Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, April 02, 2020

aperçu

[ a-per-sy ]

noun

French.

an immediate estimate or judgment; understanding; insight.

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What is the origin of aperçu?

Aperçu, “a hasty glance or glimpse; an insight; an outline or summary,” is not at all naturalized in English, even retaining its French spelling (the cedilla under the c). Aperçu is the past participle of the verb apercevoir “to perceive, see, catch sight of,” a compound of the prefix a– (from Latin ad– “to,” here indicating direction or tendency) and the Old French verb perçoivre (Middle French, French percevoir), from Latin percipere “to obtain, seize, gather (crops), collect (taxes).” Percipere is a compound verb composed of the preposition and prefix per, per– “through,” here with an intensive meaning, and the simple verb capere “to take, take hold of, seize, capture.” Aperçu entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is aperçu used?

I once heard an author of young adult fiction being asked what her novel was about, and instead of explaining its adventure plot or sophisticated science- fiction premise, she said: “Kissing”. This was clearly self-deprecation, but it was also an aperçu about the pleasure that draws readers to a huge array of books ….

Sandra Newman, "The Binding by Bridget Collins review – magical tale of supernatural books," The Guardian, January 4, 2019

Kottke has been an engaging, likable omnipresence on the scene for as long as it has existed, serving up a daily blend of clean-crafted personal aperçus and fresh, literate links to tech, pop, and political news that is as brisk and cozy as Folgers in your cup.

Julian Dibbell, "Pay You, Pay Me," Village Voice, February 22, 2005

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Word of the day

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

credulous

[ krej-uh-luhs ]

adjective

willing to believe or trust too readily, especially without proper or adequate evidence; gullible.

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What is the origin of credulous?

Credulous comes from the Latin adjective crēdulus “inclined to believe or trust, trustful, credulous, rash.” The first part of crēdulus comes from the verb crēdere “to believe, trust, entrust,” most likely a compound of Proto-Indo-European kerd-, kred- (and other variants) “heart” and -dere, a combining form meaning “to put, place,” from the root dhē-, dhō-, with the same meaning. Latin crēdere “to place my heart” is a very ancient religious term that has an exact correspondence with Sanskrit śrad-dadhāti “he trusts,” and Old Irish cretim “I trust.” The second part of crēdulus is the diminutive noun and adjective suffix –ulus, which frequently has a pejorative sense, as in rēgulus “petty king, chieftain.” Credulous entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is credulous used?

When the British news network aired a three-minute segment about Swiss spaghetti farmers plucking long strands of pasta straight from tree branches, hundreds of credulous viewers wrote in asking how they could cultivate their own spaghetti tree.

Sarah Kaplan, "A brief, totally sincere history of April Fools' Day," Washington Post, March 31, 2016

I did not believe half of what she told me: I pretended to laugh at it all; but I was far more credulous than I myself supposed.

Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, 1847

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Word of the day

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

felicific

[ fee-luh-sif-ik ]

adjective

causing or tending to cause happiness.

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What is the origin of felicific?

The adjective felicific “tending to cause happiness,” is a term used in ethics, a branch of philosophy. The word is formed from the Latin adjective fēlix (stem fēlīci-) “happy, lucky” and the English combining form -fic “making, producing,” from Latin -ficus. Felicific entered English in the 19th century.

how is felicific used?

Bentham was advancing his felicific calculus (though without much actual mathematics to back it up) as the scientific solution to the problems of morality and legislation.

Bruce Mazlish, The Uncertain Sciences, 1998

The problem is that as more humans run their felicific calculations and decide to live in pleasant places, their presence changes the balance.

John Yemma, "The greening of the West," Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 2013

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Word of the day

Monday, March 30, 2020

transliterate

[ trans-lit-uh-reyt, tranz- ]

verb (used with object)

to change (letters, words, etc.) into corresponding characters of another alphabet or language: to transliterate the Greek Χ as ch.

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What is the origin of transliterate?

The verb transliterate is formed from the Latin preposition and prefix trans, trans- “across, on the other side of” and the noun lītera (littera) “letter.” Transliteration is only changing the letters of one alphabet into those of another, for example, from Greek δόγμα into Latin dogma. Transliteration does not provide a pronunciation or a translation. Transliterate entered English in the 19th century.

how is transliterate used?

Up on the bridge, Captain Orlova was looking thoughtfully at a dense mass of words and figures on the main display. Floyd had painfully started to transliterate them when she interrupted him.

Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two, 1982

In many of the early stories Chekhov uses proper names that sound comic, carry comic allusions, or are in other ways meaningful. Simply to transliterate such names fails to convey to the English reader an element that is present in the original and sometimes extremely important.

Patrick Miles and Harvey Pitcher, "Notes," Early Stories by Anton Chekhov, 1982

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Word of the day

Sunday, March 29, 2020

apoplectic

[ ap-uh-plek-tik ]

adjective

extremely angry; furious: He became apoplectic at the mere mention of the subject.

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What is the origin of apoplectic?

Apoplectic, “stricken with apoplexy,” comes from Late Latin apoplēcticus (also apoplēctus), from Greek apoplēktikós “paralyzed” and apóplēktos “disabled by a stroke.” Apoplēktikós and apóplēktos are derivatives of the verb apoplēssein (also apoplēttein) “to cripple by a stroke, disable in body or mind,” a compound of the prefix apo-, here with an intensive force, and the verb plēssein, plēttein, plēgnýnai “to strike, hit, thrust at.” By the 19th century apoplectic developed the sense “furiously angry,” as in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814), “A short-necked apoplectic sort of fellow,” and Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (1837), “A gentleman with an apoplectic countenance.” Apoplectic entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is apoplectic used?

At the White House, Washburne was apoplectic. “Of all the times to let him go, this is the worst!” Washburne marched about the room waving his arms ….

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

Lenders were apoplectic. They warned CFPB officials that such a tight restriction, however well-intentioned, could cut off access to mortgages for many home buyers and damage the housing market further.

Damian Paletta, "Federal government has dramatically expanded exposure to risky mortgages," Seattle Times, October 2, 2019

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Word of the day

Saturday, March 28, 2020

wont

[ wawnt, wohnt, wuhnt ]

adjective

accustomed; used (usually followed by an infinitive): He was wont to rise at dawn.

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What is the origin of wont?

The history of the adjective, noun, and verb wont is as confused as its three modern pronunciations. The Middle English adjective has many variant spellings, among them wont, woned, wonde (the root vowel is short, as in one of the modern pronunciations). Wont, woned, and wonde (and many other variants) are the past participle of the verb wonen (with many variant spellings) “to inhabit, live (somewhere); to continue to be (in a state or condition); to be accustomed.” Wonen comes from Old English (ge)wunod, past participle of (ge)wunian, (ge)wunigan “to dwell, inhabit, remain, be (in a certain condition).” Old English (ge)wunian is akin to Old High German wonēn “to dwell, remain” and German gewöhnen “to accustom.” Wont (adjective) first appeared in writing in the 9th century; the noun wont in the 14th century; and the verb wont in the first half of the 15th century.

how is wont used?

Ahab was wont to pace his quarter-deck, taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle and mainmast ….

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

Young people are the primary drivers of language change, but even we “olds”—as the young are wont to put it—like to change things up now and then.

John McWhorter, "Why Grown-Ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids," The Atlantic, May 2019

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Word of the day

Friday, March 27, 2020

sciolism

[ sahy-uh-liz-uhm ]

noun

superficial knowledge.

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What is the origin of sciolism?

English sciolism “superficial knowledge, a pretension to learning,” comes from the Late Latin adjective and noun sciolus “pretending to knowledge; a person who pretends to knowledge,” and the common noun suffix -ism, originally Greek but completely naturalized in English. Sciolus comes from Latin scius “knowing, knowledgeable, cognizant,” a derivative of the verb scīre “to know (a fact), know for sure.” The obsolete English noun sciolus “one who possesses only superficial knowledge, particularly and especially an editor of a text,” comes directly from Late Latin sciolus. The uncommon English noun sciolist “a person of superficial knowledge or learning” is another derivative of sciolus. Sciolism entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is sciolism used?

Anderson faded, his showy sciolism proving as tiresome to voters as it had to his congressional colleagues.

Bill Kauffman, "I was expelled from the Electoral College before I was even admitted," The Spectator, February 22, 2020

An unseemly air of sciolism creeps into our insistence that we others know the difference between Benedict Arnold and Arnold Bennett.

"Dictated but Not Read, " New York Times, July 20, 1919

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