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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.
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.
Spartan may be used as an adjective that means marked by strict self-discipline. It may also be used as a noun that refers to a person of strict discipline.
Our word of the day’s first meaning was as a reference to any resident of the ancient Greek city-state Sparta. Sparta was known for having a highly disciplined way of life for all of its citizens — men and women — to keep them ready for war at any time.
In modern times, the word can be a noun that refers to a person with a strict sense of discipline. Here’s an example of the word used in adjective form: As much as I’d love to have a body that resembles Tony’s, his Spartan lifestyle intimidates me. I don’t think I have the discipline needed to engage in as much exercise as he does.
Inosculate is a verb that means to join or unite.
The Latin osculare (oh skoo LAHR ay) means ‘to provide with a mouth or outlet.’ Along with the prefix IN inosculate entered English in the late 17th century. It is a synonym of join and unite.
I will do my best to inosculate the bicycle’s parts. But I get the feeling that they were not meant to be put together.
Gest is a noun that refers to a tale or adventure.
Our word of the day is not to be confused with jest, JEST, but both words share a common ancestor. The Latin gestus (JEST oos) the past participle of the verb ‘to bear’ or ‘to carry’ has given birth to many words like ingest, suggest and ingest as well as jest with a J and gest with a G.
As much as I love Shakespeare’s warm romantic comedies, my favorites are the ones that feature brave men engaged in a gest. There’s something about a good old adventure tale that thrills me.
Ligneous is an adjective that means of or resembling wood.
Our word of the day began with the Latin word lignum (LEAN yoom) which simply means ‘wood.’ Its descendant ligneous may be used in a literal sense to refer to actual wood or something that looks like wood, and it may also be used to describe something that is ‘wooden’ in the figurative sense — as in a ‘wooden’ expression. For example: “The Judge’s ligneous expression was a bad sign. Whenever a judge shows no emotion, that means he has an unfavorable sentence to hand down.’
Misprision is a noun that means the neglect or wrong performance of official duty.
The Latin word prehendere (PREN dare ay) means ‘to seize’ or ‘to take.’ As the word drifted through Middle English, the prefix MIS was added and the word evolved into our word of the day. In addition to its most common meaning, Misprision may be used in a few legal contexts like: ‘concealment of treason or felony by one who is not a participant in the treason or felony’ or ‘seditious conduct against the government or courts.’
When that security guard followed that suspicious man to his car, he may have thought he was helping out, but really he was engaging in an act of misprision. His job was simply to report unusual behavior.
Machinate is a verb that means to plot or scheme.
Our word of the day is from the Latin Machina (MOCK ee nah) where it roughly translates to ‘machine’ — but its meaning is different than the way ‘machine’ is used in the contemporary sense. Instead it refers to ‘a contrivance’ or ‘something created.’ To machinate is to contrive or create a scheme. The word is often used in a pejorative sense. For example:
Keep an eye on Chuck and Joel during the meeting. I have a feeling that the two of them will machinate against the company.
Nestor is a noun that refers to one who is the leader in a field.
Nestor was a figure from Greek mythology who served as a wise leader in the Trojan war. Today a nestor may refer to anyone known for wisdom and leadership in a particular field.
After giving years of service to the theatre word, Harvey has more recently become something of a nestor in that community. He loves the idea of giving to others all the wisdom he’s gained in his forty years of work.
Foible is a noun that means a minor shortcoming is someone's character.
In fencing, the word forte refers to the strongest point of the blade. So understandably, forte became a word to describe a person’s strongest skill or characteristic, as in: Jeff’s forte is public speaking. That’s why he’s done so well performing lectures at college.
By contrast, the foible (derived from the Old French word for ‘feeble.’) is the weakest part of the blade. And Foible refers to the person's weakest trait or skill. I don’t know why Mable insists on doing a dance routine for the talent show. Everybody knows dancing is her foible.
Doldrums is a noun that refers to a slump or a state of stagnation.
The exact etymology of our word of the day is unknown, but we know it was first used as a nautical term to describe periods of time without strong winds — which was a problem for sailing vessels.
Today, the word is used in a similar way to describe periods of stagnation or the absence of inspiration.
Without any inspiration, Stacy has been in the doldrums for a while. That’s why she hasn’t painted a masterpiece in a while.
Begrudge is a verb that means to envy or resent someone's good fortune.
You may have noticed the word ‘grudge’ nested in our word of the day. Derived from Middle English, grudge is perhaps best known as a noun that means ‘ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.’ But grudge is also a verb that can mean ‘to be resentfully unwilling to grant or give something.’ Adding the prefix BE to our word of the day gets us to begrudge which can mean ‘to reluctantly give.’ But its most common meaning is ‘to envy or resent someone’s success or fortune.’ The key word with all these is ‘resent.’
I get the feeling Tommy begrudges the success I’ve had at the office. He shook my hand to congratulate me on my raise, but I could tell by the resentment in his eyes that he didn’t mean it.
Shambolic is an adjective that means disorganized or confused.
A fairly recent addition to English our word of the day came about in the mid-twentieth century, apparently from the word shambles, meaning ‘a state of total disorder.’ The shambolic state of my son’s room was always a source of puzzlement. I have no idea how I could have a child who has inherited none of my desire for order and neatness.
Promethean is an adjective that means boldly defiant or creative.
Getting its origin from the Greek God Prometheus known for his daring inventiveness and creativity, our word of the day is often used to describe scientists and inventors who have created something astonishingly new. For example, keep in mind that the novel Frankenstein was first subtitled ‘The Modern Prometheus’ in reference to the mad scientist to brought the dangerous monster to life.
Many of the important figures of contemporary science have a promethean quality about them. It often takes a bold temperament to create something that truly shakes up the world.
Connubial is an adjective that means related to the state of marriage.
Connubial combines the Latin word nubere (new BEAR ay) with the prefix COM, meaning ‘with’ or ‘together.’
After years of marriage, the couple were still thrilled with each other’s presence. It was nice to see their state of connubial bliss was alive and well.
Sagacity is a noun that refers to wisdom or keen judgement.
The Latin word sagax (SA gacks) means ‘of quick perception’ or ‘keen.’ This word gave birth to our word of the day as well as ‘sage,’ a word often used to describe.a profound thinker who is eager to share a life of wisdom. When considering the use of sagacity, it may help to remember such a character is the kind with much sagacity.
The old wizard was happy to share his sagacity with his student. He felt there was no better use for wisdom than to pass it on to younger people who need it the most.
Embosom is a verb that means to shelter closely.
Our word of the day is related to the word bosom, a word of Old English origin that means a person’s chest. When used literally, embosom means to ‘take into one’s chest.’ Metaphorically, it means ‘to enclose’ usually in a protective or loving manner.
I may have had my differences with Kate over the years, but when she needed help, I was happy to embosom her. I’m always happy to take family into my arms to protect them.
Chimera is a noun that refers to a fanciful fabrication or illusion.
In Greek mythology, a chimera is a fire-breathing monster that has a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a dragon’s tail. After being slain, this beast continued to live on in people’s imagination. The word later came to refer to any similarly grotesque monster. In more recent years, it refers to something fanciful.
My daughter is convinced there are horrible creatures lurking under her bed. When she talks about them, it reminds me of my younger days of being terrified of a number of similar chimeras.
Factotum is a noun that refers to someone tasked with many diverse responsibilities.
Factotum combines the Latin words facere (FAH chair ay) which means ‘to do’ with the word totum (TOE toom) meaning ‘everything.’ Together we get a word for someone, usually an employee or servant, who does (or seems to do) everything.
I had no idea there was so much work involved with being an assistant director on the set. They should have advertised the job as ‘hiring one factotum, qualifications: a willingness to perform an impossible number of tasks on a daily basis.’
Standpat is an adjective that means stubbornly resisting change. It can also be a verb that refers to an act of resisting change.
Standpat is a term from the game of poker that combines the English words ‘stand’ and ‘pat’ to refer to the act of making no changes to the cards you currently hold. But it may be applied outside of the world of poker to describe a resistance to change when used as an adjective or the act of resisting change when used as a verb.
I tend to standpat a lot when playing poker, because I don’t like taking risks in high stakes situation.
Chameleonic is an adjective that means given to quick or frequent change.
A chameleon is a lizard known for its ability to change colors. It gets its name from a combination of the Greek words chamai (HAHM eye) which means ‘on the ground’ and leōn (LAY own) meaning ‘lion.’
Our word of the day is the adjective form of the word that describes someone or something capable of changing colors or some other attribute.
Julie may have great principles, but she can be chameleonic when the situation demands it. I’ve seen her change opinions on many topics just to be liked by others.
Canorous is an adjective that means pleasant sounding or melodious.
Our word of the day’s origin is in the Latin word canere (Can AIR ay) which means ‘to sing.’ It’s often used in a musical context, but it can also be used to describe a lovely sound that has a vaguely music feel to it. For example: Spring is my favorite season. I love waking up to the canorous sounds of the birds collecting outside my window.
Suborn is a verb that means to secretly induce (someone) to perform an illegal act.
Our word of the day combines the Latin prefix SUB, meaning ‘under’ or ‘secretive’ with ‘ornare’ meaning ‘equip’ or ‘arrange.’ Suborn is frequently used in a legal context, but it may describe any inducement to break the law.
Jill was afraid of what might happen if the jury knew the truth about her. So she tried to suborn me to perjure myself on the witness stand.
Percipient is an adjective that means having deep insight or understanding. It can also be used as a noun that means ‘one who perceives.’
The Latin word for ‘perceive’ is percipere (PAIR chee paire ay). When used as an adjective, our word of the day is a synonym of ‘discerning,’ as in: when it comes to shopping for my clothes, I trust my wife’s judgement more than mine. She is a very percipient shopper.
As a noun, percipient, may refer simply to anyone who perceives things or it may specifically refer to someone with special powers to perceive, such a psychic: Tanya wanted to know where things were headed in her career, so she hired a percipient to read her future.
The word is sometimes shortened to malaprop, which is spelled MALAPROP. Malapropism is a noun that refers to a humorously misused word or phrase.
Our word of the day has its origin in a 1775 play called The Rivals. It featured a character named Mrs. Malaprop who had a habit of verbal blunders, such as: ‘He is the very pineapple of politeness.’
The play’s writer, Richard Sheridan created the name from the French term mal à propos (MAL uh pro poh) which means ‘inappropriate.’
The Senator isn’t known for his ability to make people laugh — at least not intentionally. He often gets huge laughs from the occasional malapropism in his speeches.
Aurorean is an adjective that means of or belonging to the dawn.
Fans of Roman mythology may know that Aurora was the Roman Goddess of the dawn. The word aurora still refers to this time in the morning. Our word of the day is an adjective that refers to anything related to the dawn.
The early mornings in this town are stunning. I could stare at the aurorean glow across for several minutes.
Expiate is a verb that means to make amends for.
Our word of the day began life with the Latin word expiare, which means ‘to atone for.’ Before arriving in contemporary English, it had other meanings. Shakespeare (and others in his time) used the word to mean ‘to put an end to.’ But more recently, expiate is typically used in a context related to guilt or guilty behavior. For example:
Tom felt guilty for embezzling his company’s money, but he feels a great deal better after repaying the company the money. It felt refreshing to expiate for his crime.
Scandent is an adjective that means climbing or ascending.
Coming from the Latin word scandere (SCON dare ay) meaning ‘to climb,’ our word of the day is frequently used to describe plants like vines that climb while growing. But it may also be used figuratively. For example: in all my years in law, I’ve never met anyone more ambitious and eager to reach the top of the legal world as Laura. Whenever we find someone that scandent, it is vital that we hire them right away.
Cordate is an adjective that means heart-shaped.
The Latin word cordi (CORE dee) means heart. Keep in mind that a cordate object is not shaped like an actual heart, but is instead shaped like the perfectly symmetrical image we see, for example, represented on valentine’s day cards.
When I was in a more romantic mood, I thought a cordate tattoo on my forearm would be nice. But more recently I think a picture of a dragon would be more fitting to my personality.
Bon vivant is a noun that refers to a person who enjoys the good things in life.
Our word of the day comes to us directly from the French, where its literal translation is ‘good liver,’ as in ‘one who lives well.’ In particular, a bon vivant is someone with refined tastes in food and drink.
As a teenager, I thought of myself as something of a bon vivant, but I now realize I was mistaken. Knowing where to get the best curly fries in town is hardly the mark of a person with refined, sophisticated tastes.
Reprehend is a verb that means to voice disapproval of.
The Latin word hendere (HEN dare ay) means ‘to seize’ or ‘to grasp.’ Our word of the day combines this with the prefix RE, which means ‘back’ and PRE meaning ‘before.’
I don’t like to be judgmental about my daughter’s taste in music. But when I heard that nonsense coming from the stereo in her bedroom, I felt compelled to reprehend her choices.
Basilic is an adjective that means royal or of great importance.
The Greek word basilikḗ (BAH seal eek) means ‘royal building.’ As the word evolved through Latin and French, it retained the same basic meaning. To this day, a basilica may refer to a giant church. Our word of the day has a broader meaning that may refer to anything of giant significance.
Our boss is constantly reminding us of the basilic nature of this recent exhibit. He says its success would greatly enhance the museum’s reputation.
Euchre is a verb that means to cheat or trick.
The precise etymology of our word of the day is not known, but we do know it was, and is, the name of a card game in which a person has to win three tricks to win a hand. Those who dishonestly prevent someone from winning three tricks are cheating. From this origin, comes euchre’s definition of ‘to swindle.’
That guy I met at the racetrack, seemed trustworthy, like someone who would never cheat me out of money. But he later tried to euchre me out of my life savings, by offering to sell me the Statue of Liberty.
Distend is a verb that means to extend or stretch.
The Latin word tendere (TEN dare ay) means ‘to stretch.’ By combining it with the prefix ‘DIS’ meaning ‘apart,’ we get the basis for our word of the day. Distend may be used in a medical context to refer to, for example, ‘a distended finger,’ or it can refer to something a person does, as in: I would like to distend our tent so that all five people may fit inside. If we aren’t able to stretch it out, we might have to cancel our trip.
Repletion is a noun that refers to the condition of being filled to excess.
Repletion comes from the Latin repletionem (rep play TONE aim) meaning ‘to fill.’ While the word has retained this definition, it has over the years, acquired the additional meaning of ‘a state of being filled to excess.’ This is true whether the ‘filled’ object is a room or a belly, as in ‘I can’t recall ever feeling the repletion I’ve felt after yesterday’s dinner. I ate so much, I may not get hungry again until next week.
Once again, repletion is spelled REPLETION.
Officious is an adjective that means meddlesome or overly eager to offer unwanted advice.
Our word of the day comes almost directly from the Latin word ‘officiosus (oh fish ee OH soos) meaning ‘obliging’ or ‘eager to serve.’ But in more recent centuries, officious has also come to mean ‘doing more than is asked or expected’ or ‘meddlesome.’
An example of the second meaning is: Larry is a great assistant, but he can get a little officious at times. For example, a few weeks ago, he not only delivered flowers to my wife when we had an argument, but he also apologized on my behalf.
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.