldy this tool box is. It’s much easier to carry around than the others I’ve used in the past.
Overslaugh is a verb that means to pass over in favor of another. Less commonly, it can also be used as a noun that refers to an exemption from duty from the British armed forces.
Our word of the day originated in Dutch. The word overslaan (OVE er Shlan) means ‘to skip.’ I think it may be best to overslaugh Henry. I know he’s been with the company the longest, but the newer employees are so much better.
Overslaugh is spelled OVERSLAUGH.
Acarpous is an adjective that means sterile or not producing fruit.
Karpos (CAR pose) is the Greek word for fruit. The addition of the prefix A turns it into ‘fruitless.’ Our word of the day may refer to actual food but it may be used to mean any living creature that produces no offspring. It may also be used metaphorically to mean ‘unproductive’ or ‘futile.’ For example: The purpose of the meeting was to generate new ideas for the spring sale, but we couldn’t think of any. I had no idea the meeting would turn out to be so acarpous.
Hermetic is an adjective that means airtight or not affected by outside influence.
In Greek mythology, Hermes was the god of science and art. So it makes sense that the scientific discovery of an airtight tube would be credited to him. The word Hermetic is named for him.
The word is generally used in a scientific context, but it can also be used more informally as in: if we don’t want the milk to spoil, we should put it into a hermetic container. Using something airtight is the only solution.
Crestfallen is an adjective that means dispirited or humiliated.
Our word of the day began life in the late 16th century, originating with a reference to a mammal or bird having a fallen or drooping crest. An animal’s crest refers to its head. Having a drooping head is an indication that an animal — or person — is dejected.
The loss left Harold crestfallen for weeks. You wouldn’t think the results of a ping pong game would be so devastating, but Harold took the sport very seriously.
Sanguine is an adjective that means cheerfully optimistic. It can also be an adjective that means consisting of or related to blood or a noun that refers to a moderate to strong red.
The Latin word for blood is sanguis (SAN gwis). From this we get the meaning of ‘blood red’ or ‘related to blood’ as well as our word of the day’s other meaning ‘marked by eager hopefulness.’
In spite of the early results of polling, we remained sanguine about our candidate’s chances. Last year’s election gave us plenty of reason to feel upbeat.
Conduce is a verb that means to lead to a particular result.
The origin of our word of the day is from the Latin word conducere (cone do CHAIR ay) which means to conduct. I used to smoke six packs a day until I started making an effort to live healthier. Once I realized that smoking doesn’t conduce to a healthy life, I stopped.
Sui generis is an adjective that means of its own kind or unique.
Our word of the day is a phrase taken directly from Latin. Its literal translation is ‘of its own kind.’ It’s used to describe people or things that are one of a kind.
Max may have had others who looked a lot like him, but when it came to playing his guitar, he was truly Sui generis.
Syncretic is an adjective that means combining different forms of belief or practice.
The Greek word synkrētismos (sink ray TISS mos) refers to a federation of Cretan states. By the 19th century, its offspring syncretic had entered English. Although frequently used in a religious context, it may also refer to music, cultures or anything else characterized by a melding of more than one tradition.
The music of that tribe is very syncretic. It evolved from the influence of a number of nearby tribes.
Vitiate is a verb that means to corrupt or make ineffective.
Our word of the day is derived from the Latin word vitium (VEE tyoom) which means ‘fault’ or ‘moral flaw.’ It shares this root with words like ‘vicious’ and ‘vice.’ But it's not always used in a moral context. For example: For me that awful pie fight scene really vitiates the movie. From that point on, I could not overlook the movie’s flaws.
Cohere is a verb that means to be united.
Our word of the day comes from the Latin word cohaerēre (koe hay RARE ay) which means ‘to stick together.’
In order for the company to function properly, each office must cohere in purpose. If we don’t stick together, we’ll never get anything done
Etesian is an adjective that means occurring every year.
The Greek word etos (ETT ose) means year. From this we get our word of the day which first entered English in the early 17th century.
These etesian inspections can really be a problem. One year is simply not enough time to get every part of our van in working order.
Pharisaical is an adjective that means hypocritical.
Our word of the day is derived from the Pharisees, an ancient sect that was known among readers of the Bible for having a strict adherence to traditional law but a tendency to behave in pretentious, self-righteous ways. By the 17th century, the word pharisaical had come to English, having come from Greek through Aramaic.
Like many politicians, the mayor has been called pharisaical, but I don’t think the charge is fair. He’s very devoted to his faith and he follows its teachings faithfully.
Luddite is a noun that refers to a person who avoids the use of new technology.
It’s not certain which language our word of the day comes from but we know the term was first used to describe a group of textile mill workers in Nottingham, England in the early 19th century who rioted for the destruction of new machinery that was slowly replacing them. A man known as Ned Ludd seemed to be involved in the movement.
In more recent years, the word is used to describe anyone who is opposed to, or uncomfortable with, technology.
I used to be a luddite but getting an iPhone for my birthday has cured me. From now on, I’ll never oppose technology again.
Extenuate is a verb that means to lessen the severity of.
The Latin word tenuare (TEN ooh are ay) means ‘to make thin.’ Combined with the prefix EX, we get the basis of our word of the day. Extenuate is often used in a legal context as in ‘extenuating circumstances,’ but you don’t need to be in a courtroom to find a use for it. For example: I didn’t think anything could extenuate the damage from the flood. But it turned out that all I had to do was soak up the floor with rags and harm was immediately eased.
Deify is a verb that means to glorify or worship.
The Latin word deus (DAY oos) means ‘god’ and the literal translation of our word of the day is ‘to make a god.’ But the word may be used in a lighter context to simply mean ‘elevate as if a god.’
The people of this town are enormous baseball fans. The day I hit three home runs, everyone wanted to deify me.
Sidereal is an adjective that means related to the stars.
The Latin word sidus (SEE doos) means star. This is the origin of our word of the day. If you’ve ever heard the term sidereal time, you know that this phrase refers to a measurement of time based on a motion of the fixed stars.
It was lovely to walk home in the sidereal glow of the evening. The light of the stars has always looked so beautiful to me.
Puerile is an adjective that means childish or silly.
Our word of the day traces its origin to the Latin word puer (POO air) meaning ‘boy’ or ‘child.’ Puerile is basically the adjective form of the word that means ‘like a child.’ But keep in mind that calling someone or something puerile is never a compliment, so think ‘childish’ not ‘childlike.’
I embarrassed myself at work by making a number of puerile comments that day. It isn’t like me to make such silly remarks.
Nebbish is a noun that refers to a timid or submissive person.
Our word of the day is one of many words that originated in Yiddish, a language that began as a German dialect with words from Hebrew and several modern languages. Nebbish has evolved from the word for ‘poor’ and ‘unfortunate.’
I was kind of a nebbish as a kid. I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself at all.
Mephitic is an adjective that means foul-smelling.
Our word of the day has its origin in Latin, where the word mephitis (MEH fit iss) means ‘noxious vapor.’ It is also personified as a goddess believed to have the power to avert it. Today mephitis retains its original meaning and mephitic may be used to describe something related to mephitis or it may be used more broadly to refer to anything foul-smelling.
I was looking forward to the weekend at the cabin until we reached the mephitic bedroom. That foul scent was a horrible distraction.
Paean is a noun that means a tribute or thing that expresses enthusiastic praise.
According to Greek mythology, Paean was the physician to the gods. The word later came to refer to hymns that were sung to praise the gods. More recently it is used to refer to any tribute — musical or otherwise.
The article about the football team was really a paean to its head coach. It praised him for his guidance and wisdom in spite of the team’s pathetic four-and-ten record.
Hegemony is a noun that refers to a dominance or authority over others.
The Greek word hēgeisthai (hee GAYE sty) is a verb that means ‘to lead.’ By the mid-16th century the word had been imported into English where it referred to the control once wielded by the ancient Greek states and, in later centuries it was reapplied to other nations that rose to power. In contemporary use, hegemony may refer to any kind of dominance or power.
The hegemony of those large conglomerates over smaller business can make things difficult for a small business owner. Under dominance of larger companies, it isn’t easy to find a customer base.
Phalanx is a noun that refers to an organized body of persons.
Our word of the day comes directly from Greek where it refers to an infantry of soldiers. More recently it simply refers to a large group of people, usually a group that is united for a singular purpose. The police were intimidated by the phalanx of protesters at the school. A large body of people determined to get change can frighten anyone.
Aeolian is an adjective that means related to or caused by the wind.
The Greek god Aeolus is the god of the winds. From this we get our word of the day which may refer either to something caused by the wind or in some way connected to the wind.
The windstorm made a huge mess in my backyard last night. All that Aeolian chaos is terrible for my garden.
Cerebrate is a verb that means to use the mind or reason.
You may recognize the Latin derived ‘cerebrum — a synonym of ‘brain’ — as cerebrate’s root word. Our word of the day simply adds the suffix ATE to indicate a state or function. It’s hard to cerebrate with all the noise going on outside. I’ll need more quiet if I hope to put my mind to use.
Achates is a noun that refers to a faithful friend.
Our word of the day comes from an epic poem called Aeneid. In the story, Achates accompanies a Trojan leader named Aeneas everywhere in his adventures. Prior to being featured in the poem by Vergil, both characters originated in Greek mythology.
When trying out a new standup comedy routine, I like to rehearse it in front of an Achates or two. Only a faithful friend will have the courage to tell you when you’re not funny.
Prandial is an adjective that means related to a meal.
The Latin word prandium (PRAHN dee oom) means breakfast. In time it came to refer to any meal.
The company outlawed any more prandial meetings. The employees tend to eat so much they run up an outrageously large bill.
Affranchise is a verb that means to set free.
You may recognize ‘franchise’ as the root of our word of the day. It comes from the Latin word franc (fronk) meaning ‘free.’ With the addition of the prefix A — which means ‘to’ — it becomes a transitive verb that means something done to someone, as in: After watching a documentary on animal cruelty, Amy affranchised her chickens. Setting them free after years of service seemed like the least she could do.
Disport is mainly used as a verb that means to divert or amuse, but less commonly, it can be a noun that refers to a sport.
Our word of the day is derived from the Latin portare (poor TAR ay) meaning ‘to carry.’ From here, the word picked up the prefix DIS and became disport which meant ‘to carry away,’ ‘comfort’ or ‘entertain.’
This versatile word can refer to a pastime, but in that sense it has been surpassed in popularity by its shortened version ‘sport.’ It can also mean to amuse or divert. For example: These days it’s a little harder to disport kids. It often takes a lot of imagination and money to find something they consider amusing.
Lineament is a noun that refers to a distinctive feature -- especially on the face.
Linea (LIN ee ah) comes from Latin and means ‘line.’ Keep in mind that a ‘line’ may refer to a straight line or an outline with curves and features that stand out — just as a distinctive nose may stand out in the contour of a person’s face.
With his giant chin, it wasn’t difficult to identify Jake after all these years. Decades later that lineament still stands out.
Lineament is spelled LINEAMENT.
Sedulous is an adjective that means involving great effort and perseverance.
Our word of the day is evolved from the Latin words se dolus (say DOE loose) which mean ‘without guile.’ Over time this evolved into a single word sedulo (say DOO low) meaning ‘diligently’ or ‘sincerely.’
Marcy is a great asset to the company. She’s a sedulous employee who works long and hard to make sure she gets things done right.
Once again, sedulous is spelled SEDULOUS.
Asperity is a noun that refers to roughness.
The Latin word asper (AHH spur) means rough. This word took a lengthy journey through Anglo-French and Middle English and still exists today. It can be found nestled into words like exasperate as well as our word of the day.
My father survived a great deal of asperity before he succeeded in life, but he feels that his rough path to prosperity has given him a great deal of character.
Asperity is spelled ASPERITY.
Precatory is an adjective that means expressing a wish.
Precari (pray CAR ee) is the Latin word that means ‘to pray.’ Over time, it has evolved into our word of the day, which is often used in a legal context to indicate something that is desired but not legally binding like a ‘precatory dress code’ in the workplace. It may also be similarly used in an everyday context: My precatory plans were for Ed to water my plants while I went out of town. But I suppose I should have made my wishes more clear before I left.
Oenophile is a noun that refers to a lover of wine.
The Greek word for wine oinos (EE nosse) provides roughly half of our word of the day’s origin. The rest is PHILE a suffix of Latin descent that means ‘lover of.’
Rhonda was one of the most knowledgeable oenophiles I’ve ever met. Not only did have a great wine to recommend to me, but she was aware of that wine’s history.
Oenophile is spelled OENOPHILE.
As a noun, clarion refers to a medieval musical instrument or the clear, shrill noise it makes. As an adjective it means loud and clear.
A clarion is a musical instrument known for making a clear, shrill sound. Its name comes from the Latin word clarus (KLAR oos) meaning clear.
The sale on winter gloves was a clarion call to me. I understood perfectly well the need to make sure my hands were fully wrapped up before temperatures dropped even further.
Calliopean is an adjective that means loud and piercing.
In Greek mythology, the muses were nine sisters who presided over various arts and sciences, with each muse having a different area of expertise. The Muse named Calliope presided over heroic poetry. In time, the word calliope came to be the name of a steam-powered musical instrument known for being extremely loud. The adjective calliopean may refer either specifically to the musical instrument or to anything piercingly loud.
Just when I thought I’d found a nice quiet time to take a nap, my son began to practice the drums, creating a calliopean noise and guaranteeing I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep.
Gordian is an adjective that means intricate or difficult to solve. It can also be used as a noun that refers to the Gordian knot of legend.
According to tales of yore, Gordios (GORE dee ose) the king of Gordium, tied an intricate knot and prophesied that whoever untied it would be the ruler of Asia. It was cut through by the sword of Alexander the Great.
Today, the word may still be used when retelling this legend, but it is more likely to be used as a synonym for words like complicated, intricate or convoluted. The health clinic gave great service, but they had a very gordian system. Even something as simple as getting prescribed an aspirin would demand navigating through an elaborate maze of paperwork.
Ersatz is an adjective that means a substitute or imitation.
Our word of the day comes directly from German, where it means ‘replacement.’ Ersatz is typically used in a context that implies the replacement is inferior to the real thing. Example: Terry’s ersatz bow tie may have looked convincing to most people, but it didn’t fool me. A real bow tie would have been a much more elegant addition to the evening.