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2,503 terms

A Word a Day

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a fortiori (a fort-tee-OR-ee) adverb
For an even stronger reason; even more so. [From Latin, literally from the stronger.]
aa (ah-ah) noun
Lava having a rough surface. [From Hawaiian, apparently from the sound one emits on walking barefoot over the jagged lava surface.]
abbreviation (uh-bree-vee-AY-shuhn) noun
1. The act or product of shortening. 2. A shortened form of a word or phrase used chiefly in writing to represent the complete form, such as Mass. for Massachusetts or USMC for United States Marine Corps. 3. Music. Any of various symbols used in notation to indicate that a series of notes is to be repeated. [Middle English abbreviaten, from Late Latin abbreviare, abbreviat- : ab- (variant of ad-) + breviare, to shorten, from brevis, short.]
abderian (AB-dir-ee-uhn) adjective
Given to excessive or incessant laughter. [After Abdera, in ancient Thrace (present day Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece), the birth place of Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher. Location on the map: http://wordsmith.org/awad/toponyms.html ]
abdicate (AB-di-kayt) verb tr.
To relinquish (power or responsibility) formally. verb intr. To relinquish formally a high office or responsibility. [Latin abdicare, abdicat-, to disclaim : ab-, away + dicare, to proclaim]
abecedarian (ay-bee-see-DAYR-ee-uhn) noun
1. One who is learning the alphabet. 2. One who teaches the alphabet. 3. One who is a beginner in some field. adjective 1. Alphabetically arranged. 2. Relating to the alphabet. 3. Rudimentary [From Medieval Latin abecedarium (alphabet or a book of the alphabet), from the letters a, b, c, and d.]
abigail (AB-i-gayl) noun
A lady's maid. [After Abigail, an attendant in The Scornful Lady (1610), a play by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. She was probably named after the Biblical character Abigail the Carmelitess, who often called herself a handmaid. The name Abigail derives from Hebrew Avigayil meaning "father's joy".]
abjure (ab-JOOR) verb tr.
1. To renounce under oath; forswear. 2. To recant solemnly; repudiate. 3. To give up (an action or practice, for example); abstain from. [Middle English abjuren, from Old French abjurer, from Latin abiurare : ab-, away + iurare, to swear.]
abrogate (AB-ruh-gayt) verb tr.
To put aside or treat as nonexistent, especially by an authoritative act. [From Latin abrogatus (repealed), past participle of abrogare (to repeal a law), from ab- (away from) + rogare (to ask, propose a law). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regent, regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.]
absquatulate (ab-SKWOCH-uh-layt) verb intr.
To leave in a hurry; to flee. [A Mock-Latinate formation, from ab- (away) + squat + -ulate (as in congratulate). First cited from the late 1830s.]
abstemious (ab-STEE-mee-uhs) adjective
Sparing, especially in matters of eating and drinking. [From Latin abstemius, from ab- (from) + temetum (liquor).]
acalculia (ay-kal-KYOO-lee-uh) noun
Inability or loss of the ability to perform arithmetic operations. [New Latin, equivalent to a- + calcul- + -ia.]
accismus (ak-SIZ-muhs) noun
Feigning lack of interest in something while actually desiring it. [From Greek akkismos (coyness or affectation).]
acclamation (ak-luh-MAY-shuhn) noun
1. An oral vote where a vote of approval is expressed by cheers, shouts or applause rather than by ballot. 2. A loud and enthusiastic expression of approval, welcome, etc. [From Latin acclamation, stem of acclamatio, from acclamatus, past participle of acclamare (to shout at), from ad- + clamare (to shout). Other words derived from the same root are clamor, acclaim, reclaim.]
acclivity (a-KLIV-i-tee) noun
An upward slope. [From Latin acclivitas, from acclivis (uphill), from ad- + clivus (slope).]
accrete (uh-KREET) tr.verb
To make larger or greater, as by increased growth. accrete intr.verb 1. To grow together; fuse. 2. To grow or increase gradually, as by addition. [Back-formation from accretion.]
acedia (uh-SEE-dee-uh) noun
Spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui. [Late Latin, from Greek akedeia, indifference : a- + kedos, care.]
acephalous (ay-SEF-uh-luhs) adjective
1. Headless or lacking a clearly defined head. 2. Having no leader. [From Medieval Latin acephalus, from Greek akephalos : a-, without + kephale, head.]
acescent (uh-SES-uhnt) adjective
Turning sour; slightly sour. [From acescere to turn sour. Ultimately from the Indo-European root ak- (sharp) that's also the source of acrid, vinegar, acid, acute, edge, hammer, heaven, eager, oxygen, and mediocre.]
acid test (AS-id test) noun
A crucial test to establish the worth or genuineness of something. [From the use of nitric acid for testing gold.]
acidulous (a-SIJ-uh-luhs) adjective
Somewhat sour in taste or in manner. [From Latin acidulus (slightly sour), diminutive of acidus (sour), from acere (to be sour). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ak- (sharp) that's also the source of acrid, vinegar, acid, acute, edge, hammer, heaven, eager, oxygen, and mediocre.]
acolyte (AK-uh-lite) noun
1. One who assists the celebrant in the performance of liturgical rites. 2. A devoted follower or attendant. [Middle English acolit, from Old French, from Medieval Latin acolytus, from Greek akolouthos, attendant.]
acritochromacy (uh-KRIT-o-kro-muh-see) noun
Color blindness. [From Greek akritos (undistinguishing) + chroma (color).]
acrostic (a-KRAW-stik, a-KRAWS-tik) noun
1. A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence. 2. A set of words arranged in a square such that they read the same horizontally and vertically. Also called word square. [French acrostiche, from Old French, from Greek akrostikhis : akron, head, end. acro- + stikhos, line.]
actuate (AK-choo-ayt) verb tr.
1. To put into motion or action. 2. To move to action. [Medieval Latin actuare, actuat-, from Latin actus, act, from agere, act-, to drive, do.]
ad lib (ad LIB) noun
1. Improvised speech, music. 2. Freely, without restriction. verb tr. To perform music, speech, etc. spontaneously. verb intr. To improvise. adjective Improvised, impromptu. [From Latin ad libitum (at pleasure).]
adamantine (ad-uh-MAN-teen, -tin) adjective
1. Unyielding or firm. 2. Like a diamond in hardness or luster. [From Middle English, from Old French adamaunt, from Latin adamas, adamant, hard metal, steel, diamond, etc., from Greek adamas, adamant, a- not + daman, to conquer.]
adder (AD-uhr) noun
One that adds, especially a computational device that performs arithmetic adder noun 1. Any of several venomous Old World snakes of the family Viperidae, having a single pair of long, hollow fangs and a thick, heavy body. Also called viper. 2. Any of several nonvenomous snakes, such as the milk snake of North America, popularly believed to be harmful. [Middle English, from an addre, alteration of a naddre : a, a + naddre, snake (from Old English naedre.]
adduce (uh-DOOS, uh-DYOOS) verb tr.
To offer as evidence; to offer something as proof. [From Latin adducere (to bring forward), from ad- (towards) + ducere (to lead), Ultimately from Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
adit (AD-it) noun
1. Access; entrance; admission. 2. A nearly horizontal passage leading into a mine. [From Latin aditus (approach, entrance), from adire (to approach), from ire (to go). Ultimately from Indo-European root ei- (to go) that is also the ancestor of words such as exit, transit, circuit, itinerary, and obituary.]
admix (ad-MIKS) tr.verb
To mix; blend. [Back-formation from obsolete admixt, mixed into, from Middle English, from Latin admixtus, past participle of admiscere, to mix into : ad-, ad- + miscere, to mix.]
adobe (uh-DO-bee) noun
1. An unburned, sun-dried brick made of clay and straw. 2. Silt or clay deposited by rivers, from which such bricks are made. 3. A building made of such material. [Via Spanish and Arabic from Coptic tobe (brick). Coptic is the classical language of Egypt, a form of Egyptian with heavy influence from Greek.]
adrenalize (a-DREEN-uh-lyz) verb
To excite and stir to action. [From adrenaline, a hormone produced by adrenal glands (above the kidneys), secreted when a person is excited. From Latin renes, kidney.]
adscititious (ad-si-TISH-uhs) adjective
Derived from outside; external; additional. [From Latin adscitus, past participle of adsciscere (to admit or adopt), from ad- (toward) + sciscere (to seek to know), from scire (to know). Ultimately from the Indo-European root skei- (to cut or split) that also gave us schism, ski, and shin.]
adulate (AJ-uh-layt) tr.verb
To praise or admire excessively; fawn on. [Back-formation from adulation.]
adultescent (uh-duhl-TES-uhnt) noun
An adult whose activities and interests are typically associated with youth culture. [Blend of adult and adolescent. The term was first noticed in 1996 in a trade publication called Precision Marketing. Marketers love to come up with new ways to slice their demographics. Another such term is tween: http://wordsmith.org/words/tween.html ]
advertorial (ad-vuhr-TOR-ee-uhl) noun
A newspaper or magazine ad resembling editorial content in style and layout. [A blend of advertisement + editorial. The radio/television equivalent of an advertorial is another blend word, infomercial: information + commercial.]
aegrotat (EE-gro-tat, ee-GRO-tat) noun
An unclassified degree granted a university student who has fulfilled all requirements for graduation but was prevented by illness from attending the final examinations. [From Latin aegrotat literally, he is sick, equivalent to aegrot(us) sick (aeg(e)r sick + -otus adjectival suffix) + -at 3rd singular ending.]
aerious also aereous (AY-ree-uhs) adjective
Of the nature of air, airy. [From Latin aereus or aerius, adjectival form of aer, air, + -ous.]
aesthete or esthete (ES-theet) noun
1. One who cultivates an unusually high sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature. 2. One whose pursuit and admiration of beauty is regarded as excessive or affected. [Back-formation from aesthetic.]
agelast (AJ-uh-last) noun
Someone who never laughs. [From Greek agelastos (not laughing), ultimately from gelaein (to laugh).]
aggiornamento (a-jor-nuh-MEN-toh) noun
The process of bringing an institution or organization up to date; modernization. [Italian, from aggiornare, to update : a-, to (from Latin ad-) + giorno, day, from Latin diurnus, daily.]
agio (AJ-ee-o) noun
1. The charge for exchanging currency. 2. The premium or percentage when paying in a foreign currency to compensate for the exchange cost. 3. Foreign exchange business. [From Italian agio (ease, convenience).]
agita (AJ-i-tuh) noun
1. Heartburn; acid indigestion. 2. Anxiety. [Americanism, from Italian agitare (to agitate), from Latin agitare (agitate).]
agitprop (AJ-it-prop) noun
Propaganda, especially one that's political in nature, disseminated through art, drama, literature, etc. [From Russian Agitpróp, from agitatsiya (agitation) + propaganda.]
aglet (AG-lit) noun
1. A tag or metal sheath on the end of a lace, cord, or ribbon to facilitate its passing through eyelet holes. 2. A similar device used for an ornament. [Middle English, from Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille, needle, from Vulgar Latin *acucula, from Late Latin acucula, diminutive of Latin acus, needle.]
agnate (AG-nayt) adjective
1. Related on or descended from the father's or male side. 2. Coming from a common source; akin. noun A relative on the father's or male side only. [Latin agnatus, past participle of agnasci, to become an agnate : ad-, + nasci, to be born.]
agnomen (ag-NO-men) noun, plural agnomina
A nickname. [From Latin ag- (a variant of ad- : additional) + nomen (name).]
agnostic (ag-NOS-tik) noun
One who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God but does not deny the possibility that God exists. adjective 1. Relating to or being an agnostic. 2. Noncommittal. [A- + gnostic, Late Latin Gnosticus, a Gnostic, from Late Greek Gnostikos, from Greek gnostikos, concerning knowledge, from gnosis, knowledge.]
agonistes (ag-uh-NIS-teez) adjective
Engaged in a struggle. [From Greek agonistes, from agon (contest). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw, or move), that is also the source of agony, agent, agitate, actor, axiom, and assay.]
agrestic (uh-GRES-tik) adjective
1. Rural; rustic. 2. Crude; unpolished. [From Latin agrestis (of fields), from ager (field, land). Ultimately from the Indo-European root agro- (field) that's also the source of agriculture, acre, peregrine, and pilgrim (a variant of peregrine).]
ahimsa (uh-HIM-sah) noun
The principle of noninjury to living beings. [Sanskrit ahimsa : a-, not + himsa, injury (from himsati, he injures).]
aileron (AY-luh-ron) noun
A hinged flap on the trailing edge of an airplane wing that moves up or down. [From French aileron (small wing), diminutive of aile, from Latin ala (wing). The word aisle is derived from the same root.]
ailurophile (eye-LOOR--uh-fyle, ay-LOOR-) noun
One who loves cats. [Greek ailouros, cat + -phile.]
airy-fairy (AIR-ee FAIR-ee) adjective
1. Light, delicate, fragile. 2. Fanciful, impractical, unrealistic. [From Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1830 poem Lilian whose opening lines are: Airy, Fairy Lilian, Flitting, fairy Lilian, When I ask her if she love me, Claps her tiny hands above me, Laughing all she can.]
ait (ayt) noun
A small island, especially one in a river. Also, eyot. [From Middle English eit, from Old English diminutive of ig or ieg (island).]
akimbo (uh-KIM-bo) adjective
With hands on hips and elbows turned outwards. [Of uncertain origin, probably from Old Norse.]
alacrity (uh-LAK-ri-tee) noun
1. Cheerful willingness; eagerness. 2. Speed or quickness; celerity. [Latin alacritas, from alacer, lively.]
alarum (a-LAH-ruhm) noun
A warning or an alarm, especially a call to arms. [Middle English alarom, variant of alarm, alarm.]
albatross (AL-buh-tros) noun, plural albatross or albatrosses
1. Any of several large, web-footed birds constituting the family Diomedeidae, chiefly of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and having a hooked beak and long, narrow wings. 2. A constant, worrisome burden. An obstacle to success. [Probably alteration (influenced by Latin albus, white), of alcatras, pelican, from Portuguese, or Spanish alcatraz, from Arabic al-gattas : al, the + gattas, white-tailed sea eagle. Sense 2, after the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which the mariner killed and had to wear around his neck as a penance.]
albedo (al-BEE-doh) noun
1. The fraction of light reflected from a body or surface. For example, earth's albedo is around 0.39. 2. The white, spongy inner lining of a citrus fruit rind. [From Latin albedo (whiteness), Latin albus (white).]
albeit (al-BEE-it) conjunction
Even though; although. [From Middle English al be it (all though it be).]
alchemy (AL-kuh-mee) noun
1. A medieval predecessor of chemistry devoted to things such as converting common metals into precious metals, finding a universal solvent (alkahest), and finding a universal remedy for diseases. 2. A mysterious or magical process of transformation. [Via Old French and Medieval Latin from Arabic al-kimiya (the chemistry), from Greek khemeia (transmutation).]
alcove (AL-kov) noun
1. A recess in a wall. 2. A small, secluded space connected to a room or in a garden. [From French alcôve, from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-qubba (the vault).]
aleatory (AY-lee-uh-tor-ee, -tohr-ee) adjective
1. Dependent on chance, luck, or an uncertain outcome. 2. Of or characterized by gambling. 3. Also aleatoric. Music. Using or consisting of sounds to be chosen by the performer or left to chance; indeterminate. [Latin aleatorius, from aleator, gambler, from alea, dice.]
alembic (uh-LEM-bik) noun
1. An apparatus formerly used in distilling substances. 2. Something that refines, purifies, or transforms. [From Middle English alambic, from Old French, from Medieval Latin alembicus, from Arabic al-anbiq, from al (the) + anbiq (still), from Greek ambix (cup).]
alexia (uh-LEK-see-uh) noun
A neurological disorder marked by the loss of ability to read words. Also called word blindness. [From Greek a- (not) + Greek lexis (speech), from legein (to speak), confused with Latin legere (to read) + Latin -ia (disease). Ultimately from Indo-European root leg- (to collect) that resulted in other derivatives such as lexicon, legal, dialogue, lecture, logic, legend, logarithm, intelligent, diligent, sacrilege, elect, and loyal.]
alexiteric (uh-LEK-si-TER-ik) adjective
Counteracting the effects of poison; warding off contagion. noun An antidote against poison; preventive against contagion. [From Medieval Latin alexiterium (remedy), from Greek alexein (to ward off).]
alfresco (al-FRES-ko) adjective and adverb
Outdoors; in the open air. [From Italian alfresco (in the fresh).]
algolagnia (algoe-LAG-nee-uh) noun
Sexual gratification derived from inflicting or experiencing pain. [New Latin : algo- + Greek lagneia, lust (from lagnos, lustful).]
algorism (AL-guh-riz-uhm) noun
1. The Arabic system of numeration; the decimal system. 2. Computation with Arabic figures. [Middle English algorisme, from Old French, from Medieval Latin algorismus after Muhammad ibn Khwarizmi-Musa Al-.]
algorithm (AL-guh-rith-uhm) noun
A finite sequence of well-defined steps for solving a problem. [After al Khwarizmi (the [man] of Khwarizm), a nickname of the 9th century Persian astronomer and mathematician Abu Jafar Muhammand ibn Musa, who authored many texts on arithmetic and algebra. He worked in Baghdad and his nickname alludes to his place of origin Khwarizm (Khiva), in present-day Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.]
alienist (AYL-yuh-nist) noun
A psychiatrist, especially one who has been accepted by a court to assess mental competence of those appearing in court regarding a case. [From French aliéniste (alienist), from Latin alienatus, past participle of alienare (to estrange), from Latin alienus (alien). Why this word? Because an alienist treats those who are believed to be alienated from their normal state of mind.]
aliterate (ay-LIT-uhr-it) noun, adjective
One who is capable of reading but not interested in it. [From Latin a- (not or without) + litteratus (learned), from littera (letter).]
allocution (al-uh-KYOO-shuhn) noun
A formal speech or address, especially one that exhorts. [From Latin allocution- (stem of allocutio), past participle of alloqui (to speak to), from ad- + loqui (to speak). Some other words derived from the same root are colloquium, elocution, soliloquy, and ventriloquism.]
allogeneic (al-uh-je-NEE-ik) also allogenic (-JEN-ik) adjective
Being genetically different although belonging to or obtained from the same species: allogeneic tissue grafts. [Allo- + Greek genea, race + -ic.]
allonym (AL-uh-nim) noun
The name of a person, usually historical, taken by an author as a pen name (as opposed to using a fictional pseudonym). [From French allonyme, from Greek allo- (other) + -onym (name).]
alpine (AL-pien) adjective
1. Alpine. Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Alps or their inhabitants. 2. Of or relating to high mountains. 3. Biology. Living or growing on mountains above the timberline. 4. Sports. Intended for or concerned with mountaineering. Of or relating to competitive downhill racing and slalom skiing events. [Middle English, from Latin Alpinus, from Alpes, the Alps.]
amalgam (uh-MAL-guhm) noun
1. A mixture of diverse elements 2. An alloy of mercury with another metal. [Via French and Latin from Arabic al-malgham (the ointment), from Greek malagma (softening agent).]
ambidextrous (am-bi-DEK-strahs) adjective
1. Able to use both hands with equal facility. 2. Unusually skillful; adroit. 3. Deceptive or hypocritical. [From ambidexter, ambidextrous (archaic), from Middle English, double dealer, from Medieval Latin : Latin ambi-, on both sides + Latin dexter, right-handed.]
ambiguity (am-bi-GYOO-i-tee) noun
1. Doubtfulness or uncertainty as regards interpretation. 2. Something of doubtful meaning. [From Latin ambiguus, uncertain, from ambigere, to go about : ambi-, around + agere, to drive.]
ambisinister (am-bi-SIN-uh-stuhr) adjective
Clumsy with both hands. (Literally, with two left hands.) [Latin ambi- both, + sinister, on the left side.]
ambit (AM-bit) noun
1. Circumference, boundary, or circuit. 2. Scope, range, or limit. [From Latin ambitus (going around), from ambire (to go around).]
ambrosia (am-BROE-zhuh, -ZHEE-uh) noun
1. Greek Mythology. Roman Mythology. The food of the gods, thought to confer immortality. 2. Something with an especially delicious flavor or fragrance. 3. A dessert containing primarily oranges and flaked coconut. [Latin, from Greek, from ambrotos, immortal, immortalizing : a-, not + -mbrotos, mortal.]
ambsace (AYM-zays) noun, also amesace
1. The double ace, the lowest throw of the dice with one spot showing uppermost on both dice. 2. The smallest amount of anything. 3. Bad luck. [From Middle English ambes as, from Old French, from Latin ambas (both) + as (aces).]
ameliorate (a-MEL-yuh-rayt, uh-MEE-lee-) verb tr., intr., also meliorate
To make or grow better; to improve. [Alteration of meliorate, from Late Latin melioratus, past participle of meliorare, from Latin melior (better).]
amerce (uh-MURS) verb tr.
1. To punish by a fine. 2. To punish by imposing a penalty in an arbitrary manner. [From Middle English amercy, from Anglo-French amercier (to fine), from Old French a merci (at one's mercy), from Latin merces (wages). Other words derived from the same root are commerce, mercenary, market, merchant, and mercy.]
amicable (AM-i-kuh-buhl) adjective
Characterized by goodwill; friendly. [From Middle English, from Late Latin amicabilis, from Latin amicus (friend). A few other words that share the same root as today's word are: amigo, amity, and enemy (in + amicus).]
amicus curiae (uh-MY-kuhs KYOOR-ee-ee, uh-MI-kuhs KYOOR-ee-i) noun
plural amici curiae A person or group, not party to a particular litigation, but permitted by the court to advise it on the matter related to the case. [From Latin, literally friend of the court, from amicus (friend) + curiae, from curia (court).]
amigo (uh-MEE-goh) noun
A friend. [From Spanish amigo (friend), from Latin (amicus).]
amok (uh-MUK) adverb
1. In a murderous frenzy. 2. In a confused manner. adjective Wild with murderous frenzy. [From Malay amok.]
ampersand (AM-puhr-sand) noun
The character or sign (&) representing the word and. [Alteration of and per se and, & (the sign) by itself (is the word) and.]
amphigory (AM-fi-gor-ee) noun, also amphigouri
A nonsensical piece of writing, usually in verse form, typically composed as a parody. [From French amphigouri.]
amulet (AM-yuh-lit) noun
An object worn, especially around the neck, as a charm against evil or injury. [Latin amuletum.]
amuse-bouche (uh-MYUZ-boosh) noun
Similar to but not to be confused with hors d'oeuvre. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef's approach to cooking and the restaurant's attention to your appetite. [From French, literally, "mouth amuser", from amuser (to amuse) + bouche (mouth). Its more informal twin, amuse-gueule, is the same thing, but may be considered vulgar in some circles. Gueule is the French term for an animal's mouth, bouche for a human's.]
amusia (ay-MYOO-zee-uh) noun
The inability to produce or comprehend music or musical sounds. [New Latin, from Greek amousia state of being without the Muses, especially song.]
anabiosis (an-uh-bi-O-sis) noun
A return to life after death or apparent death. [From Greek anabiosis (coming back to life), from anabioun (to return to life), from ana- (back) + bio- (life).]
anachronism (uh-NAK-ruh-niz-uhm) noun
1. The error of placing a person, object, custom, or event in the wrong historical period. 2. A person, thing, or practice that does not belong in a time period. [From French anachronisme, from Latin anachronismus, from Greek anakhronismos, from ana-, (backwards) + khronos (time).]
anadiplosis (an-uh-duh-PLO-sis) noun
Rhetorical repetition at the beginning of a phrase of the word or words with which the previous phrase ended; for example, He is a man of loyalty--loyalty always firm. [Late Latin anadiplosis, from Greek anadiplosis, from anadiploun, to redouble : ana- + diploun, to double (from diplous, double).]
anagnorisis (an-ag-NOR-uh-sis) noun
The moment of recognition or discovery (in a play, etc.) [From Latin, from Greek anagnorizein (to recognize or discover). Ultimately from Indo-European root gno- (to know) that is the ancestor of such words as know, can, notorious, notice, connoisseur, recognize, diagnosis, ignore, annotate, noble, and narrate.]
anagoge also anagogy (AN-uh-go-jee) noun
A mystical interpretation of a word, passage, or text, especially scriptural exegesis that detects allusions to heaven or the afterlife. [Late Latin anagoge, from Late Greek, spiritual uplift, from anagein, to lift up : ana- + agein, to lead.]
anagram (AN-a-gram) noun
1. A word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase, such as satin to stain. 2. anagrams noun (used with a sing. verb) A game whose object is to form words from a group of randomly picked letters. [New Latin anagramma, from Greek anagrammatismos, from anagrammatizein, to rearrange letters in a word : ana-, from bottom to top + gramma, grammat-, letter]
analects (AN-uh-lekts) also analecta (an-uh-LEK-tuh) plural noun
Selections from or parts of a literary work or group of works. Often used as a title. [Greek analekta, selected things, from neuter plural of analektos, gathered together, from analegein, to gather : ana- + legein, to gather.]
analphabet (an-AL-fuh-bet) noun
An illiterate; one who doesn't know the alphabet or the basics of something. [From Greek analphabetos (not knowing the alphabet), from an- (not) + alphabetos (alphabet), from alpha + beta.]
analphabetic (an-al-fuh-BET-ik) adjective
1. Not alphabetical. 2. Unable to read; illiterate. noun One who is unable to read; an illiterate. [From Greek analphabetos, not knowing the alphabet : an-, not + alphabetos, alphabet.]
ananda (AH-nan-duh) noun
Pure bliss. [From Sanskrit ananda (joy).]
ananym (AN-uh-nim) noun
A name formed by reversing letters of another name, often used as a pseudonym. [From Greek ana- (back) + -onym (name).]
anathema (uh-NATH-uh-muh) noun
1. Something or someone intensely disliked. 2. A ban, curse, or vigorous denunciation. [From Late Latin, from Greek anathema (something devoted to evil).]
anchorite (ANG-kuh-ryt) noun, also anchoret
One who lives in seclusion; a hermit. [Via Middle English, Medieval Latin, Late Latin, Late Greek, from Greek anakhoretes, to withdraw.]
andragogy (AN-druh-go-jee) noun
The methods or techniques used to teach adults. [Andr- variant of andro-, male + (ped)agogy.]
androcracy (an-DROK-ruh-see) noun
Social and political rule by men. [Andro- male + -cracy, government, rule.]
anecdotage (an-ik-DO-tij) noun
1. The telling of anecdotes. 2. Anecdotes collectively. [From Greek anekdota (things unpublished), from an- (not) + ekdidonai (to publish). Originally applied by the Greek historian Procopius to his unpublished memoirs of the Emperor Justinian and his consort Theodora.]
anemious (uh-NEE-mi-uhs) adjective
Growing in windy conditions. [From Greek anemos (wind).]
anent (uh-NENT) preposition
Regarding, concerning, about. [From Middle English, from Old English on efen (on even).]
angary (ANG-guh-ree) also angaria (ang-GAR-ee-uh) noun
The legal right of a belligerent to seize, use, or destroy the property of a neutral, provided that full compensation is made. [Late Latin angaria, service to a lord, from Greek angareia, impressment for public service, from angaros, conscript courier.]
anhedonia (an-hee-DO-nee-uh) noun
Lack of pleasure or of the capacity to experience it. [Greek an- + hedon(e) pleasure + -ia.]
anile (AN-yl, AY-nyl) adjective
Of or like an old woman. [From Latin anilis, from anus old woman.]
animadvert (an-uh-mad-VURT) verb intr.
To comment critically (upon) or to express criticism. [From Latin animadvertere (to turn the mind to), from animus (mind) + advertere (to turn).]
animus (AN-uh-muhs) noun
1. Hostility; ill will. 2. Purpose; disposition; governing spirit. 3. In Jungian psychology, the masculine part of a woman's personal unconscious. [From Latin animus (spirit, mind).]
annalist (AN-uh-list) noun
A historian, especially a chronicler of yearly events. [From Latin libri annales (yearly books), from annus (year). Ultimately from the Indo-European root at- (to go) that is also the source of annual, annals, annuity, and anniversary.]
annelidous (uh-NEL-uh-duhs) adjective
Of or relating to worms. [From French anneler (to ring), from Latin anellus, diminutive of anus (ring).]
annulus (AN-yuh-luhs) noun
1. A ringlike figure, part, structure, or marking, such as a growth ring on the scale of a fish. 2. A ring or group of thick-walled cells around the sporangia of many ferns that functions in spore release. The ringlike remains of a broken partial veil, found around the stipes of certain mushrooms. 3. Mathematics. The figure bounded by and containing the area between two concentric circles. [Latin anulus, ring, diminutive of anus.]
annus mirabilis (AN-uhs mi-RAB-uh-lis) noun, plural anni mirabiles (AN-i
mi-RAB-uh-leez) A remarkable year. [From Latin annus (year) mirabilis (wondrous).]
anon (uh-NON) adverb
1. At another time. 2. Soon. 3. At once; immediately (archaic). [From Middle English, from Old English on an, (in one).]
anonym (AN-uh-nim) noun
1. A false or assumed name. 2. An anonymous person or book. [From French anonyme, from Latin anonymus, from Greek anonymos, from an- (not) + -onyma (name).]
anopsia (an-OP-see-uh) noun, also anopsy or anopia
Absence of sight, due to a missing eye or other structural problem. [From Greek an- (not) + -opia (pertaining to sight).]
anosmia (an-OZ-mee-uh, -OS-) noun
Absence or loss of the sense of smell. [New Latin, from Greek an- + osm(e) smell (akin to ozein to smell) + -ia.]
anserine (AN-suh-ryn, -rin) adjective, also anserous
1. Of or belonging to the subfamily Anserinae, which comprises the geese. 2. Of or resembling a goose; gooselike. 3. Stupid; foolish; silly. [Latin anserinus, pertaining to geese, from anser, goose.]
antaean (an-TEE-uhn) adjective
1. Very large. 2. Having extraordinary strength. [After Antaeus, a giant in Greek mythology. The son of Gaia and Poseidon, he challenged all who came across him to wrestle. He invariably won, because he received strength from his mother, the earth, as long as he was in touch with her. Hercules discovered his secret, lifted him off the ground, and crushed him.]
antanaclasis (ant-an-uh-KLAS-is) noun
A form of speech in which a key word is repeated and used in a different, and sometimes contrary, way for a play on words, as in The craft of a politician is to appear before the public without craft. [From Greek antanaklasis literally echo, reflection, equivalent to ant- + ana- + klasis a breaking, bending.]
antebellum (an-tee-BEL-uhm) adjective
Relating to the period before a war, especially the American Civil War (1861-1865). [From Latin ante (before) + bellum (war). Some other words that have derived from Latin bellum are belligerent, rebel, postbellum, and duel.]
anthropomorphize (an-thruh-puh-MOR-fyz) verb tr., intr.
To attribute human qualities to things not human. [From Greek anthropo- (human) + morph (form).]
anthroponym (an-THROP-uh-nim) noun
A personal name. [Anthrop(o)- + -onym]
antiphony (an-TIF-uh-nee) noun
Responsive alternation between two groups, especially between singers. [From antiphon (a song sung in alternate parts), from Middle English, from Greek antiphona.]
antiphrasis (an-TIF-ruh-sis) noun
The use of a word or phrase in a sense contrary to its normal meaning for ironic or humorous effect, as in a mere babe of 40 years. [Late Latin, from Greek, from antiphrazein, to express by the opposite : anti-, anti- + phrazein, to speak.]
antipyretic (an-tee-py-RET-ik) adjective
Reducing or relieving fever. noun A medicine that reduces or relieves fever. [From Middle English anti- (against) + pyretic (relating to fever), from New Latin pyreticus, from Greek pureto (fever), from pur (fire). Other words derived from the same root are fire, pyrotechnics (fireworks), and pyrites (mineral that produces sparks when struck).]
antiquarian (an-ti-KWAR-ee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or relating to antiquaries or to the study or collecting of antiquities. 2. Dealing in or having to do with old or rare books. antiquarian noun One who studies, collects, or deals in antiquities. "For the few black buyers chasing black antiquarian books, the problem is that most are either available only in the US or on a short print run in the UK, making them almost impossible to find." The Bookshop for black folks, Weekly Journal, The, 4 Mar 1997. This week's theme: words about books. -------- Date: Fri Jan 29 00:04:24 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--pseudepigrapha pseudepigrapha (soo-di-PIG-ruh-fuh) plural noun 1. Spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times. 2. A body of texts written between 200 BCE and A.D. 200 and spuriously ascribed to various prophets and kings of Hebrew Scriptures. [Greek, from neuter pl. of pseudepigraphos, falsely ascribed : pseudes, false. pseudo- + epigraphein, to inscribe : epi-, epi- + graphein, to write.]
antitussive (an-tee-TUS-iv, an-ti-) adjective
Capable of relieving or suppressing coughing. [Greek anti- opposite + Latin tuss(is) cough + -ive]
antonomasia (an-toh-noh-MAY-zhuh) noun
1. The substitution of a title or epithet for a proper name, as in calling a sovereign "Your Majesty." 2. The substitution of a personal name for a common noun to designate a member of a group or class, as in calling a traitor a "Benedict Arnold." [Latin, from Greek antonomazein, to name instead : anti-, instead of + onomazein, to name (from onoma, name).]
aperient (uh-PIR-ee-uhnt) adjective
Gently stimulating evacuation of the bowels; laxative. noun A mild laxative. [Latin aperiens, aperient-, present participle of aperire, to open.]
aphelion (uh-FEE-lee-uhn, uh-FEEL-yuhn)
The point on the orbit of a celestial body that is farthest from the sun. [From New Latin aphelium : Greek apo-, apo- + Greek helios, sun.]
aphotic (ay-FO-tik) adjective
Lightless, especially without sunlight. [From Greek a- (not) + phot- (light). Ultimately from Indo-European root bha- (to shine) that's also the source of beacon, beckon, phantom, phenomenon, and phosphorous.]
aphrodisiac (af-ruh-DIZ-ee-ak, -DEE-zee-) adjective
Arousing or intensifying sexual desire. noun Something, such as a drug or food, having such an effect. [Greek aphrodisiakos, from aphrodisia, sexual pleasures, from Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty in Greek Mythology.]
apian (AY-pee-uhn) adjective
Of or relating to bees. [From Latin apis (bee).]
apodictic (ap-uh-DIK-tik) adjective, also apodeictic
Demonstrably true. [From Latin apodicticus, from Greek apodeiktikos, from apodeiknynai (to demonstrate), from apo- + deiknynai (to show).]
apograph (AP-uh-graf) noun
A copy or a transcript. [From Greek apo- (away, off, apart) + -graph (writing).]
aporia (uh-POR-ee-uh) noun
1. An expression of doubt. 2. Contradiction, paradox, or confusion posed by the presence of conflicting propositions. [From Late Latin, from Greek aporos (without passage), from poros (passage).]
aposematic (ap-uh-suh-MAT-ik) adjective
Serving as a warning or alarm. [From Greek apo- (away, off) + sematic (serving as a sign of danger), from sema (sign). The term is especially used in case of insects, referring to features such as bright colors or markings to warn a predator that they may be poisonous.]
apostate (uh-POS-tayt, -tit) noun
One who abandons his or her religion, principles, political party, or some other allegiance. [From Middle French, from Late Latin apostata, from Greek aposta (to stand off).]
apostrophe (uh-POS-truh-fee) noun
The superscript sign (') used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, and the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations. [French, from Late Latin apostrophus, from Greek apostrophos, from apostrephein, to turn away : apo-, + strephein, to turn.]
apothegm also apophthegm (AP-oh-them) noun
A terse, witty, instructive saying; a maxim. [Greek apophthegma, from apophthengesthai, to speak plainly : apo-, intensive pref. + phthengesthai, phtheg-, to speak.]
apparat (ap-uh-RAT, ah-puh-RAT) noun
Structure, mechanism, etc. of an organization, especially a political one. [From Russian apparat, from German, from Latin apparatus (equipment).]
apparatchik (uh-pah-RAH-chik) noun
Member of the (Soviet) bureaucracy; now extended to apply to any inflexible organisation man, particularly in a political party. [From Russian apparat (apparatus, the government machine or structure) + chik (agent).]
apposite (AP-uh-zit, uh-POZ-it) adjective
Highly appropriate; relevant; apt. [From Latin appositus, past participle of apponere (to put near), from ponere (to put). Ultimately from Indo-European root apo- (off or away) that is also the source of after, off, awkward, post, and puny.]
approbation (ap-roh-BAY-shun) noun
Approval, praise, commendation, official sanction. [From Latin approbation, from ap- + probatus, from probare (to test the goodness of). What do the words approve, prove, probe, probate, probity, and probation have in common? They are all derived from the same root and involve the idea of testing the goodness of something or someone. -Anu "I wrote for their Amendment, and not their Approbation." Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726. This week's theme: Words from Gulliver's Travels. To read the full text of the book and the research behind it, visit http://www.jaffebros.com/lee/gulliver/ -------- Date: Mon Oct 14 00:01:06 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hapax legomenon hapax legomenon (HAY-paks li-GOM-uh-non) noun, plural hapax legomena A word or form that has only one recorded use. [From Greek hapax (once) + legomenon, from legein (to say).]
apron (AY-pruhn) noun
1. A garment, usually fastened in the back, worn over all or part of the front of the body to protect clothing. Something, such as a protective shield for a machine, that resembles this garment in appearance or function. 2. The paved strip in front of and around airport hangars and terminal buildings. 3. The part of a stage in a theater extending in front of the curtain. 4. A platform, as of planking, at the entrance to a dock. 5. A covering or structure along a shoreline for protection against erosion. A platform serving a similar purpose below a dam or in a sluiceway. 6. A continuous conveyor belt. 7. An area covered by sand and gravel deposited at the front of a glacial moraine. verb tr. To cover, protect, or provide with an apron. [Middle English, from an apron, alteration of a napron, from Old French naperon, diminutive of nape, tablecloth, from Latin mappa, napkin.]
arborescent (ahr-buh-RES-uhnt) adjective
Having the size, form, or characteristics of a tree; treelike. [Latin arborescens, arborescent-, present participle of arborescere, to grow to be a tree, from arbor, tree.]
arcanum (aar-KAY-nuhm) noun [plural arcana (-nah). or arcanums]
1. A deep secret; a mystery. 2. Often arcana. Specialized knowledge or detail that is mysterious to the average person. 3. A secret essence or remedy; an elixir. [Latin, from neuter of arcanus, secret.]
archimage (AHR-kuh-mayj) noun
A great magician. [From Greek archi- (principal, chief) + Latin magus (magician).]
archipelago (ahr-kuh-PEL-uh-go) noun
A large group of islands. [From Italian arcipelago (the Aegean Sea), from Latin Egeopelagus, from arkhi- (chief) + pelagos (sea). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plak- (to be flat) which is also the source of words such as flake, flaw, placate, plead, please, and plank. Originally the term referred to the Aegean Sea (an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Turkey) that has numerous islands.]
archon (AHR-kon) noun
A high official or ruler. [From Latin archon, from Greek arkhon (magistrate), from arkhein (to be first, to rule). An archon was one of the nine principal magistrates in ancient Athens.]
arctophile (ARK-tuh-fyl) noun
A person who is very fond of and is usually a collector of teddy bears. [Greek arkto-, combining form of arktos bear + -phile.]
areology (ar-ee-OL-uh-jee) noun
The study of the planet Mars. [From areo- (Mars), from Greek Areaos, from Ares (The Greek equivalent of Mars in classical mythology) + logy (study).]
argal (AHR-guhl) conjunction, adverb
Therefore. [By alteration of the Latin ergo (therefore). The word argal is usually used to indicate that the reasoning presented is ludicrous.]
argillaceous (ahr-juh-LAY-shuhs) adjective
Made of, resembling, or relating to, clay: clayey. [From Latin argilla (clay). Ultimately from the Indo-European root arg- (to shine; white), that is also the source of words such as argentine (silvery) and argue (from Latin arguere, to make clear).]
argonaut (AR-go-not) noun
A cephalopod mollusk (Argonauta argo) with eight tentacles, the female of which inhabits a paper-thin shell that later acts as an egg case. Also known as paper nautilus. [Latin, Argonaut.]
argus (AHR-guhs) noun
An alert and observant person; a watchful guardian. [From Greek mythology. After Argus, a giant with 100 eyes who was sent to watch over Io. He was later killed by Hermes and after his death his eyes transformed into spots on the peacock's tail.]
argy-bargy (ahr-gee-BAHR-gee) noun
Chiefly British. A lively or disputatious discussion. [Scots, reduplication of argie, argument from argue.]
aristarch (AR-uh-stark) noun
A severe critic. [After Aristarchus of Samothrace (circa 216-144 BCE), Greek philologist and critic of the Homeric poetry, who rejected many lines of it as spurious.]
arithmancy (AR-ith-man-see) noun
Divination by numbers. [From Greek arithmos (number) + -mancy (divination).]
armada (ahr-MAH-duh) noun
1. A fleet of warships. 2. A large force or group, especially of things in motion. [From Spanish armada, from Latin armata (army).]
armamentarium (ahr-muh-men-TAR-ee-uhm) noun, plural armamentaria
The collection of equipment and techniques available to one in a particular field, especially in medicine. [From Latin armamentarium (arsenal), eventually from Latin armare (to arm). Ironically, the word to describe the apparatus of war (armament) and the word for healing paraphernalia (armamentarium) derive from the same root.]
armigerous (ahr-MIJ-ehr-us) adjective
Bearing or entitled to bear heraldic arms. [From Latin armi-, arms + -ger bearing + ous.]
armillary (AHR-muh-ler-ee, ahr-MIL-uh-ree) adjective
Of or pertaining to rings, circles, or hoops. [From Latin armilla (bracelet, ring), from armus (shoulder).]
arriviste (a-ree-VEEST) noun
1. A person who has recently attained high position or great power without due effort or merit; an upstart. 2. An unscrupulous, vulgar social climber; a bounder. [French, from arriver, to arrive, from Old French ariver.]
arsy-varsy (AR-see VAR-see) adjective, adverb
Upside-down, backward, preposterous. [A facetious rhyming compound of arse; perhaps coined after vice versa, from Latin versus, from vertere (to turn).]
artesian (ahr-TEE-zhuhn) adjective
Pertaining to a well that has water rising to the surface under natural pressure, without the need of a pump. [After Artois, a former province in France, where many such wells were drilled.]
asinine (AS-uh-nyn) adjective
1. Utterly stupid or silly. 2. Of, relating to, or resembling an ass. [Latin asininus, of an ass, from asinus, ass.]
asperse (a-SPURS) verb tr.
1. To spread false or damaging charges or insinuations against. 2. To sprinkle, especially with holy water. [Middle English, to besprinkle, from Latin aspergere, aspers- : ad- + spargere, to strew.]
assize (uh-SYZ) noun
A session of a court or a verdict made at such a session. [From Middle English assise, from Old French, from asseoir (to seat), from Latin assidere (to sit), from ad- + sedere (to sit}.]
assoil (uh-SOIL) verb tr.
1. To pardon. 2. To atone for. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin absolvere (to absolve).]
assonance (AS-oh-nans) noun
1. Resemblance of sound, especially of the vowel sounds in words, as in: "that dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea" (William Butler Yeats). 2. The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables, with changes in the intervening consonants, as in the phrase tilting at windmills. 3. Rough similarity; approximate agreement. [French, from Latin assonare, to respond to : ad-, ad- + sonare, to sound.]
assuage (uh-SWAYJ, uh-SWAYZH) verb tr.
1. To soften or relieve (a burden or pain). 2. To pacify. 3. To appease or satisfy. [From Middle English aswagen, from Old French assouagier, from Vulgar Latin assuaviare, from Latin ad- + suavis (sweet).]
astrobleme (AS-tro-bleem) noun
A scar on the earth's surface caused by the impact of a meteorite. [Literally star-wound, from astro-, from Greek astron (star) + -bleme, from Greek blema (missile, wound).]
asyndeton (uh-SIN-di-ton, -tuhn) noun
The omission of conjunctions, as in "I came, I saw, I conquered." [From Late Latin, from Greek, from neuter of asyndetos, not linked, from a- + syndetos, bound together, from syndein, to bind together, from syn- + dein to bind.]
ataraxia (at-uh-RAK-see-uh) also ataraxy, noun
A state of freedom from disturbance of mind. [From Greek ataraktos (not disturbed), from tarassein (to disturb).]
athenaeum (ath-uh-NEE-um) noun
1. A library or reading room. 2. A literary or scientific club. [From Latin Athenaeum, from Greek Athenaion, a temple of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.]
atomy (AT-uh-mee) noun
Archaic. 1. A tiny particle; a mote. 2. A tiny being. [From Latin atomi, pl. of atomus, atom.]
atrabilious (at-ruh-bil-yuhs) also atrabiliar (-bil-ee-uhr) adjective
1. Inclined to melancholy. 2. Having a peevish disposition; surly. [From Latin atra bilis, black bile (translation of Greek melankholia.) : atra, black + bilis, bile.]
atretic (uh-TRET-ik) adjective
Of or relating to an abnormal closure or congenital absence of a bodily opening. [From Neo-Latin, from Greek a- (not) + tresis (perforation).]
atrichia (ay-TRIK-ee-uh) noun
Absence of hair, typically congenital. Also called atrichosis. [From Greek a- (not) + trich- (hair).]
attainder (uh-TAYN-duhr) noun
Loss of property and civil rights of a person outlawed or sentenced to death. [Middle English, from Old French ataindre, to accuse.]
attic salt (AT-ik salt) noun
Refined, delicate wit. Also known as attic wit. [From Attic (of Greece or of Athens, after Attica, a region in southeast Greece surrounding Athens) + salt (wit).]
atticism (AT-i-siz-em) noun
1. A characteristic feature of Attic Greek. 2. An expression characterized by conciseness and elegance [After Attica, an ancient region of east-central Greece around Athens.]
au contraire (oh kon-TRAIR) noun
On the contrary. [From French au contraire (on the contrary).]
au naturel (o nach-uh-REL, o nah-tu-REL) adjective
1. Uncooked or cooked plainly. 2. Nude. 3. In the natural state. [From French au naturel (in the natural state).]
auctorial (ok-TOR-ee-uhl) adjective
Pertaining to an author [From Latin auctor (author, creator), from augere (to create). Ultimately from the Indo-European root aug- (increase) which is also the source of auction, authorize, inaugurate, augment, august, auxiliary, and nickname ("a nickname" is a splitting of the earlier "an ekename", literally, an additional name).]
aufklarung (OUF-klay-roong) noun
The Enlightenment. [German : auf, up (from Middle High German uf, from Old High German.) + Klarung, a making clear, from klaren, to make clear, from Middle High German klaeren, from klar, clear, from Latin clarus.]
auger (AW-guhr) noun
Any of various boring tools resembling a corkscrew, used in carpentry, digging, etc. [From the misdivision of "a nauger" as "an auger". Ultimately from the Indo-European root nobh- (navel) that is also the source of nave, navel, umbilical, omphaloskepsis (navel gazing), and Hindi nabhi (navel).]
aught also ought (awt) pronoun
Anything whatever adverb Archaic. In any respect; at all. [Middle English, from Old English auht.]
auricle (OR-i-kuhl) noun
1. The outer projecting part of the ear; also known as pinna. 2. An ear-shaped part of each atrium of the heart. [From Latin auricula (little ear), from auris (ear). Ultimately from Indo-European root aus- (ear) that's also the ancestor of such words as ear, aural, scout (literally, act of listening or spying).]
auscultation (o-skuhl-TAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of listening. 2. The act of listening for sounds made by internal organs, as the heart and lungs, to aid in the diagnosis of certain disorders. [Latin auscultatio, auscultation-, from auscultatus, past participle of auscultare, to listen to.]
austral (O-struhl) adjective
Southern. [From Latin auster (south). That's why Australia is so named, but that does not apply to Austria, in central Europe. Austria's name is a Latinized form of its German name Oesterreich (eastern empire, referring to the eastern boundary of the Frankish Empire at one time).]
autocrat (O-tuh-krat) noun
A ruler with absolute power or a person who has unrestricted authority. [From French autocrate, from Greek autokrates, auto- self + -krates, -crat, ruling.]
autonym (O-tuh-nim) noun
1. A person's own name. 2. A book published under the real name of the author. [Aut- self + -onym name.]
avast (uh-VAST) interjection
Stop (used as a command to stop or desist). [From Dutch hou vast (hold fast), from houd vast.]
avatar (AV-uh-tahr) noun
1. A manifestation of a deity in Hinduism. 2. An embodiment of a concept. 3. A representation of a person or thing in computers, networks, etc. [From avatar (descent, as of a god from heaven to the earth), from ava- (away) + tarati (he crosses).]
avenaceous (av-uh-NAY-shuhs) adjective
Relating to or like oats. [From Latin avena (oats).]
avid (avid) adjective
1. Having an ardent desire or unbounded craving; greedy. 2. Marked by keen interest and enthusiasm. [Latin avidus, from avere, to desire.]
avigation (av-i-GAY-shuhn) noun
Aerial navigation. [Blend of avi- (bird) + navigation.]
axenic (ay-ZEN-ik, ay-ZEE-nik) adjective
Free from contamination. [From Greek a- (not) + xenikos (foreign). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghos-ti- (stranger, guest, or host, literally one who has a reciprocal duty of hospitality) that also gave us host, hostel, hostile, hostage, hospice, hospital, xenophobia, and xenon (a gas).]
axiomatic (ak-see-uh-MAT-ik) adjective
1. Indisputably true; self-evident. 2. Aphoristic. [From Greek axiomatikos, from axioma (honorable). Ultimately from Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that's also the fount of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
azimuth (AZ-uh-muhth) noun
The horizontal angle to an object, measured clockwise from a fixed reference point, usually north or south. [From French azimut, from Latin azimut, from Arabic al-sumut, from al (the) + samt (way).]
babbitt (BAB-it) noun
A self-satisfied narrow-minded person who conforms to conventional ideals of business and material success. [After the main character in Sinclair Lewis's 1922 novel Babbitt.]
babel also Babel (BAB-uhl, BAY-buhl) noun
1. A confusion of sounds or voices. 2. A scene of noise and confusion. [After Babel. In the Old Testament, a city (now thought to be Babylon) in Shinar where construction of a heaven-reaching tower was interrupted when the builders became unable to understand one another's language.]
bacchant (buh-KANT, -KAHNT, BAK-uhnt) noun (plural bacchants or bacchantes)
1. A priest or votary of Bacchus. 2. A boisterous reveler. [Latin bacchans, bacchant-,present participle of bacchari, to celebrate the festival of Bacchus, from Bacchus (the god of wine and of an orgiastic religion celebrating the power and fertility of nature, also called Dionysus) from Greek Bakkhos.]
backronym (BAK-ro-nim) noun
A word re-interpreted as an acronym. [Compound of back + acronym.]
backwardation (BAK-wuhr-DAY-shuhn) noun
A premium paid by the seller to the buyer for deferring delivery of stock or some other product. Opposite of contango. [From backward, from Middle English bakwarde.]
bad hair day (bad hair day) noun
A day when everything seems to go wrong. [Extension of the literal meaning of the term bad hair day, a day when one's hair is, well, hairy.]
badinage (bad-NAHZH) noun
Light, playful banter. [French, from badin, joker, from Provencal badar, to gape, from Latin *batare.]
baedeker (BAY-de-kuhr) noun
A guidebook to countries or a country. [After Karl Baedeker (1801-1859) German publisher who established a series of guidebooks in 1829.]
bagatelle (bag-uh-TEL) noun
1. Something unimportant. 2. A kind of pinball game in which balls are struck with a cue to send them to holes at the other end. 3. A short, light piece of verse or music. [From French bagatelle (trifle), from Italian bagattella (trifle), possibly from Latin baca (berry).]
bain-marie (BAN-muh-ree) noun, plural bains-marie
A large pan containing hot water in which smaller pans may be set to cook food slowly or to keep food warm. [French, from Medieval Latin balneum Mariae, bath of Maria, probably after Maria, an early alchemist.]
baker's dozen (BAY-kuhrs DUZ-uhn) noun
A group of 13. [From the fact that formerly bakers typically gave an extra item when selling a dozen of something to safeguard against penalty for light weight.]
baksheesh (BAK-sheesh) noun
A payment, such as a tip or bribe. [From Persian bakhshish, from bakhshidan, from baksh (to give).]
balbriggan (bal-BRIG-uhn) noun
A knitted, unbleached cotton fabric, used in hosiery and underwear. [After Balbriggan, a town near Dublin in Ireland, where it was first made.]
balneal (BAL-nee-uhl) adjective
Relating to baths or bathing. [From Latin balneum (bath), from Greek balaneion (bathing room or bath).]
balsamic (bal-SAM-ik) adjective
1. Fragrant. 2. Soothing or healing. 3. Relating to balsam. [From Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon.]
banausic (buh-NAW-sik, -zik) adjective
Mechanical, utilitarian or routine, as opposed to inspiring or imaginative. [From Greek banausikos, from banausos (mechanic).]
bandersnatch (BAN-duhr-snach) noun
1. An imaginary wild animal of fierce disposition. 2. A person of uncouth or unconventional habits, attitudes, etc., especially one considered a menace, nuisance, or the like. [Coined by Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking Glass" (1871)]
bariatrics (bar-ee-A-triks) noun
A branch of medicine concerned with obesity. [From Greek baros (weight) + -iatrics (medical treatment). Other words that are derived from the same Greek root are barium, baritone, and barometer.]
barrack (BAR-uhk, the first syllable is the same as in barrel) verb tr., intr.
1. To shout in support: to cheer. 2. To shout against: to jeer. [Perhaps from Northern Ireland dialectal barrack (to brag).]
bathypelagic (bath-uh-puh-LAJ-ik) adjective
Of, relating to, or living in the depths of the ocean, especially between about 600 and 3,000 meters (2,000 and 10,000 feet). "Below this region are the bathypelagic fishes, with small eyes and luminescent organs ..." Leonard P. Schultz, Fish, Colliers Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 28 Feb 1996. This week's theme: words about oceans and seas. -------- Date: Mon Dec 14 00:04:29 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--stick-in-the-mud stick-in-the-mud (stik-in-thuh-MUD) noun One who lacks initiative, imagination, or enthusiasm. "Leninetz is forward-looking: it began diversifying away from arms in 1988. But its example is being copied by stick-in-the-mud firms in the city." Hoppe, Kathryn, Success dressed as failure, Vol. 325, Economist, 12-05-1992, pp 10. Idioms are colorful expressions peculiar to a particular language or locale whose meaning cannot be literally derived from their component words. They can add spice to informal conversation or writing and impart a warm, hearty feeling. Use this week's phrases to impart earthiness to yours. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Dec 15 00:04:38 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hole-in-the-wall hole-in-the-wall (HOAL-in-thuh-wawl) A small, very modest, often out-of-the-way place. "All in the same week that the Chemical Brothers stormed the massive Manhattan Centre; and an energized Echo and the Bunnymen staged their jubilant US comeback (in the incongruous setting in a hole-in-the-wall club on the Lower East Side)." Dennis Lim, American Graffiti, Independent on Sunday, 25 May 1997. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Wed Dec 16 00:04:38 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bred-in-the-bone bred-in-the-bone (bred-in-thuh-BOAN) adjective 1. Deeply instilled; firmly established. 2. Persistent; habitual. "Typical of Rosanna's bred-in-the-bone bohemianism, though, she doesn't seem to care that the spotlight has shifted." Seipp, Catherine, Arquette act. (sisters Patricia and Rosanna Arquette), Harper's Bazaar, 1 Aug 1994. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Thu Dec 17 00:04:27 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--down-at-the-heel down-at-heel (doun-at-HEEL) or down-at-the-heel adjective 1. Worn out from long use or neglect; dilapidated. 2. Shabbily dressed because of poverty; seedy. "In Missing Susan (1991), for instance, we have a group of American tourists as seen through the eyes of a down-at-the-heels English tour guide, Rowan Rover, who has been paid to arrange a fatal accident for one of his charges." Robert F. Geary, Elegy for the Last Outlaw, The World & I, 1 Jan 1995. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Fri Dec 18 00:04:27 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--straight-from-the-shoulder straight-from-the-shoulder (strayt-fruhm-thuh-SHOAL-duhr) adjective Frank and forthright: straight-from-the-shoulder reporting. "A striking poem called Sequinned ends this way: Girl, don't you let that city get away. Lift it up, raise it up, slip your arms through and take it back to dance. This is poetry that speaks to us boldly, straight from the shoulder." Natalie Soto, et al., On the Shelf, Rocky Mountain News, 21 Dec 1997. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Sat Dec 19 00:04:22 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--catch-as-catch-can catch-as-catch-can (kach-az-kach-KAN) adjective Using or making do with whatever means are available. catch-as-catch-can adverb However or by whatever means possible. "Some of us first discovered the artistry of Fritz Reiner on a catch-as-catch-can basis in the waning years of the LP era, when most of his CSO records had dropped from the catalog, before the CD reissue boom started in the mid-1980s." Hansen, Lawrence, American Record Guide, July-August 1996. This week's theme: idioms. -------- Date: Sun Dec 20 00:04:25 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--hail-fellow-well-met hail-fellow-well-met (HAYL-feloe-wel-met) adjective Heartily friendly and congenial. [From the obsolete greeting hail, fellow!.]
bathyscaph also bathyscaphe (BATH-i-skaf) noun
A free-diving, self-contained deep-sea research vessel consisting essentially of a large flotation hull with a crewed observation capsule fixed to its underside, capable of reaching depths of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) or more. [Bathy- deep + Greek skaphos, boat.]
batik (buh-TEEK, BAT-ik) noun
1. A technique of dyeing fabrics that involves covering parts of it with wax, dyeing the exposed part and then removing the wax with boiling water. 2. A fabric dyed with this method. [From Javanese batik (painted).]
battology (buh-TOL-uh-jee) noun
Wearisome repetition of words in speaking or writing. [From Greek battologia (batt(os) stammerer + -o- + -logia -logy).]
baxter (BAK-stuhr) noun
A baker, especially a female baker. [From Old English baecestre, feminine of baecere, from bacan (to bake).]
bayonet (BAY-uh-nit, -net, bay-uh-NET) noun
A blade adapted to fit the muzzle end of a rifle and used as a weapon in close combat. verb tr. To prod, stab, or kill with this weapon. [French baionnette after Bayonne, a town in southwest France where the weapon was first made. The French word baionnette could mean "a dagger or a knife" as well, and the English word bayonet is first found in 1672 with this meaning. The word is first recorded in its present sense in 1704.]
beacon (BEE-kuhn) noun
1. A signaling or guiding device, such as a lighthouse, located on a coast. 2. A radio transmitter that emits a characteristic guidance signal for aircraft. 3. A source of guidance or inspiration. 4. A signal fire, especially one used to warn of an enemy's approach. verb tr. To provide with or shine as a beacon. [Middle English beken, from Old English beacen.]
bedizen (bi-DY-zuhn) verb tr.
To dress or decorate in a showy or gaudy manner. [From be- + dizen, from [possibly Low German] disen (to put flax on a distaff for spinning), from dis- (bunch of flax).]
bedswerver (bed-SWUR-vuhr) noun
An unfaithful spouse. [From Old English bedd (bed) + sweorfan (to rub, to file away).]
beestings (BEE-stingz) noun, also beastings, biestings
First milk produced by a mammal, especially a cow, after giving birth. Also known as colostrum or foremilk. [From Middle English bestynge, from Old English bysting.]
behoove (bi-HOOV) tr.verb
To be necessary or proper for. behoove intr.verb To be necessary or proper. [Middle English behoven, from Old English behofian.]
belles-lettres (bel-LET-ruh) plural noun (used with a singular verb)
1. Literature regarded for its aesthetic value rather than its didactic or informative content. 2. Light, stylish writings, usually on literary or intellectual subjects. [French : belles, fine + lettres, letters, literature.]
bellicose (BEL-i-kos) adjective
Inclined to fight. [From Latin bellicosus, from bellicus (of war), from bellum (war).]
benevolent (buh-NEV-uh-luhnt) adjective
1. Characterized by or suggestive of doing good. 2. Of, concerned with, or organized for the benefit of charity. [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin benevolens, benevolent- : bene, well + volens, present participle of velle, to wish.]
benighted (bi-NYT-id) adjective
1. Intellectually, morally, or socially ignorant; unenlightened. 2. Overtaken by night or darkness. [From be- + night + -ed.]
benthos (BEN-thos) noun
1. The collection of organisms living on or in sea or lake bottoms. 2. The bottom of a sea or a lake. [Greek.]
best boy (best boi) noun
The first assistant to the gaffer (head electrician) of a film crew. [Apparently borrowed from the sailing terminology.]
best gold (best gold) noun
The shot nearest the exact center of the bull's-eye. [The centermost circle (also known as bull's-eye) in a target is yellow or gold, hence the shot nearest to it is called the best gold.]
beta (BAY-tuh, BEE-) noun
1. Mostly working, but still under test; usually used with `in': `in beta'. In the Real World, systems (hardware or software) software often go through two stages of release testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?). Beta releases are generally made to a group of lucky (or unlucky) trusted customers. 2. Anything that is new and experimental. "His girlfriend is in beta" means that he is still testing for compatibility and reserving judgment. 3. Flaky; dubious; suspect (since beta software is notoriously buggy). [From the second letter of the Greek alphabet.]
betise (bay-TEEZ) noun, plural betises (bay-TEEZ)
1. Stupidity, foolishness. 2. A foolish remark or action. [From French bêtise (stupidity, nonsense), from bête (foolish, beast), from Old French beste (beast), from Latin bestia. A related French term is bête noire (literally, black beast), something or someone dreaded or avoided.]
bevy (BEV-ee) noun
1. A group of animals or birds, especially larks or quail. 2. A group or an assemblage. [Middle English, from Anglo-Norman bevee.]
bibacious (by-BAY-shuhs) adjective
Overly fond of drinking. [From Latin bibere (to drink).]
biblioclast (BIB-lee-uh-klast) noun
A person who mutilates or destroys books. [Biblio- book + (icono)clast, from -klastes breaker.]
biblioklept (BIB-lee-uh-klept) noun
A person who steals books. [Biblio- book + Greek klept thief.]
bibliolater (bib-lee-OL-ay-tuhr) noun
1. One having excessive reverence for the Bible as literally interpreted. 2. One with extravagant devotion to or dependence upon books. [Biblio- book + -latry, worship.]
bibliomancy (BIB-lee-o-man-see) noun
Divination by interpreting a passage picked at random from a book, especially from a religious book such as the Bible. [From Greek biblio- (book) + -mancy (divination).]
bibliopegy (bib-lee-OP-uh-jee) noun
The art and craft of binding books. [From Greek biblio- (book) + pegnynai (to fasten).]
bibliophage (BIB-lee-uh-fayj) noun
An ardent reader; a bookworm. [Biblio- book + -phage one that eats.]
bibliophile (BIB-lee-uh-fyl) also bibliophil (-fil) or
bibliophilist (bib-lee-OF-uh-list) noun 1. A lover of books. 2. A collector of books. [Biblio-, book + -phile, lover of.]
bibliophobe (BIB-lee-uh-foab) noun
A person who hates, fears, or distrusts books. [Biblio- book + -phobe one that fears.]
bibliotaph (BIB-lee-uh-taf) also bibliotaphe noun
A person who caches or hoards books. [Biblio- book + Greek taphos burial.]
bidentate (by-DEN-tayt) adjective
Having two teeth or toothlike parts. [From Latin bi- (two) + dens (tooth).]
biennial (bi-EN-ee-uhl) adjective
1. Happening every two years. 2. Lasting two years. 3. Taking two years to complete its life cycle. noun 1. An event occurring once in two years. 2. A plant that takes two years to complete its life cycle, such as beet and carrot. [From biennium (a two-year period), from Latin bi- (two) + annus (year).]
big brother (big BRUTH-uhr) noun
1. An older brother. 2. A man who assumes the role of an older brother, as by providing guidance or protection. 3. Also Big Brother. An omnipresent, seemingly benevolent figure representing the oppressive control over individual lives exerted by an authoritarian government. A state, an organization, or a leader regarded in this manner. [Sense 3, after Big Brother, a character in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.]
bight (byt) noun
1. A bend in a coastline; also the body of water along such a curve. Example: The Bight of Benin in W. Africa. 2. The curved part or the middle of a rope (as contrasted with the ends). [From Old English byht (bend). Ultimately from Indo-European root bheug- (to bend) that is also the source of bow, bagel, bee, bog, akimbo, and buxom (originally one who is obedient or pliant).]
bigot (BIG-uht) noun
One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ. [French, from Old French.]
bijou (BEE-zhoo, bee-ZHOO) noun, plural bijoux (-zhoo, -zhooz)
A small, delicate jewel or ornamental object of delicate workmanship. [From French, from Breton bizou (jeweled ring), from biz (finger).]
bilabial (by-LAY-bee-uhl) adjective
Using both lips. noun A bilabial sound or consonant, for example p, b, m, where both lips touch each other, and w in which lips are rounded. [Latin bi- (two) + labial, from labium (lip), ultimately from Indo-European root leb- (lip, to lick) that's also the source of lip, labrose (having thick or large lips), and labret (an ornament worn in a pierced lip).]
bildungsroman (BIL-doongz-roe-mahn, -doongks-) or Bildungsroman nnoun
A novel whose principal subject is the moral, psychological, and intellectual development of a usually youthful main character. [German : Bildung, formation (from Middle High German bildunge, from Old High German bildunga, from bilodi, form, shape) + Roman, novel, from French, a story in the vernacular, novel.]
bimester (by-MES-tuhr) noun
A period of two months. [From Latin bimenstris, from bi- (two) + mensis (month).]
bimillenary (bye-MIL-uh-ner-ee) noun (also bimillenium)
1. A span of 2,000 years. 2. A 2,000th anniversary. [Bi- two + Latin millenarius, from milleni, a thousand each, from mille, thousand.]
bindlestiff (BIN-dl-stif) noun
A hobo who carries a bundle of bedding and other possessions. [From English bindle (bundle) + stiff (tramp). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhendh- (to bind), that is also the source of such words as bandanna, band, bond, and bundle.]
birl (burl) tr.verb
To cause (a floating log) to spin rapidly by rotating with the feet. birl intr.verb 1. To participate in birling. 2. To spin. birl noun A whirring noise; a hum. [Blend of birr and whirl.]
bissextile (by-SEKS-til) adjective
Of or pertaining to the leap year or the extra day in the leap year. noun Leap year. [From Late Latin bisextilis annus (leap year), from Latin bissextus (February 29: leap day), from bi- (two) sextus (sixth), from the fact that the sixth day before the Calends of March (February 24) appeared twice every leap year.]
blackball (BLAK-bawl) verb tr.
1. To vote against, especially to prevent someone from joining a club or a group. 2. To ostracize or boycott. noun A negative vote. [From black + ball. From the former practice of depositing a white ball or a black ball as a ballot to vote for or against a candidate.]
blarney (BLAHR-nee) noun
1. Flattery. 2. Misleading talk. [After the Blarney stone, a stone in Blarney Castle in Blarney village, near Cork, Ireland which, according to legend, gives the gift of the gab to anyone who kisses it.]
blasphemy (BLAS-fuh-mee) noun
1. A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity. The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God. 2. An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct. [Middle English blasfemie, from Late Latin blasphemia, from Greek, from blasphemein, to blaspheme.]
blatherskite (BLATH-uhr-skyt) noun
1. A person who babbles about inane matters. 2. Nonsense; foolish talk. [From Old Norse blathra (to chatter) + Scots dialect skate (a contemptible person).]
blaxploitation (blak-sploi-TAY-shuhn) noun
Exploitation of Black people, especially in the American film industry, by casting them in negative, stereotypical roles and by failing to depict in the films the realities of Black life. Attributive. Often used to modify another noun: blaxploitation movies; the blaxploitation genre. [Blend of black and exploitation.]
blimey (BLY-mee) interjection
An expression of surprise, dismay, etc. [Contraction of "blind me" or "blame me", from "God blind/blame me"; sometimes heard in the form gorblimey or corblimey.]
bling-bling (bling-bling) noun
Expensive, flashy jewelry or other items. [From hip-hop slang, apparently imitative of the sounds of the clanging jewelry, or of the light reflecting from them.]
bloviate (BLO-vee-ayt) verb intr.
To speak pompously. [Pseudo-Latin alteration of blow, to boast; popularized by 29th US President, Warren G. Harding (1865-1923).]
blue rinse (BLOO rins) adjective
Of, related to, or made up of elderly women. [From the hair-dye used on grey hair that produces a blue shade.]
blue streak (bloo streek) noun
1. Something moving very fast. 2. A rapid and seemingly endless stream of words. [Or unknown origin, perhaps an allusion to a bolt of lightning.]
bluebeard (BLOO-beerd) noun
A man who marries and kills one wife after another. [After Bluebeard, the nickname of the main character Raoul in a fairy tale by Charles Perrault (1628-1703). In the story, Bluebeard's wife finds the bodies of his previous wives in a room she was forbidden to enter. Yes, he did have a blue beard.]
bluestocking (BLOO-stok-ing) noun
A woman with strong scholarly or literary interests. [After the Blue Stocking Society, a nickname for a predominantly female literary club of 18th-century London.]
blunderbuss (BLUN-duhr-bus) noun
1. A short, wide-mouthed gun used to scatter shots at close range. 2. A clumsy, blundering person. adjective Clumsy, blundering. [Alteration of Dutch donderbus, from donder (thunder) + bus (gun, tube). The gun wasn't known for its precise shot. Its scattershot effect resulted in its name being altered from donderbus to blunderbuss. It wasn't long before the word was applied to insensitive, blundering persons.]
bluster (BLUS-tuhr) intr.verb
1. To blow in loud, violent gusts, as the wind during a storm. 2. To speak in a loudly arrogant or bullying manner. To brag or make loud, empty threats. bluster tr.verb To force or bully with swaggering threats. bluster noun 1. A violent, gusty wind. 2. Turbulence or noisy confusion. 3. Loud, arrogant speech, often full of empty threats. [Middle English blusteren, from Middle Low German blusteren.]
bobbsey twins (BOB-zee twins)
Two people who appear, think, or do alike. [From the characters in a children's book series created in 1904 and published under the pen name of Laura Lee Hope. Here's an excellent website about the Bobbsey twins: http://pw1.netcom.com/~drmike99/aboutbobbsey.html ]
bobby (BOB-ee) noun
Chiefly British. A police officer. [After Sir Robert Peel, home secretary of England when the Metropolitan Police Force was created in 1829.]
bodacious (boh-DAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Outright, thorough. 2. Remarkable, impressive. 3. Gutsy, brazen. 4. Voluptuous. [A blend of bold and audacious.]
boffin (BOF-in) noun
A scientist, especially one involved in research. [Of unknown origin.]
boffo (BOF-o) adjective
1. (Of a movie, play, or some other show) Extremely successful. 2. (Of a laugh) uproarious, hearty. noun 1. A great success. 2. A hearty laugh. 3. A gag or punch-line that elicits uproarious laughter. [Of uncertain origin. Probably a blend of box office or an alteration of buffo, bouffe, or boffola. The term was popularized by Variety, a magazine for the U.S. entertainment industry.]
bogart (BO-gart) verb tr.
1. To hog or to take more than the fair share of something. 2. To bully, act tough or to be belligerent. [After actor Humphrey Bogart (1900-1957) who played tough-guy movie roles.]
boll (pronounced the same as bowl) noun
The pod of a plant, as that of flax or cotton. [From Middle English bolle, from Middle Dutch bolle (round). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
bollard (BOL-uhrd) noun
A thick post on a ship or wharf, used for securing ropes and hawsers. [Middle English, probably from bole, tree trunk.]
bombast (BOM-bast) noun
Pompous speech or writing. [From Old French bombace (cotton padding), from Latin bombax (cotton).]
bombinate (BOM-buh-nayt) verb intr.
To make a humming or buzzing noise. [New Latin bombinatus, past participle of bombinare, apparently coined by Rabelais on basis of Latin bombilare to hum, buzz, from Greek bombyliazein, derivative of bombos.]
bon mot (bon mo) noun, plural bons mots
A witty remark. [From French bon mot, literally good word. It's from the same language in which mother-in-law is called belle-mere, literally beautiful mother. No wonder French was once the language of diplomacy.]
bonhomie (bon-uh-MEE) noun
Friendliness; affability; geniality. [From French bonhomie, from bonhomme (good-natured man), from bon (good) + homme (man).]
bonsai (bon-SYE, BON-sye, -zye) noun
1. The art of growing dwarfed, ornamentally shaped trees or shrubs in small shallow pots or trays. 2. A tree or shrub grown by this method. [Japanese, potted plant : bon, basin (from Chinese pen) + sai, to plant, from Chinese zai.]
booboisie (boo-bwa-ZEE) noun
A segment of the general public composed of uneducated, uncultured persons. [Blend of **** + bourgeoisie; coined by H.L. Mencken in 1922]
boodle (BOOD-l) noun
An illegal payment, as in graft. verb intr. To take money dishonestly, especially from graft. [From Dutch boedel (property).]
boondocks (BOON-doks) noun
1. An uninhabited area filled with thick brush. 2. A rural area; backwoods. [From Tagalog bundok, mountain.]
bootleg (BOOT-leg) tr. verb
1. To make, sell, or transport (alcoholic liquor) for sale illegally. 2. To produce, distribute, or sell without permission or illegally: a clandestine outfit that bootlegs record albums and tapes. bootleg intr. verb 1. To engage in the bootlegging of alcoholic liquor or another product. 2. To attach a transmitter to a dish antenna, creating an uplink via which a signal is sent to a satellite without the knowledge of the satellite's owner. 3. Football. To fake a hand-off, conceal the ball on the hip, and roll out in order to pass or especially to rush around the end. Used of a quarterback. bootleg noun 1. A product, especially alcoholic liquor, that is illicitly produced, distributed, or sold. 2. The part of a boot above the instep. 3. Football. A play in which the quarterback bootlegs. bootleg adjective Produced, sold, or transported illegally: bootleg gin; bootleg tapes. [From a smuggler's practice of carrying liquor in the legs of boots.]
bootless (BOOT-lis) adjective
Useless; unsuccessful, unprofitable. [From Old English botleas, from Old English bot (advantage) + less, from Old English laes (without).]
borborygmus (bor-buh-RIG-muhs) noun
A rumbling noise produced by the movement of gas through the intestines. [New Latin, from Greek borborugmos, of imitative origin.]
bort (bort) noun
Poor-quality diamond, or diamond fragment, used as an industrial abrasive, as in grinding wheel. [Possibly metathetic variation of brot, from Old English gebrot, fragment.]
bosh (bosh) noun, interjection
Nonsense. [From Turkish bos (empty). The term was popularized in English by its use in the novels of James J. Morier (1780-1849).]
bosky (BOS-kee) adjective
1. Having an abundance of bushes, shrubs, or trees. 2. Of or relating to woods. [From Middle English bosk, bush, from Medieval Latin bosca, of Germanic origin.]
bouleversement (BOO-luh-vers-MAWN) noun
1. Reversal. 2. Violent uproar, upheaval, or disorder. [From French bouleversement (upheaval), from bouleverser (to overturn), from boule (ball) + verser (to turn).]
bounden (BOWN-den) adjective
1. Obligatory. 2. Archaic. Being under obligation; obliged. [Middle English, past participle of binden, to bind, from Old English bindan.]
bourn (born) noun
1. A destination or goal. 2. A boundary or limit. [From Middle French bourne, from Old French bodne (boundary). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhendh- (to bind) that is also the source of band, bend, bind, bond, bundle, and bandanna.]
boustrophedon (boo-struh-FEED-n, -FEE-don) noun
A method of writing in which lines are written alternately in opposite direction, from left to right, and right to left. [From boustrophedon, literally ox-turning, referring to the movement of an ox while plowing a field, from bous (ox) and strophe (turning). It's the same strophe that shows up in catastrophe (literally, an overturning) and apostrophe (literally, turning away, referring to the omission of a letter).]
bovarism (BO-vuh-riz-em) noun
An exaggerated, especially glamorized, estimate of oneself; conceit. [From French bovaryisme, after Emma Bovary, a character in Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary.]
bovine (BO-vyn, -veen) adjective
1. Of, relating to, or resembling a ruminant mammal of the genus Bos, such as an ox, cow, or buffalo. 2. Sluggish, dull, and stolid. noun An animal of the genus Bos. [Late Latin bovinus, from Latin bos, cow.]
bowyer (BO-yuhr) noun
One who makes, sells, or uses bows. [From Old English boga, ultimately from the Indo-European root bheug- (to bend) that is also the source of bagel, buxom, and bog.]
boycott (BOI-kot) tr.verb
1. To act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion. 2. To abstain from or unite with others in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with. boycott noun The act or an instance of boycotting. [After Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), English land agent in Ireland.]
brachylogy (bra-KIL-uh-jee) noun
Conciseness of diction or an instance of such. [From Medieval Latin brachylogia, from Greek brakhulogi, brakhu-, brachy-, short + -logy.]
brad (brad) noun
A thin wire nail with a small, deep head, or a projection on one side of the head. [From Middle English, from Old Norse broddr (spike).]
brainiac (BRAY-nee-ak) noun
A very intelligent person. adjective Highly intelligent. [After Brainiac, a highly intelligent villainous character in the Superman comic strip.]
brass-collar (BRAS KOL-uhr) adjective
Unwaveringly loyal to a political party; always voting a straight party ticket. [Apparently from the allusion to the collar of a faithful dog.]
brasserie (bras-uh-REE, bras-REE) noun
A restaurant serving alcoholic beverages, especially beer, as well as food. [French, from brasser, to malt, brew, from Old French bracier, from Vulgar Latin *braciare, from Latin brace, malt, of Celtic origin.]
brassy (BRAS-ee) adjective
1. Made of or resembling brass. 2. Resembling the sound of brass instruments. 3. Brazen; bold; impudent. 4. Showy; pretentious. [From brass, from Middle English bras, from Old English bræs.]
bravura (bruh-VYOOR-uh, -VOOR-) noun, plural bravuras, bravure
1. A musical piece or performance involving great skill and a display of flair and brilliant style. 2. A display of spirit, daring, or boldness. adjective Marked by display of flair, spirit, style, boldness, etc. [From Italian bravura (bravery), from Latin barbarus, from Greek barbaros (barbarous).]
breastsummer (BRES-sum-uhr, BREST-, BRES-e-muhr) noun
A horizontal beam supporting an exterior wall over an opening, as a shop window. Also called breast beam. [Breast + summer.]
breeches part (BRICH-iz part) noun
A male part played by an actress. [After breeches (knee-length trousers worn by men in the past), from breech (the lower part of the body).]
brevet (bre-VET) noun
A commission promoting a military officer to a higher rank without a corresponding increase in pay. verb tr. To promote in rank without a pay increase. adjective Having a higher rank without an increase in pay. [From Middle English, literally little letter, from Middle French, from Old French, diminutive of brief (letter), from Latin brevis (short). Other words that have descended from the same Latin root are abbreviate, abridge, brevity, breve, and brumal.]
bricolage (bree-ko-LAZH) noun
Something created using a mix of whatever happens to be available. [From French bricolage (do-it-yourself job), from bricoler (to putter around, to do odd jobs), from bricole (trifle), from Italian briccola.]
bridewell (BRYD-wel) noun
A prison. [After a prison that formerly stood near the church of St. Bride in London during 1545-55.]
brigadoon (BRIG-uh-doon) noun
An idyllic place that is out of touch with reality or one that makes its appearance for a brief period in a long time. [From Brigadoon, a village in the musical of the same name, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, based on the story Germelshausen by Friedrich Gerstacker. Brigadoon is under a spell that makes it invisible to outsiders except on one day every 100 years.]
bright-line (bryt-lyn) noun, adjective
An unambiguous criterion on some issue. For example, what gift would be considered acceptable to an office-holder versus what would amount to bribery? In this hypothetical case, the bright-line might be the value of the gift, say $20 or below is legal but above that one must return it. [Apparently from spectrography. A bright-line spectrum has distinct bright lines as contrasted with a continuous spectrum which has a continuous band of frequencies.]
brodie (BROH-dee) noun
1. A daredevil or suicidal jump. 2. A spectacular failure. 3. A sudden change in a vehicle's direction. [After Steve Brodie, who claimed to be the first person to survive a dive from the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886.]
brogan (BROA-guhn) noun
A heavy, ankle-high work shoe. [Irish Gaelic brogan, diminutive of brog, brogue.]
bromide (BRO-myd) noun
1. A tired or meaningless remark. 2. A tiresome or boring person. [From bromine, from Greek bromos (stench).]
brougham (broom, BROO-uhm, broam, BROA-uhm) noun
1. A closed four-wheeled carriage with an open driver's seat in front. 2. An automobile with an open driver's seat. 3. An electrically powered automobile resembling a coupe. [After Henry Peter Brougham, First Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778-1868), Scottish-born jurist.]
brown study (broun STUD-ee) noun
A state of deep absorption in thought. [Apparently from brown in the sense of gloomy.]
brumal (BROO-muhl) adjective
Occurring in or related to winter. [From Latin brumalis (pertaining to winter), from brevima dies (shortest day or winter solstice), from brevis (short). Other words that are derived from the same Latin root are abbreviate, abridge, brevity, breve, and brevet.]
brummagem (BRUM-uh-juhm) adjective
Cheap and showy. noun Something that is counterfeit or of inferior quality. [After Brummagem, a dialectal form of Birmingham, UK, where counterfeit coins were produced in the 17th century. Brummie is a nickname for someone from Birmingham.]
bruxism (BRUK-si-zehm) noun
The habitual, involuntary grinding or clenching of the teeth, usually during sleep, as from anger, tension, fear, or frustration. [From New Latin bruxis, a gnashing, from Greek brukein, to gnash.]
buccaneer (buk-uh-NEER) noun
1. An unscrupulous adventurer in politics, business, etc. 2. A pirate. [From French boucanier (buccaneer, barbecuer, hunter of wild ox), from boucan (a frame for smoking meat), from Tupi mukem.]
buckram (BUK-ruhm) noun
1. A stiff cotton fabric used in interlining garments, in bookbinding, etc. 2. Stiffness; formality. verb tr. 1. To strengthen with buckram. 2. To give a false appearance of strength, importance, etc. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps after Bukhara, Uzbekistan, a city noted for textiles.]
buff (buf) noun
1. A soft, thick, undyed leather made chiefly from the skins of buffalo, elk, or oxen. 2. A military uniform coat made of such leather. 3. Color. A pale, light, or moderate yellowish pink to yellow, including moderate orange yellow to light yellowish brown. 4. Bare skin. 5. A piece of soft material, such as velvet or leather, often mounted on a block and used for polishing. adjective 1. Made or formed of buff. 2. Of the color buff. verb tr. 1. To polish or shine with a piece of soft material. 2. To soften the surface of (leather) by raising a nap. 3. To make the color of buff. [From obsolete buffle, buffalo, from French buffle, from Late Latin bufalus.]
buffalo (BUF-uh-lo) noun, plural buffalo or buffaloes or buffalos
1. Any of several oxlike Old World mammals of the family Bovidae, such as the water buffalo and Cape buffalo. The North American bison, Bison bison. 2. The buffalo fish. verb tr. 1. To intimidate, as by a display of confidence or authority. 2. To deceive; hoodwink. 3. To confuse; bewilder. [Italian bufalo, or Portuguese, or Spanish bufalo, from Late Latin bufalus, from Latin bubalus, from Greek boubalos.]
bulimarexia (byoo-lim-uh-REK-see-uh, -lee-muh-, boo-) noun
An eating disorder in which one alternates between abnormal craving for and aversion to food. It is characterized by episodes of excessive food intake followed by periods of fasting and self-induced vomiting or diarrhea. Also called binge-purge syndrome, binge-vomit syndrome, bulimia nervosa. [bulim (ia) + (an)orexia.]
bulimia (boo-LIM-ee-uh, byoo-) noun
1. Excessive or insatiable appetite. 2. An emotional disorder marked by bouts of overeating followed by purging, by means of self-induced vomiting, laxatives, etc. [From New Latin bulimia, from Greek boulimia, from bous (ox) + limos (hunger).]
bull's-eye (bulz eye) noun
1. The center of a target. 2. A direct hit. 3. A convex lens or a lantern with such a lens in it. [Why bull's eye? Why not a cat's eye or a dog's eye? Nobody knows. Perhaps it's an indication of the earlier agro-economy and the importance of bovine animals in it. It was probably suggested by the similarity of a bull's round eye with that of a target.]
bum's rush (bumz rush) noun
A forcible ejection from a place. [From the allusion to a bum being swiftly kicked out of a place.]
bumbershoot (BUM-buhr-shoot) noun
An umbrella. [Blend of sounds of umbrella + parachute.]
bumf (bumf) noun
1. Toilet paper. 2. Printed matter of little importance: documents such as corporate memos, governmental forms, junk mail, promotional pamphlets, etc. [Short for bum fodder.]
bunbury (BUN-buh-ree) noun
An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place. verb intr. To use the name of a fictitious person as an excuse. [From Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest where the character Algernon invents an imaginary person named Bunbury as an alibi to escape from relatives. He explains to his friend, "I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to-night."]
bunyanesque (bun-yuh-NESK) adjective
1. Gigantic; of or relating to the legends of the fictional hero Paul Bunyan. 2. Of or relating to the allegorical style of the author John Bunyan. The first sense of the word alludes to the legendary giant Paul Bunyan. He was a lumberjack and an American folk hero of tall tales. The story goes that the infant Paul was so huge that it took a mustering of storks to deliver him. An example of his ability is a story that when he dragged his axe behind him, he created the Grand Canyon (a near-rhyme for Bunyan). John Bunyan (no relation to Paul Bunyan) was a 17th century English preacher famed for his allegorical novel Pilgrim's Progress. -Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org) "Once again, a Dominican strongman with a catchy nickname -- Big Papi -- is up against a strapping native strongman of Bunyanesque dimensions -- Thome." Gordon Edes; Ramirez Will Rest During Break; The Boston Globe; Jul 8, 2006. -------- Date: Wed Jul 26 00:01:18 EDT 2006 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--adamite This week's theme: eponyms. adamite (AD-uh-myt) noun 1. A nudist. [After the name of some Christian sects who professed to imitate the first human, Adam, in not wearing any clothes.]
bushwa (BUSH-wa) noun, also bushwah
Nonsense; bull. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps a mispronunciation of bourgeois.]
buskin (BUS-kin) noun
1. A thick-soled, laced boot, reaching to knee or calf, worn by actors of ancient Greek and Roman tragedies. Also known as cothurnus. 2. A tragic drama. [Perhaps from Middle French brousequin.]
busman's holiday (BUS-manz HOL-i-day) noun
A holiday spent doing things as at work. [Imagine a bus driver having a day off, 'enjoying' a bus ride and you'll have a pretty good idea of this term. Going on a long drive might be a great vacation for many of us, but not for a bus driver. Of course, when the phrase came up some 200 years ago, bus drivers had charge of horse-drawn buses. The term is sometimes seen as 'businessman's holiday'.]
butte (byoot) noun
An isolated hill rising abruptly from the surrounding area, having steep sides and a flat top. [From French butte (mound).]
buttress (BUHT-ris) noun
1. An external structure built to support a wall or a building. 2. Something or someone that supports. verb tr. To support or reinforce. [From Middle English butres, from Old French boterez, from bouter (to push against).]
byzantine bureaucracy."
Geoffrey Stevens, Starving the military, Maclean's, 13 Apr 1998. This week's theme: toponyms. -------- Date: Thu Mar 9 00:07:37 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor (purl HAHR-buhr) noun Any significant or crippling defeat, betrayal, loss, etc., that comes unexpectedly. [After Pearl Harbor, near Honolulu, on South Oahu, in Hawaii, the site of a surprise attack by Japan on the U.S. naval base and other military installations on December 7, 1941.]
cabal (kuh-BAL) noun
1. A conspiratorial group of plotters or intriguers: "Espionage is quite precisely it-a cabal of powerful men, working secretly" (Frank Conroy). 2. A secret scheme or plot. cabal intr.verb To form a cabal; conspire. [French cabale, from Medieval Latin cabala.]
cabana (kuh-BAHN-uh) noun
1. A shelter on a beach or swimming pool. 2. A cabin or cottage. [From Spanish cabaña, from Late Latin capanna (hut).]
cacology (ka-KOL-uh-jee) noun
1. Poor choice of words. 2. Incorrect pronunciation. [From Greek caco- (bad) + -logy (word).]
cadastral (kuh-DAS-truhl) adjective
Of or relating to a map or survey showing property lines, boundaries, etc. [From French cadastre (an official register of the details of real estate in an area, used in determining taxes), from Italian catasto, from Greek katastikhon (list, register), from kata stikhon (line by line).]
cadogan (kuh-DUG-uhn) noun
A lidless teapot, inspired by Chinese wine pots, that is filled from the bottom. [After William Cadogan, 1st Earl of Cadogan (1675-1726), who was said to be the first Englishman to own such a pot.]
caduceus (kuh-DOO-si-uhs, -shuhs, -dyoo-) noun
1. A herald's wand or staff, especially in ancient times. Greek Mythology. A winged staff with two serpents twined around it, carried by Hermes. 2. An insignia modeled on Hermes' staff and used as the symbol of the medical profession. [Latin caduceus, alteration of Greek karukeion, from karux, herald.]
caesious (SEE-zee-uhs) adjective
Bluish or grayish green. [From Latin caesius, probably from caelum (sky).]
cain (kayn) noun
A murderer. To raise Cain: 1. To become angry; to reprimand someone angrily. 2. To behave in a boisterous manner; to create a commotion. [After Cain, a Biblical character, the first son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.]
cairn (kairn) noun
A heap of stones set up as a landmark or a memorial. [From Scottish Gaelic carn (pile of stones).]
caitiff (KAY-tif) noun
A despicable coward; a wretch. caitiff adjective Despicable and cowardly. [Middle English caitif, from Norman French, from Latin captivus, prisoner.]
cakewalk (KAYK-wok) noun
Something very easy to do, having little or no opposition. [In the 19th century, cakewalk was a popular contest among slaves on the American plantations. It was a strutting dance, developed as a parody of white owners, in which couples with the most stylish steps won a cake as a prize. The dance may or may not have been easy but it was certainly a lot of fun, and eventually the term cakewalk begin to be used to refer to anything easy to do. The idiom "to take the cake" has the same origin.]
calcar (KAL-kar) noun [plural calcaria (kal-KAR-ee-uh)]
A spur or spurlike projection, such as one found on the base of a petal or on the wing or leg of a bird. [Latin, spur, from calx, calc-, heel.]
calced (kalst) adjective
Wearing shoes. [From Latin calceus (shoe).]
calefacient (cal-uh-FAY-shunt) noun
A substance (e.g. mustard) that produces a sensation of warmth when applied to a part of the body. adjective Producing warmth; heating. [From Latin calefacient-, stem of calefaciens, present participle of calefacere (to make warm), from calere (to be warm) + facere (to make). Other (some hot, some not) words derived from the Latin root calere are chafe, chauffeur (literally, a stoker) and nonchalant.]
calender (KAL-uhn-duhr) noun
A machine in which paper or cloth is made smooth and glossy by being pressed through rollers. verb tr. To press (paper or cloth) in the rollers of such a machine. [French calandre, from Vulgar Latin *colendra, alteration (possibly influenced by Latin columna, column), of Latin cylindrus, roller.]
calico (KAL-i-co) noun, plural calicoes or calicos
1. A brightly printed coarse cotton cloth. 2. (Mainly British) A plain white cotton cloth. 3. An animal having a spotted coat, especially with red and black patches. adjective 1. Made from such a cloth. 2. Having a spotted pattern. [From Calicut, former name of Kozhikode, a city in southern India from where this cloth was exported. Other words for clothes with Indian origins are bandana, cashmere, chintz, dungarees, jodhpurs, khakis, pajamas, and seersucker.]
caliginous (kuh-LIJ-uh-nuhs) adjective
Dark, gloomy, obscure, misty. [From Latin caliginosus (misty, dark).]
callipygian (kal-uh-PIJ-ee-uhn) adjective
Having well-shaped buttocks. [From Greek calli- (beautiful) + pyge (buttocks).]
calvity (KAL-vi-ti) also calvities, noun
Baldness. [From Latin calvities (baldness), from calv-us (bald).]
calvous (KAL-vuhs) adjective
Bald. [From Latin calvus (bald).]
camorra (kuh-MOR-uh) noun
A secret group united for unscrupulous purposes. [After Camorra, a secret organization in Naples, Italy, engaged in criminal activities, mostly during the 19th century. From Italian, possibly from Spanish (dispute).]
canard (kuh-NAHRD) noun
1. A deliberately misleading story; hoax. 2. An airplane with small forward wings mounted in front of the main wings; also such a wing. [From French, literally a duck. The term is said to have come from the French expression vendre un canard à moitié or "to half-sell a duck" or to take in or swindle.]
canary (kuh-NAR-ee) noun
1. A small finch (Serinus canaria) native to the Canary Islands that is greenish to yellow and has long been bred as a cage bird. 2. A woman singer. An informer; a stool pigeon. 3. A sweet white wine from the Canary Islands, similar to Madeira. 4. A lively 16th-century court dance. 5. A light to moderate or vivid yellow color. [French canari, from Spanish canario, of the Canary Islands, from (Islas) Canarias, Canary (Islands), from Late Latin Canariae (Insulae), (islands) of dogs, from Latin canarius, pertaining to dogs, canine, from canis, dog.]
cancrine (KANG-krin) adjective
1. Reading the same backwards as forwards, palindromic. For example, "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama." (letter cancrine) "So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so!" (word cancrine) 2. Crab-like. [From Latin cancr- (stem of cancer) cancer + -ine.]
candent (KAN-duhnt) adjective
1. Glowing. 2. Impassioned. [From Latin candent-, stemp of candens, present participle of candere (to shine or glow). Ultimately from Indo-European root kand- (to shine). Other words from the same root are candle, incandescent, incense, candid, candida, and candidate (in reference to white togas worn by Romans seeking office).]
canter (KANT-uhr) noun.
A smooth gait, especially of a horse, that is slower than a gallop but faster than a trot. canter intr.verb 1. To ride a horse at a canter. 2. To go or move at a canter. canter tr.verb To cause (a horse) to go at a canter. [Ultimately from phrases such as Canterbury gallop after Canterbury, England, toward which pilgrims rode at an easy pace.]
capitation (kap-i-TAY-shuhn) noun
1. A counting of heads. 2. A uniform tax assessed by the head; a poll tax. 3. A fee extracted from each student. [From Late Latin capitation- (poll tax), from caput (head). Ultimately from Indo-European root kaput- (head), also the origin of head, captain, chef, chapter, cadet, cattle, chattel, achieve, biceps, and mischief, (but not of kaput).]
capitol (KAP-i-tol) noun
1. A building or complex of buildings in which a state legislature meets. 2. Capitol. The building in Washington, D.C., where the Congress of the United States meets. [Middle English Capitol, Jupiter's temple in Rome, from Old French capitole, from Latin Capitolium after Capitolinus, Capitoline, the hill on which Jupiter's temple stood, perhaps akin to, caput, head.]
caprice (kuh-PREES) noun
1. A sudden, unpredictable change of mind or behavior. 2. Capriccio: a musical composition in free, irregular style. [From French, from Italian capriccio, from caporiccio (head with bristling hair), from capo (head) + riccio (hedgehog, curly) from Latin ericius (hedgehog).]
carbon-neutral (KAHR-buhn NOO-truhl, NYOO-) adjective
Adding no net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. [A greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide is a contributor to global warming. Carbon-neutral means contributing zero total emission of the gas into the atmosphere. The earliest citation of the term is found in a 1992 article in The Independent (London, UK).]
carillon (KAR-i-lon) noun
A set of stationary bells in a tower, usually played from a keyboard. [From Late Latin quaternion, via Old French quarregnon (by fours) with reference to the fact that the original carillon consisted of four bells hung in the tower of a church.]
cark (kark) verb tr., intr.
To worry. noun A worry or care. [From Middle English carken (to load or burden), from Norman French carquier, from Latin carricare. Ultimately from Indo-European root kers- (to run) that's also the source of car, career, carpenter, occur, discharge, and caricature. Why caricature? Because a caricature is a loaded or distorted picture of someone.]
carmine (KAHR-min, -MYN) noun
1. Color. A strong to vivid red. 2. A crimson pigment derived from cochineal. carmine adjective Color. Strong to vivid red. [French carmin, from Medieval Latin carminium, probably blend of Arabic qirmiz, kermes, and Latin minium, cinnabar.]
carnivore (KAHR-neh-vore) noun
1. A flesh-eating animal. 2. Any of various predatory, flesh-eating mammals of the order Carnivora, including the dogs, cats, bears, weasels, hyenas, and raccoons. 3. An insectivorous plant. [From French, meat-eating, from Latin carnivorus.]
carrageen or carragheen (KAR-uh-geen) noun
An edible seaweed, usually purplish, found on the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America. Also called Irish moss. Carrageen is the source of carrageenan, used as a thickener and emulsifier (to make sure a solid is evenly distributed in a liquid). [After Carrageen, near Waterford in southeast Ireland.]
carte blanche (kart blanch, kart blansh) noun
Unrestricted authority. [From French carte blanche (blank card or blank document).]
caruncle (KAR-ung-kuhl) noun
A fleshy growth, such as a rooster's comb. [From Latin caruncula (small piece of flesh), diminutive of caro (flesh). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that is also the source of skirt, curt, screw, shard, shears, carnage, carnivorous, carnation, sharp, and scrape.]
caryatid (kar-ee-AT-id) noun, plural caryatids or caryatides (-i-deez)
A supporting column sculptured in the form of a draped female figure. [From Latin Caryatides, maidens of Caryae, caryatids, from Greek Karuatides, from Karuai, Caryae, a village of Laconia in southern Greece.]
casus belli (KAY-suhs BEL-y, BEL-ee) noun, plural casus belli
An action or event that causes or is used to justify starting a war. [From New Latin casus belli, from Latin casus, occasion, belli, genitive of bellum, war.]
cat's paw (cats paw) noun
1. Someone used as a tool by another. 2. A kind of knot used to connect a rope to an object. 3. A breeze that ruffles the surface of the water over a small area; also, the area ruffled by such a breeze. [The first sense of the term comes from the fable in which a monkey uses a cat to pull roasting chestnuts from a fire. The monkey gobbles up all the nuts while the cat is left with a burnt paw. See Edwin Landseer's 1824 painting Cat's Paw: http://museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=2992 The second sense refers to the supposed resemblance of such a knot to a cat's paw: http://images.google.com/images?q=cat's+paw+knot The origin of the third sense is unknown.]
catachresis (kat-uh-KREE-sis) noun
The misuse of words. [Here's a catchall word for all those mixed metaphors, malapropisms, and bushisms. It derives via Latin from Greek katakhresthai (to misuse).]
catacomb (KAT-uh-kom) noun
1. Often catacombs. An underground cemetery consisting of chambers or tunnels with recesses for graves. 2. An underground burial place. [Probably French catacombe, from Old French, from Late Latin catacumba.]
catamaran (kat-uh-muh-RAN) noun
1. A boat with two parallel hulls, joined by a frame. 2. A quarrelsome person, especially a woman. [From Tamil kattumaram, from kattu (to tie) + maram (tree, wood). Tamil is spoken in Tamilnadu, a state in southern India and in Sri Lanka. It has about 70 million speakers.]
cataract (KAT-uh-rakt) noun
1. A large or high waterfall. 2. A great downpour; a deluge. 3. Opacity of the lens or capsule of the eye, causing impairment of vision or blindness. [Middle English cataracte, from Old French, from Latin cataracta, from Greek katarraktes, kataraktes, probably from katarassein, to dash down : kat-, kata-, cata- + arassein, to strike.]
catbird seat (KAT-burd seet) noun
A position of power and advantage. [A catbird (named after its catlike call) is known to build a pile of rocks to attract a mate and sit on the highest point around. This expression was often used by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball commentator Red Barber and further popularized by the author James Thurber in his story "The Catbird Seat" where a character often utters trite phrases, including the expression "sitting in the catbird seat".]
catch-22 (kach twen-tee TOO) noun
A situation marked by contradiction, absurdity, or paradox, where a solution is impossible to achieve. [From Catch-22, a novel by Joseph Heller.]
catchpole or catchpoll (KACH-pol) noun
A sheriff's officer who made arrests for failure to pay a debt. [From Middle English cacchepol, from Anglo-French cachepole (chicken chaser). From Latin captare (to chase) + pol (chicken), from pullus (chick). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pau- (few, little) that is also the source of few, foal, filly, pony, poor, pauper, and poco.]
catechumen (kat-i-KYOO-men) noun
1. One who is receiving religious instruction in preparation for baptism; a neophyte. 2. A person who is being given basic education of a subject. [From Late Latin catechumenus, from Greek katechoumenos (one being taught orally). "I gave him the manuscript of my first novel to read and awaited his verdict with the expectancy of a catechumen. And when I received his letter - generous, with approval and advice - I felt happy." Mario Vargas Llosa, The Trumpet of Deya, Review of Contemporary Fiction (McLean, Illinois), Spring 1997. This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Wed Mar 6 00:01:04 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ithyphallic ithyphallic (ith-uh-FAL-ik) adjective 1. Of or relating to the phallus carried in procession in ancient Bacchic festivals. 2. Indecent or salacious. 3. Having an erect phallus. [From Late Latin ithyphallicus, from Greek ithyphallikos, from ithyphallos, from ithys (straight) + phallos (phallus).]
cathexis (kuh-THEK-sis) noun, plural cathexes (-THEK-seez)
Concentration of emotional energy on an object or idea. [Greek kathexis, holding, retention, from katekhein, to hold fast : kat-, kata-, intensive prefix + ekhein, to hold.]
catholicity (kath-uh-LIS-i-tee) noun
1. Wide-ranging; universality. 2. Broad-mindedness; inclusiveness. [From Latin catholicus, from Greek katholikos (general), from kata (according to, by) + holou (whole). Ultimately from Indo-European root sol- (whole) that brought us words such as solid, salute, save, salvo, and soldier.]
catholicon (kuh-THOL-i-kuhn) noun
A panacea or cure-all. -Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org) [Via Latin from Greek katholikos (general), from kata (according to, by) + holou (whole). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sol- (whole) that gave us words such as solid, salute, save, salvo, and soldier.]
caucus (KAW-kuhs) noun
1. A meeting of the local members of a political party especially to select delegates to a convention or register preferences for candidates running for office. A closed meeting of party members within a legislative body to decide on questions of policy or leadership. A group within a legislative or decision-making body seeking to represent a specific interest or influence a particular area of policy. 2. Chiefly British. A committee within a political party charged with determining policy. caucus intr. verb To assemble in or hold a caucus. caucus tr. verb To assemble or canvass (members of a caucus). [After the Caucus Club of Boston (in the 1760's), possibly from Medieval Latin caucus, drinking vessel.]
causerie (ko-zuh-REE) noun
1. Chat. 2. A piece of informal writing. [From French, from causer (to chat), from Latin causari (to plead, discuss), from causa (case, cause). Other words derived from the same root are accuse, rush, and excuse.]
caustic (KAW-stik) adjective
1. Capable of burning or corroding. 2. Highly critical; sarcastic. [From Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaustos (combustible), from kaiein, (to burn).]
cavalier (kav-uh-LEER) noun
1. A mounted soldier; a horseman. 2. A gallant man, one escorting a woman. 3. A supporter of Charles I of England in his conflict with Parliament. adjective 1. Arrogant; disdainful. 2. Nonchalant, carefree, or offhand about some important matter. 3. Or or pertaining to a group of English poets associated with the court of Charles I. verb intr. 1. To play the cavalier. 2. To act in a haughty manner. [From Middle French cavalier (horseman), from Old Italian cavaliere, ultimately from Latin caballus (horse).]
cay (kay, kee) noun
A small low island of coral, sand, etc.; key. [From Spanish cayo (shoal).]
cede (seed) verb tr.
To yield or to surrender something, such as a territory. [From Latin cedere (to go or to yield). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ked- (to go or yield) that's also the ancestor of exceed, secede, proceed, cease, and necessary.]
cellarer (SEL-uhr-uhr) noun
A person, as in a monastic community, who is responsible for maintaining the supply of food and drink. [Middle English celerer, from Old French, from Latin cellarius, steward, from cella, storeroom.]
cenotaph (SEN-uh-taf) noun
A tomb or a monument in honor of a person (or a group) whose remains are elsewhere. [Via French and Latin, from Greek kenotaphion, from kenos (empty) + taphos (tomb).]
centaur (SEN-tor) noun
1. An expert horse rider. 2. An unnatural creation made of disparate entities. [After Centaur, a race of monsters having the torso of a human and lower body of a horse. Also, early Greek literature depicted Centaurs as a tribe from Thessaly whose members were skilled horse riders.]
cento (SEN-to) noun
A literary work, especially a poem, composed of parts taken from works of other authors. [From Latin cento (patchwork).]
cerulean (seh-ROO-lee-ahn) adjective
Azure; sky-blue. [From Latin caeruleus, dark blue akin to caelum, sky.]
cerumen (suh-ROO-muhn) noun
The yellowish, waxlike secretion of certain glands lining the canal of the external ear. Earwax. [New Latin, from Latin cera, wax akin to Greek keros.]
cesarean also caesarean or caesarian or cesarian (si-ZARE-ee-uhn) adjective
Of or relating to a cesarean section. noun A cesarean section, a surgical incision through the abdominal wall and uterus, performed to deliver a fetus. [From the traditional belief that Julius Caesar (or his eponymous ancestor) was born by this operation.]
ceteris paribus (KAY-tuhr-uhs PAR-uh-buhs, SET-uhr-is) adverb
Other factors remaining the same. [From Latin, literally, other things the same.]
chad (chad) noun
Small pieces of paper or cardboard generated by punching holes in paper tape or data cards. [Origin unknown.]
chaffer (CHAF-uhr) verb tr., intr.
1. To haggle; to bargain. 2. To bandy words; to chatter. noun Bargaining or haggling. [From Middle English chaffare, eventually from Old English ceap (trade, purchase), precursor of English cheap + faru (journey).]
chaise longue (shayz LONG) noun,
plural chaise longues or chaises longues (shays LONG) A reclining chair with an elongated seat for supporting legs. [From French, literally long chair. The prevalent variant form of this term, chaise lounge, is formed by folk etymology.]
champerty (CHAM-puhr-tee) noun
Aiding in a lawsuit in return for a share in the proceeds. [From Middle English champartie, from Middle French champart (part of the field: a feudal lord's share of his tenant's crop), from champ (field), from Latin campus (field) + part.]
chaparral (shap-uh-RAL, chap-) noun
A dense, often impenetrable, growth of shrubs and thorny bushes. [From Spanish chaparral, from chaparro (dwarf evergreen oak), from Basque txapar (thicket).]
chaperon or chaperone (SHAP-uh-rohn) noun
1. A person, especially an older or married woman, who accompanies a young unmarried woman in public. 2. An older person who attends and supervises a social gathering for young people. 3. A guide or companion whose purpose is to ensure propriety or restrict activity: "to see and feel the rough edges of the society ... without the filter of official chaperones" (Philip Taubman). chaperon tr.verb To act as chaperon to or for. [French, from chaperon, hood, from Old French, diminutive of chape, cape, head covering.]
chapfallen or chopfallen (CHAP-faw-luhn, chop-) adjective
Dejected or dispirited. [From chap or chop (jaw) + fallen.]
chaplet (CHAP-lit) noun
1. A wreath or garland worn on the head. 2. A string of beads. [Middle English chapelet, wreath; from Old French, diminutive of chapel hat, from Medieval Latin cappellus, from Late Latin cappa, cap.]
chapman (CHAP-man) noun
A peddler; a merchant. [From Old English ceapman, from ceap (trade, bargain), from Latin caupo (shopkeeper or innkeeper) + man. The German equivalent is Kaufmann, Dutch koopman.]
charactonym (KAR-ik-tuh-nim) noun
A name given to a literary character that is descriptive of a quality or trait of the character. [Charact(er) + -onym]
charley horse (CHAR-lee hors) noun
Cramp or stiffness in a muscle, especially in the leg, typically caused by overstrain or injury. [Originally baseball slang, of unknown origin.]
charnel (CHAR-nel) noun
A repository for the bones or bodies of the dead; a charnel house. adjective Resembling, suggesting, or suitable for receiving the dead. [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin carnale, from neuter of Latin carnalis, of the flesh, from caro, carn-, flesh.]
charrette (shuh-RET) noun
1. A final intense effort to complete a design project. 2. A preliminary meeting involving stakeholders (citizens, planners, designers, etc.) to brainstorm or to elicit input on a project. [From French charrette (cart), from Old French. How we get from a cart to the above mentioned senses is not clear. It's perhaps from the idea of speed when referring to wheels. Also, according to a story, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris collected students' drawings in a cart and the latter would often jump on the charrette to complete last-minute details.]
chartreuse (shahr-TROOZ, -TROOS) noun
1. A light, yellowish green. 2. An aromatic, usually yellow or green liqueur, originally made by Carthusian monks in Grenoble, France. adjective Having a light, yellowish green color. [From French, after La Grande Chartreuse, the name of Carthusian monastery near Chartreuse mountain where this liqueur was first made.]
chasm (KAZ-um) noun
1. A deep hole; gorge. 2. A sudden interruption, discontinuity. 3. A difference of ideas, beliefs, or opinions. [Latin chasma from Greek khasma.]
chatoyant (shuh-TOI-uhnt) adjective
Having a changeable luster like that of a cat's eye at night. noun A chatoyant gemstone, such as a cat's eye. [From French, present participle of chatoyer (to shine like a cat's eye), from chat (cat).]
chauvinism (SHOW-vuh-niz-uhm) noun
1. Militant devotion to and glorification of one's country; fanatical patriotism. 2. Prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own gender, group, or kind. [French chauvinism eafter Nicolas Chauvin, a legendary French soldier famous for his devotion to Napoleon.]
chav (chav) noun
A youth whose behavior is marked by ignorance, aggression, and a fondness for jewelry and clothing. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Romany chav (child) or from shortening of Chatham, the name of a town in Kent, UK. The first print citation of the term in the OED is from a 2002 article in The Observer (London).]
cheap shot (cheep shot) noun
1. An act of intentional roughness against an opponent, especially in a contact sport. 2. An unsportsmanlike remark or action directed at a known weakness of another. "We don't care if he's Time magazine's `Person of the Year' or not, that was a cheap shot New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took at Boston and its police." Editorial: Rudy Giuliani Shows Skin Still Very Thin, The Boston Herald, Dec 29, 2001. This week's theme: words from games and sports. -------- Date: Mon Jan 14 00:16:27 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--opsimath opsimath (OP-si-math) noun One who begins learning late in life. [From Greek opsi- (late) + math (learning).]
checkmate (CHEK-mayt) noun
1. A move that places the king in a position from which there is no escape, as every move results in defeat. 2. Complete defeat. verb tr. 1. To maneuver an opponent's king in checkmate. 2. To place in an inextricable situation. 3. To defeat completely. interjection A call by a chess player that his or her move has placed opponent's king in such a manner that escape is impossible. [From Middle English chekmat, from Middle French escec mat, from Arabic shah (king), mat (dead, nonplussed).]
cherub (CHER-uhb) noun [plural cherubim (CHER-uh-bim, -yuh-bim)]
A winged celestial being. One of the second order of angels. cherub (CHER-uhb) noun [plural cherubs]
cheval de bataille (shuh-VAL duh ba-TAH-yuh) noun
plural chevaux de bataille (shuh-VOH duh ba-TAH-yuh) A favorite topic; hobbyhorse. [From French, literally battle-horse.]
cheval-de-frise (shuh-VAL duh FREEZ) noun
plural chevaux-de-frise (shuh-VOH duh FREEZ) 1. An obstacle, typically made of wood, covered with barbed wire or spikes, used to block the advancing enemy. 2. A line of nails, spikes, or broken glass set on top of a wall or railing to deter intruders. [From French, literally horse of Friesland, so named because it was first used by Frisians who lacked cavalry.]
chevron (SHEV-ruhn) noun
1. A badge or insignia consisting of stripes meeting at an angle, worn on the sleeve of a military or police uniform to indicate rank, merit, or length of service. 2. Heraldry. A device shaped like an inverted V. 3. A V-shaped pattern, especially a kind of fret used in architecture. [Middle English cheveron, from Old French chevron, rafter (from the meeting of rafters at an angle), probably from Vulgar Latin *caprio, caprion-, from Latin caper, capr-, goat.]
chez (shay) preposition
At the place of. (for example, at the home of, business of, etc.) [From French chez, from Latin casa (cottage). The word is often used in the names of restaurants, for example, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.]
chiaroscuro (kee-ar-uh-SKYOOR-o) noun
The treatment of light and shade in a work of art, especially to give an illusion of depth. Also known as claire-obscure. [From Italian, from chiaro (clear, light) + oscuro (obscure, dark).]
chiasmus (ki-AZ-muhs) noun
A rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures. [New Latin, from Greek khiasmos, syntactic inversion, from khiazein, to invert or mark with an X.]
chichi (SHEE-shee) adjective
Affectedly elegant. noun 1. Showy stylishness 2. A person with such quality. [From French.]
chimera (ki-MEER-uh, ky-) noun
1. A fanciful fabrication; illusion. 2. An organism having genetically different tissues. [After Chimera, a fire-breathing female monster in Greek mythology who had a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. From Greek khimaira (she-goat), ultimately from the Indo-European root ghei- (winter) that is the ancestor of words such as chimera (literally a female animal that is one winter, or one year old), hibernate, and the Himalayas, from Sanskrit him (snow) + alaya (abode).]
chinwag (CHIN-wag) noun
Chat, gossip. verb intr. To chat or gossip. [Chin + wag.]
chiromancy (KI-ruh-man-see) noun
The practice of predicting character and future of a person from the lines on the palms; palmistry. [From Greek chiro- (hand) + -mancy (divination).]
chivalry (SHIV-ahl-ree) noun
1. The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood. 2. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. A manifestation of any of these qualities. 3. A group of knights or gallant gentlemen. [Middle English chivalrie, from Old French chevalerie, from chevalier, knight.]
chocolate-box (CHO-kuh-lit boks, CHOK-lit -) adjective
Having a romanticized beautiful image; stereotypically pretty. [From the kind of pictures often seen on boxes of chocolate.]
choleric (KOHL-uhr-ik) adjective
Easily irritated or angered: hot-tempered. [Middle English colerik, from Latin cholericus, from Greek cholerikos.]
chop suey (CHOP SOO-ee) noun
1. A dish consisting of mixed vegetables, meat pieces, etc. 2. A miscellany. verb tr. To defeat, crush, chop to pieces. [From Cantonese tsap seui (mixed bits).]
chow (chow) noun
Food. verb intr. To eat (usually in the form "to chow down"). [Perhaps from Cantonese zab (food, miscellany).]
chrestomathy (kres-TOM-uh-thee) noun
1. A volume of selected literary passages, usually by one author. 2. A selection of literary passages from a foreign language, especially one assembled for studying a language. [From Greek chrestomatheia, from chrestos (useful) + manthanein (to learn) These two parts of the word ultimately derive from Indo-European gher- (to like or want) which gave us yearn, charisma, greedy, exhort; and mendh- (to learn) that resulted in the terms mathematics and polymath.]
chrysalis (KRIS-uh-lis)
noun [plural chrysalises or chrysalides (kri-SAL-i-deez)]
chuffed (chuft) adjective
Pleased; satisfied. [From English dialect chuff (pleased, puffed, swollen with pride).]
chutzpah (KHOOT-spuh, HOOT-) noun, also chutzpa
Shameless impudence, brazen nerve, gall, effrontery. [From Yiddish khutspe, from Late Hebrew huspa.]
ciao (chou) interjection
Used to express greeting or farewell. [Italian, from dialectal ciau, alteration of Italian (sono vostro) schiavo, (I am your) slave, from Medieval Latin sclavus.]
cibarious (si-BAR-ee-uhs) adjective
1. Relating to food. 2. Edible. [From Latin cibus (food).]
cicerone (sis-uh-RO-nee, chee-che-RO-nee) noun
A tour guide. [After Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE), the Roman statesman, orator, and writer, who was known for his knowledge and eloquence. He's one of the rare people who have given two eponyms to the English language. Another word coined after his name is ciceronian, meaning marked by ornate language, expansive flow, and forcefulness of expression.]
ciceronian (sis-uh-RO-nee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or relating to Cicero. 2. In the style of Cicero, marked by ornate language, expansive flow, forcefulness of expression, etc. [After Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, orator, and writer (106-43 BCE). Another eponym derived from Cicero's name is cicerone (guide) http://wordsmith.org/words/cicerone.html ]
cilice (SIL-is) noun
1. An undergarment of haircloth, worn by monks in penance. 2. Haircloth. [From Old English cilic, from Latin cilicium, from Greek kilikion, from kilikios (Cilician). This cloth was originally made of Cilician goats' hair. Cilicia was an ancient region in southeast Asia Minor which later became part of the Roman Empire. It's now part of southern Turkey.]
cineaste (SIN-ee-ast) noun, also cineast
1. One with deep interest in movies and moviemaking. 2. A filmmaker, especially a director or a producer. [From French cinéaste, from ciné- (cinema) + -aste (as in enthousiaste: enthusiast).]
cinematheque (sin-uh-muh-TEK) noun
A small movie theater showing classic or avant-garde films. [French cinematheque, blend of cinema and bibliotheque, library (from Latin bibliotheca).]
cingular (SING-gyuh-luhr) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to a cingulum, an anatomical band or girdle on an animal or plant. 2. Encircling, girdling, surrounding. [From Latin cingulum (girdle), from cingere (to gird). Other words that are derived from the same root are cincture, precinct, shingles, and succinct.]
circa (SUHR-kuh) preposition
Approximately. [From Latin circa (around, about), from circus (circle), from Greek kirkos. Ultimately from the Indo-European root sker- (to turn or bend) which is also the source of other words such as ranch, rank, shrink, circle, crisp, search, ring, curb, ridge, and curve.]
circular (SUHR-kyuh-luhr) adjective
1. In the shape of or related to a circle. 2. Roundabout, indirect. 3. Involving fallacious reasoning that tries to prove something previously assumed true. noun A widely distributed letter, notice, advertisement, etc. [From Middle English circuler, from Middle French, from Latin circularis, from circulus (small circle), diminutive of circus (circle or ring), from Greek kirkos (circle).]
circumambulate (sur-kuhm-AM-byuh-layt) verb tr., intr.
To walk around, especially ritually. [From Latin circum- (around) + ambulate (to walk about), from ambulare (to walk).]
circumbendibus (sur-kuhm-BEN-duh-buhs) noun
Circumlocution. [From Latin circum- (around) + English bend + Latin -ibus.]
circumflex (SUR-kuhm-fleks) noun
A mark (^) used over a vowel in certain languages or in phonetic keys to indicate quality of pronunciation. adjective 1. Having this mark. 2. Curving around. [From Latin circumflexus, bent around, circumflex, past participle of circumflectere, to bend around : circum- + flectere, to bend.]
circumscribe (SUHR-kuhm-skryb) verb tr.
To draw a line around, to enclose within bounds, to limit or restrict. [From Latin circumscribere, from circum- (around) + scribere (to write). Ultimately from the Indo-European root skribh- (to cut, separate, or sift) that has resulted in other terms such as manuscript, subscribe, scripture, scribble, describe, circumflex, and circumspect.]
circumspect (SUR-kuhm-spekt) adjective
Heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent. [Middle English, from Latin circumspectus, past participle of circumspicere, to take heed : circum-, + specere, to look.]
cladogenesis (klad-uh-JEN-i-sis) noun
The evolutionary change and diversification resulting from the branching off of new species from common ancestral lineages. [Greek klados, branch + -genesis.]
clairvoyance (klar-VOI-uhns) noun
1. The power of seeing things removed in time or space. 2. Intuitive insight into things. [From French clairvoyance, from clair (clear) + voyant (seeing), present participle of voir (to see).]
clamber (KLAMB-uhr, KLAM-uhr) verb intr.
To climb with difficulty, especially on all fours; scramble. noun A difficult, awkward climb. [Middle English clambren, probably frequentative of climben, to climb.]
clay pigeon (klay PIJ-uhn) noun
Someone in a situation vulnerable to be taken advantage of. [After a piece of baked clay, called a clay pigeon, thrown into the air as a flying target in shooting practice.]
cleave (kleev) verb tr., intr. Past tense: clove or cleft or cleaved. Past participle: cloven or cleft or cleaved
To split or divide. [From Old English cleofan. Ultimately from the Indo-European root gleubh- (to tear apart) that is also the source of glyph, clever, and clove (garlic). And that's also where cleavage, cleft palate, and cloven hooves get their names from.]
clepe (kleep) verb tr., past participle cleped/clept or ycleped/yclept (i-KLEPT)
To call or name. [From Middle English clepen, from Old English cleopican, from clipian (to speak or call). "Now, you could work that into conversation if you wanted to force the issue. `Sir, do not dare you clepe me in such a fashion or I shall be compelled to thrash you with a puncheon or clevis, whichever being the most geographically convenient!'" Mike Kelley, Writer: If You Don't Know What Clevis Means, The Austin American Statesman, Apr 22, 1991. "The movie is `The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.' The time: the 15th century. Jovovich is Joan, the self-yclept `Maiden of Lorraine,' a peasant girl who has heard God's call to save France from the English." Desson Howe, Shoot `The Messenger', The Washington Post, Nov 12, 1999. Archaisms are grizzled old words that have continued to do their job despite their age even though they don't go around as much as they used to. They are old-fashioned but serviceable and that's the reason they are still making the rounds, as you can see in this week's examples. They serve a purpose, to give an aura of an earlier period, and evoke a sense of historical setting, in novels, religious writing, poetry, ads, and so on. What's old for one is young for another, so there's no consensus on what words are archaic, but this week we'll feature some of them. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Dec 25 00:01:27 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--sennight sennight (SEN-yt) noun A week. [From Middle English, from Old English seofon nihta, from seofon (seven) + nihta, plural of niht (night).]
clerihew (KLER-uh-hyoo) noun
A humorous, pseudo-biographical verse of four lines of uneven length, with the rhyming scheme AABB, and the first line containing the name of the subject. [After writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), who originated it.]
clerisy (KLER-i-see) noun
Educated people considered as a group; the literati. [German Klerisei, clergy, from Medieval Latin clericia, from Late Latin clericus, priest.]
clinquant (KLING-kuhnt) adjective
Glittering, especially with gold or tinsel. noun Tinsel; glitter. [From French, present participle of obsolete clinquer (to clink), from Dutch klinken (to clink).]
clochard (KLOH-shahr) noun
A beggar; vagrant. [From French clocher, to limp, from Latin clopus, lame.]
clodhopper (KLOD-hop-uhr) noun
1. A clumsy, awkward fellow. 2. A strong, heavy work shoe. [Apparently modeled after grasshopper: clod + hopper.]
cloture (KLO-chuhr) noun
The action of closing a debate by calling for an immediate vote. verb tr. To close a debate by cloture. [From French cloture (closure), eventually from Latin claustrum (barrier).]
cloud-cuckoo-land (KLOUD-koo-koo-land) noun
An idealized, illusory domain of imagination; cloudland. [Translation of Greek Nephelokokkygia, the realm which separates the gods from mankind in Aristophanes' The Birds.]
coadunate (ko-AJ-uh-nit, -nayt) adjective
United by growth; closely joined. [From Late Latin coadunatus, past participle of coadunare, to combine, a compound word from Latin co- (together) + ad- (toward) + unus (one).]
cock-a-hoop (kok-uh-HOOP) adjective
1. Being elated or exulting, especially in a boastful manner. 2. Askew. [Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from the phrase to set cock on a hoop (to be festive).]
cockalorum (KOK-uh-lor-uhm, -LOAR-) noun
1. A little man with an unduly high opinion of himself. 2. Boastful talk; braggadocio. [Perhaps alteration (influenced by Latin -orum, nominal ending), of obsolete Flemish kockeloeren, to crow, of imitative origin.]
cockamamie (KOK-uh-may-mee) adjective, also cockamamy
Ridiculous; nonsensical. [The origin of the term cockamamie is not confirmed. It's believed that it's a corruption of decalcomania, the process of transferring a design from a specially prepared paper to another surface. In the beginning, a cockamamie was a fake tattoo, moistened with water and applied to the wrist. How it took the sense of something pointless is uncertain. It's perhaps been influenced by such terms as cock-and-bull or poppycock.]
cockshut (KOK-shut) noun
Evening; twilight. [Apparently from the time when poultry is shut in to rest.]
coda (KO-duh) noun
1. The concluding passage of a piece of music, usually independent of the essential parts, added to bring it to a satisfactory close. 2. An additional section at the end of a piece of literature, serving to summarize it or to add related information. 3. Any concluding part. [From Italian coda (tail), from Latin cauda (tail), the source of other words such as queue, coward, French queue (tail) and Spanish cola (tail).]
codicil (KOD-i-sil) noun
1. Law. A supplement or appendix to a will. 2. A supplement or appendix. [Middle English, from Old French codicille, from Latin codicillus, diminutive of codex, codic-, codex.]
codswallop (KODZ-wol-uhp) noun
Nonsense. [Of unknown origin. According to a popular story, a fellow named Hiram Codd came up with the design of a soft-drink bottle with a marble in its neck to keep the fizz. Wallop was slang for beer and those who preferred alcoholic drinks dismissively referred to the soft-drink as Codd's Wallop. This story is unproven.]
cogitate (KOJ-i-tayt) verb intr.
To take careful thought or think carefully about; ponder. [Latin cogitare, cogitat- : co-, intensive pref + agitare, to consider.]
cognomen (kog-NOH-mehn) noun (plural cognomens or cognomina)
1. A family name; a surname. The third and usually last name of a citizen of ancient Rome, as Caesar in Gaius Julius Caesar. 2. A name, especially a descriptive nickname or epithet acquired through usage over a period of time. [Latin : co- + nomen, name.]
cohere (ko-HEER) verb intr.
To be united; to work or hold together. [From Latin cohaerere, from co- (together) + haerere (to stick).]
col (kol, rhymes with doll) noun
A mountain pass. [From French col (neck), from Latin collum (neck). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwel- (to revolve) that is also the source of words such as colony, cult, culture, cycle, cyclone, chakra, and collar.]
coliseum (KOL-i-SEE-uhm) noun, also colosseum
A large stadium, theater, or similar building for sports, cinema, exhibitions, etc. [After Colosseum, name of the amphitheater in Rome, from Latin colosseus (gigantic).]
collage (kuh-LAZH, koh-) noun
A form of art where various disparate objects are assembled together. [From French collage (gluing), from coller (to glue), from colle (glue), from Vulgar Latin colla, from Greek kolla (glue). The words protocol and collagen have the same parentage.]
collyrium (kuh-LIR-ee-ehm) noun, plural collyriums or collyria
A medicinal lotion applied to the eye; eyewash. [Latin, from Greek kollurion, eye salve, poultice, diminutive of kollura, roll of bread.]
colporteur (KAWL-por-tuhr) noun
A peddler of religious books. [From French colporteur (peddler), from col (neck) + porter (to carry), from Latin portare, from the idea of a peddler carrying his wares in a bag hung around his neck. Ultimately from Indo-European root per- (to lead, pass over) that gave us other words such as support, comport, petroleum, sport, passport, Swedish fartlek (a training technique), Norwegian fjord (bay), and Sanskrit parvat (mountain).]
comedogenic (kom-i-do-JEN-ik) adjective
Causing or aggravating acne. [From New Latin comedo, from Latin comed (glutton, from the worm-shaped pasty mass that can be squeezed from the hair follicles; from the name formerly given to worms which feed on the body), from comedere (to eat up), from com- + edere (to eat) + -genic (producing), from Greek -gens (born).]
commentariat (kom-uhn-TAR-ee-uht) noun
The group of people who provide opinion and analysis of events in the news. [Blend of commentator and commissariat/proletariat. The term was first noticed in a 1993 article in the Washington Post.]
commiserate (kuh-MIZ-uh-rayt) verb tr.
To feel or express sympathy or compassion for. verb intr. To sympathize with. [From Latin commiseratus, past participle of commiserari, from com- + miserari (to pity), from miser (pitiable, wretched).]
compeer (KOM-pier, kuhm-PIER) noun
1. A person of equal status or rank; a peer. 2. A comrade, companion, or associate. [Middle English comper, from Old French, from Latin compar, equal.]
compellation (kom-puh-LAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of addressing or designating someone by name. 2. A name; an appellation. [Latin compellatio, compellation-, from compellatus, past participle of compellare, to address.]
compossible (kom-POS-uh-buhl) adjective
Compatible; possible along with something else. [From Latin com- (with) + possibilis (that may be done), from posse (to be able). Ultimately from the Indo-European root poti- (powerful, lord) that is also the source of power, potent, possess, and pasha.]
concatenate (kon-KAT-n-ayt, kuhn-) verb tr.
1. To connect or link in a series or chain. 2. Computer Science. To arrange (strings of characters) into a chained list. adjective (-nit, -nat) Connected or linked in a series. [Late Latin concatenare, concatenat- : com- + catenare, to bind (from Latin catena, chain).]
concomitant (kuhn-KOM-i-tuhnt) adjective
Occurring or existing concurrently; attendant. noun One that occurs or exists concurrently with another. [Late Latin concomitans, concomitant-, present participle of concomitari, to accompany : Latin com- + Latin comitari, to accompany (from comes, comit-, companion).]
concordance (kuhn-KOR-dns) noun
1. Agreement; concord. 2. An alphabetical index of all the words in a text or corpus of texts, showing every contextual occurrence of a word. 3. The presence of a given trait in both members of a pair of twins. "They began with a concordance to the scrolls -- an index that lists each word -- prepared under the auspices of the official team in the 1950s but not made available until 1988." Richard N. Ostling, The Computer Keys' Scrolls Closely held ancient documents are revealed through modern software, Time, 16 Sep 1991. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Sun Feb 13 00:04:28 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--holograph holograph (HOL-uh-graf) noun 1. A document written wholly in the handwriting of the person whose signature it bears. 2. A hologram. adjective Variant of holographic. [From Late Latin holographus, entirely written by the signer, from Greek holographos : holo-, + -graphos, -graph.]
concrete poetry (KON-kreet PO-i-tree, kon-KREET -) noun
Poetry that employs physical arrangement of words or letters on a page for visual effect to add to the meaning of the poem. [From either Portuguese poesia concreta or German konkrete Dichtung.]
condign (kuhn-DYN) adjective
Well-deserved, appropriate. [From Middle English condigne, from Anglo French, from Latin condignus, from com- (completely) + dignus (worthy). Ultimately from Indo-European root dek- (to take, accept) that's the ancestor of other words such as deign, dignity, discipline, doctor, decorate, and docile.]
condottiere (kon-duh-TYAR-ee, -ay) noun
1. A leader of a private band of mercenary soldiers in Italy, especially in the 14th and 15th centuries. 2. Any mercenary; soldier of fortune. [From Italian, equivalent to condotto, from Latin conductus hired man, past participle of condicere to conduce + -iere, from Latin -arius -ary.]
confabulate (kuhn-FAB-yuh-layt) intr.verb
1. To talk casually; chat. 2. Psychology. To replace fact with fantasy unconsciously in memory. [Latin confabulari, confabulat- : com-, com- + fabulari, to talk (from fabula, conversation.]
conflate (kuhn-FLAYT) verb tr.
1. To bring together; meld or fuse. 2. To combine (two variant texts, for example) into one whole. [Latin conflare, conflat- : com-, + flare, to blow.]
congeneric (kon-juh-NER-ik) adjective, also congenerous
1. Belonging to the same genus. 2. Of the same kind or similar in nature. noun A company offering closely related services. [From Latin, con- together + gener- race.]
congruent (KONG-groo-uhnt, kuhn-GROO-) adjective
1. Corresponding; congruous. 2. Mathematics. Coinciding exactly when superimposed: congruent triangles. Having a difference divisible by a modulus: congruent numbers. [Middle English, from Latin congruens, congruent-, present participle of congruere, to agree.]
conspectus (kuhn-SPEK-tuhs) noun
A general survey, synopsis, outline, or digest of something. [From Latin conspectus, past participle of conspicere, from con- (complete) + spicere (to look).]
contango (kuhn-TANG-goh) noun
A premium paid by the buyer to the seller for deferring payment. [From alteration of continue or contingent.]
contemn (kuhn-TEM) verb tr.
To treat with contempt; to despise. [From Middle English contempnen, from Latin contemnere, from com- + temnere (to despise).]
continuance (kuhn-TIN-yoo-uhns) noun
1. The state of continuing: remaining in the same place, action, etc. 2. An adjournment of a court proceeding to a future day. [From Anglo-French continuer, from Latin continuare, from continere (to hold together), from com- (together) + tenere (to hold).]
contrail (KON-trayl) noun
Streaks of condensed water vapor or ice crystals forming in the wake of an aircraft or rocket. Also known as vapor trail. [Blend of condensation + trail.]
contraindicate (kon-truh-IN-di-kayt) verb tr.
To indicate against (an otherwise suitable medical treatment) due to a condition or circumstance. For example, the use of aspirin is contraindicated in babies due to the danger of Reye's syndrome. [From Middle English contra- (against) + indicate (to point out).]
contumelious (kon-too-MEE-lee-uhs, -tyoo-) adjective
Rudely contemptuous. [From Latin contumelia, perhaps from contumax (insolent).]
conurbation (kon-uhr-BAY-shuhn) noun
A large urban area involving several contiguous communities, formed as a result of expansion of neighboring areas. [From con- (together, with) + Latin urb- (city) + -ation.]
conversant (kuhn-VUHR-suhnt) adjective
Having familiarity by study or experience. [From Middle English conversaunt (associated with), present participle of converser, from Latin conversari (to associate with).]
cookie (KOOK-ee) noun
A handle, transaction ID, or other token of agreement between cooperating programs. "I give him a packet, he gives me back a cookie." The claim check you get from a dry-cleaning shop is a perfectly mundane example of a cookie; the only thing it's useful for is to relate a later transaction to a preceding one (so you get the same clothes back). Now mainstream in the specific sense of web-browser cookies. "Many Web sites you visit put little gremlins called cookies right into your computer. They sit quietly in your machine. When you go back to the site, the cookies announce your presence." Jane Bryant Quinn and Dori Perrucci, Money Watch, Good Housekeeping, Aug 2000. This week's theme: words from the hackers' jargon. -------- Date: Sun Sep 17 00:02:10 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--kludge kludge (klooj) noun 1. Incorrect (though regrettably common) spelling of kluge (US). These two words have been confused in American usage since the early 1960s, and widely confounded in Great Britain since the end of World War II. 2. A crock that works. (A long-ago "Datamation" article by Jackson Granholme similarly said: "An ill-assorted collection of poorly matching parts, forming a distressing whole.") verb 3. To use a kludge to get around a problem. "I've kludged around it for now, but I'll fix it up properly later." [This word appears to have derived from Scots `kludge' or `kludgie' for a common toilet, via British military slang. It apparently became confused with U.S. kluge during or after World War II; some Britons from that era use both words in definably different ways, but kluge is now uncommon in Great Britain. `Kludge' in Commonwealth hackish differs in meaning from `kluge' in that it lacks the positive senses; a kludge is something no Commonwealth hacker wants to be associated too closely with. Also, `kludge' is more widely known in British mainstream slang than `kluge' is in the U.S.]
cookie-cutter (KOOK-ee kuht-uhr) adjective
Mass-produced; identical; unimaginative; lacking individuality. [After a tool used to cut out cookie dough in various shapes.]
copemate (KOP-mayt) also copesmate, noun
1. An associate or friend. 2. An opponent or adversary. [From French couper (to cut), from Latin colpus (blow), from Greek kolaphos (blow with the fist) + mate (fellow).]
coppice (KOP-is) noun
A thicket or grove of small trees or shrubs, especially one maintained by periodic cutting or pruning to encourage suckering, as in the cultivation of cinnamon trees for their bark. [Old French copeiz.]
coprolalia (kop-ruh-LAY-lee-uh) noun
The uncontrolled, often excessive use of obscene or scatological language that may accompany certain mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or Tourette's syndrome. [Copro- dung + Greek lalia, babbling (from lalein, to talk).]
coprolite (KOWP-ruh-lyte) noun
Fossilized excrement. "In most cases, foraging cultures ate the `perfect' human diet. We know this because of the findings reported by anthropologists who have spent a career examining human coprolites." Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr., Eating Right Is an Ancient Rite, The World & I, 1 Jan 1995. This week's theme: words of all kinds. -------- Date: Thu Aug 13 00:08:42 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--grig grig (grig) noun A lively, bright person. [Middle English, dwarf.]
copse (kops) noun
A thicket of small trees, bushes, shrubs, etc. especially one grown for periodic cutting. [Alteration of coppice. Via Middle English and French from Latin colpare (to cut).]
cordon bleu (kawr don BLOO) adjective
Of the highest class. noun A person of great distinction in a field, especially applied to a chef. [From French, literally, blue ribbon. Under the Bourbon kings in France, a blue ribbon was worn by knights of the highest order.]
cordwainer (KORD-way-nuhr) noun
A shoemaker. [From Old French cordewan, from Spanish cordobán (from Cordoba).]
coriaceous (kor-ee-AY-shuhs) adjective
Of or like leather, especially in texture. [From Late Latin coriaceus, from Latin corium, leather.]
corinthian (kuh-RIN-thee-uhn) adjective
1. Of, or pertaining to the Greek city of Corinth. 2. Of, or relating to the Corinthian order, one of the five classical orders of building design. 3. Highly ornate. 4. Licentious or luxurious. noun 1. A native or inhabitant of Corinth. 2. A profligate or licentious person. 3. A wealthy amateur, especially an amateur yachtsman. [From Latin Corinthius, from Greek Korinthios. After Corinth, a city in Greece, one of the richest and most powerful in ancient Greece.]
corky (KAWR-kee) adjective
1. Of or resembling cork. 2. Lively; buoyant. "Koogle: And on the branding side, you know, people always have viewed us as slightly irreverent, kind of fun, corky, a little bit zany." Ann Sundius, Interview with Tim Koogle, CEO, YAHOO!, MSNBC Private Financial Network, 30 Jul 1997. This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Fri Jul 2 00:01:33 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--clamant clamant (KLAY-mant, KLAM-uhnt) adjective 1. Clamorous; loud. 2. Demanding attention; pressing. [Latin clamans, clamant-, present participle of clamare, to cry out.]
cormorant (KOR-muhr-uhnt) noun
1. Any of the seabirds of the family Phalacrocoracidae, having a hooked bill with a pouch under it, a long neck and webbed feet. 2. A greedy person. [Middle English cormeraunt, from Middle French cormorant, from Old French cormareng, from corp, raven + marenc, of the sea, from Latin marinus.]
cornucopia (kor-nuh-KO-pee-uh) noun
1. A goat's horn overflowing with fruit, flowers, and grain, signifying prosperity. Also called horn of plenty. 2. Greek Mythology. The horn of the goat that suckled Zeus, which broke off and became filled with fruit. In folklore, it became full of whatever its owner desired. 3. A cone-shaped ornament or receptacle. 4. An overflowing store; an abundance. [Late Latin cornucopia, from Latin cornu copiae : cornu, horn + copiae, genitive of copia, plenty.]
corpulent (KOR-pyuh-luhnt) adjective
Large, bulky, fat. [From Latin corpus (body). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwrep- (body, form) that is also the source of corps, corpse, corporation, corset, corsage, and leprechaun.]
corpus (KOR-puhs) noun [plural corpora (-puhr-uh)]
1. A large collection of writings of a specific kind or on a specific subject. 2. The principal or capital, as distinguished from the interest or income, as of a fund or estate. 3. Anatomy. The main part of a bodily structure or organ. A distinct bodily mass or organ having a specific function. 4. Music. The overall length of a violin. [Middle English, from Latin.]
corybantic (kor-i-BAN-tik) adjective
Wild; frenzied; uncontrolled. [After Corybant, an ancient priest of Phrygian goddess Cybele, who performed wild ecstatic dances in her worship.]
coryphaeus (kohr-uh-FEE-uhs) noun [plural coryphaei (-FEE-eye)]
1. The leader of a Greek chorus. 2. A leader or spokesperson. [Latin, leader, from Greek koruphaios, from koruphe, head.]
cosher (KOSH-uhr) verb tr.
To pamper. [From Irish cosair (feast).]
cosmopolis (koz-MOP-uh-lis) noun
A large city inhabited by people from many different countries. [Cosmo- + Greek polis, city.]
costive (KOS-tiv) adjective
1. Suffering from constipation. Causing constipation. 2. Slow; sluggish. 3. Stingy. [Middle English costif, from Old French costeve, past participle of costever, to constipate, from Latin constipare.]
couloir (KOOL-wahr) noun
A steep mountainside gorge or gully. [From French couloir (passage), from couler (to flow), from Latin colare (to filter), from colum (sieve).]
covey (KUV-ee) noun
1. A family or small flock of birds, especially partridge or quail. 2. A small group, as of persons. [Middle English, from Old French covee, brood, from feminine past participle of cover, to incubate, from Latin cubare, to lie down.]
coxcomb (KOKS-kom) noun
1. A conceited dandy; a fop. 2. A jester's cap; a cockscomb. [Middle English cokkes comb, crest of a cock : cokkes, genitive of cok, cock + comb, crest.]
crabwise (KRAB-wyz) adjective
1. Sideways. 2. In a cautious or roundabout manner. [From the sideways movement of crabs.]
crapehanger (KRAYP-hang-guhr) noun.
A morose, gloomy, or pessimistic person. "Look at those old crape-hangers, Father Cass and Uncle Bradd." S. Lewis, Cass Timberlane (1946) xxxvi. 259, 1945 This week's theme: Words that describe types of persons. -------- Date: Sun Nov 29 00:04:22 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--tetchy tetchy also techy (TECH-ee) adjective Peevish; testy. [Probably from Middle English tache, teche, blemish, from Old French tache, teche, from Vulgar Latin *tacca, from Gothic taikns, sign.]
crapulent (KRAP-yuh-luhnt) adjective
Sick from excessive drinking or eating. [From Late Latin crapulentus (very drunk), from Latin crapula (drunkenness), from Greek kraipal (hangover, drunkenness).]
crasis (KRAY-sis) noun
1. Composition; constitution; blending. 2. Contraction of two vowels into one long vowel or into a diphthong. [From Greek krasis (mixture, blend), from kerannynai (to mix).]
credenza (kri-DEN-zah) noun
A buffet, sideboard, or bookcase, especially one without legs. [Italian, from Medieval Latin credentia, trust (possibly from the practice of placing food and drink on a sideboard to be tasted by a servant before being served to ensure that it contained no poison).]
crescendo (kri-SHEN-do) noun, plural crescendos, crescendi
1. A gradual increase in loudness, intensity, or force. 2. The peak or climax. adjective, adverb With a gradual increase in loudness. verb intr. To grow in force, loudness, intensity, etc. [From Italian crescendo (growing), present participle of crescere (to increase), from Latin crescere (to grow). Ultimately from Indo-European root ker- (to grow) that's also the source of other words such as increase, recruit, crew, crescent, cereal, concrete, and Spanish crecer (to grow).]
criminate (KRIM-uh-nayt) tr.verb
1. To accuse of a crime or other wrongful act; incriminate 2. To cause to appear guilty of a crime or fault; implicate [Latin criminari, criminat-, to accuse, from crimen, crimin-, accusation.]
crinite (KRY-nyt) adjective
Hairy. [From Latin crinitus, from crinis (hair). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to turn or bend) that's also the fount of other words such as curve, crest, arrange, shrink, crow, and crisp.]
crispin (KRIS-pin) noun
A shoemaker. [After St. Crispin, patron saint of shoemakers. He and his brother St. Crispinian were martyred as Christian missionaries. They made their living as shoemakers.]
crossbuck (KROS-buk) noun
An X-shaped warning sign at a highway-railroad crossing. [From cross- + buck, from sawbuck.]
croupier (KROO-pee-uhr, -pee-ay) noun
An attendant at a gaming table at a casino who collects and pays bets, deals the cards, spins the roulette, etc. [From French, literally one who sits behind another on horseback, from croupe (rump). The term arose because originally such a person stood behind a gambler to offer advice.]
crown of thorns (kroun ov thornz) noun
1. An onerous burden or an affliction that causes intense suffering. 2. A thorny bush (Euphorbia milii) native to Madagascar, grown as a houseplant. (picture: http://blankees.com/house/plants/crown.htm ) 3. A starfish (Acanthaster planci) found in the Pacific that feeds on live corals. (picture: http://divegallery.com/crownofthorns.htm ) [After the biblical account of a mock crown made of thorny branches that Roman soldiers placed on Jesus's head before his crucifixion.]
cruciverbalist (kroo-si-VUHR-buh-list) noun
A crossword designer or enthusiast. [From Latin cruci-, stem of crux (cross), + verbalist (one skilled in use of words), from verbum (word).]
cryptonym (KRIP-tuh-nim) noun
A code name or a secret name. [From Greek crypto- (secret, hidden) + -onym (word, name).]
cultivar (KUHL-tuh-var) noun
A variety of plant that has been produced by selective breeding. A cultivar is developed for specific attributes and retains those attributes in further propagation. [A blend of cultivation + variety.]
cultus (KUL-tuhs) noun
A cult, especially a religious one. [Latin cultus, worship, from past participle of colere, to cultivate.]
cumshaw (KUM-shaw) noun
A gift or a tip. [From Chinese (Amoy/Xiamen dialect), literally, grateful thanks.]
cunctator (kungk-TAY-tuhr) noun
One who hesitates; a procrastinator or delayer. [From Latin cunctari (to hesitate, delay).]
curate's egg (KYOOR-itz eg) noun
Something having both good and bad parts. [From a cartoon in Punch magazine (London, UK) in which a timid curate (a junior clergy member), when served a stale egg at a bishop's table, tries to assure his host that parts of the egg were edible: Right Reverend Host: I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones! The Curate: Oh no, My Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent! The cartoon was drawn by George du Maurier and published in the Nov 9, 1895 issue of the magazine. That makes it one of the very few terms whose origin we can pin down to a specific date.]
curlicue or curlycue (KUR-li-kyoo) noun
A decorative curl or twist, in a signature, calligraphy, etc. [From curly, from curl, from crul (yes, that's how it was spelled earlier) + cue, from Old French cue (tail).]
cyclopean (sy-kluh-PEE-uhn, si-KLOP-ee-uhn) adjective
1. Of or suggestive of Cyclops; one-eyed. 2. Huge. 3. Formed with large, irregular stones closely fitted without the use of mortar. [From Latin Cyclopeus, from Greek Kyklops (Cyclops), from kyklos (circle) + ops (eye). Cyclops were a race of savage one-eyed giants in Greek mythology. They forged thunderbolts for Zeus in return for their freedom. Cyclopean walls were attributed to them for their strength in building such massive walls.]
cygnet (SIG-nit) noun
A young swan. [Middle English cignet, from Anglo-Norman, diminutive of Old French cygne, swan, from Latin cygnus, from Greek kuknos.]
cynosure (SY-nuh-shoor) noun
1. One who is the center of attraction or interest. 2. One who serves to direct or to guide. [Originally the term was applied to the constellation Ursa Minor or the North Star (Polaris) that was used in navigation. The term is derived from Latin Cynosura (Ursa Minor), from Greek kynosoura (dog's tail), ultimately from the Indo-European root kwon- (dog) that is also the source of canine, chenille (from French chenille: caterpillar, literally, little dog), cynic, kennel, canary, hound, dachshund, and corgi.]
dactylogram (dak-TIL-uh-gram) noun
A fingerprint. [From Greek daktylos (finger or toe) + gramma (something written).]
daedal (DEED-al) adjective
1. Ingenious and complex in design or function; intricate. 2. Finely or skillfully made or employed; artistic. [Latin daedalus, from Greek daidalos.]
daltonism (DAWL-tuh-niz-em) noun
Color blindness, especially the inability to distinguish between red and green. [After John Dalton (1766-1844), English chemist and physicist, who gave us Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures. He studied his own color blindness as well.]
dandle (DAN-dl) verb tr.
1. To bounce a child on the knees or in the arms. 2. To pamper or pet. [Of uncertain origin.]
darbies (DAR-bees) noun
Handcuffs; manacles. [Shortening of Father Darby's/Derby's bands (or bonds). Apparently after the rigid terms of a 16th century English usurer of that name.]
dark horse (dark hors) noun
Someone little-known who ends up winning a contest unexpectedly. [From the idea of a relatively unknown horse winning a race. The term is also used for a person who unexpectedly wins a party's nomination for a political contest, often as a compromise candidate. The OED shows the first citation of the term from the novel The Young Duke by the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.]
dasypygal (da-si-PYE-gul) adjective
Having hairy buttocks. [From Greek dasy- (hairy, dense) + pyge (buttocks).]
dauphin (DOW-fin) noun
1. The eldest son of the king of France from 1349 to 1830. 2. Used as a title for such a nobleman. [Middle English, from Old French, title of the lords of Dauphine, from Dalphin, Dalfin, a surname, from dalfin, dolphin (from the device on the family's coat of arms).]
de novo (day NO-vo) adverb
Anew; from the beginning. [From Latin de novo (from new).]
deadman's hand (DED-manz hand) noun
In a game of poker, a hand containing two aces and two eights. [After Wild Bill Hickok, nickname of James Butler Hickok (1837-1876). Hickok was a legendary figure in the American Wild West who worked variously as an army scout, lawman, and professional gambler. He was shot dead while playing poker, holding a hand that had two aces and two eights.]
debark (di-BARK) verb tr., intr.
To disembark. [From French debarquer, de- from + barque ship.]
debonair (deb-uh-NARE) adjective
1. Suave; sophisticated. 2. Carefree; nonchalant. [From Middle English, from Old French, from de bonne aire (of good lineage or disposition).]
debouch (di-BOUCH, di-BOOSH) verb intr.
1. To march out from a narrow or confined place into an open area. 2. To emerge or issue from a narrow area into the open. [From French deboucher, from de- (out of) + boucher, from bouche (mouth), from Latin bucca (mouth or cheek). The word buckle (as in a belt) derives from the same Latin root.]
debridement (di-BREED-ment, day-) noun
Surgical removal of dead, infected tissue or foreign matter from a wound. [From French debridement, from debrider (to unbridle), from Middle French desbrider (de- + brider).]
debunk (di-BUNGK) tr.verb
To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of: WORD HISTORY: One can readily see that debunk is constructed from the prefix de-, meaning "to remove," and the word bunk. But what is the origin of the word bunk, denoting the nonsense that is to be removed? Bunk came from a place where much bunk has originated, the United States Congress. During the 16th Congress (1819-1821) Felix Walker, a representative from western North Carolina whose district included Buncombe County, continued on with a dull speech in the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker replied he had felt obligated "to make a speech for Buncombe." Such a masterful symbol for empty talk could not be ignored by the speakers of the language, and Buncombe, actually spelled Bunkum in its first recorded appearance in 1828 and later shortened to bunk, became synonymous with claptrap. The response to all this bunk seems to have been delayed, for debunk is not recorded until 1923. "But his aim is to portray Dahl as 'a capricious tycoon' rather than a great writer, to debunk the 'myths' that he claims Dahl put about concerning himself in Boy and Going Solo." Christina Hardyment, Book Review / The pink plastic dummy award: 'Roald Dahl', Independent, 12 Mar 1994. This week's theme: words with interesting histories. -------- Date: Wed Apr 15 00:05:38 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--apartheid apartheid (uh-PART-hite, uh-PART-hayt) noun 1. An official policy of racial segregation practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites. 2. Any policy or practice of separating or segregating groups. 3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation. [Afrikaans : Dutch apart, separate (from French a part, apart) + -heid, -hood.]
debut (day-BYOO, DAY-byoo) noun
1. A first public appearance on a stage, on television, etc. 2. The first appearance of something, as a new product. 3. The formal introduction and entrance of a young woman into society, as at an annual ball. 4. The beginning of a profession, career, etc. verb intr. 1. To make a debut, as in society or in a performing art. 2. To appear for the first time, as on the market. verb tr. 1. To perform for the first time before an audience. 2. To place on the market for the first time; introduce. adjective Of, pertaining to, or constituting a first appearance: [French debut, from debuter, to give the first stroke in a game, begin : de-, from, away (from Old French de-) + but, goal, target, from Old French butte.]
decerebrate (dee-SER-uh-brayt) verb tr.
To eliminate cerebral brain function in (an animal) by removing the cerebrum, cutting across the brain stem, or severing certain arteries in the brain stem, as for purposes of experimentation. adjective 1. Deprived of cerebral function, as by having the cerebrum removed. 2. Resulting from or as if from decerebration. 3. Lacking intelligence or reason. noun A decerebrate animal or person. "At this moment, presumably, Lincoln became decerebrate - that is, brain dead." Richard A.R. Fraser, M.D., Assassination of the President. // He Was Shot at the Theatre. // Doctors Swiftly Attended Him And Probed the Wound. // This Was a Mistake // The Gunshot Was Not Necessarily Fatal, But the Probe Irritated .... , Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10 Feb 1995. This week's theme: yours to discover! -------- Date: Thu May 20 00:07:24 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--homonym homonym (HOM-uh-nim) noun 1. One of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning. 2. A word that is used to designate several different things. A namesake. 3. Biology. A taxonomic name that is identical to one previously applied to a different species or genus and that therefore is unacceptable in its new use. [Latin homonymum, from Greek homonumon, from neuter of homonumos, homonymous.]
deciduous (di-SIJ-oo-uhs) adjective
1. Falling off or shed at a specific season or stage of growth. 2. Shedding or losing foliage at the end of the growing season. 3. Not lasting; ephemeral. [From Latin deciduus, from decidere, to fall off : de-, de- + cadere, to fall.]
decimate (DES-i-mayt) verb tr.
1. To destroy a large number of (a group). 2. To kill every tenth person. [From Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus (tenth), from decem (ten). Decimation -- killing one out of every ten soldiers -- was the favorite method of punishing mutinous legions in the ancient Roman army. Today the word has evolved to mean large-scale damage where a major proportion is annihilated.]
decoct (di-KOKT) verb tr.
1. To extract the flavor of by boiling. 2. To make concentrated; boil down. [Middle English decocten, to boil, from Latin decoquere, decoct-, to boil down or away : de- + coquere, to boil, to cook.]
decuple (DEK-yuh-puhl) adjective
1. Ten times as great; tenfold. 2. In groups of ten. [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin decuplus : Latin decem, ten + Latin -plus, -fold.]
deep-six (deep siks) verb tr.
1. To throw overboard. 2. To discard or reject. [From nautical slang deep-six (burial at sea), or from the allusion to the typical depth of a grave.]
deflagrate (DEF-luh-grayt) verb tr. and intr.
To burn or cause to burn something rapidly and violently. [From Latin deflagratus, past participle of deflagrare (to burn down), from de- (intensive prefix) + flagrare (to blaze).]
degringolade (day-grang-guh-LAYD) noun
A rapid decline, deterioration, or collapse (of a situation). [From French, from dégringoler (to tumble down, fall sharply), from Middle French desgringueler, from des- (de-) + gringueler (to tumble), from Middle Dutch crinkelen (to curl).]
dehisce (di-HIS) verb intr.
1. To burst open, as the pod of a plant. 2. To gape. [When a peapod is ripe after a long wait and bursts open, it's yawning, etymologically speaking. The term dehisce comes from Latin dehiscere (to split open), from hiscere (to gape, yawn), from Latin hiare (to yawn). Another term that derives from the same root is hiatus.]
dehort (di-HORT) verb tr.
To discourage from doing something. [From Latin dehortari (to dissuade), from de- + hortari (to urge).]
deign (dayn) verb tr. and intr.
To do something reluctantly as if it's beneath one's dignity; to condescend. [From Middle English deinen, from Old French deignier (to deem worthy), from Latin dignare, a form of dignari, from dignus (worthy). Ultimately from Indo-European root dek- (to take or accept). Other words from the same root are decent, doctor, paradox, decorate, dignity, disdain, indignant, and disciple.]
dekko (DEK-oh) noun
A look. [From Hindi dekho (look), imperative of dekhna (to look).]
delate (di-LAYT) verb tr.
To report (an offense), denounce, or accuse. [From Latin delatus, past participle of deferre (to bring down, accuse, or report), from de- + ferre (to bear), which is ultimately from the Indo-European root bher- (to carry, to bear children) that gave birth to words such as basket, suffer, fertile, burden, bring, bear, offer, prefer, and birth.]
deleterious (del-i-TEER-ee-uhs) adjective
Harmful; injurious. [From Greek deleterios (destructive), from deleisthai (to harm).]
delitescent (del-i-TES-uhnt) adjective
Hidden; latent. [From Latin delitescent-, stem of delitescens, present participle of delitescere (to hide away).]
deltiology (del-tee-OL-uh-jee) noun
The study or collecting of postcards. [From Greek deltion, diminutive of deltos (writing tablet) + -logy.]
demagogue (DEM-uh-gog) noun, also demagog
A person who appeals to the prejudices and emotions of the people to gain power. verb tr. and intr. To manipulate an issue, to speak, or to act in the manner of a demagogue. [From Greek demagogos (leader of the people), from demos (people) + agogos (leader). In ancient Greece, a demagogos was a popular leader and the word didn't have any negative connotations. With the passage of time, the word shifted meaning and today no leader would like to be called a demagogue, no matter how often he uses words such as "patriotism", "honor", "courage", and "sacrifice" in trying to sway people.]
demarche (day-MARSH) noun
1. A course of action; a maneuver. 2. A diplomatic representation or protest. 3. A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities. [French, from Old French demarche, gait, from demarchier, to march : de- + marchier, to march (probably of Germanic origin.]
demotic (di-MOT-ik) adjective
1. Of or relating to the common people; popular. 2. Of, relating to, or written in the simplified form of ancient Egyptian hieratic writing. 3. Demotic. Of or relating to a form of modern Greek based on colloquial use. [Greek demotikos, from demotes, a commoner, from demos, people.]
demur (di-MUR) verb intr.
1. To voice opposition; object: demurred at the suggestion. 2. Law. To enter a demurrer (A method of objecting that admits the facts of the opponent's argument but denies that they sustain the pleading based upon them). 3. To delay. noun 1. The act of demurring. 2. An objection. 3. A delay. [Middle English demuren, to delay, from Anglo-Norman demurer, from Latin demorari : de- + morari, to delay (from mora, delay).]
dendriform (DEN-druh-form) adjective
In the shape of a tree. [From Greek dendron (tree), from which stem dendritic (treelike or tree-branch like) and dendrochronology (the study of a tree's age by counting its rings).]
dendrochronology (den-dro-kruh-NOL-uh-jee) noun
Tree-ring dating. [From Greek dendro- (tree) + chronology (the science of determining dates of past events).]
denigrate (DEN-i-grayt) verb tr.
To defame or belittle. [From Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare (to blacken), from de- (completely) + nigrare (to make black), ultimately from Indo-European root nek(w)t (night). Other words derived from the same root are night, nocturnal, and equinox.]
denouement (day-noo-MAHN) noun
1. The final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot. The events following the climax of a drama or novel in which such a resolution or clarification takes place. 2. The outcome of a sequence of events; the end result. [French denouement, from Old French desnouement, an untying, from desnouer, to undo : des-, de- + nouer, to tie (from Latin nodare, from nodus, knot.]
dentate (DEN-tayt) adjective
Edged with toothlike projections; toothed. [Latin dentatus, from dens, dent-, tooth.]
dentifrice (DEN-tih-fris) noun
A substance, such as a paste or powder, for cleaning the teeth. [French, from Old French, from Latin dentifricium : denti- + fricare, to rub.]
dentigerous (den-TIJ-uhr-uhs) adjective
Having or furnished with teeth. [Denti- + Latin gerere, to bear.]
depone (di-POHN) verb tr., intr.
To declare under oath. [From Medieval Latin deponere (to testify), from Latin (to put down), from de- + ponere (to put). The word depone is often used in another form (depose). But the noun form of the word is clear: deponent.]
deracinate (di-RAS-uh-nayt) verb tr.
1. To uproot. 2. To displace someone or something from a native culture or environment. [From French deraciner, from de- + racine (root), from Late Latin radicina, from Latin radix (root), ultimately from Indo-European root wrad (root) which is also the source of words, such as root, wort, licorice, radical, radish, rutabaga, eradicate, and ramify.]
derby (DUR-bee) (British DAHR-bee) noun
1. Any of various annual horseraces, especially for three-year-olds. 2. A formal race usually having an open field of contestants. 3. A stiff felt hat with a round crown and a narrow, curved brim. [After Edward Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby (1752-1834), founder of the English Derby.]
derecognize (dee-REK-uhg-nyze) verb tr.
To rescind formal, especially diplomatic recognition of. "In early 1996, China invited South Africa's Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo to Beijing in an effort to persuade South Africa to recognize China and derecognize Taiwan." Payne, Richard J., Veney, Cassandra R., China's post-cold war African policy, Asian Survey, Sep 1998. This week's theme: words about diplomacy. -------- Date: Sat May 15 00:07:26 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--referendum referendum (ref-uh-REN-duhm) noun 1. The submission of a proposed public measure or actual statute to a direct popular vote. Such a vote. 2. A note from a diplomat to the diplomat's government requesting instructions. [Latin, neuter gerundive of referre, to refer.]
deride (di-RYD) verb tr.
To laugh at in scorn or contempt. [From Latin deridere, from de- + ridere (to laugh). Other words that share the same root are ridiculous and risible.]
dernier cri (DERN-yay KREE) noun
The latest fashion. [From French, literally, last cry.]
derrick (DER-ik) noun
1. A machine for hoisting and moving heavy objects, consisting of a movable boom equipped with cables and pulleys and connected to the base of an upright stationary beam. 2. A tall framework over a drilled hole, especially an oil well, used to support boring equipment or hoist and lower lengths of pipe. [Obsolete derick, hangman, gallows after Derick, 16th-century English hangman.]
derring-do (DER-ing DOO) noun
Daring acts, often tinged with recklessness. [From Middle English dorryng do (daring to do) misprinted as derrynge do and interpreted as a noun form.]
desideratum (di-sid-uh-RAY-tuhm, -RAA-) noun
Something considered necessary or highly desirable [Latin desideratum, from neuter past participle of desiderare, to desire.]
desultory (DES-uhl-tor-ee) adjective
1. Marked by absence of a plan; disconnected; jumping from one thing to another. 2. Digressing from the main subject; random. [From Latin desultorius (leaping, pertaining to a circus rider who jumps from one horse to another), from desilire (to leap down), from salire (to jump). Other words derived from the same Latin root (salire) are sally, somersault, insult, result, saute, salient, and our recent friend, saltant.]
detente (day-TANT) noun
An easing of tension between rivals. [From French détente (loosening, relaxation). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ten- (to stretch) that's also the source of tense, tendon, tenor, pretend, extend, tenure, tetanus, and hypotenuse.]
deus ex machina (DAY-uhs eks ma-kuh-nuh, -nah, MAK-uh-nuh) noun
1. In Greek and Roman drama, a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation. 2. An unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot. 3. A person or event that provides a sudden and unexpected solution to a difficulty. [New Latin deus ex machina : deus, god + ex, from + machina, machine (translation of Greek theos apo mekhanes).]
deuteragonist (doo-tuh-RAG-uh-nist, dyoo-) noun
The second most important part in a play. [From Greek deutero- (second) + agonistes (contestant, actor).]
devil's advocate (DEV-uhlz AD-vuh-kuht) noun
One who argues against something for the sake of argument, for example, to provoke discussion and subject a plan to thorough examination. [From Latin advocatus diaboli (devil's advocate). The Roman Catholic Church used to have a person appointed as a devil's advocate to argue against elevating someone to sainthood. The person arguing for the proposition was known as God's advocate (Latin advocatus dei).]
devoir (duh-VWAR) noun
1. Duty; responsibility. 2. An act of respect or courtesy. [From Middle English devoir (duty), from Old French, from Latin debere (to owe). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghebh- (to give or receive) that is also the forefather of such words as give, have, endeavor, handle, able, and duty.]
dewclaw (DOO-klaw, DYOO-) noun
A small claw not reaching the ground, on the foot of some animals. [Origin uncertain, perhaps from the fact that other claws touch the ground, but a dewclaw only brushes the dew on the grass. A related term is dewlap, a loose fold of skin hanging under the neck of an animal such as a cow.]
dewlap (DOO-lap, DYOO-lap) noun
A loose fold of skin hanging under the neck of an animal such as cow, rooster, lizard, etc. In birds this appendage is also known as a wattle. [From Middle English dewlappe; dew, of unknown origin and meaning, + lap, fold.]
dexterous (DEK-struhs, -stuhr-uhs) adjective, also dextrous
1. Skillful or adroit, mentally or bodily. 2. Right-handed. [From Latin dexter, right-hand, skillful.]
dharma (DHAR-muh) noun
1. Duty; right behavior. 2. Law, especially the eternal law of the cosmos. 3. Religion. [From Sanskrit dharma (law, custom, duty). Ultimately from Indo-European root dher- (to hold firmly or support) that is also the source of firm, affirm, confirm, farm, fermata, and firmament.]
diablerie (dee-AH-ble-ree, -ab-luh-) noun
1. Sorcery; witchcraft. 2. Representation of devils or demons, as in paintings or fiction. 3. Devilish conduct; deviltry. [French, from Old French, from diable, devil, from Latin diabolus.]
diacritical (dy-uh-KRIT-i-kuhl) adjective
1. Distinctive; capable of distinguishing. 2. Serving as a diacritic (a mark, such as ^ or ~ or other accent marks, added to a letter to distinguish it from a similar letter, for example, to distinguish resume from résumé). [From Greek diakritikos (distinctive), from diakrinein (to distinguish), from dia- (apart) + krinein (to separate). Ultimately from the Indo-European root krei- (to sift or to discriminate) that also gave us crime, crisis, certain, excrement, secret, critic, garble, and hypocrisy.]
diastema (die-uh-STEE-mah) noun
A gap or space between two teeth. [Late Latin, interval, from Greek diastema, from diastenai, to separate, second aorist of diistanai.]
diatribe (DI-a-tribe) noun
A bitter, abusive denunciation. [Latin diatriba, learned discourse, from Greek diatribe, pastime, lecture, from diatribein, to consume, wear away : dia-, intensive pref. + tribein, to rub.]
dicker (DIK-uhr) intr.verb
1. To bargain; barter. dicker noun The act or process of bargaining. [Probably from dicker, a quantity of ten, ten hides, from Middle English diker, perhaps from Old English *dicor, from Latin decuria, set of ten, from decem, ten.]
dictatress (dik-TAY-tres) noun
A female dictator. [From Latin dictator, from dictare (to dictate), frequentative of dicere (to say). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deik- (to show, to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]
didactic (dy-DAK-tik) also didactical (-ti-kal) adjective
1. Intended to instruct. 2. Morally instructive. 3. Inclined to teach or moralize excessively. 4. didactics, (used with a singular verb) the art or science of teaching. [Greek didaktikos, skillful in teaching, from didaktos, taught, from didaskein, didak-, to teach, educate.]
didymous (DID-uh-muhs) adjective
Occurring in pairs; twin. [From Greek didymos (twin). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dwo- (two) that also gave us dual, double, dubious, doubt, diploma, twin, and between.]
diglot (DY-glot) adjective
Bilingual. noun A bilingual book, person, etc. [From Greek diglottos, from di- (two) + -glottos, from glossa (tongue, language).]
dilli or dilly (DIL-ee) noun
Someone or something that is remarkable or unusual. [Shortening of delightful or delicious.]
dilly-dally (DIL-ee-dal-ee) intr.verb
To waste time, especially in indecision; dawdle or vacillate. [Reduplication of dally.]
diminutive (di-MIN-yuh-tiv) adjective
1. Extremely small in size; tiny. 2. Of or being a suffix that indicates smallness, youth, familiarity, affection, or contempt, as -let in booklet, -kin in lambkin, or -et in nymphet. noun 1. A diminutive suffix, word, or name. 2. A very small person or thing. [Middle English diminutif, from Old French, from Latin diminutivus, from diminutus, present participle of diminuere.]
dingle (DING-guhl) noun
A deep narrow wooded valley; dell. [Of uncertain origin.]
dinkum (DING-kuhm), also dinky-di, fair dinkum, adjective
True; honest; genuine. [Probably derived, like many other Australian words, from English dialect. The counties of Lincolnshire and Derbyshire had a word dinkum or dincum meaning "work; a fair share of work." The word was first recorded in Australia in Rolf Boldrewood's Robbery Under Arms (1888): "It took us an hour's hard dinkum to get near the peak."]
diplomatics (dip-luh-MAT-iks) noun (used with a sing. verb)
The science of deciphering old official documents, as charters, and of determining their authenticity, age, or the like. "Vienna is one of the centers of the scholarly world for the study of diplomatics, and we have come to expect a steady flow of fine editions and monographs treating the problems of medieval letters." Kenneth Pennington, Book reviews: Medieval, Catholic Historical Review, Oct 1991. This week's theme: red-herring words. -------- Date: Thu Jun 29 00:05:16 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--axenic axenic (ay-ZEN-ik) adjective Not contaminated by or associated with any other living organisms. Usually used in reference to pure cultures of microorganisms that are completely free of the presence of other organisms. [A- not + Greek xenikos foreign + -ic]
diplopia (di-PLO-pee-uh) noun
Double vision. [From New Latin, from Greek diplo- (double) + -opia (vision).]
dipsy doodle (DIP-see DOOD-l) noun
1. The zig-zag motion of a ball in baseball or of a player in football. 2. An act performed to evade or distract. [Perhaps from baseball or football.]
dirge (durj) noun
1. Music. A funeral hymn or lament. A slow, mournful musical composition. 2. A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work. 3. Roman Catholic Church. The Office for the Dead. [Middle English, an antiphon at Matins in the Office for the Dead, from Medieval Latin dirige Domine, direct, O Lord (the opening words of the antiphon), imperative of dirigere, to direct.]
diriment (DIR-uh-ment) adjective
Nullifying. [From diriment-em, present participle of dirimere (to separate or interrupt), from emere (to take). Ultimately from Indo-European root em- (to take or distribute) that is also the source of words such as example, sample, assume, consume, prompt, ransom, vintage, and redeem.]
dis (dis) verb tr., also diss
To show disrespect for. [Of uncertain origin, apparently a shortening of disrespect.]
discombobulate (dis-kuhm-BOB-yuh-layt) tr.verb
To throw into a state of confusion. [Perhaps alteration of discompose.]
discommode (dis-kuh-MOD) verb tr.
To put to inconvenience. [From French discommoder, dis- + commode, convenient.]
disembogue (dis-em-BOAG) verb intr.
To discharge or pour out, as from the mouth of a river or stream. verb tr. To discharge. [From Spanish desembocar (to flow out), from des- (dis-) + embocar (to put into the mouth), from Latin en- (in) + boca (mouth), from bucca (cheek).]
disgregate (DIS-gri-gayt) verb tr., intr.
To separate or to scatter. [From Latin disgregare, from dis- (apart) + gregare (to collect), from greg-, stem of grex (flock). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ger- (to gather) which is also the source of such words as aggregate, congregation, egregious, and segregate.]
disparage (di-SPAR-ij) verb tr.
1. To speak slightingly; to belittle. 2. To lower in rank or estimation. [From Middle English, from Old French desparage (to match unequally), from dis- + parage (equality), from per (peer), from Latin par (equal). A few cousins of this word are par, parity, peer, compare, and nonpareil.]
dissemble (di-SEM-buhl) verb tr., intr.
To hide true feelings, motives, or the facts. [By alteration of Middle English dissimulen, from Latin dissimulare, from simulare, from similis (similar).]
dissert (di-SUHRT) verb intr.
To speak or write at length on a subject. [From Latin disserere (to arrange in order), from dis- (apart, away) + serere (to join). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ser- (to line up), that is also the source of words such as series, assert, desert (to abandon), desert (a dry sandy region), sort, consort, and sorcerer.]
distingue (dees-tang-GAY, dis-, di-STANG-gay) adjective
Distinguished in appearance, manner, or bearing. [French, past participle of distinguer, to distinguish, from Old French.]
distrain (di-STRAYN) verb tr., intr.
To seize the property in order to force payment for damages, debt, etc. [From Middle English distreinen, from Old French destreindre, from Latin distringere, (to draw asunder), from dis- (apart) + stringere (to draw tight). Some other words that derive from the same root are strain, strict, stringent, constrain, restrict.]
distrait (di-STRAY) adjective
Inattentive or preoccupied, especially because of anxiety. [Middle English, from Old French, past participle of distraire, to distract, from Latin distrahere.]
dittography (di-TOG-ruh-fee) noun
The inadvertent repetition of letters, words, or phrases in in writing. [From Greek ditto (double) + -graphy (writing).]
diurnal (DY-uhr-nuhl) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to the daytime. 2. Occurring every day. noun Diary; journal; newspaper. [From Middle English, from Late Latin diurnalis, from Latin diurnus (daily), from dies (day).]
diurnation (dy-uhr-NAY-shuhn) noun
The habit of sleeping or being dormant during the day. [From Latin diurnus (daily), from dies (day).]
divers (DY-vuhrz) adjective
Various; several. [From Latin diversus, from divertere (to turn aside), from di- (away, apart) + vertere (to turn). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wer- (to turn or bend) that is also the source of words such as wring, weird, writhe, worth, revert, and universe.]
dodecagon (do-DEK-uh-gon) noun
A polygon having 12 sides and 12 angles. [From Greek dodekagonon, from dodeka- (twelve), duo (two) + deka (ten) + -gon (angled).]
dog's letter (dogz LET-uhr) noun
The letter R. [From Latin littera canina, literally dog's letter. In Latin the sound of the letter R was trilled. Think Grrr! of a snarling dog. A good example of a trilling R is none other that the Spanish word for a dog: perro.]
doily (DOI-lee) noun
1. A small ornamental mat, usually of lace or linen. 2. A small table napkin. [After Doily or Doyly, 18th-century London draper.]
dol (dol) noun
A unit for measuring the intensity of pain. [From Latin dol(or) pain.]
dolce vita (DOL-chay VEE-tuh, -tah) noun
A luxurious, self-indulgent way of life. [Italian : dolce, sweet + vita, life.]
doldrums (DOLE-druhmz) noun (used with a singular or plural verb).
1. A period of stagnation or slump. A period of depression or unhappy listlessness. 2. A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls. The weather conditions characteristic of these regions of the ocean. [Alteration (influenced by tantrum), of obsolete doldrum, dullard, from Middle English dold, past participle of dullen, to dull, from dul, dull.]
dolor (DO-luhr), also dolour, noun
Sorrow; grief. [From Middle English dolour, from Old French, from Latin dolor (pain), from dolere (to feel pain). A related word is dol, the unit of pain.]
donnybrook (DON-ee-brook) noun
A brawl, a free-for-all. [After Donnybrook, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, where an annual fair was held until 1855. This Donnybrook Fair was known for its alcohol-fueled brawls.]
doolally (DU-lah-lee) adjective
Irrational, deranged, or insane. [After Deolali, an Indian town.]
doppelganger (DOP-uhl-gang-er) noun
A ghostly counterpart or double of a living person. [From German, literally a double goer.]
dornick (DOR-nik) noun
1. A piece of rock small enough to throw. [From Irish dornog (small stone, literally fistful).]
dotard (doe-tuhrd) noun
A person who is in his or her dotage (a deterioration of mental faculties; senility). [Middle English, from doten, to dote.]
dotty (DOT-ee) adjective
Eccentric, mentally unbalanced, unconventional. [From Scots dottle (fool), from Middle English doten (to dote).]
double entendre (DUB-uhl ahn-TAHN-druh) noun
A word or phrase used in a manner that it can be interpreted in two ways, especially when one of the meanings is risque. [From obsolete French, literally double meaning.]
doublethink (DUB-uhl-thingk) noun
Thought marked by the acceptance of gross contradictions and falsehoods, especially when used as a technique of self-indoctrination. [Double + think, coined by George Orwell in his novel "1984" (1949).]
douceur (doo-SUHR) noun
A tip or bribe. [From French douceur (sweetness), from Late Latin dulcor (sweetness), from Latin dulcis (sweet).]
dowse (douz) verb tr., intr.
To search for underground water or minerals with a divining rod. [Of obscure origin.]
doyenne (doi-EN) noun
A woman who is the eldest or senior member of a group or profession. [From Late Latin decanus (chief of ten), via Old French deien and Middle French doyenne. Her male counterpart is a doyen.]
draggle (DRAG-uhl) verb tr.
To make dirty by dragging over ground, mud, dirt, etc. verb intr. 1. To become dirty by being dragged. 2. To trail or follow. [Frequentative of drag.]
dragoman (DRAG-uh-man) noun, plural dragomans or dragomen
An interpreter or guide. [The word took a scenic route to its present form via French, Italian, and medieval Latin/Greek, from Arabic tarjuman, from Aramaic turgemana, from Akkadian targumanu (interpreter).]
dragon's teeth (DRAG-uhns teeth) noun
Seeds of discord. Usually used in the form "to sow dragon's teeth": to take an action that leads to future conflict. [In Greek mythology, the Phoenician prince Cadmus killed a dragon and sowed its teeth. From those teeth sprang an army of men who fought each other until only five were left.]
dragoon (druh-GOON) noun
A heavily armed trooper in some European armies of the 17th and 18th centuries. verb tr. 1. To subjugate or persecute by the imposition of troops. 2. To compel by violent measures or threats; coerce. [French dragon, carbine, dragoon, from Old French dragon, dragon.]
dramatis personae (DRAM-uh-tis puhr-SO-nee) noun
1. The characters in a play or story. 2. The people involved in an event. [From Latin dramatis personae (persons of the drama), from drama (play) + persona (mask, character in a play, person).]
dramaturg (DRAM-uh-turj) noun, also dramaturge or dramaturgist
1. A playwright, especially one affiliated with a specific theater company. 2. A member of a theater company staff who selects, edits, and adapts plays for performance, and writes program notes. [From French, from Greek dramatourgos.]
drawcansir (draw-CAN-suhr) noun
A blustering, bragging bully. [From the name of a character in the play The Rehearsal (1671) by George Villiers (1628-1687), 2nd Duke of Buckingham. The character was apparently named for his potvaliant tendencies: Draw can (of liquor). The play was a satire on poet John Dryden's inflated tragedies and the character Drawcansir was modeled as a parody of Almanzor in Dryden's Conquest of Granada. Dryden in turn lampooned Villiers in a passage in his poem Absalom and Achitophel (1681).]
dreary (DRIR-ee) adjective
1. Dismal; bleak. 2. Boring; dull. [Middle English dreri, bloody, frightened, sad, from Old English dreorig, bloody, sad, from dreor, gore.]
druthers (DRUTH-uhrz) noun
One's own way; preference. [Plural of druther, contraction of "'d rather", as in "I/he/etc. would rather ..."]
dryasdust (DRY-az-dust) adjective
Extremely dull, dry, or boring. [After Jonas Dryasdust, a fictitious person to whom Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) dedicated some of his novels.]
ducat (DUK-uht) noun
1. An admission ticket. 2. A piece of money. 3. Any of various gold coins formerly used in some European countries. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Old Italian ducato, from Late Latin ductus, from duchy (so named because the word appeared on some early ducats), from ducy (a territory ruled by a duke or a duchess).]
dudgeon (DUHJ-uhn) noun
A feeling of anger, resentment, indignation, etc. [Of unknown origin.]
duende (doo-EN-day) noun
1. Demon; goblin. 2. Inspiration; fire; spirit; magic; charm; magnetism. [From Spanish dialectal duende (charm), from Spanish (ghost).]
dun (dun) tr.verb
1. To importune (a debtor) for payment. dun noun 1. One that duns. 2. An importunate demand for payment. [Origin unknown.]
dunce (duns) noun
A person regarded as stupid. [After John Duns Scotus., whose writings and philosophy were ridiculed in the 16th century.]
dundrearies (dun-DREER-eez) noun
Long flowing sideburns. [After the bushy sideburns worn by actor Edward A. Sothern who played the part of Lord Dundreary in the play Our American Cousin (1858), written by Tom Taylor (1817-1880). This was the play being performed at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC during which Abraham Lincoln was shot.]
duodecennial (doo-uh-di-SEN-ee-uhl, dyoo-) noun
A twelfth anniversary. adjective Of or pertaining to a period of twelve years. [From Latin duodecennium (a period of twelve years), from duodecim (twelve) + annus (year).]
duodecimal (doo-uh-DES-uh-muhl, dyoo-) adjective
Of or relating to the number twelve. noun A twelfth. [From Latin duodecimus (twelfth), from duodecim (twelve), from duo (two) + decem (ten).]
duodenum (doo-uh-DEE-nuhm, doo-OD-n-uhm, dyoo-) noun
The first portion of the small intestine (so called because its length is approximately twelve fingers' breadth). [From Medieval Latin, short for intestinum duodenum digitorum (intestine of twelve fingers), from Latin duodeni (twelve each), from duodecim (twelve).]
duopoly (doo-OP-uh-lee, dyoo-) noun
A market, political, or other situation where the control is in the hands of two persons or groups. [From duo- (two) + -poly, patterned after monopoly.]
duplicitous (doo-plisi-ts, dyoo-) adjective
Given to or marked by deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech. [Middle English duplicite, from Old French, from Late Latin duplicitas, doubleness, from Latin duplex, duplic-, twofold.]
dyscalculia (dis-kal-KYOO-lee-uh) noun
Inability to solve math problems, usually as a result of brain dysfunction. [Dys + calcul(ate) + -ia.]
dysesthesia (dis-es-THEE-zhuh, -zhee-uh, -zee-uh) noun
1. Any impairment of the senses, especially of the sense of touch. 2. A condition in which light physical contact of the skin causes pain. [New Latin, from Greek dysaisthesia.]
dyslexic (dis-LEK-sik) noun
A person who is affected by dyslexia. adjective Of or relating to dyslexia, a learning disorder marked by impairment of the ability to recognize and comprehend written words. [New Latin : dys- + Greek lexis, speech (from legein, to speak).]
dyspeptic (dis-PEP-tik) adjective
1. Relating to or having dyspepsia. 2. Of or displaying a morose disposition. dyspeptic noun A person who is affected by dyspepsia. "Though U.S. unemployment edged up to 5.7% in January, it is still below the 6% rate that many, including dyspeptic bondtraders, consider compatible with stable inflation." Louis S. Richman, et al., Global Growth is on a Tear, Fortune, 20 Mar 1995. Albert Camus, a French writer and philosopher, once said, "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." Can you recognize such souls around you? This week's words will assist you in describing them. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Nov 24 00:04:33 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--nebbish nebbish (NEB-ish) noun A person regarded as weak-willed or timid. [Yiddish nebekh, poor, unfortunate, of Slavic origin.]
dysphagia (dis-FAYJ-uh, -jee-uh) noun
Difficulty in swallowing. [From Greek dys- (bad, difficult) + phagein (to eat).]
dysphemism (DIS-fuh-miz-em) noun
The substitution of a harsher, deprecating or offensive term in place of a relatively neutral term. [From Greek dys- (bad) + -phemism (as in euphemism).]
dysphoria (dis-FOR-ee-uh) noun
A state of anxiety and restlessness. [From New Latin, from Greek dysphoria (discomfort), from dys- (bad), + phoros (bearing), from pherein (to bear).]
dystopia (dis-TO-pee-uh) noun
An imaginary place where everything is very bad, as from oppression, disease, deprivation, etc. [From Greek dys- (bad) + utopia (an ideal place). Modeled after Utopia, an imaginary island described in Sir Thomas More's 1516 book Utopia as a place enjoying a perfect system in law, politics, etc. The word utopia is from Greek ou (not) + topos (place).]
eagre (EE-guhr) noun
A high tidal wave rushing upstream into an estuary. Also known as a tidal bore. [Of obscure origin.]
earwig (EER-wig) noun
Any of various elongate insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of pincerlike appendages protruding from the rear of the abdomen. earwig tr.verb To attempt to influence by persistent confidential argument or talk. [Middle English erwig, from Old English earwicga : eare, ear + wicga, insect.]
eaves (eevz) noun
Overhanging edge of a roof. [From Middle English eves, from Old English efes. That's where we got the word eavesdrop, from eavesdropper, literally one who stands within the eavesdrop of a house to listen to conversations inside.]
ebrious (EE-bree-uhs) adjective
1. Inclined to excessive drinking. 2. Tipsy. [From Latin ebrius (drunk). Two cousins of this word are inebriated and sobriety.]
ebullient (i-BUL-yuhnt, -BOOL-) adjective
Bubbling with enthusiasm or excitement. [From Latin ebullire (to boil up), from bulla (bubble).]
ecesis (i-SEE-sis) noun
The entry or establishment of a plant in a new habitat. [From Greek oikesis (inhabitation), from oikein (to inhabit). Ultimately from Indo-European root weik- (clan) that is also the forebear of vicinity, village, villa, and villain (originally, a villain was a farm servant, one who lived in a villa or a country house).]
echt (ekht) adjective
Authentic; typical. [From German echt (genuine, typical).]
eclogue (EK-log) noun
A pastoral poem, often in the form of a dialogue between shepherds. [From Middle English eclog, from Latin ecloga, from Greek ekloge (selection), from eklegein (to select), from ek- (ex-) + legein (to gather). Other words derived from the same root are eclectic, lexicon, and catalog.]
ecumenical (ek-yoo-MEN-i-kuhl, ee-kyoo-) adjective
1. Having a mix of diverse elements. 2. Universal; general. 3. Pertaining to the whole Christian church; concerned with promoting unity among churches or religions. [From Latin oecumenicus (general, universal), from Greek oikoumenikos, from oikein (to inhabit), from oikos (house). Ultimately from the Indo-European root weik- (clan) that is also the forebear of vicinity, village, villa, and villain (originally, a villain was a farm servant, one who lived in a villa or a country house).]
edentulous (ee-DEN-chuh-lus) adjective
Having no teeth; toothless. [From Latin edentulus : e-, ex- + dens, dent-, tooth.]
educe (i-DOOS, i-DYOOS) verb tr.
1. To draw out; to elicit, as something latent. 2. To deduce. [From Latin educere (to draw out), from ex- (out of) + ducere (to lead). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
effete (i-FEET) adjective
1. Worn out; no longer fertile or productive. 2. Weak, ineffectual. 3. Marked by decadence or self-indulgence. 4. Effeminate. [From Latin effetus (worn out from bearing), from ex- + fetus (bearing young).]
effrontery (i-FRUN-tuh-ree) noun
Shameless boldness; presumptuousness. [From French effronterie, from effronté (shameless), from Latin effrons (barefaced, shameless), from ex- (out of, from) + frons (forehead, brow).]
egregious (i-GREE-juhs, -jee-uhs) adjective
Remarkable in a bad way; flagrant. [From Latin egregius (outstanding), from e-, ex- (out of) + greg-, stem of grex (flock). Earlier something egregious was one that stood out because it was remarkably good. Over the centuries the word took 180 degree turn and today it refers to something grossly offensive.]
eidetic (eye-DET-ik) adjective
Marked by extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall. [From German eidetisch, from Greek eidetikos, from eidos (form), ultimately from the Indo-European root weid- (to see) that is the source of words such as wise, view, supervise, and wit.]
eighty-six (AY-tee SIKS) verb tr., also 86
1. To throw out; discard; reject. 2. To refuse to serve (a customer). adjective Sold-out (of an item). noun An undesirable customer, one who is denied service. [Perhaps rhyming slang for nix.]
ekistics (i-KIS-tiks) noun
The science of human settlements, including city or community planning and design. [Ultimately from Greek oikistikos, of settlements, from oikistes, colonizer, founder, from oikizein, to settle, from oikos, house.]
elevenses (i-LEV-uhn-ziz) noun
A midmorning break for refreshments taken between breakfast and lunch, usually around 11am. [Double plural of eleven, perhaps as ellipsis of eleven hours (eleven o'clock).]
eleventh hour (i-LEV-uhnth our) noun
The last moment. [From the parable in the Bible where laborers hired at the eleventh hour of the twelve-hour workday were paid the same as those hired earlier.]
elliptical (i-LIP-ti-kuhl) adjective (also elliptic)
1. Of, relating to, or having the shape of an ellipse. 2. Containing or characterized by ellipsis (omission of a word or phrase). 3. Of or relating to extreme economy of oral or written expression. Marked by deliberate obscurity of style or expression. [New Latin ellipticus, from Greek elleiptikos, defective, from elleipsis, a falling short, ellipsis, from elleipein, to fall short.]
elysian landscape in which the burly-sounding Lovano can romp and, at
the top of his range, skitter." Jeremy Helligar; Eric Levin; Lyndon Stambler; Craig, Picks & Pans: Song, People, 13 Jan 1997. This week's theme: words from Greek mythology. -------- Date: Fri Apr 23 00:07:25 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--promethean Promethean (pruh-MEE-thee-uhn) adjective 1. Relating to or suggestive of Prometheus. 2. Boldly creative; defiantly original. noun One who is boldy creative or defiantly original in behavior or actions. [From Prometheus, a Titan who stole fire from Olympus and gave it to humankind for which Zeus chained him to a rock and sent an eagle to eat his liver, which grew back daily.]
embargo (em-BAHR-goh) noun
1. A government order prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports. 2. A prohibition by a government on certain or all trade with a foreign nation: an embargo on the sale of computers to unfriendly nations. 3. A prohibition; a ban: an embargo on criticism. embargo tr.verb To impose an embargo on. [Spanish, from embargar, to impede, from Vulgar Latin imbarricare, to barricade : Latin in-, in. + Vulgar Latin barricare, to barricade (from barrica, barrel, barrier (from barra, bar, barrier).]
embracery (em-BRAY-suh-ree) noun, also imbracery.
An attempt to influence a jury illegally as by bribery, threats, or promises. One guilty of embracery is known as an embraceor. [From Middle English embracerie, ultimately from em- + brace (the two arms).]
embrangle (em-BRANG-guhl) verb tr.
To embroil or entangle. [From en- + brangle (to shake), from French branler (to shake).]
embrocation (em-broh-KAY-shuhn) noun
1. A liquid medication rubbed on the skin. 2. The act of applying a lotion to the bruised part of the body. [From Middle English, from Medieval Latin embrocare (to rub with lotion), from Greek embroche (lotion).]
emeritus (i-MER-i-tuhs) adjective, plural emeriti; feminine emerita, plural emeritae
Retired but retaining an honorary title. [From Latin emeritus (one who has served his time), past participle of emerere (to serve out one's term), from merere (to deserve, serve, earn).]
emetic (i-MET-ik) adjective
Causing vomiting. noun An agent that causes vomiting. [Latin emetica, feminine of emeticus, provoking vomiting, from Greek emetikos, from emetos, vomiting, from emein, to vomit.]
eminence grise (ay-mee-nahns GREEZ) noun, also, gray eminence
plural eminences grises (ay-mee-nahns GREEZ) One who wields unofficial power, often secretly, through someone else. [From French éminence grise, literally gray eminence.]
emote (i-MOHT) intr.verb
To express emotion, especially in an excessive or theatrical manner. [Back-formation from emotion.]
empennage (ahm-puh-NAZH) noun
The tail assembly of an aircraft. [From French empennage (feathers of an arrow), from empenner (to feather an arrow), from em- + penner, from penne (feather), from Latin penna (feather).]
emprise (em-PRYZ) noun
1. A chivalrous or adventurous enterprise. 2. Chivalrous daring or skill. [From Middle English, from Middle French, from Old French, from emprendre (to undertake), from Vulgar Latin imprendere, from Latin in- + prendere (to seize).]
emptor (EMP-tuhr) noun
A buyer. [From Latin emptor (buyer), from emere (to buy, take).]
empty nest syndrome (EMP-tee nest SIN-drom) noun
A depressed state felt by some parents after their children have left home. "Meanwhile, _Home Improvement_ is going to be suffering empty nest syndrome. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who plays middle son Randy on the sitcom, will leave to focus on his education, the 16-year-old actor's publicist said yesterday." People Watch, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug 5, 1998. This week's theme: syndromes, paradoxes, laws, and principles. -------- Date: Sat Sep 9 00:03:11 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--Russell's paradox Russell's paradox (RUS-uhls PAR-uh-doks) noun A paradox of set theory in which an object is defined in terms of a class of objects that contains the object being defined, resulting in a logical contradiction. [Named after Bertrand Russell (1872-1970).]
empyreal (em-PIR-ee-uhl, -pye-REE-) adjective
1. Relating to the highest heaven, believed to contain pure light or fire. 2. Relating to the sky; celestial. 3. Sublime; elevated. [From Medieval Latin empyreus, from Greek empyrios (fiery), from pur (fire). Other words derived from the same root are fire, pyre, pyrosis (heartburn), and pyromania (an irresistible impulse to set things on fire).]
en banc (ahn-BAHNK) adjective, adverb
Having all the judges of a court present in a hearing. [From French, literally, in the bench.]
enate (i-NAYT, EE-nayt) adjective
1. Growing outward. 2. Also enatic. Related on the mother's side. noun A relative on one's mother's side. [Latin enatus, past participle of enasci, to issue forth : e-, ex-, + nasci, to be born.]
encaustic (en-KO-stik) adjective
A method of painting using pigments with wax fixed onto the surface by heat. noun A work of art produced by this process. [From Latin encausticus, from Greek enkaustikos, from enkaiein (to burn in), from en- + (kaiein) to burn. Some distant cousins of this word are caustic, calm, and holocaust.]
endemic (en-DEM-ik) adjective
1. Natural to a particular people or place; always present in a particular area. 2. Confined to a geographic region. [From Greek endemos (native), from en- (in) + demos (people).]
endgame (END-gaym) noun
1. The final stage of a game of chess in which only a few pieces are left. 2. The final stage of a game, process, or activity. "Defense Secretary in the 1960s and memoir writer in the 1990s, McNamara still gropes for the elusive coherence that can offer a graceful endgame for his life." Ervin, Mike, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (book review), The Progressive (Madison, Wisconsin), Jun 1, 1995. This week's theme: words from chess. -------- Date: Mon Oct 8 00:02:02 EDT 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cecity cecity (SEE-si-tee) noun Blindness. [From Latin caecitas, from caecus (blind).]
endogamy (en-DOG-uh-mee) noun
1. Anthropology. Marriage within a particular group in accordance with custom or law. 2. Botany. Fertilization resulting from pollination among flowers of the same plant. 3. Biology. Reproduction by the fusion of gametes of similar ancestry. "Of course, when today's typical Asian or Latino youngsters now in school want to marry, they won't be bound by some tribal pressure toward endogamy. The prevalent practice will be exogamy - that is, people marrying out of their religious or ethnic group." Javed Amir, The Dilemma of Becoming an American, India Currents, 30 Apr 1994, pp. PG. This week's theme: a verbal zoo. -------- Date: Thu Nov 19 00:04:20 EST 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--vamoose vamoose (va-MOOS, vuh-) intr.verb Slang. To leave hurriedly. [From Spanish vamos, let's go, from Latin vadamus, first person pl. subjunctive of vadere, to go.]
endogenous (en-DOJ-e-nuhs) adjective
1. Produced or growing from within. 2. Originating or produced within an organism, a tissue, or a cell. [Endo- inside + -genous producing.]
endsville (ENDZ-vil) adjective, noun
1. Most excellent or the best. 2. Most undesirable; the end. [From end + -ville (place, city).]
endue (en-DOO, -DYOO) verb tr., also indue
1. To invest, bestow, or endow with a gift, quality, trait, or power. 2. To put on (an item of clothing). [From Middle English enduen (to draw on), from Old French enduire (to lead in), from Latin inducere (to put on).]
energy (EN-uhr-jee) noun
1. The capacity for work or vigorous activity; vigor; power. 2. Exertion of vigor or power. Vitality and intensity of expression. 3. Usable heat or power. A source of usable power, such as petroleum or coal. 4. The capacity of a physical system to do work. [French energie, from Late Latin energia, from Greek energeia, from energos, active : en-, in, at + ergon, work.]
ennead (EN-ee-ad) noun
A group or set of nine. [Greek enneas, ennead-, from ennea, nine.]
ennui (on-WEE, ON-wee) noun
Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom. [French, from Old French enui, from ennuier, to annoy, bore, from Vulgar Latin *inodiare, from Latin in odio (esse), (to be) odious : in, in. + odio, ablative of odium, hate.]
enow (i-NOU) adjective, adverb
Enough. [From Middle English inow, from Old English genoge, plural of genog (enough). Ultimately from Indo-European root nek- (to reach, attain) that also gave us oncology (branch of medicine dealing with tumors), from Greek oncos (mass, bulk).]
ensorcell (en-SOR-sehl) verb tr.
To bewitch; to enchant. [From Middle French ensorceler, from Old French ensorcerer, from en- + -sorcerer, from Old French sorcier, from Vulgar Latin sortiarius, from Latin sort-, stem of sors (lot, fate).]
entelechy (en-TEL-uh-kee) noun
1. Perfect realization as opposed to a potentiality. 2. In some philosophies, a vital force that propels one to self-fulfillment. [From Late Latin entelechia, from Greek entelecheia, from enteles (complete), from telos (end, completion) + echein (to have).]
entente (ahn-TAHNT) noun
1. A friendly understanding or agreement between two or more parties, governments, etc. 2. The parties to such an agreement. [From French entente (understanding), from Old French entente (intent), past participle of entendre (to understand, intend), from Latin intendere, from in- (toward) + tendere (to stretch). Other words derived from the same Latin root are attend, extend, pretend, tense, and tender.]
enuresis (en-yuh-ree-sis) noun
The uncontrolled or involuntary discharge of urine. [New Latin, from Greek enourein, to urinate in : en-, in + ourein, to urinate.]
eolian also aeolian (ee-O-lee-uhn, ee-OL-yuhn) adjective
Relating to, caused by, or carried by the wind. [From Aeolus, the god of the winds in Greek mythology.]
eonism (EE-uh-niz-uhm) noun
Adoption of female clothing and manners by a male. [After Chevalier d'Éon (1728-1810), a spy and soldier who lived the second half of his life as a woman.]
epenthesis (uh-PEN-thu-sis) noun
Insertion of an extra sound into a word, e.g. fillum for film. [From Late Latin, from Greek epentithenai, to insert : ep-, epi-, (in addition) + en- (in) thesis (to place), stem of tithenia (to put).]
epeolatry (ep-i-OL-uh-tree) noun
The worship of words. [From Greek epos (word) + -latry (worship). The first citation of the word is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in his 1860 book Professor at the Breakfast Table.]
epicene (EP-i-seen) adjective
1. Having characteristics of both sexes. 2. Effeminate. noun A person or object that is epicene. [From Middle English, from Latin epicoenus, from Greek epikoinos, epi- + koinos, common.]
epicurean (ep-i-kyoo-REE-uhn, -KYOOR-ee-) adjective
1. Devoted to the pursuit of pleasure; fond of good food, comfort, and ease. 2. Suited to the tastes of an epicure. 3. Epicurean. Of or relating to Epicurus or Epicureanism. epicurean noun 1. A devotee to sensuous and luxurious living; an epicure. 2. Epicurean. A follower of Epicurus. [Middle English Epicurien, from Epicure.]
epigamic (ep-i-GAM-ik) adjective
Of or relating to a trait or behavior that attracts a mate. Examples: In an animal, bright feathers or big antlers. In a human, a sports car or a big bust. [From Greek epigamos (marriageable), from epi- (upon) + gamos (marriage).]
epigeal (ep-i-JEE-uhl) adjective
Living close to the ground, as certain plants. [From Greek epigeios (on the earth), from epi (upon) + ge (earth).]
epigone (EP-i-goan) noun
A second-rate imitator or follower, especially of an artist or a philosopher. [French epigone, sing. of epigones, from Greek Epigonoi, sons of the seven heroes against Thebes, from pl. of epigonos, born after : epi-, epi- + gonos, child, seed.]
epigram (EP-i-gram) noun
A short witty saying, often in verse. [From Middle English, from Latin epigramma, from Greek epigramma, from epigraphein (to write, inscribe), from epi- (upon, after) + graphein (to write). Other words originating from the same root are graphite, paragraph, program, and topography.]
epilogue (EP-uh-log) noun, also epilog
1. A short concluding section at the end of a literary work, detailing the future of the story, its characters, etc. Also known as afterword. 2. A short speech, often in verse form, spoken by an actor directly to the spectators at the end of a play. Also, the actor giving such a speech. [From Middle English epilogue, from French epilogue, from Latin epilogus, from Greek epilogos, from epi- (after, over) + logos (word, speech).]
epiphenomenon (ep-i-fuh-NOM-uh-non, nuhn) noun
1. A secondary phenomenon, one resulting from another. 2. An additional symptom appearing during the course of an illness, but not necessarily related to it. [From Greek epi- (upon, after, over) + phainomenon (that which appears), from phainesthai (to appear).]
epistrophe (i-PIS-truh-fee) noun
The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences. [From Greek epistrophe, from epi- (upon) + strophe (turning).]
epithalamion (ep-uh-thuh-LAY-mee-on), also epithalamium, noun
A poem or song in honor of a bride and bridegroom. [From Greek epi- (upon) + thalamus (bridal chamber).]
epizootic (ep-uh-zo-OT-ik) adjective
Spreading quickly among many animals. noun Such a disease. [French epizootique, from epi- + Greek zoion animal.]
eponym (EP-uh-nim) noun
1. A person, real or imaginary, from whom something, as a tribe, nation, or place, takes or is said to take its name. 2. A word based on or derived from a person's name. 3. Any ancient official whose name was used to designate his year of office. [Back formation from eponymous, from Greek epxnymos giving name.]
epopee (EP-uh-pee) noun
1. Epic poetry, especially as a literary genre. 2. An epic poem. [French epopee, from Greek epopoiia : epos, song, word + poiein, to make.]
epos (EP-os) noun
1. An epic. 2. A number of poems, not formally united or transmitted orally, that treat an epic theme. [From Latin, from Greek epos (speech, word).]
epuration (ep-yuh-RAY-shun) noun
Purification, especially removal of officials or politicians believed to be disloyal; purge. [From French epuration, epurer, to purify + ation.]
equitant (EK-wi-tuhnt) adjective
Straddling; overlapping, as the leaves of some plants, such as irises. [From Latin equitant-, stem of equitans, present participle of equitare (to ride), from equit-, stem of eques (horseman), from equus (horse).]
ere (air) preposition, conjunction
Before (earlier in time). [From Old English aer (earlier). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ayer- (day, morning) that is also the source of early and erst (as in erstwhile).]
eremite (AR-uh-myte) noun
A recluse or hermit, especially a religious recluse. [Middle English, from Late Latin eremita.]
erg (urg) noun
The unit of work or energy in the centimeter-gram-second system. [From Greek ergon (work). Other words that derive from the same Indo-European root (werg-) are: ergonomic, work, energy, metallurgy, surgery, wright, and orgy.]
eristic (i-RIS-tik) adjective
Characterized by controversy or disputes. noun 1. One who engages in arguments or disputes; a controversialist. 2. The art of disputation. [From Greek eristikos, from erizein (to wrangle), from eris (strife). Eris was the goddess of discord in Greek mythology. The Romans called her Discordia.]
erose (i-ROS) adjective
Irregularly notched, toothed, or indented. [From Latin erosus, past participle of erodere, to gnaw off.]
eructate also eruct (i-RUK-tayt) verb tr. intr.
To belch. [Latin eructare : e-, ex-, + ructare, to belch.]
erudite (ER-yoo-dyt) adjective
Learned. [From Middle English erudit, from Latin eruditus, from erudire (to instruct), from e- (ex-) + rudis (rude, untrained).]
erythrophobia (i-rith-ruh-FO-bee-uh) noun
1. Hypersensitivity to the color red. 2. An extreme fear of blushing. [From Greek erythros (red) + phobia (fear).]
escarpment (i-SKARP-ment) noun
A long, steep slope separating two relatively level areas of land at differing elevations. [From French escarpement, from Italian scarpa (slope).]
escheat (es-CHEET) noun
1. The reversion of property to the state or crown in case of no legal heirs. 2. Property that has reverted to the state or crown. verb tr. and intr. To revert or cause to revert property. [From Middle English eschete, from Old French eschete, from Vulgar Latin excadere, from Latin ex- + cadere (to fall).]
escutcheon (i-SKUCH-uhn) noun.
1. Heraldry. A shield or shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms. 2. An ornamental or protective plate, as for a keyhole. 3. Nautical. The plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's name. Idiom: a blot on (one's) escutcheon. Dishonor to one's reputation. [Middle English escochon, from Anglo-Norman escuchon, from Vulgar Latin *scutio, scution-, from Latin scutum, shield.]
esemplastic (es-em-PLAS-tik) adjective
Having the capability of moulding diverse ideas or things into unity. [From Greek es- (into) + en, neuter of eis (one) + plastic. Coined by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), apparently after German Ineinsbildung (forming into one)]. Here is how Coleridge used the term in his 1817 Biographia Literaria or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. Vol. I, Chapter 13: On the imagination, or esemplastic power. O Adam! one Almighty is, from whom All things proceed, and up to him return If not depraved from good: created all Such to perfection, one first nature all Indued with various forms, various degrees. "Admirers of (A.N.) Wilson, and I have been one of them, may console themselves by speculating that he just got impatient, or tired. Or that a minor demon, in a snit over his prolific output and ambitious subject matter, cast a temporary malediction on his esemplastic powers of fiction-making." Gail Godwin, Losing It All, The Washington Post, Jan 23, 1994. Like a house of cards, Enron corporation came down a few weeks ago. Its bankruptcy proceedings opened what may turn out to be a Pandora's box for more than just the corporation itself. Journalists are using the freshly minted term Enronomics to describe this corporation's brand of economics and accounting: off-the-record dealings, cooking books, and number sorcery that led to its rise and crash. Creative accounting has been going on for ages but it seems that Enron perfected it. Whether the term enronomics sticks, only time will tell. But this is a good example of how new words are coined. Some weather the test of time and get anointed into the venerated pages of dictionaries, while others fade like last year's fashion. This week's AWAD features five words, all coined by people, that have stuck around. Those who brought these expressions to life are a diverse lot. We'll see inventions of a poet, a cartoonist, a zoologist, and two journalists during the next five days. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Jan 29 00:03:48 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--gonzo gonzo (GON-zo) adjective Having a bizarre, subjective, idiosyncratic style, especially in journalism. [Coined by Bill Cardoso, journalist and author, in 1971. It was first used in a published work by Hunter S. Thompson, journalist and author (1939- ). Perhaps from Italian gonzo (simpleton) or Spanish ganso (dull or fool, literally a goose).]
espalier (i-SPAL-yuhr, -yay)
noun: A tree trained to grow flat against a wall. verb tr.: To train a tree in such a way. [From French espalier, from Italian spalliera (shoulder support), from spalla (shoulder), from Latin spatula (shoulder blade).]
esprit d'escalier (e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) noun, also esprit de l'escalier
Thinking of a witty remark too late; hindsight wit or afterwit. Also such a remark. [From French esprit de l'escalier, from esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs).]
estival (ES-ti-vuhl) adjective, also aestival
Relating to or occurring in summer. [From Latin aestivus (of or relating to summer) via Old French.]
estivate (ES-tuh-vayt) verb, also aestivate
To pass the summer in a dormant state. [From Latin aestivatus, past participle of aestivare, to reside during the summer.]
estoppel (e-STOP-el) noun
A bar preventing one from asserting a claim inconsistent with what was previously stated, especially when it has been relied upon by others. [From Old French estoupail (bung, cork) from estouper (stopper).]
etesian (i-TEE-zhuhn) adjective
Occurring annually. [The word refers to the annual summer winds of the Mediterranean. It's derived from Latin etesius, from Greek etesios, from etos (year). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wet- (year) that is also the source of such words as veteran, veal (in the sense of yearling), and veterinary (relating to the beasts of burden, perhaps alluding to old cattle), inveterate, wether, and bellwether.]
ethology (ee-THOL-uh-jee) noun
The study of animals' behavior in their natural environments. [From French éthologie, coined by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, zoologist (1805-1861).]
eudemonia (yoo-di-MO-nee-uh) noun, also eudaemonia
1. A state of happiness and well-being. 2. In Aristotelian philosophy, happiness in a life of activity governed by reason. [From Greek eudaimonia (happiness), from eudaimon (having a good genius, happy), from eu- (good) + daimon (spirit, fate, fortune).]
euhemerism (yoo-HEE-muh-riz-uhm, -HEM-) noun
A theory attributing the origin of the gods to the deification of historical heroes. [After Euhemerus, fourth-century BCE Greek philosopher.]
euphemism (YOO-fuh-miz-em) noun
Use of a mild, neutral, evasive, or vague term in place of one considered taboo, offensive, blunt, or unpleasant. [From Greek euphemismos, from euphemos (auspicious), from eu- (good) + pheme (speaking).]
eustasy (YOO-stuh-see) noun
A uniform global change in sea level. [From eustatic, from German eustatisch, coined by Austrian geologist Edward Suess.]
ex libris (eks LEE-bris, LI-)
1. From the library of (a phrase inscribed in a book followed by the name of the book owner). 2. A bookplate. [From Latin ex libris (from the books), from ex- (from) + liber (book).]
ex parte (eks PAHR-tee) adverb
Involving one side only. [From Latin ex parte (from a side).]
exalt the law of succession in the case of kings and queens? Because
THEY want to keep it that way. They rather enjoy the ruling biz. It beats emptying bedpans in an NHS hospital. Simple Sophie has brought this suppurating carbuncle on the face of public life to the boil." Paul Routledge; Why We Must Axe the Royals; The Mirror (London); Apr 10, 2001. -------- Date: Mon Feb 4 00:01:06 EST 2008 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--somniloquy Sleep has been called temporary death, but there's so much that goes on during that time of repose. While visiting that other world one might walk, talk, grind teeth, and sometimes dream. Your brain is more active while you're asleep than when watching television. And that's even when you don't walk or talk in sleep. No wonder our language is rife with sleep-related idioms. You can sleep in, on, out, around, with, and over. You can lose sleep over things. You can go without food for a while but you can't cheat on sleep. It demands its dues. According to a report, you would be 25% less alert on the loss of just an hour's worth of sleep. This week's five words are all about sleep. somniloquy (som-NIL-uh-kwee) noun The act or habit of talking while asleep. [From Latin somnus (sleep) + loqui (to speak).]
excelsior (ik-SEL-see-uhr) noun
Slender, curved wood shavings used especially for packing. [Originally a trade name.]
excerebrose (eks-SER-ee-bros) adjective
Brainless. [From Latin ex- (out of) + cerebrum (brain).]
excrescence (ik-SKRES-uhns) noun
1. An abnormal outgrowth, e.g. wart. 2. A normal outgrowth, e.g. hair or nail. 3. An unwanted, unnecessary, or disfiguring extension or addition. [From Middle English, from Latin excrescentia, from excrescent- (stem of excrescens), present participle of excrescere (to grow out), from ex- (out), + crescere (to grow). Other derivatives from the same Latin root are crew, crescendo, crescent, accrue, concrete, decrease, increase, recruit.]
excursive (ik-SKUR-siv) adjective
Tending to wander off; rambling. [From Latin excurrere (to run out), from ex- (out) + currere (to run). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kers- (to run) that's also the source of car, career, carpenter, occur, discharge, and caricature. Why caricature? Because a caricature is a loaded or distorted picture of someone.]
excursus (ik-SKUR-suhs) noun
1. A lengthy, appended exposition of a topic or point. 2. A digression. [Latin, from past participle of excurrere, to run out.]
execrable (EK-si-kruh-buhl) adjective
Detestable; wretched. [From Middle English, from Latin execrabilis (accursed), from execrari (to curse), from ex- + sacrare (to consecrate). Ultimately from Indo-European root sak- (to sanctify) that is also the source of other words such as saint, consecrate, and sacred.]
exhilaration (ig-zil-uh-RAY-shuhn) noun
The state of being stimulated, refreshed, or elated. [Latin exhilarare, exhilarat- : ex-, intensive prefix + hilarare, to make cheerful (from hilaris, hilarus, cheerful, from Greek hilaros) + -tion.]
exigent (EK-si-jent) adjective
1. Requiring urgent attention. 2. Demanding; exacting. [From Latin exigent-, stem of exigens, present participle of exigere (to demand, to drive out), from ex- + agere (to drive). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that is also the source of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
exiguous (ig-ZIG-yoo-uhs) adjective
Scanty; small; slender. [From Latin exiguus (scanty), from exigere (to measure or to demand). Ultimately from Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that's also the fount of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
eximious (eg-ZIM-ee-uhs) adjective
Excellent, distinguished. [From Latin eximius (select, choice), from eximere (to take out, remove).]
exonumia (ek-suh-NOO-mee-uh, -NYOO-) noun
Objects that resemble money but do not circulate as coin or paper money. For example, tokens, coupons, medals, etc. [From Greek exo- (outside) + num (as in numismatic: related to currency).]
exonym (EK-so-nim) noun
A name used by foreigners to refer to a place or people, instead of the name used by those who live there. For example: Cologne (native term: Köln), Florence (Firenze), Japan (Nihon/Nippon), Italy (Italia). [From Greek ex- (out) + -onym (word, name).]
exorcise (EK-sawr-size, EK-suhr-size) tr.verb
1. To expel (an evil spirit) by or as if by incantation, command, or prayer. 2. To free from evil spirits or malign influences. [Middle English exorcisen, from Late Latin exorcizare, from Greek exorkizein : ex-, ex- + horkizein, to make one swear (from horkos, oath).]
exoteric (ek-so-TER-ik) adjective
1. Not limited to an inner circle of select people. 2. Suitable for the general public. 3. Relating to the outside; external. [From Latin exotericus, from Greek exoterikos (external), from exotero, comparative form of exo (outside).]
extemporize (ik-STEM-puh-ryz) verb tr., intr.
1. To perform (speak, sing, play, etc.) without preparation or practice; to improvise. 2. To do something in a makeshift manner. [From extempore, from Latin ex tempore (out of the time), from tempus (time). Other words that are formed from the same Latin root: temporary, tempo, temper, contemporary, tempest and tense.]
extirpate (EK-stuhr-payt) verb tr.
1. To destroy completely. 2. To pull up by the roots. [From Latin extirpare (to root out), from stirps (stem, root).]
extramundane (ek-struh-mun-DAYN) adjective
Beyond the physical world. [From Late Latin extramundanus (beyond the world), from Latin extra- + mundanus, from mundus (world).]
extraterritoriality (ek-struh-ter-i-tor-ee-AL-i-tee) noun
Exemption from local legal jurisdiction, such as that granted to foreign diplomats. "Disputes broke out over Brazilian salvage of a wrecked British ship in 1861 and over British pretensions to extraterritoriality for their sailors arrested on Brazilian soil." Jan Knippers Black, Brazil: Chapter 1B. The Transition to Independence, Countries of the World, 1 Jan 1991. This week's theme: words about diplomacy. -------- Date: Wed May 12 00:15:29 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--legation legation (li-GAY-shuhn) noun 1. The act of sending a legate. 2. A diplomatic mission in a foreign country ranking below an embassy. The diplomatic minister and staff of such a mission. The premises occupied by such a mission. "He told me that the Yemeni had no knowledge of the external world--at the time the only two external legations they had were the UN Mission and the subbranch of the Yemeni Foreign Office in Cairo ..." An Editor's Odyssey, The World & I, 1 Apr 1994. This week's theme: words about diplomacy. -------- Date: Thu May 13 00:07:26 EDT 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--detente detente (day-TANT) noun 1. A relaxing or easing, as of tension between rivals. 2. A policy toward a rival nation or bloc characterized by increased diplomatic, commercial, and cultural contact and a desire to reduce tensions, as through negotiation or talks. [French detente, a loosening, from Old French destente, from feminine past participle of destendre, to release : des-, de- + tendre, to stretch (from Latin tendere).]
extravasate (ik-STRAV-uh-sayt) verb tr.
1. Pathology. To force the flow of (blood or lymph) from a vessel out into surrounding tissue. 2. Geology. To cause (molten lava) to pour forth from a volcanic vent. verb intr. 1. Pathology. To exude from a vessel into surrounding tissue. 2. Geology. To erupt. [Extra- + vas (o)- + -ate.]
extrinsic (ik-STRIN-sik, -zik) adjective
1. Not forming an essential or inherent part of a thing; extraneous. 2. Originating from the outside; external. [Latin extrinsecus, from outside : exter, outside + -im, adv. suff. + secus, alongside.]
exurb (EK-suhrb) noun
A residential area outside a city and beyond its suburbs, typically inhabited by well-to-do families. [A blend of ex- + suburb.]
exuviate (ig-ZOO-vee-ayt) verb tr.
To shed or cast off (a covering). verb intr. To shed or cast off exuviae; molt. [Exuvi (ae), Latin, from exuere, to take off + -ate.]
eyas (EYE-uhs) noun
A nestling hawk or falcon. [Middle English eias, from an eias, alteration of *a nias, an eyas, from Old French niais, from Latin nidus, nest.]
eye dialect (eye-DY-uh-lekt) noun
Unusual or nonstandard spelling to represent an uneducated or youthful speaker or to convey dialectal or colloquial speech. Examples: wuz for was, wimmin (women), enuff (enough), warez (wares), peepul (people), Strine (Australian). [First used in print by George Phillip Krapp (1872-1934) in The English Language in America to denote spellings in which "the convention violated is one of the eyes, not of the ear."]
eyeservice (EYE-sur-vis) noun
Work done only when the employer is present. [Referring to the service performed only when the employer is watching.]
facade (fuh-SAHD) noun
1. The face of a building, especially the principal face. 2. An artificial or deceptive front. [French, from Italian facciata, from faccia, face, from Vulgar Latin *facia, from Latin facies.]
facetiae (fuh-SEE-shee-ee) noun
Witty or humorous remarks or writings. [From Latin facetia (jest). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhe- (to set or put) which is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion, face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, Sanskrit sandhi (literally, joining), Urdu purdah (literally, veil or curtain), and Russian duma (council).]
facetious (fuh-SEE-shus) adjective
Jocular or humorous, often inappropriately. [From Latin facetus (witty).]
facile (FAS-il, -yl) adjective
Easy; simple; superficial; fluent. [From Middle French, from Latin facilis, from facere (to do). Ultimately from Indo-European root dhe (to set or put) which is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion, face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, and many other words.]
facinorous (fa-SIN-uhr-uhs) adjective
Extremely wicked. [From Latin facinorous, from facinus (bad deed), from facere (to do or make).]
factoid (FAK-toid) noun
Unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of constant repetition. "This sort of thing is infuriating to practicing historians who can tell fact from factoid, without, in a deep way, being able to explain why." A New Philosophy of History, The Economist, 11 Nov 1995. "Real-life factoid: Estes is married to Bissett, who'll be leaving Melrose at midseason to have a baby." Bruce Fretts, et al., Television: The Week, Entertainment Weekly, 6 Sep 1996. This week's theme: words often used in a sense different from their established definitions. -------- Date: Fri Jan 21 00:04:25 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--enormity enormity (i-NOR-mi-tee) noun 1. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness. 2. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage. 3. (Usage Problem) Great size; immensity. [French enormite, from Old French, from Latin enormitas, from enormis, unusual, enormous.]
factory farming (FAK-tuh-ree FAHR-ming) noun
An industrialized system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine. [From the idea of operating a large-scale farm as an efficient factory.]
fain (fayn) adverb
1. Willingly; gladly. 2. Rather. adjective 1. Pleased. 2. Obliged. 3. Eager. [From Middle English, from Old English faegen (glad).]
faineant (FAY-nee-uhnt, French: fay-nay-AHN) adjective
Idle. noun A do-nothing; idler. [From French, alteration of fait-néant (literally, does nothing), by folk etymology from faignant, present participle of faindre (to feign).]
false colors (fawls KUL-uhrs) noun
Deceptive actions. [When ships approached each other at sea, sailors would look to the flag to determine whether the other vessel was from a friendly or enemy nation. They'd often try to confuse the other by flying a false flag until they were close enough to attack.]
famulus (FAM-yuh-luhs) noun
An assistant, especially to a magician or a scholar. [From Latin famulus (servant).]
fanfaronade (fan-far-uh-NAYD, -NAHD) noun
1. Bragging or blustering manner or behavior. 2. A fanfare. [French fanfaronnade, from Spanish fanfarronada, bluster, from fanfarron, a braggart, perhaps from Arabic farfar.]
fantabulous (fan-TAB-yuh-luhs) adjective
Slang. Marvelously excellent. [Blend of fantastic and fabulous.]
fantod (FAN-tod) noun
1. A state of nervous anxiety, irritability, the willies, the fidgets. 2. A fit or emotional outburst. [Of unconfirmed origin. Perhaps an alteration of fantique (a state of anxiety) or a blend of fantasy and fatigue.]
fardel (FAHR-dl) noun
1. A pack; a bundle. 2. A burden. [Middle English, from Old French, diminutive of farde, package, from Arabic fardah.]
fartlek (FART-lek) noun
A method of training, originally developed for runners, that involves intense activity interspersed with low effort. For example, sprinting and walking. [From Swedish fart (speed) + lek (play).]
fascicle (FAS-i-kuhl) noun
1. Part of a book published in installments. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary was published in fascicles. 2. A bundle. For example, a bundle of nerve or muscle fibers, or a bundle of leaves. [From Latin fasciculus, diminutive of fascis (bundle).]
fastuous (FAS-choo-uhs) adjective
1. Haughty; arrogant. 2. Pretentious. [From Latin fastuosus, from fastus (arrogance).]
fata morgana (fata mor-GAH-nuh) noun
An optical phenomenon that creates the illusion of water, often with inverted reflections of distant objects, and results from distortion of light by alternate layers of hot and cool air. Also called mirage. [Italian, mirage, Morgan le Fay (from the belief that the mirage was caused by her witchcraft) : fata, fairy (from Vulgar Latin fata, goddess of fate) + Morgana, Morgan, probably from Old Irish Morrigain.]
fatidic (fay-TID-ik) adjective
Of or relating to predicting fates; prophetic. [From Latin fatidicus, from fatum (fate) + dicere (to say). Ultimately from Indo-European root deik- (to show or to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]
fawn (fon) verb intr.
1. To exhibit affection or attempt to please, as a dog does by wagging its tail, whining, or cringing. 2. To seek favor or attention by flattery and obsequious behavior. [Middle English faunen, from Old English fagnian, to rejoice, from fagen, faegen, glad.]
fedora (fi-DAWR-uh, -dor-) noun
A soft felt hat with a fairly low crown creased lengthwise and a brim that can be turned up or down. [After Fedora, a play by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908).]
feisty (FY-stee) adjective
1. Spirited; full of courage, spunk, or energy. 2. Touchy, irritable, or ill-tempered. [From feist, variant of obsolete fist, short for fisting cur, a contemptuous term for a dog, from fist, from Middle English fisten (to break wind). The word fizzle is ultimately derived from the same source.]
feme covert (fem KOV-uhrt) noun, plural femes covert
A married woman. [From Anglo-French feme covert, from feme (woman) + covert (protected).]
feme sole (fem sol) noun, plural femes sole
A single woman, whether divorced, widowed, or never married, [From Anglo-French feme soule, from feme (woman) + soule (single).]
fen (fen) noun
1. Low land covered with water. 2. A marsh. [From Middle English, from Old English fen or fenn.]
fencible (FEN-si-buhl) adjective
Capable of being defended. noun A soldier enlisted in the military for home service only. [Short for defensable, ultimately from Latin defendere (to defend).]
feng shui (fung SHWAY) noun
Describing the network of intangible influences, positive and negative, that some believe to operate in a place, knowledge of which is necessary in discovering the most propitious site for putting up a building, staging an event, etc. [From Chinese feng (wind) and shui (water).]
fescennine (FES-uh-nyn, -nin) adjective
Obscene or scurrilous. [After Fescennia, a town of ancient Etruria known for its ribald and scurrilous songs sung at festivals and weddings.]
festschrift (FEST-shrift) noun, plural festschriften or festschrifts
A volume of writing by many authors as a tribute to a scholar, for example, on the occasion of retirement of a colleague. [From German Festschrift, from Fest (celebration) + Schrift (writing). Ultimately from Indo-European root skribh- (to cut, separate, or sift) that has resulted in other terms, such as manuscript, subscribe, scripture, scribble, and describe.]
fetial (FEE-shuhl) adjective, also fecial
Relating to declarations of war and treaties of peace. [From Latin fetialis, a member of Roman college of priests, who performed the rites in such matters.]
fetor (FEE-tuhr) noun, also foetor
A strong offensive odor; stench. [From Latin fetor, from fetere (to stink).]
feuilleton (FOI-i-ton) noun
1. The part of a European newspaper devoted to light literature, criticism, and the like; also something printed in this section. 2. A novel published in installments. 3. A short literary piece [From French, from feuillet (sheet of paper), diminutive of feuille (leaf), from Old French foille, from Latin folium (leaf). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us other descendants as flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
fiasco (fee-AS-koh) noun
A complete failure. [French, from Italian fare fiasco, to make a bottle, fail, from fiasco, bottle (translation of French bouteille, bottle, error, used by the French for linguistic errors committed by Italian actors on the 18th-century French stage), from Late Latin flasco.]
fiddle-faddle (FID-l-fad-l) noun
Nonsense. verb intr. To fritter away one's time; dally. [Reduplication of fiddle.]
fifth column (fifth KOL-uhm) noun
A group of traitors acting in sympathy with their country's enemies. [From Spanish quinta columna, from the column of supporters that General Mola claimed to have in Madrid while he was leading four columns of his army to invade the city during the Spanish Civil War.]
figurehead (FIG-yuhr-hed, FIG-uhr-hed) noun
A person who is head of a group in name only, having no authority or responsibility. [The term is derived from the figurative use of the term figurehead which is an ornamental carving, usually of a human figure, on the bow of a ship. From Latin figure (form, shape) + Old English heafod (top of the body).]
filemot (FIL-mot) noun, adjective
The color of a dead or faded leaf: dull brown or yellowish brown. [From the corruption of the French term feuillemorte, from feuille (leaf) + morte (dead). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
filial (FIL-ee-uhl) adjective
Of or relating to an offspring. [From Middle English, from Late Latin filialis, from Latin filius (son).]
filiation (fil-ee-AY-shuhn) noun
1. The condition or fact of being the child of a certain parent. Law. Judicial determination of paternity. 2. A line of descent; derivation. 3. The act or fact of forming a new branch, as of a society or language group. The branch thus formed. "Although the filiation may seem distant, my book is at heart an exposition of an old Chicago concept." Abbott, Andrew, Of time and space: the contemporary relevance of the Chicago School. (Chicago school of sociology), Social Forces, 1 Jun 1997. This week's theme: words with synonyms that appear like their antonyms. -------- Date: Sun Sep 13 00:06:39 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--candescence candescence (kan-DES-uhns) noun The state of being white hot; incandescence. [From Latin candescens, candescent-, present participle of candescere, inchoative of candere, to shine.]
filibuster (FIL-uh-bus-tuhr) noun
1. The use of obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speechmaking, for the purpose of delaying legislative action. An instance of the use of this delaying tactic. 2. An adventurer who engages in a private military action in a foreign country. verb intr. 1. To use obstructionist tactics in a legislative body. 2. To take part in a private military action in a foreign country. verb tr. To use obstructionist tactics against (a legislative measure, for example). [Spanish filibustero, freebooter, from French flibustier, from Dutch vrijbuiter, pirate.]
fin de siecle (fahn duh see-EH-kluh) adjective, also fin-de-siecle
Of or pertaining to the end of a century, especially the nineteenth century, and its climate of sophisticated world-weariness, self-doubt, etc. [From French, literally, the end of the century.]
finale (fi-NAL-ee) noun
The last section of a piece of music, the final scene of a drama, or the concluding part of a performance or event. [From Italian, from Latin finalis (last), from finis (end) that's also the source of such words as final, finish, finance, define, and fine.]
finial (FIN-ee-ehl, FI-nee-) noun
1. An ornamental object on top of an architectural structure or a piece of furniture. 2. A curve at the end of the main stroke of a character in some italic fonts. [From Middle English, finial, final, from Latin finis, end.]
finis (FIN-is, fee-NEE) noun
The end; conclusion. [From Middle English, from Latin finis.]
firmament (FUR-muh-ment) noun
The sky; the heavens. [From Latin firmamentum (sky) from firmare (to support). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dher- (to hold firmly or support) that is also the source of firm, affirm, confirm, farm, and fermata.]
first water (furst WA-tuhr) noun
1. The highest degree of quality in a precious stone, especially a diamond. 2. The best grade or quality. [Transparency is highly desirable in diamonds, and when they are nearly as transparent as water, they are known as diamonds of the first water. As the transparency decreases, we get second or third water. Hence figuratively, something or someone of the first water is first grade, first class, or of the best in its class.]
firth (furth) noun
Scots. A long, narrow inlet of the sea. [Middle English furth, from Old Norse fjordhr.]
fizgig (FIZ-gig) noun
1. A squib: a type of firework made with damp powder that makes a hissing sound when exploding. [From fizz, a clipping of fizzle, from fysel (to break wind).]
fizzle (FIZ-uhl) intr.verb
1. To make a hissing or sputtering sound. 2. Informal. To fail or end weakly, especially after a hopeful beginning. fizzle noun Informal. A failure; a fiasco. [Probably from obsolete fist, to break wind, from Middle English fisten.]
flack (flak) noun
1. A press agent. 2. Publicity. Verb intr. To act as a press agent. Verb tr. To publicize. [Origin unknown, possibly after Gene Flack, a publicity agent for movies.]
flagrante delicto (fluh-GRAN-tee di-LIK-to) adverb
In the very act of committing the offense; red-handed. [From Medieval Latin, literally, while the crime is blazing.]
flammable (FLAM-uh-buhl) adjective
Easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly; inflammable. [From Latin flammare, to set fire to, from flamma, flame.]
flatfoot (FLAT-foot) noun
1. A condition of the foot in which the arch of the instep is flattened and the entire sole touches the ground. 2. A police officer. [Originally sense 2 referred to a foot soldier. In the past the term has been applied to sailors, and to police officers who walked on patrol. Today, it refers to any police officer and even to a detective.]
flatulent (FLACH-uh-lent) adjective
1. Of, afflicted with, or caused by flatulence, the presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract. 2. Inducing or generating flatulence. 3. Pompous; bloated. [French, from Latin flatus, fart.]
flavor of the month (FLAY-vuhr ov the munth) noun
Something of transient interest. "It's like you're the flavor of the month, and then it suddenly changes." Gordon Edes, He Was in it For the Long Haul, The Boston Globe, Mar 17, 2002. This week's theme: terms with origins in food. -------- Date: Thu Apr 11 00:01:07 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--banana republic banana republic (buh-NAN-uh ri-PUB-lik) noun A small country, typically in central America, often run by a dictator, where the economy is dependent upon fruit exports, tourism, etc . "Argentina has spent the past 50 years manically see-sawing from bust to boom and bust again, from properly elected governments to military coups and banana republic dictatorships." John Carlin, How Viveza Brought Down a Nation, New Statesman (London), Jan 14, 2002. This week's theme: terms with origins in food. -------- Date: Fri Apr 12 00:01:05 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--chew the fat chew the fat (choo the fat) verb To chat at length in a friendly, relaxed manner. Also, chew the rag. "I would go down to Egton House on days I wasn't even working, just to chew the fat with him." Andy Kershaw, Obituaries: Life with the Hinge and Bracket of Radio 1, The Guardian (London), Aug 1, 2001. This week's theme: terms with origins in food. -------- Date: Mon Apr 15 00:01:07 EDT 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ecdemic ecdemic (ek-DEM-ik) adjective Of foreign origin; introduced from outside; pertaining to a disease that's observed far from the area it originates in. [From Greek ec-, variant of ex- (out of) + -demic (on the pattern of epidemic), from demos (people).]
fletcher (FLECH-uhr) noun
A maker of arrows. [From Middle English fleccher, from Old French flechier, from fleche (arrow). Ultimately from Indo-European root pleu (to flow), which also gave us flow, fly, float, fleet, pulmonary, and pluvial.]
flews (flooz) plural noun
The pendulous corners of the upper lip of certain dogs, such as the bloodhound. [Origin unknown.]
flibbertigibbet (FLIB-uhr-tee-jib-it) noun
Someone who is regarded as flighty, scatterbrained, and talkative. [Apparently from the imitation of the sound of idle chatter.]
floccinaucinihilipilification (FLOK-si-NO-si-NY-HIL-i-PIL-i-fi-KAY-shuhn) noun
Estimating something as worthless. [From Latin flocci, from floccus (tuft of wool) + nauci, from naucum (a trifling thing) + nihili, from Latin nihil (nothing) + pili, from pilus (a hair, trifle) + -fication (making).]
florilegium (flor-uh-LEE-jee-uhm, FLOR-) noun, plural florilegia
A collection of literary pieces; anthology. [Neo-Latin florilegium, equivalent to Latin flori- + leg(ere) to gather + -ium, on the model of spicilegium gleaning; a calque of Greek anthologia, anthology]
floruit (FLOR-yoo-it) noun
The period during which a person, movement, etc. was active. [From Latin floruit (flourished), from florere (to flourish). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]
flotsam (FLOT-suhm) noun
1. Wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk. Floating refuse or debris. 2. Discarded odds and ends. 3. Vagrant, usually destitute people. [Anglo-Norman floteson, from Old French floter, to float, of Germanic origin.]
flummadiddle or flumadiddle (FLUHM-uh-did-l) noun
1. Nonsense. 2. Something worthless. [Of uncertain origin, apparently from flummery (a dessert; nonsense) http://wordsmith.org/words/flummery.html .]
flummery (FLUHM-uh-ree) noun
1. Any of various desserts made of flour, milk, eggs, etc. 2. Empty compliment; complete nonsense. [From Welsh llymru, from llym (sour or sharp). Originally, it was a kind of porridge or pap, made by soaking oatmeal in water for a long time, until it has turned sour. How did we get from Welsh llymru to English flummery? That's to do with how the Welsh "ll" sounds to others: variously as thl, chl, shl, fl, etc. In this case, it's fl. For the same reason the surname Lloyd is sometimes spelled as Floyd.]
fogram or fogrum (FO-gruhm) noun
A person with old-fashioned or overly conservative attitudes. [Of uncertain origin.]
foley (FO-lee) adjective
Of or relating to the sound effects. [After Jack Donovan Foley (1891-1967) who pioneered the techniques of adding sound effects during his three decades at Universal Pictures.]
fomites (FOM-i-teez) plural noun
Any inanimate object, such as a book, money, carpet, etc. that can transmit germs from one person to another. [From Latin fomites, plural of fomes (touchwood, tinder), from fovere (to warm).]
forbearance (for-BAR-uhns) noun
1. The act of forbearing. 2. Tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation; patience. 3. The quality of being forbearing. 4. The act of a creditor who refrains from enforcing a debt when it falls due. [Middle English forberen, from Old English forberan, to endure.]
force majeure (fors ma-ZHOOR) noun
1. An unforeseeable and uncontrollable event (for example, a war or a strike) that exempts a party from a contract. 2. Superior force. [From French, literally superior force.]
forehanded (FOR-han-did) adjective
1. Providing for the future needs; prudent. 2. Well-to-do. 3. Made with the palm facing forward (such as a stroke in tennis). [From forehand, from fore- (front) + hand. From the idea of having worked toward the future.]
forsooth (for-SOOTH) adverb
In truth; Indeed. [From Middle English forsoth, from Old English forsoth, from for + soth (truth).]
forwhy (for-HWY)
conjunction: Because. adverb: Why. [From for + why.]
fossick (FOS-sik) verb intr.
To search for mineral deposits, usually over ground previously worked by others; to search for small items. verb tr. To search; ferret out. [British (Cornish) dialect: fossick, troublesome person; fussick bustle about, from fuss + -ick.]
fourth estate (forth i-STAYT) noun
Journalistic profession, the press. [Supposedly, a power other than the three estates (the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the House of Commons) in UK.]
fourth wall (forth wol) noun
The imaginary wall between the stage and the audience. [From the idea of a stage as a box open on one side through which the audience sees the action. The term is also used as a metaphor for the boundary between fiction and reality.]
frabjous (FRAB-juhs) adjective
Wonderful, elegant, superb, or delicious. [Coined by Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking-Glass"; perhaps meant to suggest fabulous or joyous.]
fractious (FRAK-shuhs) adjective
1. Irritable; cranky. 2. Unruly. [From Middle English fraccioun, from Late Latin fraction-, stem of fractio (act of breaking), from Latin fractus, past participle of Latin frangere (to break). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhreg- (to break) that's also the progenitor of words such as break, breach, fraction, and fragile.]
frag (frag) noun
Fragmentation grenade: a grenade designed to scatter shrapnel over a large area. verb tr. To kill (especially an unpopular superior) by throwing a grenade or other explosive. [From shortening of fragmentation.]
frangible (FRAN-juh-buhl) adjective
Capable of being broken; breakable; fragile. [Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin frangibilis, from Latin frangere, to break.]
fress (fres) verb intr.
To eat without moderation; to pig out. [From Yiddish fresn (to devour) or German fressen (to eat, when referring to eating by an animal).]
friar's lantern (FRY-uhrz LAN-tuhrn) noun
A phosphorescent light seen over marshy ground at night, caused by spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by decomposing organic matter. A synonym is foxfire (not Firefox), especially for luminescence produced by fungi. [The first use of the term is in John Milton's 1632 poem L'Allegro: "She was pinched and pulled, she said; / And he, by Friar's lantern led."]
frisson (free-SON) noun
A sudden, brief moment of excitement or fear; thrill, shudder. [From French frisson (shiver), from Old French friçon, from Late Latin friction-, from Latin frictio (friction), from Latin frigere (to be cold).]
frontispiece (FRUN-ti-spees) noun
1. An illustration that faces or immediately precedes the title page of a book, book section, or magazine. 2. Architecture. A facade, especially an ornamental facade. A small ornamental pediment, as on top of a door or window. 3. Archaic. A title page. [Alteration (influenced by piece), of French frontispice, from Late Latin frontispicium, facade of a building : Latin frontis, genitive of frons, forehead, front + Latin specere, to look at.]
froufrou (FROO-froo) noun
1. Something fancy, elaborate, and showy. 2. A rustling sound, as of a silk dress. [From French, of imitative origin.]
frowzy (FROU-zee) adjective, also frowsy, frouzy
1. Unkempt, slovenly. 2. Having a musty odor. [Origin unknown.]
fruitarian (froo-TAR-ee-uhn) noun
One whose diet includes fruits, seeds, and nuts but no vegetables, grains, or animal products. [Blend of fruit and (veget)arian.]
fugacious (fyoo-GAY-shuhs) adjective
1. Passing away quickly; evanescent. 2. Botany. Withering or dropping off early. [From Latin fugax, fugac-, from fugere, to flee.]
fugleman (FYOO-guhl-muhn) noun
One who leads a group, company, or party. [From German Flügelmann (flank man), from Flügel (wing) + Mann (man). A fugleman was once a soldier placed usually on a flank during drill to serve as a guide for his company.]
full monty (ful MON-tee) noun, adjective; Also Full Monty, full Monty
1. Everything that's needed or possible or appropriate: the whole nine yards. [Origin unknown.]
fulsome (ful-sum) adjective
1. Offensively flattering or insincere. 2. Offensive to the taste or sensibilities. 3. (Usage Problem) Copious or abundant. [Middle English fulsom, abundant, well-fed, arousing disgust : ful, full + -som, adjective suff.]
fumarole (FYOO-muh-rol) noun
A hole or vent in a volcanic region from which hot gases and steam are emitted. [Via Italian or French from Latin fumariolum (smoke hole), diminutive of Latin fumarium (smoke chamber), from fumus (smoke).]
funicular (fyoo-NIK-yuh-luhr) adjective
Of, relating to, or operated by a rope or cord. noun A cable railway on a hill, especially one where simultaneously ascending and descending cars counterbalance each other. [From Latin funiculus (thin rope), diminutive of funis (rope). The word funambulist (tight-rope walker) derives from the same root.]
furl (furl) verb tr.
To roll up something, such as a flag. verb intr. To become rolled up. noun The act of rolling up or something rolled up. [Perhaps from French ferler, from Old French ferlier (to fasten), from fer, ferm (firm) + lier (to tie), from Latin ligare. Ultimately from Indo-European root leig (to bind) that's also the source of oblige, alloy, ally, rely, lien, league, and liable.]
furphy (FUR-fee) noun
A rumor. [After the Furphy family of Victoria, Australia, manufacturer of Furphy carts, for water or trash. These carts were used during World War I, around which troops gathered and exchanged gossip. This word was formed in much the same way as scuttlebutt, the word we got from nautical terminology. A scuttlebutt was an open cask of drinking water, a favorite meeting place of the crew to swap stories.]
fuscous (FUS-kuhs) adjective
Of a brownish-gray color; dusky. [From Latin fuscus (dusky).]
fussbudget (FUS-buj-it) noun
One who is fussy about unimportant things. [From fuss + budget, from Middle English, from Old French bougette, diminutive of bouge (bag), from Latin bulga (bag). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhelgh- (to swell) that is also the source of bulge, bellows, billow, belly, and bolster.]
fustian (FUS-chuhn) adjective
Bombastic: marked by pretentiousness or pomposity. noun 1. Pretentious speech or writing. 2. A coarse, sturdy cloth, blend of cotton and linen, usually having twill weave. [From Old French fustaigne, from Latin fustanum, from fustis (tree trunk, stick), or from El Fostat (a suburb of Cairo, Egypt, where it was first made).]
fustilugs (FUS-ti-lugs) noun
A fat and slovenly person. [From Middle English fusty (smelly, moldy) + lug (to carry something heavy).]
futilitarian (fyoo-til-i-TAR-ee-uhn) adjective
Holding the belief that human striving is useless. noun One who holds such belief. [Blend of futile and utilitarian.]
gadarene (GAD-uh-reen) adjective
Headlong; rash. [After the town of Gadara in a biblical story where two demon-possessed men ask Jesus to send them into a herd of swine. They dash into the herd and all the animals rush violently over a cliff.]
gadfly (GAD-fly) noun
1. One who persistently annoys. 2. Any of the various types of flies that bite livestock. [From gad (a goad for cattle), from Middle English, from Old Norse gaddr.]
gadzookery (gad-ZOO-kuh-ree) noun
Use of archaic words or expressions, e.g. wight (a human being), prithee (I pray thee), ye (you). [Apparently from gadzooks, once used as a mild oath, which may have been an alteration of God's hooks, a reference to the nails of Christ's crucifixion.]
gaffer (GAF-uhr) noun
1. The head of the electrical department responsible for the lighting setup on a movie or television set. 2. An old man, especially a country man. 3. A foreman, supervisor, or boss. [Contraction of godfather, influenced by grandfather.]
gainsay (GAYN-say) verb tr.
To deny or contradict. [From Middle English gainsayen, from gain- (against), from Old English gegn- + sayen, from secgan (to say).]
galen (GAY-luhn) noun
A physician. [After Galen, a famous Greek physician in the 2nd century. He pioneered the study of anatomy and wrote extensively about his findings.]
gallup poll (GAL-uhp pol) noun
A survey of public opinion. [After George Horace Gallup (1901-1984), US statistician, who popularized the use of such surveys.]
galore (guh-LOAR) adjective, adverb
In abundance. [From Irish go leor (enough).]
galumph (guh-LUMF) verb intr.
To move or run clumsily or heavily. [Phonesthemic invention of Lewis Carroll, perhaps blend of gallop and triumphant.]
galvanize (GAL-vuh-nyze) verb tr.
1. To stimulate or shock with an electric current. 2. To arouse to awareness or action; spur. 3. To coat (iron or steel) with rust-resistant zinc. [After Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), Italian physiologist and physician who asserted that animal tissues generate electricity. Although he was proved wrong, his experiments stimulated research on electricity.]
gambit (GAM-bit) noun
1. An opening in which a minor piece is sacrificed to obtain a strategic advantage. 2. A maneuver used to secure an advantage. 3. A remark used to open or redirect a conversation. [From Spanish gambito, from Italian gambetto (the act of tripping someone), from gamba (leg).]
gamboge (gam-BOJ, -BOOZH) noun
1. A reddish yellow color. 2. A gum resin obtained from the sap of trees of the genus Garcinia, used as a yellow pigment and as a cathartic. [From New Latin gambogium, variant of cambugium, after Cambodia where, among other places in southeast Asia, this tree is found.]
gammon (GAM-uhn) noun
1. Backgammon. 2. A victory in a backgammon game before the loser has removed any piece. [Probably from Middle English gamen (game).]
gamut (GAM-uht) noun
The complete range of something. [From Medieval Latin, contraction of gamma ut, from gamma (third letter of the Greek alphabet), used to represent the lowest tone + ut, from the names of the notes ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si (ut and si later changed to do and ti). Gamma + ut contracted to gamut and the meaning expanded to denote all notes. The names of the notes are derived from the initial syllables of a Latin hymn.]
garble (gar-buhl) verb tr.
1. To mix up or distort to such an extent as to make misleading or incomprehensible. 2. To scramble (a signal or message), as by erroneous encoding or faulty transmission. 3. Archaic. To sort out; cull. noun The act or an instance of garbling. [Middle English garbelen, to inspect and remove refuse from spices, from Anglo-Norman garbeler, to sift, and from Medieval Latin garbellare, both from Arabic garbala, to select, from girbal, sieve, from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum.]
garboil (GAHR-boil) noun
Confusion; turmoil. [Via French and Italian from Latin bullire (to boil).]
garbology (gar-BOL-uh-jee) noun
The study of a society or culture by examining what it discards. [Garb(age) + -logy.]
gargantua (gar-GAN-choo-uh) noun
A person of great size or stature and of voracious physical or intellectual appetites. [After the giant hero of "Gargantua and Pantagruel" by Francois Rabelais.]
gargantuan (gar-GAN-choo-uhn) adjective
Gigantic. [After Gargantua, a voracious giant, the father of Pantagruel, in a series of novels by François Rabelais (c. 1490-1553).]
garniture (GAR-ni-chur) noun
Something that garnishes; decoration. [From French, from Old French, from garnir (to garnish).]
garrulous (GAR-uh-luhs, GAR-yuh-) adjective
1. Given to excessive and often trivial or rambling talk; tiresomely talkative. 2. Wordy and rambling. [From Latin garrulus, from garrire, to chatter.]
garth (garth) noun
A small yard surrounded by a cloister. Also known as cloister garth. [From Middle English, from Old Norse (garthr) yard. Ultimately from Indo-European root gher- (to enclose or grasp) that is also the ancestor of such words as court, orchard, kindergarten, French jardin (garden), choir, courteous, Hindi gherna (to surround), yard, and horticulture.]
gaslight (GAS-lyt) verb tr.
To manipulate psychologically. [From the title of the classic movie Gaslight (1940 and its 1944 remake), based on author Patrick Hamilton's play. The title refers to a man's use of seemingly unexplained dimming of gaslights (among other tricks) in the house in an attempt to manipulate his wife into thinking she is going insane. See more about this movie at http://imdb.com/title/tt0036855/ ]
gastronome (GAS-truh-nome) also gastronomer (ga-STRON-uh-muhr) noun
A connoisseur of good food and drink; a gourmet. Also called gastronomist. [French, back-formation from gastronomie, gastronomy.]
gauche (GOsh) adjective
Lacking grace; tactless; awkward. [From French gauche (literally left-handed, awkward), from Old French, from gauchir (to turn).]
gearhead (GEER-hed) noun
A technology enthusiast, e.g. a person with a deep interest in the inner working of computers, automobiles, etc. [From gear, from Middle English gere (equipment) + head, from Middle English, from Old English heafod.]
gegenschein (GAY-guhn-shyn) noun
A faint oval patch of light directly opposite the sun in the night sky, caused by reflection of sunlight by dust particles. Also known as counterglow. [From German Gegenschein, from gegen (against) + Schein (glow).]
gemutlich (guh-MOOT-lik, -MUT-likh) adjective
Warm and congenial; pleasant or friendly. [German, from Middle High German gemuetlich, from gemuete, spirit, feelings, from Old High German gimuoti, from muot, mind, spirit, joy.]
gemutlichkeit (guh-myoo-likh-KYT, -MOOT-) noun
Warm friendliness; amicability. [German, from gemutlich, congenial.]
generic (juh-NEHR-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to a genus. 2. Sold without a brand name. 3. Relating to a whole group or class. [From French generique, from Latin gener-, genus kind, class.]
geoponic (jee-uh-PON-ik) adjective
Of or relating to agriculture. [From Greek geoponikos, from geo- (earth) + ponein (to toil).]
georgic (JOR-jik) adjective also georgical (JOR-ji-kuhl)
Of or relating to agriculture or rural life. noun A poem concerning farming or rural life. [Latin georgicus, from Greek georgikos, from georgos, farmer : geo- + ergon, work.]
gerent (JIR-ent) noun
One that rules or manages. [From Latin gerens, gerent-, present participle of gerere, to manage.]
gerrymander (JER-i-man-duhr) verb tr.
To repartition an area in order to create electoral districts that give an unfair advantage to a political party. noun 1. An instance of gerrymandering. 2. One or more electoral districts, widely differing in size or population, created as a result of gerrymandering. [A blend of Elbridge Gerry and salamander. Massachusetts Governor Gerry's party rearranged the electoral district boundaries and someone fancied the newly redistricted Essex County resembled a salamander. Gerry later served as a Vice President of the United States (1813-1814).]
gest or geste (jest) noun
1. A notable adventure or exploit. 2.a. A verse romance or tale. b. A prose romance. [Middle English geste, tale, from Old French, from Latin gesta, deeds, from neuter pl. past participle of gerere, to perform.]
gestalt (gesh-TALT) noun
Shape or pattern; most often used in psychology to describe a theory or approach which aims to see something as a whole rather than breaking it into separate parts [From German gestalt (form, shape).]
gestapo (guh-STAH-po) noun
Nazi secret state police notorious for brutality. adjective Employing method similar to Gestapo; marked by brutal suppression. [From German Gestapo, an acronym from GEheime STAats-POlizei (Secret State Police).]
geyser (GIE-zuhr) noun
1. A natural hot spring that intermittently ejects a column of water and steam into the air. 2. (GEE-zuhr). Chiefly British. A gas-operated hot-water heater. [After Icelandic Geysir, name of a hot spring of southwest Iceland, from geysa, to gush, from Old Norse.]
ghetto (GET-o) noun
1. Part of a city, typically densely populated and run-down, inhabited by members of an ethnic group or a minority, for social, economic or legal reasons. 2. A situation or environment characterized by isolation, inferior status, bias, restriction, etc. [From a word for a foundry, to the name of an island, to the place where Jews were forced to live, to its current sense, the word ghetto is a fascinating example of how words come to mean something entirely different as they travel through time. The word originated from Latin jacere (to throw), the root of words such as project, inject, adjective, jet. Venetian getto is the word for a foundry for artillery. As the site of such a foundry, a Venetian island was named Getto. Later when Jews were forced to live there because of persecution, the word became synonymous with cramped quarters, populated by isolated people.]
ghost word (gost wurd) noun
A word that has come into a language through the perpetuation of a misreading of a manuscript, a typographical error, or a misunderstanding. "Reading a text in facsimile form is like a trapeze performance without a net: there's no glossary, for instance, and nothing to warn the unwary they may be puzzling over a scribally created ghost word rather than discovering something entered in no dictionary." Ralph Hanna, Facsimile of Oxford, The Huntington Library Quarterly, Jan 1, 1999. This week's theme: words about words. -------- Date: Thu Sep 21 00:02:08 EDT 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--eisegesis eisegesis (eye-si-JEE-sis) noun, plural eisegeses (-seez) An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text. [From Greek eisegesis, equivalent to eis- into + (h)ege- (stem of hegeisthai to lead) + -sis.]
giglet (GIG-lit) noun, also giglot
A giddy, frolicsome girl. [From Middle English gigelot.]
gladsome (GLAD-suhm) adjective
Causing or showing joy. [From Old English gloed. Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, arsenic, melancholy, and cholera.]
glasnost (GLAZ-nost) noun
A policy of open discussion of political opinion and social issues and freer disclosure of information. [From Russian glasnost (publicity), from glas (voice).]
glaucous (GLO-kuhs) adjective
1. Of a grayish or bluish green or white color. 2. Covered with a powdery coating of such colors, as on grapes, plums, etc. [From Latin glaucus (bluish-gray or green), from Greek glaukos.]
gloaming (GLO-ming) noun
Twilight; dusk. [From Middle English gloming, from Old English glomung, from glom (dusk). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, arsenic, melancholy and cholera.]
glossal (GLOS-uhl) adjective
Of or pertaining to the tongue. [From Greek glossa (tongue).]
glutinous (GLOOT-nuhs) adjective
Having the nature of glue; sticky. [From Middle English, from Latin glutinosus, from gluten (glue).]
glutton (GLUT-n) noun
1. A person who eats or consumes immoderate amounts of food and drink. 2. A person with an inordinate capacity to receive or withstand something. 3. A solitary, burrowing carnivorous mammal (Gulo gulo) of northern forest regions, related to the weasel and having a heavyset body, short legs, and dark fur with a bushy tail. Also called carcajou, glutton, skunk bear. [Middle English glotoun, from Old French gloton, from Latin glutto, glutton-.]
gnathonic (na-THON-ik) adjective
Sycophantic; fawning. [From Latin gnathonicus, derivative of Gnathon- (stem of Gnatho) name of a sycophantic character in the Roman comedy Eunuchus by Terence.]
gnomon (NO-mon) noun
1. The raised arm of a sundial that indicates the time of day by its shadow. 2. The remaining part of a parallelogram after a similar smaller parallelogram has been taken away from one of the corners. [From Latin gnomon, pointer, from Greek, from gignoskein, to know.]
goatee (go-TEE) noun
A small chin beard trimmed into a point. [Alteration of goaty (from GOAT, from its resemblance to a goat's beard).]
godwottery (god-WOT-uhr-ee) noun
1. Gardening marked by an affected and elaborate style. 2. Affected use of archaic language. [From the line "A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!" in a poem by Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897).]
goldbrick (GOLD-brik) noun
1. Something that appears valuable but is worthless. 2. A person who shirks assigned work or does it without proper effort. verb intr. To shirk duty. verb tr. To cheat or swindle. [Sense 1 from the con artists' old trick of selling a gold-polished piece of less valuable metal as solid gold. Sense 2 was originally military slang for an officer appointed from civilian life.]
golden calf (GOL-den KAHF) noun
Something unworthy that is excessively esteemed, especially money. [In the biblical story Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments only to find Israelites worshiping a calf made of gold.]
goliath (guh-LIE-eth) noun
A giant; a person or organization of enormous size or power. [After Goliath, a giant Philistine warrior, who was slain by David using a sling and a stone.]
goody two-shoes (GOOD-ee TOO-shooz) noun
A goody-goody; affectedly sweet, good, or virtuous. [After the title character in The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, a nursery tale perhaps by Oliver Goldsmith.]
googolplex (GOO-gol-pleks) noun
The number 10 raised to the power googol, written out as the numeral 1 followed by 10 raised to 100 zeros. [Googol + -plex as in duplex.]
goombah (GOOM-bah) noun
1. Friend, accomplice, or crony. 2. Godfather or mentor. 3. Gangster or Mafioso. [Dialectal pronunciation of Italian compa, a clipping of compare (godfather, friend, or accomplice), from Latin compater, from com- (with) + pater (father).]
gordian (GOR-dee-uhn) adjective
Highly intricate; extremely difficult to solve. [In Greek mythology, King Gordius of Phrygia tied a knot that defied all who tried to untie it. An oracle prophesied that one who would undo this Gordian knot would rule Asia. Alexander the Great simply cut the knot with one stroke of his sword. Hence the saying, "to cut the Gordian knot" meaning to solve a difficult problem by a simple, bold, and effective action.]
gorgonize or gorgonise (GOR-guh-nyz) verb tr.
To paralyze, petrify, or hypnotize. [After Gorgon, any of the three monstrous sisters Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa in Greek mythology, who had snakes for hair. They turned into stone anyone who looked into their eyes.]
gormandizer (GOR-man-dyz-er) noun
A greedy person. [From French gourmandise (gluttony). Both a gourmand and a gourmet enjoy good food, but a gourmand is one who eats to excess while a gourmet is considered a connoisseur of good food.]
gormless (GORM-lis) adjective, also gaumless
Dull or stupid. [From English dialectal gaum (attention or understanding), from Middle English gome, from Old Norse gaumr.]
gosling (GOZ-ling) noun
1. A young goose. 2. A naive or inexperienced young person. [Middle English, variant (influenced by gos, goose), of gesling, from Old Norse gaeslingr, diminutive of gas.]
gourmand (goor-MAHND, GOOR-muhnd) noun
1. A lover of good food. 2. A gluttonous eater. [Middle English gourmant, glutton, from Old French gormant.]
gourmet (goor-MAY, GOOR-may) noun
A connoisseur of fine food and drink. gourmet noun attributive Often used to modify another noun: gourmet cooking; gourmet restaurants. [French, from Old French, alteration (influenced by gourmand, glutton. of groumet, servant, valet in charge of wines, from Middle English grom, boy, valet.]
graduand (GRAJ-oo-and) noun
A student who is about to graduate or receive a degree. [From Middle Latin graduandus, gerundive of graduare to graduate.]
grammatolatry (gram-uh-TOL-uh-tree) noun
The worship of words: regard for the letter while ignoring the spirit of something. [From Greek gramma (letter) + -latry (worship).]
gratuitous (gra-TOO-i-tuhs, -tyoo-) adjective
1. Given or granted without return or recompense; unearned. 2. Given or received without cost or obligation; free. 3. Unnecessary or unwarranted; unjustified: gratuitous criticism. [From Latin gratuitus.]
gravamen (gra-VAY-muhn) noun [plural gravamens or gravamina (-VAM-uh-nuh)]
Law. The part of a charge or an accusation that weighs most substantially against the accused. [Medieval Latin gravamen, injury, accusation, from Late Latin, encumbrance, obligation, from Latin gravare, to burden, from gravis, heavy. See GRAVE2.]
gravity (GRAV-i-tee) noun
1. The natural force of attraction exerted by a celestial body, such as Earth, upon objects at or near its surface, tending to draw them toward the center of the body. The natural force of attraction between any two massive bodies, which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Gravitation. 2. Grave consequence; seriousness or importance. 3. Solemnity or dignity of manner. [French gravite, heaviness, from Old French, from Latin gravitas, from gravis, heavy.]
greenmail (GREEN-mayl) noun
The practice of buying a large quantity of a company's stock as a hostile takeover measure, and then selling it to the company at a higher price. [From green (money) + mail (as in blackmail).]
greenroom or green room (GREEN-room) noun
A room in a studio or theater for performers to relax in before or after their appearances. [There are various unproven theories about the origin of the term. The most popular one, though unconfirmed, is that the area was painted green as a respite from the bright stage lighting.]
gregarious (gri-GAIR-ee-uhs) adjective
1. Enjoying the company of others; sociable. 2. (Of plants) growing together in clusters, but not matted. 3. (Of animals) living in groups. [From Latin gregarius (belonging to a flock), from greg- (stem of grex-). Ultimately from Indo-European root ger- (to gather) which is also the source of such words as aggregate, congregation, egregious, and segregate.]
gride (gryd) verb intr.
To scrape or graze against an object to make a grating sound. verb tr. To pierce or cut with a weapon. noun A grating sound. [Metathetic variation of gird.]
grinch (grinch) noun
Someone who ruins others' enjoyment. [From the Grinch, a character in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) by Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991).]
grip (grip) noun
A general assistant on a movie set responsible for handling production equipment, such as setting up and moving camera dollies, lighting, etc. The head grip is called the key grip. [From English grip since the task required firmly holding bulky material.]
grisaille (gri-ZAI, ZAYL) noun
A painting in tones of a single color, especially gray, to represent objects in relief. [From French grisaille (grayness), from gris (gray).]
grizzle (GRIZ-uhl) verb tr.
To make or become gray. noun 1. The color of a grizzled animal. A grizzled animal. 2. Archaic. Gray hair. adjective 1. Gray. 2. Grizzled. [From Middle English grisel, gray, from Old French, diminutive of gris, gray.]
grog (grog) noun
1. An alcoholic drink, especially rum diluted with water. 2. Any strong alcoholic drink. [After Old Grog, nickname of Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757), who ordered diluted rum to be served to his sailors. The admiral earned the nickname from his habit of wearing a grogram cloak. Grogram is a coarse fabric of silk, wool, mohair, or a blend of them. The word grogram is from French gros grain (large grain or texture).]
grok (grok) verb tr.
Slang. To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy. [Coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his "Stranger in a Strange Land".]
grommet (GROM-it) also grummet (GRUM-) noun
1. A reinforced eyelet, as in cloth or leather, through which a fastener may be passed. A small metal or plastic ring used to reinforce such an eyelet. 2. Nautical. A loop of rope or metal used for securing the edge of a sail to its stay. [Probably from obsolete French gromette, gormette, chain joining the ends of a bit, from Old French, from gourmer, to bridle.]
gudgeon (GUJ-uhn) noun
1. A small European fresh-water fish (Gobio gobio) or any of the related fishes, often used as bait. 2. A gullible person. 3. A bait. [From Latin gobion, variant of gobius, via Old French and Middle English.]
guinea pig (GIN-ee pig) noun
1. A small rodent of the genus Cavia. 2. Someone or something used as a subject of experimentation. [Sense 2 from the fact the guinea pigs were formerly used for experimentation.]
gulag (GOO-lahg) noun
1. The system of forced-labor camp in the former Soviet Union. 2. Any prison or forced-labor camp, especially one for political prisoners. 3. A place of great hardship. [From Russian Gulag, acronym from Glavnoe Upravlenie ispravitel'no-trudovykh LAGere (Chief Administration for Corrective Labour Camps).]
gulosity (gyoo-LOS-i-tee) noun
Gluttony; greediness. [From Late Latin gulositas, from Latin gulosus (gluttonous), from gula (gullet, gluttony).]
gumshoe (GUM-shoo) noun
1. A detective. 2. A rubber overshoe. [The word is an allusion to the quiet snooping that a detective is supposed to do. Wearing rubber shoes, one can move around without making much noise.]
gundygut (GUHN-di-guht) noun
A voracious eater; a greedy person. [From gundy, of unexplained origin + gut (belly).]
gunk (gungk) noun
Any sticky or greasy residue or accumulation. [Originally a trademark name for a degreasing solvent.]
guru (GOOR-oo, goo-ROO) noun
1. A personal spiritual teacher. 2. A teacher and guide in spiritual and philosophical matters. A trusted counselor and adviser; a mentor. 3. A recognized leader in a field. An acknowledged and influential advocate, as of a movement or idea. [Hindi guru, from Sanskrit guruh, from guru-, heavy, venerable.]
guttle (GUT-l) verb tr., intr.
To eat voraciously; to devour greedily. [From gut, on the pattern of guzzle, from Middle English gut, from plural guttes (entrails), from Old English guttas.]
guyot (GEE-oh) noun
A flat-topped submarine mountain. [After Arnold Henri Guyot (1807-1884), Swiss-born American geologist and geographer.]
gynarchy (JIN-ar-kee, JYE-nar-, gye-) noun
Government by women. [Gyn- woman + -archy, rule, government.]
gynophobia or gynephobia (gyn-uh-FO-bee-uh, jyn-) noun
The fear of women. [From Greek gyne (female, woman) + -phobia (fear).]
gyp also gip (jip) Slang
tr.verb To deprive (another) of something by fraud; cheat or swindle. noun 1. A fraud or swindle. 2. One who defrauds; a swindler. [Probably short for gypsy.]
gyrovague (JYE-ro-vayg) noun
A monk who travels from one place to another. [From French, from Late Latin gyrovagus gyro- circle + vagus wandering.]
ha-ha (ha-ha) noun
Sunk fence. [From French haha, reduplicative of ha!, exclamation of surprise, that might come out when tripped by such an obstacle.]
habile (HAB-il) adjective
Having general ability; skillful. [From Latin habilis (able), from habere (to have or to hold). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghabh- (to give or to receive) that is also the source of give, gift, able, habit, prohibit, due, and duty.]
haboob (huh-****) noun
A violent dust storm or sandstorm, especially in Sudan [From Arabic habub (strong wind).]
hacker (HACK-uhr) noun
1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating hack value. 4. A person who is good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a Unix hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence `password hacker', `network hacker'. The correct term for this sense is cracker. [Originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe.]
hackney (HAK-nee) adjective
1. Trite. 2. Let out for hire. verb tr. 1. To make banal or common by frequent use. 2. To hire out. noun 1. A breed of horses developed in England, having a high-stepping gait. 2. A horse suitable for routine riding or driving. 3. A carriage or coach for hire. [Probably after Hackney in East London, where such horses were raised. The word hack, in related senses, is a short form of hackney.]
hadal (HAYD-l) adjective
Of or relating to the deepest regions of the ocean, below about 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). [French, from Hades, from Greek Haides, the god of the netherworld and dispenser of earthly riches, his netherworld kingdom, the abode of the shades of the dead.]
haggard (HAG-uhrd) adjective
Looking gaunt or exhausted, as from fatigue, suffering, hunger, age, etc. [Of uncertain origin, apparently from Old French hagard (wild falcon), perhaps influenced by the word hag. The word is still used for a hawk captured as an adult.]
hagiarchy (HAG-ee-ar-kee, HAY-jee-) noun
A government by holy persons. Also a place thus governed. [From Greek hagi- (holy) + -archy (rule).]
haiku (HIE-koo) noun
1. A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons. 2. A poem written in this form. [Japanese : hai, amusement (from Chinese pa, farce) + ku, sentence, from Chinese ju.]
halcyon (HAL-see-uhn) adjective
1. Peaceful; tranquil. 2. Carefree; joyful. 3. Golden; prosperous. noun Any of various kingfishers of the genus Halcyon. [From Greek halkyon (kingfisher) via Latin and Middle English. Halcyon was a mythical bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was said to breed around the winter solstice. It nested at sea and had the power to charm the wind and waves so that they became calm.]
hallux (HAL-uhks) noun, plural halluces (HAL-yuh-seez)
Big toe. More generally, the innermost digit on the hind foot of animals. It is usually backward-directed in birds. [From Late Latin hallux, from Latin hallus, similar to pollex, thumb.]
halyard also halliard (HAL-yuhrd) noun
A rope used to raise or lower a sail, flag, or yard. [Alteration (influenced by yard), of Middle English halier, from halen, to pull.]
hamartia (ha-mar-TEE-uh) noun
Tragic flaw. [Greek, from hamartanein, to miss the mark, err.]
handsel (HAND-sehl) also hansel (HAN-) noun (Chiefly British)
1. A gift to express good wishes at the beginning of a new year or enterprise. 2. The first money or barter taken in, as by a new business or on the opening day of business, especially when considered a token of good luck. 3. A first payment. A specimen or foretaste of what is to come. verb tr. 1. To give a handsel to. 2. To launch with a ceremonial gesture or gift. 3. To do or use for the first time. [Middle English hanselle, from Old English handselen, a handing over : hand, hand + selen, gift, and from Old Norse handsal, legal transfer : hand, hand + sal, a giving.]
hangdog (HANG-dog) adjective
1. Defeated; dejected 2. Shamefaced. [From the notion that the said person deserved to be hanged like a dog. Yes, not too long ago, dogs were hanged for crimes, such as biting.]
haplography (hap-LOG-ruh-fee) noun
The accidental omission of a letter or letter group that should be repeated in writing, for example, "mispell" for "misspell". [From Greek haplo- single + -graphy writing.]
haplology (hap-LOL-uh-jee) noun
The loss of one of two identical or similar adjacent syllables in a word, as in Latin nutrix, `nurse,' from earlier nutritrix. [Greek haplos, haplous, single, simple.]
harbinger (HAHR-bin-juhr) noun
One that indicates or foreshadows what is to come; a forerunner. verb tr. To signal the approach of; presage. [Middle English herbengar, person sent ahead to arrange lodgings, from Old French herbergeor, from herbergier, to provide lodging for, from herberge, lodging, of Germanic origin.]
hardscrabble (HARD-skrab-uhl) adjective
Earning a bare subsistence, as on the land; marginal. noun Barren or marginal farmland. [Americanism hard + scrabble, scrape.]
harpy (HAR-pee) noun
1. A predatory person. 2. A bad-tempered woman. [After the Harpies, monsters in Greek mythology, who had a woman's head and a bird's body. The gods ordered them to snatch food from Phineus, a king who was punished for revealing secrets. From Greek harpazein (to snatch).]
harridan (HAR-i-dn) noun
An ill-tempered, scolding woman. [Perhaps from French haridelle (worn-out horse, gaunt woman).]
haruspicy (hur-RUS-puh-see) noun
Divination by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals. [From Latin haruspicium, from haruspex, from hira (entrails) + specere (to look at).]
hat trick (hat trik) noun
Three consecutive successes in a game or another endeavor. For example, taking three wickets with three successive deliveries by a bowler in a game of cricket, three goals or points won by a player in a game of soccer or ice hockey, etc. [From cricket, from the former practice of awarding a hat to a bowler who dismissed three batsmen with three successive balls.]
haver (HAY-vuhr) verb intr.
To vacillate. [Of uncertain origin.]
hawkshaw (HAWK-shaw) noun
A detective. [After Hawkshaw, a detective in the play The Ticket of Leave Man (1863) by Tom Taylor.]
haywire (HAY-wire) noun
Wire used in baling hay. haywire adjective 1. Mentally confused or erratic; crazy: went haywire over the interminable delays. 2. Not functioning properly; broken. [From the use of baling wire for makeshift repairs.]
hearken (HAHR-ken) verb intr., also harken or hark
1. To pay attention; listen. 2. To return to a previous subject (usually in the form of hearken back). [From Middle English herknen, from Old English he(o)rcnian.]
hebetudinous (heb-i-TOOD-n-uhs -TYOOD-) adjective
Dull or lethargic, especially relating to the mind. [From Late Latin hebetudo (dullness), from Latin hebes (dull).]
heebie-jeebies (HEE-bee JEE-bee-z) noun
Extreme nervousness; jitters, creeps. [Coined by cartoonist Billy DeBeck (1890-1942) in his comic strip Barney Google. He also coined the term hotsy-totsy: http://wordsmith.org/words/hotsy-totsy.html ]
heft (heft) noun
1. Weight; heaviness. 2. Importance. verb tr. 1. To test the weight of something by lifting. 2. To heave or hoist. [After heave, on the pattern of cleave/cleft, leave/left, thieve/theft, weave/weft, etc. From Middle English heven (to lift, take).]
hellkite (HEL-kyt) noun
An extremely cruel person. [From Middle English hell (a place of misery) + kite (a person who preys on others).]
helpmeet (HELP-meet) noun
A helpmate, usually applied to a wife. [From the phrase "an help meet for him" (a help suitable for him, Adam) from Genesis. It was incorrectly written as "an help-meet for him" and erroneously interpreted as "a helper for him".]
hemidemisemiquaver (hem-ee-dem-ee-SEM-ee-kway-vuhr) noun
Chiefly British. A sixty-fourth note. "The rest of the event offered carefree virtuosity, musical probing and Levinson's breathtaking intelligence. Bartok's Dance Suite uncovered all the colors and kinetic irresistibility of its parts; the Schoenbergpieces were handsomely sculptured to a hemidemisemiquaver." Daniel Cariaga, Music Review; At 26, Levinson Shows He's a Versatile Force at the Keyboard, Los Angeles Times, 16 Dec 1998. Why does it take the longest to pronounce the word for the shortest note? This week's theme: words that go out of their way to not apply to themselves. -------- Date: Fri Apr 2 00:07:23 EST 1999 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--descender descender (di-SEN-duhr) noun 1. One that descends. 2. The part of the lowercase letters, such as g, p, and q, that extends below the other lowercase letters. A letter with such a part. [Middle English descenden, from Old French descendre, from Latin descendere : de- + scandere, to climb.]
hendecagon (hen-DEK-uh-gon) noun
An eleven-sided polygon. [From Greek hendeca- (eleven), from hen, neuter of heis (one) + deka (ten) + -gon (angled), from gonia (angle).]
hendecasyllabic (hen-dek-uh-si-LAB-ik) adjective
Having eleven syllables. noun A word or line of eleven syllables. [From Latin hendecasyllabus, from Greek hendekasyllabos, from hendeca- (eleven), from hen, neuter of heis (one) + deka (ten), + syllabic.]
henotheism (HEN-uh-thee-iz-uhm) noun
Belief in one god without denying the existence of others. [Greek heno-, from hen, neuter of heis, one. + the (o)- + -ism.]
herbivorous (hur-BIV-uhr-uhs, ur-) adjective
Feeding on plants; plant-eating. [From New Latin herbivorus : Latin herba, vegetation + Latin -vorus, -vorous.]
heretic (HER-i-tik) noun
One who holds unorthodox or unconventional beliefs. adjective Not conforming to established beliefs. [From Middle English heretik, from Middle French heretique, from Late Latin haereticus, from Greek hairetikos (able to choose), from haireisthai (to choose).]
herky-jerky (HUR-kee-JUR-kee) adjective
Spasmodic, irregular, and unpredictable, as in movement or manner. [Reduplication of jerky.]
hermeneutic (hur-muh-NOO-tik, -NYOO-) adjective
Interpretive or explanatory. [From Greek hermeneutikos (of interpreting), from hermeneuein (to interpret), from hermeneus (interpreter). After Hermes in Greek mythology, who served as a messenger and herald for other gods, and who himself was the god of eloquence, commerce, invention, cunning, and theft.]
hessian (HESH-uhn) adjective
1. A mercenary soldier or a ruffian. 2. Burlap. [After Hesse, a state in central Germany. Sense 1 derives from the fact that Hessian mercenaries served in the British army in America during the American Revolution.]
hesternal (he-STER-nuhl) adjective
Of yesterday. [From Latin hesternus (of yesterday).]
heteroclite (HET-uhr-uh-klyt) adjective
1. Deviating from the ordinary rule; eccentric. 2. (In grammar) Irregularly inflected. noun 1. A person who is unconventional; a maverick. 2. A word that is irregularly formed. [From Middle French, from Late Latin heteroclitus, from Greek heteroklitos, from hetero- + klinein (to lean, inflect). Ultimately from the Indo-European root klei (to lean). Other words derived from the same root are decline, incline, recline, lean, client, climax, and ladder.]
heterodox (HET-uhr-uh-doks) adjective
1. Not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma. 2. Holding unorthodox opinions. [Greek heterodoxos : hetero-, + doxa, opinion (from dokein, to think).]
heterography (het-uh-ROG-ruh-fee) noun
1. A spelling different from the one in current use. 2. Use of the same letter(s) to convey different sounds, for example, gh in rough and ghost. [From Greek hetero (different) + -graphy (writing).]
heteronym (HET-uhr-uh-nim) noun
A word that has the same spelling as another word but with a different pronunciation and meaning. In the following poem, each end-word is heteronymic: Listen, readers, toward me bow. Be friendly; do not draw the bow. Please don't try to start a row. Sit peacefully, all in a row. Don't act like a big, fat sow. Do not the seeds of discord sow. In a pure heteronymic pair, the two words must be etymologically unrelated, as in bass, buffet, deserts, dove, entrance, lead, moped, unionized, wind, and wound. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Wed Dec 12 00:02:04 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--aptronym aptronym (AP-troh-NIM) noun A name that is especially suited to the profession of its owner. Examples: Dan Druff for a barber, Felicity Foote for a dance teacher, and James Bugg for an exterminator -- all real monikers. More famously, we have William Wordsworth, the poet; Margaret Court, the tennis champion; Sally Ride, the astronaut; Larry Speakes, the White House spokesperson, Jim Kiick, the football star; and Lorena Bobbitt ("bob it") the you-know-what-er. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Thu Dec 13 00:01:44 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--capitonym capitonym (KAP-i-toh-NIM) noun A word that changes pronunciation and meaning when it is capitalized. As in the following poems: Job's Job In August, an august patriarch Was reading an ad in Reading, Mass. Long-suffering Job secured a job To polish piles of Polish brass. Herb's Herbs An herb store owner, name of Herb, Moved to a rainier Mount Rainier. It would have been so nice in Nice, And even tangier in Tangier. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Fri Dec 14 00:01:38 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--contronym contronym (KAHN-troh-NIM) noun A word that generates two opposite meanings. More popularly, they are known as Janus-faced words because the Greek god Janus had two faces that looked in opposite directions. "The moon is VISIBLE tonight." "The lights in the old house are always INVISIBLE." Although the two capitalized words are opposite in meaning, both can be replaced by the same word -- out. When the moon or sun or stars are out, they are visible. When the lights are out, they are invisible. Thus, out is a contronym. Other examples: cleave: separate; adhere firmly. a. A strong blow will cleave a plank in two. b. Bits of metal cleave to a magnet. oversight: careful supervision; neglect. a. The foreman was responsible for the oversight of the project. b. The foreman's oversight ruined the success of the project. This week's theme: Naming the nyms, by Richard Lederer. -------- Date: Mon Dec 17 03:01:41 EST 2001 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--occiput occiput (OK-suh-put) noun, plural occipita (ok-SIP-i-tah) or occiputs The back part of the head or skull. [From Middle English, from Latin occipit, from oc-, from ob- (against) + ciput, from caput (head).]
hey rube (hay roob) noun
1. A fight between members of a circus and the general public. 2. A call to rally circus members in a fight. [The term originated in the 19th century when circuses were rowdy affairs and Hey Rube was the rallying cry to call all circus people to help in a fight with townspeople. It's not clear whether Rube in this term was someone specific or simply a use of the informal term rube (shortened form of Reuben) for an unsophisticated person from a rural area.]
hibernaculum (hi-buhr-NAK-yuh-luhm) noun, also hibernacle
1. Winter quarters of a hibernating animal. 2. The protective covering of an animal or plant bud that protects it during its dormant stage in the winter. [From Latin hibernaculum (winter residence), from hibernare (to spend the winter). Ultimately from Indo-European root ghei- (winter) that is the ancestor of words such as, chimera (literally a lamb that is one winter, or one year old) and the Himalayas, from Sanskrit him (snow) + alaya (abode).]
hidalgo (hi-DAL-go) noun
A member of the lower nobility in Spain. [From Spanish, contraction of hijo de algo (son of something). A similar term of nobility in Portugal is fidalgo, from Portuguese filho de algo.]
hie (hy) verb tr., intr.
To hasten; to go in a hurry. [From Middle English hien, from Old English higian (to strive).]
hierarch (HY-uh-rark) noun
A high-ranking person. [From Latin hierarcha, from Greek hierarkhes (high priest), from hieros (sacred) + arkhes (ruling), from arkhein (to be first, to rule).]
hieroglyphic (hy-uhr-o-GLIF-ik, hy-ruh-) also hieroglyphical adjective
1. Of, relating to, or being a system of writing, such as that of ancient Egypt, in which pictorial symbols are used to represent meaning or sounds or a combination of meaning and sound. Written with such symbols. 2. Difficult to read or decipher. hieroglyphic noun 1. A hieroglyph. Often hieroglyphics (used with a sing. or pl. verb. Hieroglyphic writing, especially that of the ancient Egyptians). 2. Something, such as illegible or undecipherable writing, that is felt to resemble a hieroglyph. [French hieroglyphique, from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Greek hierogluphikos : hieros, holy. See eis-. + gluphe, carving (from gluphein, to carve.]
high-muck-a-muck (HI-muk-uh-muk) noun, also high-mucky-muck,
high-muckety-muck, high muckamuck, muck-a-muck, muckety-muck, etc. An important, high-ranking person, especially one who behaves in a pompous or arrogant manner. [From Chinook Jargon hayo makamak (plenty to eat), from hayo (ten or plenty) + Nootka makamak (eat, food, the part of whale meat between blubber and flesh.]
hight (hyte) adjective
Archaic. Named or called. [Middle English, past participle of highten, hihten, to call, be called, from hehte, hight, past tense of hoten, from Old English hatan.]
hinterland (HIN-tuhr-land) noun
1. An area behind the coastal region. 2. The remote part of a region, away from the cultural influence of a city; back country. [From German hinterland, from hinter (hinder) + land (land).]
hirsutulous (hur-SOO-chuh-luhs) adjective
Minutely hairy. [From Latin hirsutus (rough, hairy).]
histrionic (his-tree-ON-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to actors, acting, or theater. 2. Overly dramatic or affected. [From Late Latin histrionicus, from Latin histrion-, histrio (actor).]
hobbit (HOB-it) noun
An imaginary creature resembling a diminutive human being, having some rabbitlike characteristics, and being naturally peace-loving, domestic, and sociable. [From pseudo-Old English holbytla, hole-builder (coined by J.R.R. Tolkien) : Old English hol, hole + Old English bytla, builder, hammerer (from bytl, bietel, mallet.]
hobbledehoy (HOB-uhl-dee-hoy) noun
An awkward young fellow. [Of uncertain origin.]
hodiernal (ho-di-ER-nuhl) adjective
Of or pertaining to the present day. [From Latin hodiernus, from hodie (today).]
hoi polloi (hoi puh-LOI) noun
The common people; the masses. [Greek, the many : hoi, nominative plural of ho, the + polloi, nominative plural of polus, many.]
holophrastic (hol-uh-FRAS-tik) adjective
1. Expressing a sentence in one word, for example, "Go." 2. Expressing complex ideas in a single word, as in some Inuit languages. Also polysynthetic. [From Greek Holo- (whole) + Greek phrastikos, from phrazein (to speak).]
holus-bolus (HO-luhs BO-luhs) adverb
All at once. [Apparently a reduplication of bolus (lump), or a rhyming compound based on the phrase whole bolus.]
honcho (HAWN-choh) noun
One who is in charge of a situation; leader; boss. verb tr. To organize, manage, or lead a project, event, etc. [From Japanese honcho, from han (squad) + cho (chief).]
hoosegow or hoosgow (HOOS-gou) noun
A jail. [From Spanish juzgado (court), past participle of juzgar (to judge), from Latin judicare (to judge). Ultimately from Indo-European root deik- (to show or to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]
hootenanny (HOOT-nan-ee) noun
1. An informal performance by folk singers, often involving the audience. 2. A thingamajig: an unidentified or unnamed object or gadget. [Of unknown origin. Earlier a hootenanny implied a thingamajig; eventually the term took its new sense of a performance of folk singing. It's said that a hootenanny is to folk singing what a jam session is to jazz.]
hornbook (HORN-book) noun
A primer. [From horn + book. In earlier times, a hornbook was a book containing the alphabet or other material for children. Though it would be stretching the definition of book by the present standard -- it had a wooden paddle with a handle that held a paper with learning material protected by the transparent layer of a cow's horn.]
hornswoggle (HORN-swog-uhl) verb tr.
To cheat, hoax, or deceive someone. [Of unknown origin.]
horrent (HOR-ehnt) adjective
Standing up like bristles, bristling. [From Latin horrent-, stem of horrens, present participle of horrere (to bristle).]
horripilation (ho-rip-uh-LAY-shuhn) noun
The bristling of the body hair, as from fear or cold; goose bumps. [Late Latin horripilatio, horripilation-, from Latin horripilatus, past participle of horripilare, to bristle with hairs : horrere, to tremble + pilare, to grow hair (from pilus, hair).]
hors d'oeuvre (ohr DERV) noun
An extra little dish outside of and smaller than the main course, usually served first. [From French hors (outside of), oeuvre (job or work).]
hors de combat (awr duh kawn-BA) adverb or adjective
Out of action; disabled. [From French, literally, out of fight.]
horst (horst) noun
A part of earth's crust, surrounded by faults, that has risen upwards. [From German, horst, literally "thicket".]
hotsy-totsy (HOT-see TOT-see) adjective, also hotsie-totsie
Just right; perfect. [Coined by Billy DeBeck, cartoonist (1892-1942), famed for his comic strip "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith". Another of his coinage that has found a place in the English language dictionaries is heebie-jeebies meaning jitters or creeps (See AWAD archives, August 1997).]
houri (HOOR-ee) noun
1. One of the beautiful virgins provided for faithful Muslims in the Koranic paradise. 2. A voluptuously attractive young woman. [From French, from Persian huri, from Arabic huri, plural of haura (dark-eyed woman).]
howbeit (hou-BEE-it) adverb
Nevertheless. Conjunction Although. [Originally from the expression 'how be it' (however it may be).]
hubba-hubba (HUB-uh HUB-uh) interjection
Used to express approval, enthusiasm, or excitement. Also, akin to wolf whistle. [Of unknown origin.]
hubble-bubble (HUB-buhl-BUB-buhl) noun
1. A form of hookah: a smoking device in which the smoke is passed through a bowl of water, making a bubbling noise, before being drawn through a long pipe. 2. Commotion, uproar, turmoil. [Reduplication of the word bubble.]
hubbub (HUB-ub) noun
Excited fuss or tumult of a crowd. [Perhaps from Irish ubub (an interjection of contempt).]
hullabaloo (HUL-uh-buh-loo) noun
Tumultuous noise, excitement, confusion; uproar. [Of uncertain origin. Apparently a reduplication of hallo (former variant of hello), an alteration of French hola (whoa, stop there), from ho + la (there).]
humble pie (HUM-buhl pi) noun
Humiliation in the form of apology or retraction. Often in form of the phrase "to eat humble pie." [From the phrase, an umble pie, transformed by folk etymology by resemblance to the word humble. The phrase an umble pie itself was made by false splitting from a numble pie. Numbles or nombles are edible animal entrails. The words came to us from Latin via French.]
hustings (HUS-tingz) noun
1. Political campaign trail. 2. A place where campaign speeches are made. 3. A local court formerly held in some localities in Britain and still occasionally held in London. 4. A local court in some parts of Virginia. [From Middle English, from Old English husting, from Old Norse husthing, from hus (house) + thing (assembly).]
hydra (HIGH-druh) noun
Any of several small freshwater polyps of the genus Hydra and related genera, having a naked cylindrical body and an oral opening surrounded by tentacles. [New Latin Hydra, genus name, from Latin Hydra.]
hyoid (HIE-oid) adjective
Of or relating to the hyoid bone, a U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue that supports the muscles of the tongue. noun The hyoid bone. [New Latin hyoides, the hyoid bone, from Greek huoeides, shaped like the letter upsilon : hu, name of the letter upsilon + -oeides, -oid.]
hyperbaton (hye-PUR-buh-ton), noun, plural hyperbatons, hyperbata
The use, especially for emphasis, of a word order other than the expected or usual one, as in "Bird thou never wert.' [Greek huperbaton, from neuter of huperbatos, transposed, from huperbainein, to step over : huper-, over, across + bainein, to step.]
hyperbole (hy-PUHR-buh-lee) noun
A figure of speech in which obvious exaggeration is used for effect. [From Latin, from Greek hyperbole (excess), from hyperballein, from hyper- (beyond) + ballein (to throw).]
hyperbolic (hy-puhr-BOL-ik) adjective
1. Of or pertaining to hyperbole; exaggerating. 2. Of or pertaining to hyperbola. [From Greek hyperbole (excess), from hyperballein (to exceed), from hyper- + ballein (to throw).]
hypercorrection (hi-puhr-kuhr-REK-shun) noun
A grammatical, usage or pronunciation mistake made by `correcting' something that's right to begin with. For example, use of the word whom in "Whom shall I say is calling?" [From Greek hyper- (over) + correction.]
hypergelast (hy-PUHR-ji-last) noun
One who laughs excessively. [From Greek hyper- (over) + gelastes (laugher), from gelan (to laugh). A related word is agelast: someone who never laughs.]
hypergolic (hy-puhr-GOL-ik) adjective
Igniting on contact. [From German Hypergol (hypergolic fuel), from Greek hyper- (over, above) + erg- (work). Ultimately from the Indo-European root werg- (to do) which gave us ergonomic, work, energy, metallurgy, surgery, wright, and orgy.]
hypnopompic (hip-no-POM-pik) adjective
Pertaining to the semiconscious state before waking. [From Greek hypnos (sleep) + pompe (sending away).]
hypochondriac (hie-puh-KON-dree-ak) noun
A person affected with hypochondria, the persistent neurotic conviction that one is or is likely to become ill, often involving experiences of real pain when illness is neither present nor likely. adjective 1. Relating to or affected with hypochondria. 2. Relating to or located in the hypochondrium. [Late Latin, abdomen, from Greek hupokhondria, pl. of hupokhondrion, abdomen (held to be the seat of melancholy), neuter of hupokhondrios, under the cartilage of the breastbone : hupo-, hypo- + khondros, cartilage.]
hypogeusia (hi-puh-GYOO-zee-uh, zhee-uh, -zhuh) noun
Diminished sensation of taste. [Hypo- + Greek geus(is) taste + -ia.]
hypolimnion (hy-puh-LIM-nee-on, -uhn) noun
The layer of water in a thermally stratified lake that lies below the thermocline, is noncirculating, and remains perpetually cold. [Hypo- + Greek limnion, diminutive of limne, lake, pool.]
hyponym (HIE-puh-nim) noun
A term that denotes a subcategory of a more general class: "Chair' and "table' are hyponyms of "furniture. [Hyp- + -onym, or as back formation from hyponymy]
hysteron proteron (HIS-tuh-ron PROT-uh-ron) noun
1. A figure of speech in which the natural or rational order of its terms is reversed, as in bred and born instead of born and bred. 2. The logical fallacy of assuming as true and using as a premise a proposition that is yet to be proved. [Late Latin, from Greek husteron proteron, latter first : husteron, neuter sing. of husteros, latter, later + proteron, neuter sing. of proteros, former.]
iatric (eye-A-trik) adjective
Relating to medicine or a physician. [From Greek iatrikos (medical), from iatros (physician), from iasthai (to heal).]
iatrogenic (eye-at-ruh-JEN-ik) adjective
Caused inadvertently by medical treatment, such as an infection or a complication. [From iatro- (healer, medicine), from Greek iatros (healer) + -genic (producing).]
ichnology (ik-NOL-uh-jee) noun
A branch of paleontology dealing with the study of fossilized footprints, tracks, traces, etc. [From ichno- (track or footstep) + -logy (study).]
ichor (EYE-kohr, EYE-kuhr) noun
1. Greek Mythology. The rarefied fluid said to run in the veins of the gods. 2. Pathology. A watery, acrid discharge from a wound or ulcer. [Middle English icor, from Late Latin ichor, from Greek ikhor.]
iconoclast (eye-KON-uh-klast) noun
1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions. 2. One who destroys sacred religious images. [French iconoclaste, from Medieval Greek eikonoklastes, smasher of religious images : Greek eikono-, icono- + -klastes, breaker (from Greek klan, klas-, to break).]
identic (eye-DEN-tik) adjective
1. Being, or constituting, a diplomatic action or diplomatic language in which two or more governments agree to use the same forms in their relations with other governments. 2. Identical. [Medieval Latin identicus, identical.]
ideogram (ID-EE-uh-gram, AI-dee-) noun
1. A character or symbol representing an idea or a thing without expressing the pronunciation of a particular word or words for it, as in the traffic sign commonly used for "no parking" or "parking prohibited." Also called ideograph. 2. A graphic symbol, such as , $, or @. "Butterflies flutter like the last load of laundry hung out to dry. The beach looks littered with summer people's broken furniture but it is just the tide's huge ideograms...--Jennifer Rose" Altman, Meryl, Reconstructive criticism, Vol. XI, Women's Review of Books, 1 Jan 1994, pp. 17-8. This week's theme: words about symbols. -------- Date: Sat May 9 00:04:33 EDT 1998 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--oriflamme oriflamme (OR-i-flam, AWR-) noun 1. An inspiring standard or symbol. 2. The red or orange-red flag of the Abbey of Saint Denis in France, used as a standard by the early kings of France. [Middle English oriflamble, banner of St. Denis, from Old French, variant of oriflambe, possibly from Medieval Latin aurea flamma, auriflamma : Latin aurea, feminine of aureus, golden (from aurum, gold + Latin flamma, flame.), or alteration of Old French lorie flambe, from Late Latin laurea flammula, laureled standard : Latin laureus, of laurel + Latin flammula, banner, diminutive of flamma, flame.]
ides (eyedz) noun
The 15th day of March, May, July, or October, and the 13th day of the other months in the ancient Roman calendar. [From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin idus.]
idiolect (ID-ee-uh-lekt) noun
Language usage pattern unique to a person. [From Greek idio- (personal, peculiar) + dialect (language unique to a group of people).]
idiopathy (id-ee-OP-uh-thee) noun
A disease of unknown origin or one having no apparent cause. [From New Latin idiopathia (primary disease), from Greek idiopatheia, from idio-, from idios (one's own, personal) + -patheia, -pathy (feeling, suffering).]
idiot savant (ID-ee-uht sa-VAHNT) noun
A person with autism or some other mental disability who is exceptionally gifted in a highly specialized field, such as math (rapid mental calculation) or music (ability to play a complex piece of music after hearing it only once). This term is now outdated. Autistic savant is the current term. [From French, literally learned idiot.]
idoneous (i-DO-nee-uhs) adjective, also idonaeous
Appropriate, suitable, fit. [From Latin idoneus (fit).]
ikebana (ee-ke-BAH-nah, ik-uh-) noun
The Japanese art of formal flower arrangement with special regard shown to balance, harmony, and form. [Japanese : ikeru, to arrange + hana, flower.]
illation (i-LAY-shuhn) noun
1. The act of inferring. 2. An inference or conclusion drawn. [From Late Latin illation-, from Latin illatus, past participle of inferre (to bring in), from il- + ferre (to carry).]
illeist (IL-ee-ist) noun
One who refers to oneself in the third person. [From Latin ille (that) + -ism.]
imbroglio (im-BROL-yoh) noun
1. A difficult or intricate situation; an entanglement. A confused or complicated disagreement. 2. A confused heap; a tangle. [Italian, from Old Italian, from imbrogliare, to tangle, confuse : in- + brogliare, to mix, stir, probably from Old French brooiller, brouiller.]
immix (i-MIKS) tr.verb
To commingle; blend. [Back-formation from Middle English immixte, past participle of immixten, to intermingle with, from Latin immixtus, past participle of immiscere, to blend : in-, + miscere, to mix.]
impassible (im-PAS-uh-buhl) adjective
1. Not subject to suffering or pain. 2. Unfeeling; impassive. [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin impassibilis : in-, not + passibilis, passible.]
impeach (im-PEECH) tr.verb
1. To make an accusation against. To charge (a public official) with improper conduct in office before a proper tribunal. 2. To challenge the validity of; try to discredit: impeach a witness's credibility. [Middle English empechen, to impede, accuse, from Anglo-Norman empecher, from Late Latin impedicare, to entangle : Latin in-, + Latin pedica, fetter.]
impetuous (im-PECH-oo-uhs) adjective
1. Characterized by sudden and forceful energy or emotion; impulsive and passionate. 2. Having or marked by violent force. [Middle English, violent, from Old French impetueux, from Late Latin impetuosus, from Latin impetus, impetus.]
implore (im-PLOHR) tr.verb
1. To appeal to in supplication; beseech: implored the tribunal to have mercy. 2. To beg for urgently; entreat. implore intr.verb To make an earnest appeal. [Latin implorare : in-, toward. See IN-2 + plorare, to weep.]
importune (im-pawr-TOON, im-pawr-TYOON, im-PAWR-chuhn) tr.verb
1. To beset with insistent or repeated requests; entreat pressingly. 2. Archaic. To ask for urgently or repeatedly. 3. To annoy; vex. importune intr.verb To plead or urge irksomely, often persistently. importune adjective Importunate. [French importuner, from Old French importun, inopportune, from Latin importunus : in-, not. + portus, port, refuge.]
impost (IM-post) noun
1. A tax or a similar mandatory payment. 2. The weight a horse must carry in a handicap race. 3. The top part of a pillar of a wall, usually projecting in the form of an ornamental molding, on which an arch rests. [From Latin imponere (to impose), from ponere (to place).]
imprecate (IM-pri-kayt) verb tr.
To invoke evil upon; curse. [Latin imprecari, imprecat- : in-, towards + precari, to pray, ask.]
impregnable (im-PREG-nuh-buhl) adjective
Incapable of being taken by force; strong enough to withstand attack. [From Middle English, from Old French imprenable, from in- (not) + prenable, from pren-, from prendre (to seize) + -able.]
impresario (im-pruh-SAR-ee-o) noun
1. An organizer, promoter, or manager of public entertainments, such as a ballet, opera, concert, or theater company. 2. Any manager or director. [From Italian impresario (one who undertakes a business), from impresa (undertaking), from imprendere (to undertake).]
imprest (IM-prest) noun
An advance of money, especially one made to carry out some business for a government. Also, archaic past tense and past participle of impress. [From obsolete imprest (to lend), from Italian imprestare.]
imprimis (im-PRY-mis, -PREE-) adverb
In the first place. [From contraction of Latin phrase in primis (among the first), from in (among) and primus (first). The word was originally used to introduce the first of a number of articles in a list, such as a will, inventory, etc.]
impuissance (im-PYOO-i-suhns) noun
Lack of strength or power. [From Middle English, from Old French, from in- (not) + puissance (power), ultimately from Indo-European root poti- (powerful). Some other words that are derived from the same root: possess, power, possible, and potent.]
in medias res (in MAY-dee-uhs rays, in MEE-dee-uhs REEZ, in MAY-dee-as RAYS) adverb
In or into the middle of things. [From Latin in medias res, from in (in, into) + medius (middle) + res (thing). A related term is ab ovo (from the beginning, literally, from the egg). Both come from Horace's Ars Poetica (Art of Poetry), where the Roman poet advises that an epic poet ought to begin in the middle of the action rather than at the beginning. The story is then told by flashbacks.]
incarnadine (in-KAHR-nuh-dyn) adjective
Flesh-colored; blood-red. noun An incarnadine color. verb tr. To make incarnadine. [Via French and Italian from Latin caro, (flesh). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that's also the source of words such as skirt, curt, screw, shard, shears, carnage, carnivorous, carnation, sharp, and scrape.]
inchoate (in-KO-it) adjective
1. In an initial or early stage; incipient. 2. Imperfectly formed or developed. [Latin inchoatus, past participle of inchoare, to begin, alteration of incohare : in- + cohum, strap from yoke to harness.]
incogitant (in-KOJ-i-tuhnt) adjective
Thoughtless; inconsiderate. [From Latin incogitant-, from cogitare (to think), from agitare (to agitate), from agere (to drive). Ultimately from Indo-European root ag- (to drive, draw) that's also the fount of such words as act, agent, agitate, litigate, synagogue, and ambassador.]
incommode (in-kuh-MOD) verb tr.
To cause to be inconvenienced; disturb. [French incommoder, from Old French, from Latin incommodare, from incommodus, inconvenient : in-, not + commodus, convenient.]
incommunicado (in-kuh-myoo-ni-KA-do) adjective, adverb
Out of contact, either voluntarily or deprived of the right to communicate with anyone; in solitary confinement. [From Spanish incomunicado, past participle of incomunicar (to deprive of communication), from in- (not) + comunicar (to communicate), from Latin communicare, from communis (common). Ultimately from Indo-European root mei- (to change or move) that has given us other words such as commute, mutual, migrate, common, mistake, and immune.]
inconnu (in-kuh-NOO) noun
1. A whitefish (Stenodus leucichthys) found in arctic and subarctic. Also known as sheefish. 2. A stranger. [From French, literally unknown. In 1789, explorer Alexander Mackenzie and his crew traveled the waterways of the Northwest Territories in search of a Northwest passage. They came across an unknown fish and the French-Canadian voyageurs who were part of his crew called it inconnu.]
inculpate (in-KUHL-payt) verb tr.
To accuse; to incriminate. [From Late Latin inculpatus, from Latin in- + culpatus, past participle of culpare to blame, from culpa fault.]
incult (in-KULT) adjective
Rude; uncultured. [From Latin incultus, from in- (not) + cultus, past participle of colere (to cultivate). Ultimately from the Indo-European root k(w)el- (to revolve) that's also the source of words such as culture, chakra, wheel, cycle, palindrome, decollate, cult, talisman. What a menagerie of words sprouting from a single root!]
incunabulum (in-kyoo-NAB-yuh-luhm) noun
A book printed during the infancy of printing, especially one produced before 1501. [From Latin incunabula (swaddling clothes, cradle), from cunae (cradle, infancy). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kei- (to lie, bed, dear) that is also the source of such words as city, cemetery, and Sanskrit shiva.]
indehiscent (in-di-HIS-uhnt) adjective
Not bursting open at maturity. [When a peapod is ripe after a long wait and bursts open, it's yawning, etymologically speaking. The term indehiscent comes from Latin dehiscere (to split open), from hiscere (to gape, yawn), from Latin hiare (to yawn). Another term that derives from the same root is hiatus.]
indigent (IN-di-juhnt) adjective
Lacking necessities of life, such as food, clothing, etc.; impoverished. noun A person who is extremely poor. [From Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin indigent- (stem of indigens), present participle of indigere (to lack in), from indu (in-) + egere (to lack, to need).]
indite (in-DYT) verb tr.
To write or to compose. [From Middle English enditen, from Old French enditer, from Vulgar Latin indictare (to compose), from Latin indicere (to proclaim), from in- + dicere (to say).]
indolent (IN-duh-lehnt) adjective
1. Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy. Conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic. 2. Causing little or no pain. Slow to heal, grow, or develop; inactive. [Late Latin indolens, indolent-, painless : Latin in-, not + Latin dolens, present participle of dolere, to feel pain.]
indurate (IN-doo-rayt, -dyoo-) verb tr.
1. To make hardy, inured, accustomed. 2. To make callous or unfeeling. verb intr. 1. To make hard. 2. To become established. adjective (IN-doo-rit, -dyoo-) Hardened; callous; obstinate. [From Latin indurare (to harden), from durare (to last), from durus (hard). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deru-/dreu- (to be firm) that's the source of such other words as truth, trust, betroth, tree, endure, and druid.]
inebriety (in-i-BRY-i-tee) noun
Drunkenness. [Intensive prefix in- + Latin ebriare (to make drunk), from ebrius (drunk).]
ingenue (AN-zhuh-noo, -nyoo) noun
1. The role of an artless, innocent girl. 2. An actress who plays such a role. [From French ingénue (guileless), from Latin ingenuus (free-born).]
inhume (in-HYOOM) verb tr.
To bury. [From Latin inhumare (to bury), from in (in) + humus (earth). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhghem- (earth) that also sprouted human, homicide, homage, chameleon, chamomile, and Persian zamindar (landholder).]
iniquity (i-NIK-wi-tee) noun
1. Gross immorality or injustice; wickedness. 2. A grossly immoral act; a sin. [Middle English iniquite, from Old French, from Latin iniquitas, from iniquus, unjust, harmful : in-, not + aequus, equal.]
inkhorn term (INGK-horn turm) noun
An obscure, ostentatious, or bookish word, especially one derived from Latin or Greek. [From the fact that such a term is used more in writing than in speech.]
inquorate (in-KWA-rayt) adjective
A meeting attended by too few people to form a quorum (the minimum number of members required to be present for valid transaction of business). [From Latin quorum, literally `of whom,' from the wording of the commission issued to designate members of a body.]
insomnolent (in-SOM-nuh-lunt) adjective
Sleepless. noun One afflicted with insomnia. [From Latin in- (not) + Middle English sompnolent, from Old French, from Latin somnolentus, from somnus (sleep).]
insouciant (in-SOO-see-uhnt) adjective
Happily unconcerned; carefree; nonchalant. [From French insouciant, from in- (not) + souciant, present participle of soucier (to care), from Vulgar Latin sollicitare (to vex), from Latin sollicitus (anxious), from sollus (entire) + citus, past participle of ciere (to move).]
instauration (in-sto-RAY-shuhn) noun
1. Renewal; renovation; restoration. 2. An act of founding or establishing something. [From Latin instauration-, from instauratio, from instaurare (to renew). Other words derived from the same root are: store, restore, and stow.]
integument (in-TEG-yoo-ment) noun
1. A natural outer covering or coat, such as the skin of an animal or the membrane enclosing an organ. 2. Botany. The envelope of an ovule. [Latin integumentum, from integere, to cover : in-, on + tegere, to cover.]
intenerate (in-TEN-uh-rayt) verb tr.
To make tender or to soften. [From Latin in- + tener (tender).]
intercalary (in-TUHR-kuh-ler-ee, -KAL-uh-ree) adjective
Inserted in a calendar (for example, a day or a month). [From Latin inter- (between) + calare (to proclaim).]
interleaf (IN-ter-leef) noun
A blank leaf inserted between the regular pages of a book. [Inter- + leaf.]
internationalization (in-tuhr-NASH-uh-nuh-ly-ZAY-shun) noun
1. The act or process of making something international or placing it under international control. 2. Making a product or process suitable for use around the globe. Today's word in Visual Thesaurus: http://visualthesaurus.com/?w1=internationalization This 20-letter word is often abbreviated as i18n when used by software engineers. Making a program useful in another country requires more than just replacing error messages from a new language. In software development, internationalization means designing a program so that it can be easily customized for various languages, scripts, units, currencies, and date/time formats. The counterpart of i18n is localization (l10n) which is adapting a program for use in a particular locale. In other words, internationalization makes a piece of software easy to localize. -Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org) "Japan is no exception in seeing a rise in nationalism in reaction to growing pressures from internationalization." Yoshibumi Wakamiya; Seeking New Strategies; The Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo, Japan); Apr 27, 2006. -------- Date: Tue Jun 6 00:01:14 EDT 2006 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--honorificabilitudinity This week's theme: long words. honorificabilitudinity (ON-uh-rif-i-kay-bi-li-too-DIN-i-tee, -tyoo-) noun Honorableness. [From Medieval Latin honorificabilitudinitas, from Latin honor.]
internecine (in-tuhr-NES-een) adjective
1. Of or relating to conflict within a group or nation. 2. Mutually destructive. 3. Characterized by bloodshed or slaughter. [From Latin internecinus (deadly), from internecare (to slaughter), from inter- + necare (to kill), from nex-, nec- (death). A few other words derived from the same root are pernicious, noxious, obnoxious, and necrosis. Some positive words originating from the same root are nectar, nectarine, innocent, and innocuous.]
interpellate (in-tuhr-PEL-ayt) verb tr.
To question formally an official, a member of government, etc. [From Latin interpellatus, past participle of interpellare (to interrupt), from inter- (between) + pellare (to thrust).]
interregnum (in-tuhr-REG-nuhm) noun
The period between the end of a reign and the beginning of the next; a time when there is no government. [From Latin, from inter- (between) + regnum (reign).]
interrex (IN-tuhr-reks) noun, plural interreges (in-tuhr-REE-jeez)
A person holding supreme authority in a state during an interregnum (the interval of time between the end of a sovereign's reign and the accession of a successor). [From Latin, inter- between + rex, king.]
interrobang also interabang (in-TER-uh-bang) noun
A punctuation mark used especially to end a simultaneous question and exclamation. [Interro (gation point) + bang, exclamation point (printers' slang).]
inveterate (in-VET-ehr-it) adjective
Firmly established; habitual. [From Middle English, from Latin inveteratus, past participle of inveterare (to grow old), in-, + vetus, stem of veter- (old). Ultimately from Indo-European root wet- (year) that is also the source of such words as veteran, veal (in the sense of yearling), and veterinary (relating to the beasts of burden, perhaps alluding to old cattle).]
invidious (in-VID-ee-uhs) adjective
Unjust, offensive, or hateful, and likely to arouse resentment, ill will, anger, etc. [From Latin invidiosus (envious, envied, hostile), from invidia (envy, hostility), from videre (to see). Ultimately from the Indo-European root weid- (to see) that is also the source of words such as guide, wise, vision, advice, idea, story, and history.]
invious (IN-vi-uhs) adjective
Pathless; untrodden; inaccessible. [From Latin invius, from in- (not) + via (road).]
involution (in-vuh-LOO-shuhn) noun
1. The act of involving. The state of being involved. 2. Intricacy; complexity. 3. Something, such as a long grammatical construction, that is intricate or complex. 4. Mathematics. The multiplying of a quantity by itself a specified number of times; the raising to a power. 5. Embryology. The ingrowth and curling inward of a group of cells, as in the formation of a gastrula from a blastula. 6. Medicine. A decrease in size of an organ, as of the uterus following childbirth. A progressive decline or degeneration of normal physiological functioning occurring as a result of the aging process. [Latin involutio, involution-, from involutus, past participle of involvere, to enwrap.]
ipse dixit (IP-see DIK-sit) noun
An assertion without supporting proof. [From Latin, literally, he himself said it.]
ipso facto (IP-so FAK-to) adverb
By the very fact or action. [Latin ipso facto (by the fact itself).]
iracund (IE-ruh-kund) adjective
Inclined to anger; irascible. [From Latin iracundus, from ira (anger) + -cundus (inclined toward)]. Can you think of an antonym of today's word that shares the same suffix? "One word: iracund. Or perhaps a better choice might be grumpy." Campaign Grapevine, The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), Oct 21, 1996. This week's theme: words to describe people. -------- Date: Mon Mar 11 00:15:03 EST 2002 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ukase ukase (yoo-KAYS, yoo-KAYZ, YOO-kays, YOO-kayz) noun An arbitrary proclamation or order; edict. [After ukaz, a decree issued by a Russian czar having the force of law. From French, from Russian ukaz (decree), from Old Church Slavonic ukazu (proof), from ukazati, from u- (at, away) + kazati (to show).]
irade (i-RAH-day) noun
A decree. [From Turkish, From Arabic iradah (will, desire, wish).]
iris (EYE-ris) noun, plural irises, irides
1. The pigmented tissue of the eye in the center of which is the opening called the pupil. 2. A rainbow. 3. A showy, flowering plant. [From Latin iris, from Greek Iris/iris (the goddess of the rainbow, rainbow).]
irredentist (ir-i-DEN-tist) noun
One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government. [Italian irredentista, from (Italia) irredenta, unredeemed (Italy), Italian- speaking areas subject to other countries, feminine of irredento : in-, not (from Latin in-) + redento, redeemed, from Latin redemptus, past participle of redimere, to redeem.]
irrefragable (i-REF-ruh-guh-buhl) adjective
Impossible to refute or dispute; incontrovertible. [From Late Latin irrefragabilis, from Latin in- (not) + refragari (to oppose). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhreg- (to break) that's also the progenitor of words such as break, breach, fraction, fragile, fractal, infringe, and suffrage. Suffrage? Remember, a broken piece of tile was used as a ballot in earlier times.]
isohyet (eye-soh-HIGH-it) noun
A line drawn on a map connecting points that receive equal amounts of rainfall. [Iso- + Greek huetos, rain.]
isthmus (IS-muhs) noun
1. A narrow strip of land with water on each side, joining two larger land masses, for example, the Isthmus of Panama. 2. A narrow strip of tissue joining two large organs or cavities. [From Latin isthmus, from Greek isthmos (a neck of land).]
jabberwocky (JAB-uhr-wok-ee) noun
Meaningless speech or writing. [After Jabberwocky, a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll which was part of his novel Through the Looking Glass (1871).]
jackanapes (JAK-uh-nayps) noun
An impertinent conceited person. [Probably from Jack Napes, from "jack (man) of an ape". This word was the nickname of William de la Pole (1396-1450), Duke of Suffolk, as his badge was a clog and chain, as might be tied to an ape.]
jackboot (JAK-boot) noun
1. A long, sturdy, leather boot reaching up to or above the knee, worn especially by soldiers in the Nazi regime. 2. Oppressive, bullying, or authoritarian tactics. 3. A person who employs such tactics. [Where the word jack in jackboot came from is uncertain.]
janissary (JAN-i-ser-ee) also janizary (-ZER-ee) noun
1. A member of a group of elite, highly loyal supporters. 2. A soldier in an elite Turkish guard organized in the 14th century and abolished in 1826. [French janissaire, from Old French jehanicere, from Old Italian giannizero, from Ottoman Turkish yani cheri, new army : yani, new + cheri, special troops (from Middle Persian cherih, bravery, victory, from cher, brave, victorious, from Avestan chairya-, vigorous, brave).]
jape (jayp) intr.verb
To joke or quip. jape tr.verb To make sport of. jape noun A joke or quip. [Middle English japen, probably from Old French japer, to yap, chatter, nag, of imitative origin.]
jarvey (JAR-vee) noun
1. A hackney-coach driver. 2. A hackney coach. [After Jarvey, a variant of the name Jarvis. Who Jarvey/Jarvis was is unknown.]
jawbone (JAW-bohn) noun
1. A bone of either jaw, especially the lower jaw: mandible. 2. Credit; promise. verb tr. 3. To try to influence by strong persuasion (as opposed to the use of force). The term is especially used about people in authority dealing in an official capacity. [Sense 1 is literal. Sense 2 apparently derives from the metaphoric use of jaw (words or talk) + French bon (good). Sense 3 originates with the administration of US President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969). It implies the use of one's jawbones rather than the muscles of arms. Contrast the term jawboning with strong-arming.]
jaywalk (JAY-wok) verb intr.
To cross a street in a reckless manner, disregarding traffic rules. [As with other birds, the name jaybird denotes a naive person or simpleton. Early last century, country folks visiting big cities were often oblivious of any approaching traffic when they were crossing streets. Eventually their nickname, jays, became associated with crossing a street illegally.]
jejune (juh-JOON) adjective
1. Not interesting; dull. 2. Lacking maturity; childish 3. Lacking in nutrition. [From Latin ieiunus, meager, dry, fasting.]
jentacular (jen-TAK-yuh-luhr) adjective
Relating to breakfast. [From Latin jentare (to breakfast).]
jeremiad (jer-uh-MIE-uhd) noun
A literary work or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom. [French jeremiade, after Jeremie, Jeremiah, author of The Lamentations, from Late Latin Ieremias, from Hebrew Yirmeyahu.]
jeremiah (jer-uh-MY-uh) noun
A person who complains continually, has a gloomy attitude, or one who warns about a disastrous future. [After Jeremiah, a Hebrew prophet during the seventh and sixth centuries BCE who prophesied the fall of the kingdom of Judah and whose writings are collected in the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations.]
jetsam (JET-suhm) noun
1. Cargo or equipment thrown overboard to lighten a ship in distress. 2. Discarded cargo or equipment found washed ashore. 3. Discarded odds and ends. [From earlier jetson, alteration of Middle English jetteson, a throwing overboard.]
jettison (JET-i-suhn, -zuhn) tr.verb
1. To cast overboard or off 2. Informal. To discard (something) as unwanted or burdensome noun 1. The act of discarding or casting overboard. 2. Jetsam. [From Middle English jetteson, a throwing overboard of goods to lighten ship, from Anglo-Norman getteson, from Vulgar Latin iectatio, iectation-, from iectatus, past participle of -iectare, to throw.]
jeune premier (zhoen pruh-MYAY) noun
The role of a young hero; also an actor who plays such a part. [From French, literally first young man. Jeune premiere is the feminine equivalent of the term.]
jihad (ji-HAHD) noun
1. A holy war by Muslims against those believed hostile to Islam. 2. Any campaign for an idea or belief. [From Arabic jihad (struggle).]
jimjams (JIM-jams) noun
1. Extreme nervousness; jitters 2. Delirium tremens: tremors and hallucinations caused by withdrawal from alcohol. [Perhaps a reduplicative of jam.]
jobbernowl (JOB-uh-nowl) noun
A blockhead. [From French jobard (stupid, gullible), from Old French jobe (stupid) + noll (top or crown of the head).]
jodhpurs (JOd-puhrz) noun
Wide-hipped riding pants of heavy cloth, fitting tightly from knee to ankle. [After Jodhpur, a city of western India southwest of Delhi, center of a former principality founded in the 13th century,]
jounce (jouns) verb tr., intr.
To bounce along. noun A jolting movement. [Of uncertain origin, apparently a blend of joll (to knock or bump) and bounce.]
juggernaut (JUG-uhr-not) noun
1. Anything requiring blind sacrifice. 2. A massive relentless force, person, institution, etc. that crushes everything in its path. [From Hindi jagannath (a title of Krishna, a Hindu god), from Sanskrit jagannath, from jagat (world) + nath (lord). A procession of Lord Jagannath takes place each year at Puri (India). Devotees pull a huge cart carrying the deity. Some have been accidentally crushed under the wheels (or are said to have thrown themselves under them).]
jugular (JUG-uh-luhr) adjective
Of or pertaining to the neck or throat. noun 1. A jugular vein 2. The most important or vulnerable part of something. [From Late Latin jugularis, from Latin jugulum (collarbone, throat), from Latin jugum, yoke).]
jugulate (JOO-gyuh-layt) verb tr.
1. To stop something by extreme measures. 2. To slit the throat. [From Latin jugulatus, past participle of jugulare (to cut the throat), from jugulum (collarbone, neck), diminutive of jugum (yoke). Ultimately from the Indo-European root yeug- (to join) that is also the ancestor of such words as junction, yoke, yoga, adjust, juxtapose, and junta.]
juju (JOO-joo) noun
1. A fetish or charm. 2. The magic or supernatural power attributed to such an object. [Of uncertain origin, perhaps from west African language Hausa juju (fetish), probably from French joujou (toy).]
julienne (joo-lee-EN) noun
A consommé (clear soup) garnished with thin strips of vegetables. adjective (Of vegetables and other food) Cut into thin, matchstick-like pieces. verb tr. To cut into thin strips. [From French, generic use of the first name Julienne (or Jules or Julien).]
junta (HOON-tuh, JUHN-) noun
A group, especially one made of military officers, ruling a country after a coup. [From Spanish and Portuguese junta (committee, association), from Latin jungere (to join). Ultimately from the Indo-European root yeug- (to join) that also gave us yoke, junction, jugular, adjust, Sanskrit yoga, and Greek zeugma.]
junto (JUN-to) noun
A small, usually secret group united for a common interest. [Alteration of junta, Spanish and Portuguese, conference, probably from Latin iuncta, feminine past participle of iungere, to join.]
juvenescent (joo-veh-NES-ent) adjective
Becoming young or youthful. [Latin iuvenescens, iuvenescent-, present participle of iuvenescere, to reach the age of youth, from iuvenis, young.]
kahuna (kuh-HOO-nuh) noun
1. A priest or a medicine man. 2. An important person (usually in the phrase: big kahuna). [From Hawaiian kahuna. Hawaiian is a Polynesian language spoken in the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific. The number of native speakers of the language has decreased to just a few hundred.]
kakistocracy (kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-) noun
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. [Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad + -cracy, government, rule.]
kangaroo court (kang-guh-ROO kort) noun
A mock court set up with disregard to proper procedure to deliver a judgment arrived at in advance. [Origin unknown.]
kaput also kaputt (ka-put, -poot, kah-) adjective
1. Having been destroyed; wrecked. 2. Having been incapacitated. [German kaputt, from French capot, not having won a single trick at piquet.]
karma (KAHR-ma) noun
1. In the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions, a person's action (bad or good) that determines his or her destiny. 2. Destiny; fate. 3. An aura or atmosphere generated by someone or something. [From Sanskrit karma (deed, work). The word Sanskrit comes from the same Indo-European root.]
karst (karst) noun.
An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns. [German after the Karst, a limestone plateau near Trieste.]
karuna (KUH-roo-na) noun
Loving compassion. [From Sanskrit karuna (compassion).]
katabasis (kuh-TAB-uh-sis) noun
A retreat, especially a military one. [After the march of 10,000 Greeks subsequent to the death of Cyrus the Younger, related by Xenophon in his historical work Anabasis. From Greek katabasis (a going down), from katabainein (to go down). Compare with anabasis: http://wordsmith.org/words/anabasis.html ]
katzenjammer (KAT-sen-jam-uhr) noun
1. Hangover 2. Distress; depression. 3. Confusion; clamor; uproar. [From German, from Katzen (plural of Katze, cat) + Jammer (distress, wailing).]
kayo (kay-O) noun
1. A knockout in boxing. 2. Someone or something that is extraordinarily attractive or appealing. verb tr. 1. To knock someone out, especially in boxing. 2. To get rid of or to make non-functional. [Pronunciation of KO, abbreviation of Knock Out.]
keelhaul (KEEL-hawl) verb tr.
1. To haul under the keel of a ship. 2. To rebuke sharply. [From Dutch kielhalen, from kiel (keel) + halen (to haul). In the olden times this form of punishment was inflicted in the Dutch and British navies. The punished sailor was tied to a rope looped under the ship and thrown in the water. Then he was dragged along the bottom of the ship to the other side. The result was either severe injuries from brushing against the barnacles on the ship's bottom or death from drowning. Thankfully, in modern times keelhauling is performed only metaphorically.]
kenning (KEN-ing) noun
A figurative, usually compound expression used in place of a name or noun, especially in Old English and Old Norse poetry; for example, storm of swords is a kenning for battle. [Old Norse, from kenna, to know, to name with a kenning.]
kerfuffle (kuhr-FUHF-uhl) noun
A commotion. [Of uncertain origin, perhaps from Scots curfuffle, from fuffle (to disorder).]
kibitz (KIB-its) verb intr.
1. To look on at some activity and offer unwanted advice or criticism. 2. To chat or banter. [From Yiddish kibitsen, from German kiebitzen (to look on at cards), from Kiebitz (busybody, literally pewit or lapwing, a shorebird with a bad reputation as a meddler).]
kickshaw (KIK-shaw) noun
1. A fancy dish; delicacy. 2. A trinket. [By folk etymology, from French quelque chose, something.]
kilkenny cats (kil-KEN-ee kats) noun
People who fight relentlessly till their end. [From a pair of proverbial cats in Kilkenny who fought till only their tails were left.]
kine (kien) noun
Archaic. A plural of cow. [Middle English kyn, from Old English cyna, genitive pl. of cu, cow.]
king's ransom (kingz RAN-suhm) noun
A very large sum of money. [From the reference to the large sum required to secure the release of a king from captivity.]
kip (kip) noun
A basic unit of currency in Laos. [Thai.]
kitsch (kich) noun
1. Art or artwork characterized by sentimental, often pretentious bad taste. The aesthetic or mentality in which such art is conceived or appreciated. 2. Culture or civilization in a degraded state of sentimentality and vulgarity. adjective Relating to or characterized by kitsch. [German, probably of dialectal origin.]
kleptocracy (klep-TOK-ruh-see) noun
A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption. [Greek kleptein, to steal + -cracy.]
kleptomaniac (klep-tuh-MAY-nee-ak) noun
A person having an obsessive urge to steal, driven by emotional disturbance rather than material need. [From Greek klepto-, from kleptes (thief) + -mania (madness).]
klieg light (kleeg lyt) noun
1. A carbon-arc lamp for producing light, used in moviemaking. 2. The center of public attention. [After brothers and inventors, lighting experts John H. Kliegl (1869-1959) and Anton T. Kliegl (1872-1927). The last letter "L" of their name apparently became fused with the word "light" in the term "klieg light".]
kowtow (kow-TOW) verb
To kneel and touch the forehead to the ground as a mark of respect; to show servile deference. noun An act of kowtowing. [From Chinese kou (knock) tou (head).]
kriegspiel (KREEG-speel) noun
1. A game in which miniature characters and blocks represent armies, ships, etc. as they move around on a drawing of a battlefield, used to simulate war and teach military tactics. 2. A form of chess where players see only their own pieces and an umpire keeps track of all the pieces on a third board. [From German Kriegsspiel, from Krieg (war) + Spiel (game).]
kulturkampf as are the rabbis, see the deal as a step towards drawing
the ultra-Orthodox out of their ghettos of the mind and into the mainstream of cultural and intellectual life." Israel: Wasn't that worth waiting for?, The Economist, Jul 3, 1999. The German language's affinity for sesquipedalians once led Mark Twain to quip, "Some German words are so long that they have a perspective." Having polysyllabic words in a language is no sin as long as you get your words' worth. In that respect, those lengthy German words are worth every syllable. Where else can you find a single word, schadenfreude, for example, that conveys the whole concept of `pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others'. The English language knows a good thing when it sees one and has generously borrowed terms from German. This week we meet seven of them, both with and without `perspective'. -Anu -------- Date: Tue Mar 21 00:52:28 EST 2000 Subject: A.Word.A.Day--ersatz ersatz (ER-zahts, er-ZATS) adjective Being an imitation or a substitute, usually an inferior one; artificial. [German, replacement, from ersetzen, to replace, from Old High German irsezzan : ir-, out + sezzan, to set.]
kvell (kvel) verb intr.
To feel proud; to beam; to gloat. [From Yiddish kveln, from German quellen (to gush, to well up).]
kvetch (kvech) verb intr.
To complain habitually, whine; gripe. noun 1. A chronic complainer. 2. A complaint. [From Yiddish kvetshn (squeeze, pinch, complain), from Middle High German quetschen (to squeeze).]
la-di-da (LAH-dee-DAH) adjective
Affectedly refined; pretentious. [Imitative of affected pronunciation.]
labanotation (lah-buh-noh-TAY-shun) noun, also Labanotation
A system of notating details of a dance movement on a staff. [After choreographer Rudolph Laban (1879-1958) who devised it.]
lability (luh-BIL-i-tee) noun
Susceptibility to change, lapse, error or instability. [Via French/Middle English from Late Latin labilis (prone to slip), from labi (to slip). Other words from the same root are avalanche, lapse, and lava.]
labret (LAY-brit) noun
An ornament inserted into a perforation in the lip. [Latin labrum, lip. + -ET.]
labrose (LA-bros) adjective
Having thick or large lips. [From Latin labrosus, from labrum (lip). Other words derived from the same Latin root are lip, labial, and labret (an ornament worn in a pierced lip).]
labyrinth (LAB-eh-rinth) noun
1. An intricate structure of interconnecting passages through which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze. Labyrinth: The maze in which the Minotaur was confined in Greek mythology. 2. Something highly intricate or convoluted in character, composition, or construction 3. A group of complex interconnecting anatomical cavities. [Middle English laberinthe, from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek laburinthos possibly akin to labrus, double-headed axe, of Lydian origin.]
laches (LACH-iz) noun