# Shared Flashcard Set

## Details

Words of the Day
Merriam-Webster Words of the Day
108
Language - English
Not Applicable
12/23/2011

## Additional Language - English Flashcards

Term
 perquisite
Definition
 \PER-kwuh-zut\DEFINITIONnoun1: a privilege or profit made in addition to regular pay2: gratuity, tip3: something held or claimed as an exclusive right or possessionEXAMPLESOne of the job's perquisites is use of a company car."A few years ago, before motherhood and a recession slowed me down, my annual flight mileage allowed me the perquisite of early boarding -- before all the baggage bins were full." -- From a column by Cynthia Tucker in The Leaf Chronicle (Tennessee), November 25, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Looking to acquire a job loaded with perquisites, or "perks" (a synonym of "perquisites")? Don’t give up the search! Make plenty of inquiries, send out an exquisitely crafted resume, and follow up with queries. Your quest may result in your conquering of the job market. After all, today’s word "perquisite" derives from Latin "perquirere," which means "to search for thoroughly." That Latin word, in turn, is from the verb "quaerere," meaning "to ask" or "to seek." Seven other words in this paragraph are from "quaerere" as well -- "acquire," "inquiries," "exquisitely," "queries," "conquering," "quest," and, of course, "perk" (which was formed by shortening and altering "perquisite").
Term
 echelon
Definition
 \ESH-uh-lahn\DEFINITIONnoun1: a steplike arrangement2a : one of a series of levels or grades in an organization or field of activityb : the individuals at such a levelEXAMPLESWe heard stories of corruption in the higher echelons of the firm."The Horseheads school district is in the upper echelon of upstate school districts, according to a new list created by a Buffalo business publication." -- From an article by Jeff Murray in the Elmira Star-Gazette (New York), November 13, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Echelon" is a useful word for anyone who is climbing the ladder of success. It traces back to "scala," a Late Latin word meaning "ladder" that was the ancestor of the Old French "eschelon," meaning "rung of a ladder." Over time, the French word (which is "échelon" in Modern French) came to mean "step," "grade," or "level." When it was first borrowed into English in the 18th century, "echelon" referred specifically to a steplike arrangement of troops, but it now usually refers to a level or category within an organization or group of people.
Term
 wreak
Definition
 \REEK\DEFINITIONverb1: to cause the infliction of (vengeance or punishment)2: to give free play or course to (malevolent feeling)3: bring about, causeEXAMPLESThe visiting team's skilled receivers wreaked havoc on our defense all night long."Emily VanCamp stars [as] a wealthy young woman who returns to her former Hamptons home to wreak vengeance on the people who ruined her family. " -- From a review by Glenn Teichman in The Times-Union, September 16, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Wreak" is a venerable word that first appeared in Old English as "wrecan," meaning "to drive, drive out, punish, or avenge." "Wrecan" is related to a number of similar words in the Germanic languages, including Middle Dutch "wreken" ("to punish, avenge"), Old High German "rehhan" ("to avenge"), Old Norse "reka" ("to drive, push, or avenge"), and Gothic "wrikan" ("to persecute"). It may also be related to Latin "urgēre" ("to drive on, urge"), the source of the English verb "urge." In modern English, vengeance is a common object of the verb "wreak," reflecting one of its earlier uses in the sense "to take vengeance for" -- as when Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus proclaims "We will solicit heaven, and move the gods / To send down Justice for to wreak our wrongs."
Term
 subterfuge
Definition
 \SUB-ter-fyooj\DEFINITIONnoun1: deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade2: a deceptive device or stratagemEXAMPLESThey obtained the documents through subterfuge."Staring into a series of mirrors, Philip Fletcher's Iago watches as his reflections come to life, in the form of two of Synetic's other first-rank actor-dancers, Alex Mills and Irina Tsikurishvili. Giving Iago an omnipresent shape helps an audience imagine the breathtaking scope of his subterfuge as he creates the circumstances in which a man might be falsely convinced that a loyal wife is straying." -- From a review by Peter Marks in The Washington Post, November 4, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Though "subterfuge" is a synonym of "deception," "fraud," "double-dealing," and "trickery," there’s nothing tricky about the word’s etymology. We borrowed the word and meaning from Late Latin "subterfugium." That word contains the Latin prefix "subter-," meaning "secretly," which derives from the adverb "subter," meaning "underneath." The "-fuge" portion comes from the Latin verb "fugere," which means "to flee" and which is also the source of words such as "fugitive" and "refuge," among others.
Term
 dulcet
Definition
 dulcet\DUL-sut\DEFINITIONadjective1: sweet to the taste2: pleasing to the ear3: generally pleasing or agreeableEXAMPLESAt the concert, Kate leaned back in her seat, closed her eyes, and enjoyed the dulcet tones of the harp solo."The haddock was sweet and tender inside the coarse cornmeal crust, with dulcet chili aioli and creamy avocado." -- From a restaurant review by Cheryl Clark in The Times-Union (Albany, New York), November 20, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Dulcet" has many linguistic ancestors, including the Latin "dulcis," Anglo-French "douz," and Middle English "doucet," all meaning "sweet." The dulcet "dulcis" has contributed many other sweet terms to English as well. Among these are the musical direction "dolce" ("to be played sweetly, softly"), "dulciana" (a pipe organ stop), "dolcian" (a small bassoon-like instrument used in the 16th and 17th centuries), and "dulcimer" (an American folk instrument). On a similar note, the word "dulcify" means "to make sweet," and the adjective "doux," derived from "douz," is used in wine circles to describe champagne that is sweet.
Term
 ethereal
Definition
 \ih-THEER-ee-ul\DEFINITIONadjective1: of or relating to the heavens : heavenly2: being light and airy : delicateEXAMPLESI had expected the spa to be one of those places where they burn aromatherapy candles and play ethereal music, but it wasn't like that at all."His compositions are ethereal, often enhanced by coloured lighting effects in performances, and draw inspiration from his Nordic homeland." -- From a review by Hannah Nepil in Time Out (UK), November 3, 2011DID YOU KNOW?If you're burning to know the history of "ethereal," you're in the right spirit to fully understand that word's etymology. The ancient Greeks believed that the Earth was composed of earth, air, fire, and water, but that the heavens and its denizens were made of a purer, less tangible substance known as either "ether" or "quintessence." Ether was often described as an invisible light or fire, and its name derives from the Greek "aithein," a verb meaning "to ignite" or "to blaze." When "ethereal," the adjective kin of "ether," debuted in English in the 1500s, it referred specifically to regions beyond the Earth, but it gradually came to refer to anything heavenly or airy.
Term
 kegler
Definition
 \KEG-ler\DEFINITIONnoun: a person who bowls : bowlerEXAMPLES"Five keglers … brought home money from the recent Oregon Bowlers Association tournament sponsored by Striking Image Pro Shop at Wilsonville Lanes in Wilsonville, Ore." -- From an article by Rick McCorkle in the Longview Daily News (Washington), November 3, 2011"Kegler alert: For all other bowlers (keglers in bowling lingo), the grand opening of the 24-lane, smoke-free complex is today." -- From an article in the Idaho Statesman, November 18, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Some historians trace the game of bowling back to the Stone Age (that information may conjure up images of Fred Flintstone on the lanes), but it was a medieval version of the game that gave us the word "kegler." In medieval Germany, the game was practiced as a test of religious faith and purity. The "Kegel" (bowling pin) represented a heathen, and those who could topple it with a round stone proved that they were free of sin. "Kegel" gave English the nouns "kegling" (meaning "bowling") and "kegler," by way of the German verb "kegeln" ("to bowl"). Nowadays, both words tend to be used humorously by writers referring to the modern game.
Term
 raillery
Definition
 \RAIL-uh-ree\DEFINITIONnoun1: good-natured ridicule : banter2: jestEXAMPLESNew workers at the plant can expect to endure some raillery and joshing from the old-timers."Scioli, a floorsweep, another barber and a man on the sofa called Buddy Lite are carrying on a conversation that bounces around like a Wham-O Super Ball, touching on conspiracy theories, 20th-century pop culture, UFOs, lewd raillery and an eerie tale concerning a caribou walking backward via supernatural forces." -- From an article by Luke Jerrod Kummer in The Washington Post, January 7, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Raillery" is the anglicized form of the French word "raillerie," which stems from the Middle French verb "railler," meaning "to mock." "Railler," which probably comes from Old French "reillier" ("to growl" or "to mutter") and ultimately from Late Latin "ragere" ("to neigh"), also gave us our verb "rail." But "rail" and "raillery" are quite different in tone. "Rail" means "to revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language," whereas "raillery" usually suggests cutting wit that pokes fun good-naturedly.
Term
 foment
Definition
 \FOH-ment\DEFINITIONverb: to promote the growth or development of : rouse, inciteEXAMPLESHe has been accused of fomenting violence, but he denies the claim and insists that he and his followers will only engage in peaceful means of protest."As it has in past years, PJFF31 will also feature a New Filmmakers Weekend (March 17-19) and offer a Documentaries & Dialogue slate (Jan. 9-Feb. 6) designed to foment debate, discussion, and discourse." -- From an article by Steven Rea in The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 4, 2011DID YOU KNOW?If you had sore muscles in the 1600s, your doctor might have advised you to foment the injury, perhaps with heated lotions or warm wax. Does this sound like an odd prescription? Not if you know that "foment" traces to the Latin verb "fovēre," which means "to heat." The earliest documented English uses of "foment" appear in medical texts offering advice on how to soothe various aches and pains by the application of moist heat. But the idea of applying heat can also be a metaphor for stimulating or rousing to action. Within 50 years of its English debut, "foment" was also being used in political contexts to mean "to stir up," "to call to action," or, in a sense at least figuratively opposite to its original one, "to irritate."
Term
 taciturn
Definition
 \TASS-uh-tern\DEFINITIONadjective: temperamentally disinclined to talkEXAMPLESUpon hearing that reticent Calvin Coolidge -- arguably the most taciturn president in U.S. history -- had died, Dorothy Parker quipped, "How could they tell?""The waiter, previously friendly and good-humored, was tonight solemn and taciturn." -- From Taylor Stevens' novel The Informationist, 2011DID YOU KNOW?We first find "taciturn" in a satiric drama written in 1734 by James Miller, a British clergyman educated at Oxford. A character describes a nephew thus: "When he was little, he never was what they call Roguish or Waggish, but was always close, quiet, and taciturn." It seems we waited unduly long to adopt this useful descendent of the verb "tacēre," meaning "to be silent" -- we were quicker to adopt other words from the "tacēre" family. We’ve been using "tacit," an adjective meaning "expressed without words" or "implied," since the mid-17th century. And we’ve had the noun "taciturnity," meaning "habitual silence," since at least 1450.
Term
 swivet
Definition
 \SWIV-ut\DEFINITIONnoun: a state of extreme agitationEXAMPLESShe was in a swivet for days before the meeting, but when the actual day arrived she found she was surprisingly calm."The world's in a swivet over airport security. The deployment of full-body scanning technology in about 15 percent of United States airports has people even more anxious and cranky than usual as we head into the holiday season." -- From an article in The Houston Chronicle, November 24, 2010DID YOU KNOW?People have been in a swivet over one thing or another since the 1890s. That, at least, is when the word first appeared in print in a collection of "Peculiar Words and Usages" of Kentucky published by the American Dialect Society. In the ensuing years, "swivet" popped up in other pockets of the South as well. Chances are it had already been around for some time before it was recorded in writing, and by the time it was, nobody could say where or how it had originated. What we do know is that its use gradually spread, so that by the 1950s it was regularly appearing in national magazines like Time and The New Yorker. Thus, it entered the mainstream of American English.
Term
 perdition
Definition
 \per-DISH-un\DEFINITIONnoun1: eternal damnation2: hellEXAMPLES"The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!" -- From Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick"So among my earliest poems were those about a sin-eater -- a functionary at funerals from a former time who, for his daily bread and a small fee, took unto himself the sins of the dead, and then, like the goat of the ancient Jews, escaped to the wilderness laden with the burdens of perdition." -- From an article by Thomas Lynch in Commonweal, August 12, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Perdition" began life as a word meaning "utter destruction"; that sense is now archaic, but it provides a clue about the origins of the word. "Perdition" was borrowed into English in the 14th century from Anglo-French "perdiciun" and ultimately derives from the Latin verb "perdere," meaning "to destroy." "Perdere" was formed by combining the prefix "per–" ("through") and "dare" ("to give"). Other descendants of that Latin "dare" in English include "date," "edition," "render," and "traitor."
Term
 intrepid
Definition
 \in-TREP-id\DEFINITIONadjective: characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and enduranceEXAMPLESShe was an intrepid child, always coming home with scrapes and bruises, but also with great stories of "adventures.""The vineyard lies atop a knoll down the road from Bohan Vineyard, at an elevation of 1,200 feet. In the early 1980s, the site was so uncharted that only the most intrepid would venture to its lonesome ridges, let alone consider grape growing there." -- From a review in Wine Spectator, July 31, 2010DID YOU KNOW?You need not be afraid to find out the origins of today’s word, although its history does include fear. "Intrepid" derives from the Latin word "intrepidus," itself formed by the combination of the prefix "in-" (meaning "not") and "trepidus," meaning "alarmed." Other relatives of "trepidus" in English include "trepidation" and "trepidatious," as well as "trepid" (which actually predates "intrepid" and means "fearful") and even the rare "trepidity" (a synonym for "trepidation" in the sense of "fear, apprehension"). Synonyms for "intrepid" include "courageous," "valiant," "fearless," "valorous," and simply "brave."
Term
 tiding
Definition
 \TYE-ding\DEFINITIONnouna piece of news -- usually used in pluralEXAMPLESI rushed off to share the good news, excited to be the bearer of glad tidings."With Christmas more than a month away, Duane Brusseau is getting a head start on Santa as he makes stops across the nation spreading tidings of good cheer." -- From an article by Shannon Barry in the Milpitas Post (California), November 16, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Good tidings we bring to you and your kin," goes a line from the popular 16th-century carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Another carol, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (1833), speaks of "tidings of comfort and joy." Although there is nothing inherent in the meaning or origin of "tiding" that specifically pertains to Christmas (it derives via Middle English from Old English and relates to "betide," meaning "to happen especially by fate"), we most often see the word in contexts pertaining to the Christmas season. The most notable usage, perhaps, occurs in Luke 2:10 of the King James Bible, when the angel delivers the news of the arrival of the Savior: "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
Term
 flagrant
Definition
 \FLAY-grunt\DEFINITIONadjective: conspicuously offensive; especially : so obviously inconsistent with what is right or proper as to appear to be a flouting of law or moralityEXAMPLESThe United Nations is investigating what seem to be flagrant violations of human rights by the junta."Wade missed the South Carolina game because of … a flagrant personal foul at Vanderbilt." -- From an article by Bob Holt and Tom Murphy in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 20, 2011DID YOU KNOW?In Latin, "flagrare" means "to burn," and "flagrans" means "burning" or "fiery hot" (both literally and figuratively). When it was first used in the 16th century, "flagrant" had the same meaning as "flagrans," but by the 18th century it had acquired its current meaning of "conspicuously bad." Some usage commentators warn against using "flagrant" and "blatant" interchangeably. While both words denote conspicuousness, they are not exact synonyms. "Blatant" is usually used of some person, action, or thing that attracts disapproving attention (e.g., "a blatant grammatical error"). "Flagrant" is used similarly, but usually carries a heavier weight of violated morality (e.g., "flagrant abuse of public office").
Term
 duckboard
Definition
 duckboard\DUK-bord\DEFINITIONnouna boardwalk or slatted flooring laid on a wet, muddy, or cold surface -- usually used in pluralEXAMPLESSomeone had laid duckboards across the marshy area of the path so that it was passable."Much of the trail consists of duckboards to protect fragile eco-systems and hikers should be careful not to step off them." -- From an advertorial in The Australian Magazine, October 8, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The word "duckboard" was created during the early 20th century to describe the boards or slats of wood laid down to provide safe footing for the soldiers of World War I across wet or muddy ground in trenches or camps. The original duckboards didn't always work as intended though. According to one soldier, duckboards came by their name because someone walking on wet duckboards was liable to slide off them much like water slides off a duck's back. Today's duckboards appear in all kinds of places -- from marshes to the floors of saunas. The word "duck" itself has been part of the English language since the days of Old English, when it had the form "dūce."
Term
 gloss
Definition
 \GLAHSS\DEFINITIONverb1a : to provide a gloss for : explain, defineb : interpret2: to dispose of by false or perverse interpretationEXAMPLESAlthough not intended for the layperson, the text is relatively jargon-free and most of the technical vocabulary has been glossed."Even when Wotton’s footnotes correctly gloss Swift's material, they are inevitably usurped of their authority simply by being jumbled with the other signed and unsigned footnotes." -- From Christopher Flint’s 2011 book The Appearance of Print in Eighteenth-Century FictionDID YOU KNOW?You may also know "gloss" as a noun meaning "shine" or as part of the phrase "gloss over," meaning "to treat or describe (something) as if it were not important," but those uses are unrelated to today's featured word. Today's verb comes from the noun that refers primarily to a brief explanation. It is Greek in origin, coming from "glōssa" or "glōtta," meaning "tongue" or "language" or "obscure word." "Glossary" is from this same root, as are two anatomical terms: "glottis" refers to the elongated space between the vocal cords and also to the structures that surround this space; "epiglottis" refers to the thin plate of flexible cartilage in front of the glottis that folds back over and protects the glottis during swallowing.
Term
Definition
 \in-kuh-myoo-nuh-KAH-doh\DEFINITIONadverb or adjective: without means of communication : in a situation or state not allowing communicationEXAMPLESHuman rights groups continue to petition the government to allow them access to prisoners who are being held incommunicado."Spirit has been incommunicado for more than a year despite daily calls by NASA. The cause of Spirit's silence may never be known, but it's likely the bitter Martian winter damaged its electronics, preventing the six-wheel rover from waking up." -- From an Associated Press article by Alicia Chang, May 25, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Incommunicado" ultimately comes from Latin but made its way into English via Spanish. We borrowed the word (with a slightly modified spelling) from the past participle of the Spanish verb "incomunicar," meaning "to deprive of communication." The Spanish word, in turn, derives from the Latin prefix "in-" and the verb "communicare," meaning "to communicate."
Term
Definition
 \mal-uh-DROYT\DEFINITIONadjective: lacking skill, cleverness, or resourcefulness in handling situations : ineptEXAMPLESJim's maladroit management of the construction project caused it to take months longer than expected to be completed."All the aristocrats, not surprisingly, turn out to be maladroit, unable to feed or dress themselves, and are dependent on the servants." -- From a theater review by James MacKillop in Syracuse New Times, August 17–24, 2011DID YOU KNOW?To understand the origin of "maladroit," you need to put together some Middle French and Old French building blocks. The first is the word "mal," meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase "a droit," meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components "a," meaning "to" or "at," and "droit," meaning "right, direct, or straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as "maladroit" to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is "adroit," which we adopted from the French in the same century.
Term
 amenable
Definition
 \uh-MEE-nuh-bul\DEFINITIONadjective1: liable to be brought to account : answerable2a : capable of submission (as to judgment or test) : suitedb : readily brought to yield, submit, or cooperatec : inclined or favorably disposed in mind : willingEXAMPLESStacy hinted to her husband that she was amenable to the idea of staying home on New Year’s Eve instead of going out."[Lance] Lowery said he wasn't disappointed by the offerings, and that fellow shoppers were surprisingly civil. 'Parking wasn't bad at all. People have been amenable. The sales staff is great. I thought it was going to be crazy, but everyone's been very patient.'" -- From an article by Jill Cowan and Courtenay Edelhart in The Bakersfield Californian, November 25, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Amenable" is a legacy of Anglo-French and derives ultimately from Latin "minari," meaning "to threaten." Since 1596, English speakers have been using it in courtrooms and writings of law with the meaning "answerable," as in "citizens amenable to the law." It later developed the meanings "suited" ("a simple function . . . which is perfectly amenable to pencil-and-paper arithmetic" -- Nature, April 1973) and "responsive" (as in "mental illnesses that are amenable to drug therapy"). It also came to be used of people with a general disposition to be agreeable or complaisant -- like Mr. Dick in David Copperfield, who was "the most friendly and amenable creature in existence." Nowadays, "amenable" is often used to describe someone who is favorably disposed to a particular named something.
Term
 rapporteur
Definition
 \ra-por-TER\DEFINITIONnoun: a person who gives reports (as at a meeting of a learned society)EXAMPLESHe was selected to be the UN's rapporteur on nuclear energy."In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council designated a special rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, to investigate and report on Iran's human rights violations, the first country-specific human rights rapporteur since the council's creation." -- From an article by Leonard A. Leo and Don Argue in the Sacramento Bee, October 31, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Rapporteur" was adopted into English in the early 16th century and is a descendant of the Middle French verb "rapporter," meaning "to bring back, report, or refer." Other descendants of "rapporter" in English include "rapportage" (a rare synonym of "reportage," in the sense of "writing intended to give an account of observed or documented events") and "rapport" ("a harmonious relationship," as in "The young teacher had a good rapport with the students"). The words "report," "reporter," "reportage," etc., are also distant relatives of "rapporteur"; all can ultimately be traced back to the Latin prefix "re-," meaning "back, again, or against," and the Latin word "portare," meaning "to carry."
Term
 parochial
Definition
 \puh-ROH-kee-ul\DEFINITIONadjective1: of or relating to a church parish2: limited in range or scope (as to a narrow area or region) : provincial, narrowEXAMPLESThe book is marred by the parochial viewpoint of its author, who fails to take into account the interplay between local and global economies."Once a largely parochial issue mainly of interest to Nebraskans, the pipeline's national profile has risen steadily to the point where it became the linchpin in a much broader, high-stakes deal affecting millions of families from coast to coast." -- From an article by Joseph Morton in the Omaha World-Herald, December 18, 2011DID YOU KNOW?In the Greek New Testament, the word "paroikia" means "temporary residence." (It's from the Greek word for "stranger" -- "paroikos.") Early Christians used this designation for their colonies because they considered heaven their real home. But temporary or not, these Christian colonies became more organized as time went on. Thus, in Late Latin, "parochia" became the designation for a group of Christians in a given area under the leadership of one pastor -- what we came to call a "parish" in the 14th century. Both "parish" and its related adjective "parochial" were borrowed at that time directly from Middle French terms that had been derived from the Late Latin. We didn't begin to use "parochial" in its "narrow" sense until the mid-19th century.
Term
 calaboose
Definition
 KAL-uh-booss\ noun :jail; especially : a local jail The chief entertainment at our family gatherings is always the stories my uncles tell of their wild youthful antics — some of which landed them in the calaboose for a night. "Dallas broke the law, according to the lawsuit, because it lied in violation of the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act can be enforced criminally (off to the calaboose) or civilly (write a big check)." — From an article by Jim Schutze in the Dallas Observer, November 24, 2011
Term
 tome
Definition
 \TOHM\ noun 1 :a volume forming part of a larger work 2 :book; especially : a large or scholarly book It took me more than a month to finish reading that 800-page tome on European history. "Priced at 1,000, the limited-edition tome brings together Norman Mailer's 1973 biography of Monroe with Bert Stern's now-legendary photos." — From a review by Nicki Gostin on the Huffington Post, December 7, 2011 Sponsored Link "Tome" comes from Latin "tomus," which comes from Greek "tomos," meaning "section" or "roll of papyrus." "Tomos" comes from the Greek verb "temnein," which means "to cut." In ancient times, some of the longest scrolls of papyrus occasionally were divided into sections. When it was first used in English in the 16th century, "tome" was a book that was a part of a multi-volume work. Now a tome is most often simply a large and often ponderous book. Term  epithet Definition  \EP-uh-thet\DEFINITIONnoun1: a characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing2: a disparaging or abusive word or phrase3: the part of a taxonomic name identifying a subordinate unit within a genusEXAMPLESThe online message board’s Terms of Service dictate that abusive language of any kind, including derogatory epithets, will result in the termination of the offending party’s account."The term 'RINO' (Republican In Name Only) has become an epithet of ideological enforcement…." -- From an op-ed piece by Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Nowadays, "epithet" is usually used negatively, with the meaning "a derogatory word or phrase," but it wasn't always that way. "Epithet" comes to us via Latin from the Greek noun "epitheton" and ultimately derives from "epitithenai," meaning "to put on" or "to add." In its oldest sense, an "epithet" is simply a descriptive word or phrase, especially one joined by fixed association to the name of someone or something (as in "Peter the Great" or the stock Homeric phrases "gray-eyed Athena" and "wine-dark sea"). Alternatively, epithets may be used in place of a name (as in "the Peacemaker" or "the Eternal"). These neutral meanings of "epithet" are still in use, but today the word is more often used in its negative "term of disparagement" sense. Term  netroots Definition  noun pl \ˈnet-ˌrüts, -ˌru̇ts\Definition of NETROOTS: the grassroots political activists who communicate via the Internet especially by blogsFirst Known Use of NETROOTS2003 Term  basherte (F) basherter (M) Definition  bashert, (Yiddish: באַשערט), is a Yiddish word that means "destiny".[3] It is often used in the context of one's divinely foreordained spouse or soulmate, who is called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male). It can also be used to express the seeming fate or destiny of an auspicious or important event, friendship, or happening.In modern usage, Jewish singles will say that they are looking for their bashert, meaning they are looking for that person who will complement them perfectly, and whom they will complement perfectly. Since it considered to have been foreordained by God whom one will marry, one's spouse is considered to be one's bashert by definition, independent of whether the couple's marital life works out well or not. Term  mordant Definition  \MOR-dunt\DEFINITIONadjective1: biting and caustic in thought, manner, or style : incisive2: burning, pungentEXAMPLESThe newspaper columnist's acute insights and mordant wit made her columns a must-read for many subscribers."These letters show the tender, funny, love-hungry side of [Philip] Larkin that, in the poems proper, are always in tension with the mordant stuff." -- From a blog post by Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker (online), December 27, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The etymology of "mordant" certainly has some bite to it. That word, which came to modern English through Middle French, ultimately derives from the Latin verb "mordēre," which means "to bite." In modern parlance, "mordant" usually suggests a wit used with deadly effectiveness. "Mordēre" puts the bite into other English terms, too. For instance, that root gave us the tasty "morsel" ("a tiny bite"). But nibble too many of those and you’ll likely be hit by another "mordēre" derivative: "remorse" ("guilt for past wrongs"), which comes from Latin "remordēre," meaning "to bite again." Term  spendthrift Definition  \SPEND-thrift\DEFINITIONnoun: a person who spends improvidently or wastefullyEXAMPLESDavid complained that his eldest son was quite the spendthrift, and was always writing home from college requesting more money."Perhaps you remember a column I wrote two years ago about Spendthrifts and Tightwads. Spendthrifts experience little pain when they buy things. Tightwads find spending money to be quite difficult. They are more inclined to regret a purchase afterward." -- From an article by Brent Hunsberger in The Oregonian, September 17, 2011DID YOU KNOW?One sense of "thrift" is "careful management especially of money," and "spendthrift" was coined in the late 16th century to refer to someone who recklessly flouts such efforts. Synonyms of "spendthrift" include "prodigal," "waster," and "wastrel." "Prodigal" also has the suggestion of such enthusiastic waste that it would deplete even the most lavish resources, whereas both "waster" and "wastrel" imply that in addition to wastefulness, the person has such dramatic character flaws as to be a good-for-nothing and a drain upon the community. Term  defer Definition  \dih-FER\DEFINITIONverb1: put off, delay2: to postpone induction of (a person) into military serviceEXAMPLESThe minister advised the young man and woman that it would be wise for them to defer getting married until they had finished school."In 1962, at age 20, he was commissioned at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. After three years he was deferred to go to law school at the University of South Carolina." -- From an article by Corey Hutchins in the Free Times (South Carolina), November 16, 2011DID YOU KNOW?There are two words spelled "defer" in English. The other "defer," which means "to submit to another's wishes or opinion" (as in "I defer to your superior expertise"), is derived from the Latin verb "deferre." The "defer" we're featuring today is derived from Latin "differre," which itself has several meanings including "to postpone" and "to differ." Not surprisingly, "differre" is also the source of our word "differ," meaning "to be different." In fact, at one time there were two "differ" homographs in English; over four hundred years ago, "differ" could also mean "to put off" (and could be pronounced with the stress on the last syllable, in the same way as "defer"). Term  kudos Definition  \KOO-dahss\ noun 1 : fame and renown resulting from an act or achievement : prestige 2 : praise given for achievement "I'd like to be a widow. Then I'd have the freedom of the unmarried, with the kudos of the married. I could eat my cake and have it, too. Oh, to be a widow!" — From Lucy Maud Montgomery’s short story "The End of a Quarrel," in Chronicles of Avonlea (1912) "Making the playoffs is an achievement that deserves kudos, but getting this far isn't enough — the real goal is to win championships, and the best way to do that is to continually look to upgrade your team." — From an article by KC Joyner on ESPN.com, December 6, 2011 Sponsored Link Deriving from Greek, "kudos" entered English as slang popular at British universities in the 19th century. In its earliest use, the word referred to the prestige or renown that one gained by having accomplished something noteworthy. The sense meaning "praise given for achievement" came about in the 1920s. As this later sense became the predominant one, some English speakers, unaware of the word's Greek origin, began to treat it as a plural count noun, inevitably coming up with the back-formation "kudo" to refer to a single instance of praise. For the same reason, when "kudos" is used as a subject you may see it with either a singular or plural verb. Term  valorous Definition  \VAL-uh-russ\DEFINITIONadjective1: possessing or acting with bravery or boldness : courageous2: marked by, exhibiting, or carried out with courage or determination : heroicEXAMPLESAudie Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945 for valorous acts that helped to save his company in the face of a fierce German assault."So today I am putting in the mail a donation to my local fire company. I hope many others will do the same. Honor the dead by honoring the living who continue the valorous work of first responders. Support them in their work, the work of rushing to the aid of you and me." -- From a letter to the editor by Evangeline Jones in the Poughkeepsie Journal (New York), September 11, 2011DID YOU KNOW?If you are boldly seeking synonyms for "valorous," consider "courageous," "intrepid," "dauntless," "bold," or just plain "brave" -- all of which mean "having or showing no fear when faced with danger or difficulty." "Brave" is the most straightforward of these, implying lack of fear in alarming or difficult circumstances. "Courageous" carries a sense of stout-hearted resolution in the face of danger, while "intrepid" suggests downright daring in confronting peril. "Dauntless" suggests determination and resolution despite danger. "Bold" typically indicates a forward or defiant tendency to thrust oneself into dangerous situations. "Valorous," which comes from Middle English "valour," meaning "worth, worthiness, or bravery," suggests illustrious bravery and sometimes has an archaic or romantic ring. Term  crucible Definition  \KROO-suh-bul\ noun 1 :a vessel in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted 2 :a severe test 3 :a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development Living in the crucible that was Paris in the spring of 1968, Remi got to witness firsthand the angry confrontations between workers, students, and government. "'Desire' — it's the perfect name for Pedro Almodóvar's production company, the crucible for all his films including Law of Desire, the movie that helped make a star out of a young Spanish actor named Antonio Banderas." — From a film review by Lawrence Osborne in Newsweek, October 3, 2011 Sponsored Link "Crucible" looks like it should be closely related to the Latin combining form "cruc-" ("cross"), but it isn't. It was forged from the Medieval Latin "crucibulum," a noun for an earthen pot used to melt metals, and in English it first referred to a vessel of a very heat-resistant material (such as porcelain) used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. But the resemblance between "cruc-" and "crucible" probably encouraged people to start using "crucible" to mean "a severe trial." That sense is synonymous with one meaning of "cross," a word that is related to "cruc-." The newest sense of "crucible" ("a situation in which great changes take place" — as in "forged in the crucible of war") recalls the fire and heat that would be encountered in the original heat-resistant pot. Term  ostensible Definition  \ah-STEN-suh-bul\DEFINITIONadjective1: intended for display : open to view2: being such in appearance : plausible rather than demonstrably true or realEXAMPLESThe ostensible reason for the meeting was to review the budget, but the whole thing was really just a ruse to get him to the surprise party."The ostensible purpose of federal guarantees for student loans was to make college more affordable. In fact they did the opposite, by fueling the massive tuition hikes." -- From an editorial by Jack Kelly in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 6, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Like its synonyms "apparent" and "seeming," "ostensible" implies a discrepancy between what appears to be and what actually is. "Apparent" suggests appearance to unaided senses that may not be borne out by more rigorous examination ("the apparent cause of the accident"). "Seeming" implies a character in the thing being observed that gives it the appearance of something else ("the seeming simplicity of the story"). "Ostensible," which descends from the Latin word "ostendere" ("to show"), suggests a discrepancy between a declared or implied aim or reason and the true one. Term  xylography Definition  \zye-LAH-gruh-fee\DEFINITIONnoun: the art of making engravings on wood especially for printingEXAMPLESFrancine uses a rubber-stamping technique in her art that is reminiscent of Chinese xylography."Also known as wood block printing, xylography proved to be cheaper and more efficient for printing Chinese, with its thousands of characters, so movable type did not supplant it there until modern times." -- From Christopher I. Beckwith's 2011 book Empires of the Silk RoadDID YOU KNOW?"Xylography" didn't appear in print in English until 1816, but it is linked to printing practices that are much older. In fact, the oldest known printed works (from Japan and China in the 8th and 9th centuries) were made by xylography, a printing technique that involves carving text in relief upon a wooden block, which is then inked and applied to paper. This method of wood-block printing appeared in Europe in the 14th century, and eventually inspired Johannes Gutenberg to create individual and reusable pieces of type out of metal. These days, "xylography" can also describe the technique of engraving wood for purely artistic purposes. English speakers picked up the word from French, where it was formed as a combination of "xyl-," meaning "wood," and "-graphie," which denotes writing in a specified manner. Term  graupel Definition  \GROU-pul ("OU" is as in "cloud")\DEFINITIONnoun: granular snowEXAMPLESAs we sat inside, enjoying the cozy warmth of the fire, the storm deposited an inch of graupel on the deck."In counties adjacent to the Illinois-Wisconsin border, graupel (snow enveloped by super-cooled water droplets) or small hail was reported in Kenosha, Racine, Lake Geneva, Wauconda, and Huntley." -- From a weather report by Tom Skilling in the Chicago Tribune, October 28, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The word "graupel" is Germanic in origin; it is the diminutive of "Graupe," meaning "pearl barley." According to etymologists, there does seem to be a grain of truth in the assumption that the word grew from the Slavic word "krupa," which has the same meaning. "Graupel" was first seen in an 1889 weather report and has been whirling around in the meteorology field ever since to describe "pellets of snow" or "soft hail" (the latter phrase is an actual synonym of "graupel"). Term  junket Definition  \JUNK-ut\DEFINITIONnoun1: a dessert of sweetened flavored milk set with rennet2a : a festive social affairb : trip, journey: as (1) : a trip made by an official at public expense (2) : a promotional trip made at another's expenseEXAMPLESThe senator has been criticized for going on expensive junkets to foreign countries."It's a little embarrassing, but when I saw a report that Gov. Sean Parnell was just returning from a junket to Europe, I was surprised. I hadn't noticed he was gone. Awkward." -- From an op-ed by Shannyn Moore in the Anchorage Daily News, November 21, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The road "junket" has traveled has been a long one, with frequent stops for food along the way. Since at least the 15th century, the word has named various comestibles, ranging from curds and cream to sweet confections. By the 16th century, "junket" had also come to mean "banquet." Apparently, traveling must have been involved to reach some junkets, because eventually that term was also applied to pleasure outings or trips (whether or not food was the focus). Today, the word usually refers either to a trip made by a government official and paid for by the public, as in our example sentences, or to a free trip by a member of the press to a place where something, such as a new movie, is being promoted. Term  fustian Definition  \FUSS-chun\DEFINITIONnoun1: a strong cotton and linen fabric2: pretentious, high-flown or affected writing or speech; broadly : anything high-flown or affected in styleEXAMPLESReaders with a low tolerance for fustian may be put off by the writer's style, but there is no denying that his arguments have merit."To be wearing plain dimity and fustian in a room full of satin, velvet and diamonds took an effort of will." -- From Daisy Goodwin's 2011 novel The American HeiressDID YOU KNOW?"Fustian" has been used in English for a kind of cloth since the 13th century, but it didn't acquire its high-flown sense until at least three centuries later. One of the earliest known uses of the "pretentious writing or speech" sense occurs in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus when Wagner says, "Let thy left eye be diametarily [sic] fixed upon my right heel, with quasi vestigiis nostris insistere," and the clown replies, "God forgive me, he speaks Dutch fustian." The precise origins of the word "fustian" aren't clear. English picked it up from Anglo-French, which adopted it from Medieval Latin, but its roots beyond that point are a subject of some dispute. Term  Weltschmerz Definition  \VELT-shmairts\DEFINITIONnoun, often capitalized1: mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state2: a mood of sentimental sadnessEXAMPLESAs I grew older and encountered more of life's hardships, I found myself plunging into a state of weltschmerz."Fortunately books exist -- at least for now -- and reading remains a popular indoor activity, as well as one of the top strategies for avoiding family conflict and general Weltschmerz while creating the appearance of productivity." -- From an article by James Hannaham in The Village Voice, November 23, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The word "weltschmerz" initially came into being as a by-product of the Romanticism movement in Europe of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The poets of the Romantic era were a notably gloomy bunch, unwilling or unable to adjust to those realities of the world that they perceived as threatening their right to personal freedom. "Weltschmerz," which was formed by combining the German words for "world" ("Welt") and "pain" ("Schmerz"), aptly captures the melancholy and pessimism that often characterized the artistic expressions of the era. The term was coined in German by the Romantic author Jean Paul (pseudonym of Johann Paul Friedrich Richter) in his 1827 novel Selina, but it wasn't adopted into English until the 1860s. Term  darling Definition  \DAHR-ling\DEFINITIONnoun1: a dearly loved person2: favoriteEXAMPLESThe youngest of three children, she was always her parents' little darling."A darling of Martha Stewart and Alice Waters, the Meyer -- nicknamed 'the gourmet lemon' -- also has become a favorite of California gardeners." -- From an article by Debbie Arrington in the Sacramento Bee, December 14, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The origins of "darling" can be found in the very heart of the English language; its earliest known uses can be traced back to Old English writings from the 9th century. Old English "deorling" was formed by attaching the Old English suffix "-ling" ("one associated with or marked by a specified quality") with the adjective "dēore," the ancestor of our adjective "dear" ("regarded very affectionately or fondly," "highly valued or esteemed," "beloved"). English speakers appear to have developed a fondness for "darling" and have held on to it for over a thousand years now. And though its spelling has changed over time -- including variations such as "dyrling," "derlinge," and "dearling" -- "darling" has maintained its original sense of "one dearly loved." Term  leonine Definition  \LEE-uh-nyne\DEFINITIONadjective: of, relating to, suggestive of, or resembling a lionEXAMPLES"The world wanders into many strange by-paths of affection. The love of a mother for her children is dominant, leonine, selfish, and unselfish." -- From Theodore Dreiser's 1912 novel The Financier"At 72, the leonine pianist [McCoy Tyner] didn't make the instrument shudder as he did earlier in his career. But, at its best, his set still produced more sound and fury, more brilliant colors and bursts of dissonance, than most of his peers could match." -- From a review by Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, December 21, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Leonine" derives from Latin "leo," meaning "lion," which in turn comes from Greek "lēon." "Lēon" gave us an interesting range of words: "leopard" (which is "lēon" combined with "pardos," a Greek word for a panther-like animal); "dandelion" (which came by way of the Anglo-French phrase "dent de lion" -- literally, "lion's tooth"); and "chameleon" (which uses the combining form from Greek that means "on the ground"); as well as the names "Leon" and "Leonard." But the dancer's and gymnast's leotard is not named for its wearer's cat-like movements. Rather, it was simply named after its inventor, Jules Leotard, a 19th-century French aerial gymnast. Term  yegg Definition  \YEG\DEFINITIONnoun: safecracker; also : robberEXAMPLES"The cops grabbed him and another yegg for a Philadelphia store burglary." -- From the James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto book, NYPD: A City and Its Police, 2001"According to police the yeggs, apparently knowing exactly where the money was, punched a six-inch hole in the corner of the safe." -- From an article in the Eastern Express Times, November 26, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Safecracker" first appeared in print in English around 1825, but English speakers evidently felt that they needed a more colorful word for this rather colorful profession. No one is quite sure where "yegg" came from. It first appeared in the New York Evening Post on June 23, 1903, in an article about "the prompt breaking up of the organized gangs of professional beggars and yeggs." By 1905, it had acquired the variant "yeggmen," which was printed in the New York Times in reference to unsavory characters captured in the Bowery District. "Yegg" has always been, and continues to be, less common than "safecracker," but it still turns up once in a while. Term  contaminate Definition  \kun-TAM-uh-nayt\DEFINITIONverb1a : to soil, stain, corrupt, or infect by contact or associationb : to make inferior or impure by admixture2: to make unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elementsEXAMPLESLucy ended up with a serious infection when her wound became contaminated by bacteria."Indian meal moths are the most common type of pantry pests, and with the female moth laying up to 200 eggs per week, they can quickly contaminate the entire pantry." -- From an article by Arrow Exterminators in Business Wire, November 17, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Contaminate," "taint," "pollute," and "defile" mean to make impure or unclean. "Contaminate" implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source (logically enough, as it derives from a Latin word that is a cousin to "contingere," meaning "to have contact with"). "Taint" stresses a loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contact ("tainted meat"). "Pollute," sometimes interchangeable with "contaminate," may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy ("the polluted waters of the river"). "Defile" implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred and commonly suggests violation or desecration ("defile a hero's memory with slander"). Term  intercalate Definition  \in-TER-kuh-layt\DEFINITIONverb1: to insert (as a day) in a calendar2: to insert between or among existing elements or layersEXAMPLESOver the centuries, people of various cultures have intercalated months and days to bring their calendars into alignment with the seasonal year."The fossiliferous deposits of the Tatrot Formation outcropping in the area consist of pale pinkish-orange brown clays, brownish grey siltstones and shale, and greenish grey fine to medium grained sandstones intercalated with dark grey conglomerates…." -- From an article by M. A. Khan, et al., in the Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences, December 31, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Intercalate" was formed from the Latin prefix "inter-," meaning "between" or "among," and the Latin verb "calare," meaning "to proclaim" or "to call." It was originally associated with proclaiming the addition of a day or month in a calendar. An instance of intercalation occurred in the earliest versions of the Roman calendar, which originally consisted of 304 days and 10 months and was determined by the lunar cycle. When the Romans realized that they had overlooked a two-month cycle during the winter, the king "intercalated" the months January and February. Eventually, the word's use broadened to include other kinds of insertion. Term  loath Definition  \LOHTH\DEFINITIONadjective: unwilling to do something contrary to one's way of thinking : reluctantEXAMPLESShe was loath to admit her mistakes."Doctors are loath to testify against colleagues guilty of malpractice." -- From an article by Tammerlin Drummond in the Contra Costa Times (California), December 21, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Many usage commentators point out that the spelling of "loath" the adjective is distinct from "loathe," the verb that means "to dislike greatly." Merriam-Webster dictionaries record "loathe" (along with "loth") as a variant spelling for the adjective, at the same time indicating that the spelling with an "e" is not as common as the form without it. Both words hark back to Old English, and the "e" ending in each has come and gone over the centuries -- but if you want to avoid the ire of those who like to keep the language tidy, stick with "loath" for the adjective and "loathe" for the verb. Term  arbalest Definition  \AHR-buh-list\DEFINITIONnoun: a crossbow especially of medieval timesEXAMPLESThe destructive power of the arbalest was so greatly feared during the 1100s that some governments tried to outlaw its use."During forensic examination, it was established that the murder was made using [an] arbalest. " -- From an article in States News Service, January 19, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The arbalest was the distance weapon of choice for medieval armies. It was first mentioned in 1100 in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a historical record of Saxon England. In 1622 British historian Peter Heylyn wrote that Richard the Lion-Hearted, the 12th-century English monarch, was "slain by a shot from an Arbalist." The crossbow's name is one of many terms that came into English from Old French when the Normans took control of England after the Battle of Hastings; our word is adapted from "arbaleste," the French name of the weapon. The French, in turn, derived their word from a combination of Latin "arcus" (meaning "bow") and "ballista" ("an ancient crossbow for hurling large missiles"). Term  bright-line Definition  \BRYTE-lyne\DEFINITIONadjective: providing an unambiguous criterion or guideline especially in lawEXAMPLESThe company's new reimbursement policy makes a bright-line distinction between acceptable and unacceptable travel expenses."The NFL needs to have a bright-line rule for the use of electronics devices during games." -- From a post by Mike Florio at nbcsports.com, January 13, 2012DID YOU KNOW?In the first half of the 20th century, courts began referring to a "bright line" that could or could not be drawn to make clear-cut distinctions between legal issues. Early users may have been influenced by the term "bright line," used by physicists to refer to the distinct color lines in the light spectrum. Before that, judges were content with wording that was more prosaic, such as "line of demarcation." In the second half of the 20th century, we began using "bright-line" as an adjective. Nonlegal types looking for unambiguous distinctions in other walks of life took a shine to "bright-line" sometime in the 1980s. Term  Cook's tour Definition  COOKS-TOOR\DEFINITIONnoun: a rapid or cursory survey or reviewEXAMPLESThe guide gave the group a Cook's tour of the types of sea life that they might encounter on their dive."Remain in the party zone. Do not drag other guests on an adventurous cook's tour of the property, sneak beyond closed doors, explore the master bath instead of the powder room, or snoop in the medicine cabinet." -- From an article by Krys Stefansky in The Virginian-Pilot, December 12, 2011.DID YOU KNOW?In 1841, British missionary Thomas Cook convinced a British railway to run a special train to a temperance meeting, then proceeded to find passengers for the trip, an event regarded as the beginning of organized tourism. Within a few years, Cook was setting up excursions on a regular basis, and by the century's end, the Thomas Cook & Son travel agency was orchestrating travel around the world. The agency's tours were famously well-organized, but they were also known for herding travelers hurriedly from location to location. A Cook's tourist might see an impressive array of famous sites, but often only in superficial glimpses. Over time, English speakers started using "Cook's tour" for any hurried tour, and later, for any rushed activity or cursory review. Term  elixir Definition  \ih-LIK-ser\DEFINITIONnoun1a : a substance held to be capable of changing metals into goldb : a substance held to be capable of extending lifec : cure-alld : a medicinal concoction2: a sweetened usually alcoholic liquidEXAMPLESWhile the new sports complex should bring some much-needed job growth to our struggling region, we should not regard it as the elixir for all of our economic woes."At Frederick Douglass Blvd. and 147th St., he noticed the giant wall mural boasting of the powers of an elixir, Omega Oil." -- From an article by Sherryl Connelly, Daily News (New York), January 2, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Elixir" has roots in the practice of alchemy; it was used in the Middle Ages as the word for a substance believed able to alter base metals into gold. Its later use for a drug purported to prolong one’s life led to its use in the names of medicines of mostly questionable effectiveness. Today, it is often used generally for anything thought capable of remedying all ills or difficulties, be they physical or otherwise. The word came to us via Middle English and Medieval Latin from Arabic "al-iksīr"; it probably ultimately derives from a Greek word meaning "desiccative powder." Term  gambol Definition  gambol\GAM-bul\DEFINITIONverb: to skip about in play : frisk, frolicEXAMPLESThe children scamper and gambol about the playground with seemingly endless energy."Strong binoculars … allow patrons to spy on the sea otters, pelicans, cormorants and other creatures that gambol among the bay kelp." -- From an article by Peter Magnani in the San Jose Mercury News, October 10, 2011DID YOU KNOW?In Middle French, the noun "gambade" referred to the frisky spring of a jumping horse. In the early 1500s, the English word "gambol" romped into print as both a verb and a noun. (The noun means "a skipping or leaping about in play.") The English word is not restricted to horses, but rather can be used of any frolicsome creature. It is a word that suggests levity and spontaneity, and it tends to be used especially of the lively activity of children or animals engaged in active play. Term  heyday Definition  gambol\GAM-bul\DEFINITIONverb: to skip about in play : frisk, frolicEXAMPLESThe children scamper and gambol about the playground with seemingly endless energy."Strong binoculars … allow patrons to spy on the sea otters, pelicans, cormorants and other creatures that gambol among the bay kelp." -- From an article by Peter Magnani in the San Jose Mercury News, October 10, 2011DID YOU KNOW?In Middle French, the noun "gambade" referred to the frisky spring of a jumping horse. In the early 1500s, the English word "gambol" romped into print as both a verb and a noun. (The noun means "a skipping or leaping about in play.") The English word is not restricted to horses, but rather can be used of any frolicsome creature. It is a word that suggests levity and spontaneity, and it tends to be used especially of the lively activity of children or animals engaged in active play. Term  stiction Definition  stiction\STIK-shun\DEFINITIONnoun: the force required to cause one body in contact with another to begin to moveEXAMPLESTire quality can affect stiction at the start of an auto race."Stiction is stationary friction. Starting the bolt turning takes more force than keeping it turning. The tighter the bolt, the more stiction can affect torque readings." -- From an article by Jim Kerr in the Winnipeg Free Press, December 30, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Stiction" has been a part of the English language since at least 1946, when it appeared in a journal of aeronautics. The word is a combination of the "st-" of "static" ("of or relating to bodies at rest") and the "-iction" of "friction" ("the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact"). So, basically, it means "static friction" (or to put it another way, as in our second example sentence, "stationary friction"). Term  gam Definition  gam\GAM\DEFINITIONverb1: to have a visit or friendly conversation with2: to spend or pass (as time) talkingEXAMPLESThe two strangers discovered that they had a lot in common as they gammed the hours away on the long train ride."It always was -- and still is, for that matter -- infuriating to be ignored when superiors are gamming on about an operation in which you are the one about to risk life and limb." -- From Robert N. Macomber's 2010 novel The Darkest Shade of HonorDID YOU KNOW?"But what is a gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word." So says the narrator, who calls himself Ishmael, of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. These days you will indeed find "gam" entered in dictionaries; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun "gam" as "a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers." (It can also mean "a school of whales.") Melville’s narrator explains that when whaling ships met far out at sea, they would hail one another and the crews would exchange visits and news. English speakers have been using the word "gam" to refer to these and similar social exchanges since the mid-19th century. Term  lymphatic Definition  lymphatic\lim-FAT-ik\DEFINITIONadjective1a : of, relating to, or produced by lymph, lymphoid tissue, or lymphocytesb : conveying lymph2: lacking physical or mental energy : sluggishEXAMPLESBecause of the snowstorm, the day was a lazy one and the whole family felt lymphatic."Tonsils are collections of lymphatic tissue on both sides of the back of the mouth." -- From an article by Dr. Rhonda Patt in the Charlotte Observer (North Carolina), January 3, 2012DID YOU KNOW?Lymph is a pale liquid in the body that helps maintain fluid balance and removes bacteria from tissues. Today, we understand that lymph plays an important role in the body's immune system. In the past, however, it was commonly believed that an excess of lymph caused sluggishness -- hence the "sluggish" meaning of "lymphatic." The word "lymph" comes from Latin "lympha" ("water" or "water goddess"), which itself may be a modification of the Greek word "nymphē," meaning "nymph." Both "lymph" and its related adjective "lymphatic" have been used in English since the mid-17th century. Term  circumvent Definition  circumvent\ser-kum-VENT\DEFINITIONverb1: to hem in2: to make a circuit around3: to manage to get around especially by ingenuity or stratagemEXAMPLESEven though a clear detour route has been marked for all to use, some motorists have sought their own creative ways to circumvent the road construction."But [non-disclosure agreements] are increasingly rare. Many states do not enforce them; there are easy ways for those with malicious intent to circumvent them; and pursuing legal action is more expensive than most startup companies can afford." -- From an article by Yasine Armstrong in the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, December 19, 2011DID YOU KNOW?If you’ve ever felt as if someone were circling around the rules, you have an idea of the origins of "circumvent" -- it derives from the Latin "circum," meaning "circle," and "ventus," the past participle of the Latin verb "venire," meaning "to come." The earliest uses of "circumvent" referred to a tactic of hunting or warfare in which the quarry or enemy was encircled and captured. Today, however, "circumvent" more often suggests avoidance than entrapment; it typically means to "get around" someone or something, as in our example sentences. Term  propinquity Definition  propinquity\pruh-PING-kwuh-tee\DEFINITIONnoun1: nearness of blood : kinship2: nearness in place or time : proximityEXAMPLESMany of the retirement community's residents cite the propinquity of the area's various cultural offerings as a significant reason for their choice of the facility."Canada was faced with the overwhelming propinquity of the United States; it was just next door -- for almost nine thousand kilometres." -- From Derek Lundy's 2011 book Borderlands: Riding the Edge of AmericaDID YOU KNOW?"Propinquity" and its cousin "proximity" are related through the Latin root "prope," which means "near." That root gave rise to "proximus" (the parent of "proximity") and "propinquus" (an ancestor of "propinquity"). "Proximus" is the superlative of "prope" and thus means "nearest," whereas "propinquus" simply means "near" or "akin," but in English "propinquity" conveys a stronger sense of closeness than "proximity." (The latter usually suggests a sense of being in the vicinity of something.) The distinctions between the two words are subtle, however, and they are often used interchangeably. "Propinquity" is believed to be the older of the two words, first appearing in English in the 14th century; "proximity" followed a century later. Term  cacography Definition  cacography\ka-KAH-gruh-fee\DEFINITIONnoun1: bad spelling2: bad handwritingEXAMPLESThe letter was marred by cacography and poor punctuation, among other flaws."I sprang out of the car, sensing that I was different, and that I had only begun to comprehend the enigmas underlying mankind and cacography." -- From Jeff Deck's 2011 book The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a TimeDID YOU KNOW?In its earliest use in the 16th century, "cacography" meant not "incorrect spelling" but "a bad system of spelling." Today people worry about misspelling words, but back then there was little need for such concern. English spelling was far from standardized; people spelled words any way that made sense to them. Not every one was happy with such laxity, however, and over the coming centuries spelling reformers pressed for regularization. Some reformers thought spelling should reflect the etymological background of words; others thought words should be spelled the way they sound. And of course, everyone believed his or her own way of spelling was the best. Our present inconsistent system was arrived at over time. Today "cacography" usually suggests deviation from the established standards. Term  prescind Definition  prescind\prih-SIND\DEFINITIONverb: to withdraw one's attentionEXAMPLESIf we prescind from the main issue for a moment, there is much to be gained by studying some corollary questions."For my purposes, we may happily prescind from the metaphysics." -- From John Collins' 2011 book The Unity of Linguistic MeaningDID YOU KNOW?"Prescind" derives from the Latin verb "praescindere," which means "to cut off in front." "Praescindere," in turn, was formed by combining "prae-" ("before") and "scindere" ("to cut" or "to split"). So it should come as no surprise that when "prescind" began being used during the 17th century, it referred to "cutting off" one’s attention from a subject. An earlier (now archaic) sense was even clearer about the etymological origins of the word, with the meaning "to cut short, off, or away" or "to sever." Other descendants of "scindere" include "rescind" and the rare "scissile" ("capable of being cut"). Term  adulation Definition  adulation\aj-uh-LAY-shun\DEFINITIONnoun: excessive or slavish admiration or flatteryEXAMPLESThe star was somewhat embarrassed by the adulation of his teenage fans."I think that I was somebody who was pretty immature emotionally, and when thrust into a situation that was very abnormal of fame and adulation, I wasn't really equipped to deal with it very well. And I think my life goals up to that point were just: get a record deal…." -- Musician Trent Reznor in a December 19, 2011 interview on National Public RadioDID YOU KNOW?If "adulation" makes you think of a dog panting after its master, you're on the right etymological track; the word ultimately derives from the Latin verb "adulari," meaning "to fawn on" (a sense used specifically of the affectionate behavior of dogs) or "to flatter." "Adulation," which came to us from Latin by way of Old French, can be traced back as far as the 14th century in English. The verb "adulate," the noun "adulator," and the adjective "adulatory" later joined the language. Term  ludic Definition  ludic\LOO-dik\DEFINITIONadjective: of, relating to, or characterized by play : playfulEXAMPLESThe members of the acting troupe had become well-known for their ludic behavior, evidenced by the practical jokes they played on each other off-stage."Accompanied by his trademark mirror-written notes -- often unrelated to the images -- Leonardo sketches, scribbles and jots his way through the myriad questions that puzzle his ludic, mercurial mind." -- From a review of a museum exhibit by Rachel Spence in Financial Times, January 9, 2012DID YOU KNOW?Here's a serious word, just for fun. That is to say, it means "fun," but it was created in all seriousness around 1940 by psychologists. They wanted a term to describe what children do, and they came up with "ludic activity." That may seem ludicrous -- why not just call it "playing"? -- but the word "ludic" caught on, and it's not all child's play anymore. It can refer to architecture that is playful, narrative that is humorous and even satirical, and literature that is light. "Ludic" is ultimately from the Latin noun "ludus," which refers to a whole range of fun things -- stage shows, games, sports, even jokes. The more familiar word "ludicrous" also traces back to the same source. Term  catercorner Definition  catercorner\KAT-ee-kor-ner\DEFINITIONadverb or adjective: in a diagonal or oblique position : kitty-cornerEXAMPLESThe café was catercorner to the salon, so after I got my hair cut I walked across the intersection to get some lunch."Also new to downtown is the Mars & Beyond exhibit in the Rialto building (catercorner from Sparkroot), which opened on October 22." -- From an article by Carolyn Classen in the Tucson Citizen, November 8, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Catercorner" also has the variants "kitty-corner" and "catty-corner," but despite appearances, no cats were involved in the creation of this word. "Cater" derives from the Middle French noun "quatre" (or "catre"), which means "four." English speakers adopted the word to refer to the four-dotted side of a die -- a side important in several winning combinations in dice games. Perhaps because the four spots on a die can suggest an X, "cater" eventually came to be used dialectically with the meaning "diagonal" or "diagonally." This "cater" was combined with "corner" to form "catercorner." Term  vade mecum Definition  vade mecum\vay-dee-MEE-kum\DEFINITIONnoun1: a book for ready reference : manual2: something regularly carried about by a personEXAMPLESHer latest book is an accessible and amusing vade mecum of the English literary tradition."Well into the 20th century, John Barlow's Ideal Handbook, the vade mecum of the rifleman, carried instructions for molding the Keene bullet." -- From Dan Shideler's book Gun Digest 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Vade mecum" is Latin for "go with me" (it derives from the Latin verb "vadere," meaning "to go"). In English, "vade mecum" has been used (since at least 1629) of manuals or guidebooks sufficiently compact to be carried in a deep pocket. But from the beginning, it has also been used for such constant companions as gold, medications, and memorized gems of wisdom. Term  mutt Definition  mutt\MUT\DEFINITIONnoun1: a stupid or insignificant person : fool2: a mongrel dog : curEXAMPLESDogs were revered in ancient Egypt, but only royals were permitted to own purebred dogs -- commoners could keep only mutts."At this time of year, when many people are in desperate financial straits, it's appropriate to ask why anyone would spend4,000 to bring a mutt from Afghanistan to the United States." -- From an article about rescuing dogs from Afghanistan, by Lona O'Connor in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 4, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Mutt" can now be used with either affection or disdain to refer to a dog that is not purebred, but in the word's early history, in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century, it could also be used to describe a person -- and not kindly: "mutt" was another word for "fool." The word's history lies in another insult. It comes from "muttonhead," another Americanism that also means essentially "fool." "Muttonhead" had been around since the early 19th century but it was not unlike an older insult with the same meaning: people had been calling one another "sheep's heads" since the mid-16th century.
Term
Definition
 aubade\oh-BAHD\DEFINITIONnoun1: a song or poem greeting the dawn2a : a morning love songb : a song or poem of lovers parting at dawn3: morning musicEXAMPLESThe play opens with the heroine's lover awakening her with a sweet aubade."The score, in five movements, has a French flavor, no doubt inspired by the harp. The second movement is an aubade, the old troubadour form that French composers love." -- From a music review by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Aubade" is a French word that first romanced speakers of the English language during the 1670s. In French it means "dawn serenade," and that is the meaning that English-speakers originally fell in love with. As the relationship of "aubade" with the English language grew, its meanings became a little more intimate. It blossomed into a word for a song or poem of lovers parting at dawn. Later it came to refer to songs sung in the morning hours. The affair between "aubade" and the dawn began with the Old Occitan word "auba," meaning "dawn." "Auba" itself is believed to come from Latin "albus," meaning "white."
Term
 abnegate
Definition
 abnegate\AB-nih-gayt\DEFINITIONverb1: deny, renounce2: surrender, relinquishEXAMPLESThe mayor has ordered the city's finance control board to abnegate its powers."Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is charged with protecting reliability, abnegated its statutory responsibilities as the rule was being written." -- From an article in The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2011DID YOU KNOW?There's no denying that the Latin root "negare" has given English some useful words. That verb, which means "to deny," is the ultimate source of the noun "abnegation," a synonym of "denial" that began appearing in English manuscripts in the 14th century. By the 17th century, people had concluded that if there was a noun "abnegation," there ought to be a related verb "abnegate," and so they created one by a process called "back-formation" (that's the process of trimming a suffix or prefix off a long word to make a shorter one). But "abnegate" and "abnegation" are not the only English offspring of "negare." That root is also an ancestor of other nay-saying terms such as "deny," "negate," and "renegade."
Term
 rabble
Definition
 rabble\RAB-ul\DEFINITIONnoun1: a disorganized or confused collection of things2a : a disorganized or disorderly crowd of people : mobb : the lowest class of peopleEXAMPLESHe hasn't become comfortable glad-handing the voters as a gubernatorial candidate and always appears to be merely condescending to an unpleasant stroll among the rabble."Recently, the publicity department at Morrow Books told the blogging rabble that it might cut off the flow of requested free books if the bloggers failed to cite those books online." -- From an article by Bob Hoover in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 8, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Rabble" has been with the English language since its appearance in Middle English (as "rabel") in the late 1300s. It may have come from the Middle English verb "rabel" which meant "to babble." (Despite the similarity in sound and meaning, however, "babble" and "rabble" are unrelated.) The verb "rabel" is related to Middle Dutch "rabbelen" and Low German "rabbeln," meaning "to chatter." So how do we get from babbling to crowds of people? The connection may be the idea of confusion. "Rabble," in its earliest uses could not only indicate a pack of animals, swarm of insects, or a confused collection of things, but could also indicate a confused or meaningless string of words.
Term
 comix
Definition
 comix\KAH-miks\DEFINITIONnoun: comic books or comic stripsEXAMPLESRaw, founded by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly in 1980, was the leading avant-garde comix journal of its time."[George Kuchar] became involved in comix through his neighbor in San Francisco in the 1980s, Art Spiegelman; he went on to do many comix storyboards as well as underground comix." -- From an article by Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee in The Brooklyn Rail, December, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Comix (which are typically understood as distinct from comics in that they intend a mature audience) got their start in the 1960s. Our earliest evidence of the word "comix" used as a generic term dates to 1969, but it had begun appearing in the titles of specific works a little earlier than that: one example is the title of R. Crumb's highly influential Zap Comix, first published in 1968. The kind of alteration that changed "comics" to "comix" isn't a 20th century phenomenon: the word "pox," as in "chicken pox," began as "pocks" but has been spelled with an "x" since around 1475. A similar kind of alteration, though in this case going from a simpler spelling to a less intuitive one, is the word "phat," which is most likely a variation of "fat." "Phat" dates to 1963.
Term
 critique
Definition
 critique\kruh-TEEK\DEFINITIONnoun: an act of criticizing; especially : a critical estimate or discussionEXAMPLESAll Sherry wanted to do was offer critiques of other people's plans; she never had any suggestions of her own."In their first critique of the Banning Ranch development plans, California Coastal Commission staff members found that the proposed project would be unlikely to meet state standards." -- From an article by Mike Reicher in the Daily Pilot (California), January 19, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Critique" is an alteration of an archaic word that referred generally to criticism. "Critique" itself dates to the early 18th century and originally referred to a piece of writing that criticized a literary or artistic work. The words "criticism," "critique," and "review" overlap in meaning. "Criticism" usually means "the act of criticizing" or a "remark or comment that expresses disapproval," but it can also refer to the activity of making judgments about the qualities of books, movies, etc. (as in "literary criticism")."Critique" is a somewhat formal word that typically refers to a careful judgment in which someone gives an opinion about something. "Review" can refer to an essay analyzing a literary or artistic work, but can also sometimes imply a more casual or personal opinion.
Term
 extemporaneous
Definition
 extemporaneous\ek-stem-puh-RAY-nee-us\DEFINITIONadjective1: composed, performed, or uttered on the spur of the moment : impromptu2: provided, made, or put to use as an expedient : makeshiftEXAMPLESA group of revelers at the pub launched into an extemporaneous rendition of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.""Members give prepared speeches at their own pace and receive constructive, supportive feedback from assigned evaluators. There also is an extemporaneous speaking session at each meeting to give members an opportunity to practice speaking without preparation." -- From the Club News feature in Times-Picayune (New Orleans), January 19, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Extemporaneous," which comes from Latin "ex tempore" ("out of the time"), joined the English language sometime in the mid-17th century. The word "impromptu" was improvised soon after that. In general usage, "extemporaneous" and "impromptu" are used interchangeably to describe off-the-cuff remarks or speeches, but this is not the case when they are used in reference to the learned art of public speaking. Teachers of speech will tell you that an extemporaneous speech is one that has been thoroughly prepared and planned but not memorized, whereas an impromptu speech is one for which absolutely no preparations have been made.
Term
 duende
Definition
 duende\doo-EN-day\DEFINITIONnoun: the power to attract through personal magnetism and charmEXAMPLESThe magician was not only a talented illusionist; he also had the duende that kept the audience rapt throughout the entire show."It took all my nerve to dance in front of people who have been steeped in this tradition their whole lives. It was over in a flash, and in that moment tears filled my eyes. Maybe what I felt wasn't duende -- nobody ripped a shirt or slapped his face -- but it was close enough for me." -- From an article by Toni Messina on NPR.org, August 10, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The word "duende" refers to a spirit in Spanish, Portuguese, and Filipino folklore and literally means "ghost" or "goblin" in Spanish. It is believed to derive from the phrase "dueño de casa," which means "owner of a house." The term is traditionally used in flamenco music or other art forms to refer to the mystical or powerful force given off by a performer to draw in the audience. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca wrote in his essay "Teoria y Juego del Duende" ("Play and Theory of the Duende") that duende "is a power and not a behavior . . . a struggle and not a concept." Nowadays the term appears in a broader range of contexts to refer to one's unspoken charm or allure.
Term
 duende
Definition
 duende\doo-EN-day\DEFINITIONnoun: the power to attract through personal magnetism and charmEXAMPLESThe magician was not only a talented illusionist; he also had the duende that kept the audience rapt throughout the entire show."It took all my nerve to dance in front of people who have been steeped in this tradition their whole lives. It was over in a flash, and in that moment tears filled my eyes. Maybe what I felt wasn't duende -- nobody ripped a shirt or slapped his face -- but it was close enough for me." -- From an article by Toni Messina on NPR.org, August 10, 2011DID YOU KNOW?The word "duende" refers to a spirit in Spanish, Portuguese, and Filipino folklore and literally means "ghost" or "goblin" in Spanish. It is believed to derive from the phrase "dueño de casa," which means "owner of a house." The term is traditionally used in flamenco music or other art forms to refer to the mystical or powerful force given off by a performer to draw in the audience. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca wrote in his essay "Teoria y Juego del Duende" ("Play and Theory of the Duende") that duende "is a power and not a behavior . . . a struggle and not a concept." Nowadays the term appears in a broader range of contexts to refer to one's unspoken charm or allure.
Term
 copious
Definition
 copious\KOH-pee-us\DEFINITIONadjective1a : yielding something abundantlyb : plentiful in number2: full of thought, information, or matter3: lavish, abundantEXAMPLESAfter a copious harvest, the tribe holds a lavish feast accompanied by lively dancing and rituals honoring the gods."In addition to beer and popcorn, football fans who crowded into the Super Bowl stadium in Indianapolis over the weekend were consuming copious amounts of data from wireless networks." -- From a post by Brian X. Chen on the New York Times' Bits blog, February 7, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Copious" derives from Latin "copia" ("abundance"), which in turn combines the prefix "co-" and "ops" ("wealth" or "power"). "Copious" and "opulent" (also from "ops"), along with "ample," "plentiful," and "abundant," all mean "more than sufficient." "Ample" implies a generous sufficiency to satisfy a particular requirement ("ample proof"). "Copious" puts emphasis upon largeness of supply more than on fullness or richness ("copious toasts to the bride and groom"). "Plentiful" implies a rich, and usually more than sufficient, supply ("a plentiful supply of textbooks"). "Abundant" suggests a greater or richer supply than "plentiful" does ("moved by the abundant offers to help"). But use "opulent" when the supply is both abundant and infused with a richness that allows an extra measure of gratification ("the opulent blossoms of the cherry trees").
Term
 abjure
Definition
 abjure\ab-JOOR\DEFINITIONverb1a : to renounce upon oathb : to reject solemnly2: to abstain from : avoidEXAMPLESThe expatriate solemnly abjured his allegiance to his native land."Gingrich delivered a lengthy speech to a Jewish Republican organization during which he abjured even the mention of Romney's name." -- From an article by Niall Stanage at thehill.com, January 30, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Just as a jury swears to produce an unbiased verdict, and a witness swears to tell the truth on pain of perjury, those who abjure their former ways "swear them away." "Abjure" (as well as "jury" and "perjury") comes from Latin "jurare," which means "to swear" (and which in turn is based on the root "jus," meaning "law"), plus the prefix "ab-," meaning "away." These days, we can casually abjure (that is, abstain from) vices such as smoking or overeating, but in the 15th and 16th centuries to abjure was a matter of renouncing something under oath--and sometimes a matter of life and death. For example, during the Spanish Inquisition, individuals were given the choice between abjuring unacceptable beliefs and being burned at the stake.
Term
 exegesis
Definition
 exegesis\ek-suh-JEE-sis\DEFINITIONnoun: exposition, explanation; especially : an explanation or critical interpretation of a textEXAMPLESFor his senior thesis, John wrote an exegesis of the novels of D. H. Lawrence."Were it not for another mini-exegesis hanging alongside 'Witness,' uninitiated viewers might have trouble interpreting this large-scale painting as a response to Ethiopia's drought and famine of the 1980s." -- From a review by Kevin J. Kelley in Seven Days (Burlington, Vermont), October 5, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Theological scholars have long been preoccupied with interpreting the meanings of various passages in the Bible. In fact, because of the sacred status of the Bible in both Judaism and Christianity, biblical interpretation has played a crucial role in both of those religions throughout their histories. English speakers have used the word "exegesis" -- a descendant of the Greek term "exegeisthai," meaning "to explain" or "to interpret" -- to refer to explanations of Scripture since the early 17th century. Nowadays, however, academic writers interpret all sorts of texts, and "exegesis" is no longer associated mainly with the Bible.
Term
 henchman
Definition
 henchman\HENCH-mun\DEFINITIONnoun1: a trusted follower : a right-hand man2: a political follower whose support is chiefly for personal advantage3: a member of a gangEXAMPLESThe play opens with the main character, a gangster, onstage surrounded by his henchmen."[U.S. Attorney George E.Q.] Johnson vigorously took the fight to Capone and his henchmen, successfully prosecuting Capone's brother Ralph, Frank Nitti, the Guzik brothers Harry and Sam, and the beer barons Terry Druggan and Frankie Lake." -- From an article by Stephan Benzkofer in the Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2012DID YOU KNOW?The earliest known examples of today's word in written English show it being used as a term for a squire or a page, but the word may have seen earlier use with the meaning "groom." It first appeared in Middle English at the beginning of the 15th century and is a combination of Old English "hengest" ("a male horse") and "man." In the late 1700s, "henchman" began to be used for the personal attendant of a Scottish Highland chief. This sense, made familiar to many English readers by Sir Walter Scott, led to the word's use in the broader sense of "right-hand man," which in turn evolved into the other meanings.
Term
 conclave
Definition
 conclave\KAHN-klayv\DEFINITIONnoun1: a private meeting or secret assembly2: a gathering of a group or associationEXAMPLES"The shadowy world of Ministers' meetings and security service conclaves ... was never explored." -- From an article by Mary Riddell in The Observer, February 2004"On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Lin and other village leaders met to discuss their options and decided to call off the public protests and to reopen access to the village.… After that conclave, the village leaders held a rally with more than 1,000 residents in a public square and told the audience about the new agreement." -- From an article by Edward Wong in The New York Times, December 22, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Ever wonder what happens behind locked doors? The etymology of "conclave" begs this question as the word comes from a Latin term meaning "room that can be locked up." The English word formerly had the same meaning, but that use is now obsolete. Today, "conclave" refers not to the locked rooms but to the private meetings and secret assemblies that occur within them. "Conclave" is especially likely to refer to a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals who have secluded themselves to choose a pope, but it can refer to other types of private or secret meetings as well. The meaning of "conclave" has also expanded to include gatherings that are not necessarily secret or private but simply involve people with shared interests.
Term
 empirical
Definition
 empirical\im-PEER-uh-kul\DEFINITIONadjective1: originating in or based on observation or experience2: relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory3: capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment4: of or relating to empiricismEXAMPLESThe students have collected plenty of empirical data from their experiments."Those empirical studies have found that teens are up to three times more likely than adults to falsely confess under police interrogation to crimes they never committed." -- From an editorial by Laura H. Nirider in the Chicago Tribune, December 23, 2011DID YOU KNOW?When "empirical" first appeared as an adjective in English, it meant simply "in the manner of an empiric." An empiric was a member of an ancient sect of doctors who practiced medicine based exclusively on experience, as contrasted with those who relied on theory or philosophy. The name "empiric" derives from Latin "empiricus," itself from Greek "empeirikos" ("experienced"). It ultimately traces back to the verb "peiran," meaning "to try, attempt, or experiment."
Term
 viva voce
Definition
 viva voce\vye-vuh-VOH-see\DEFINITIONadverb: by word of mouth : orallyEXAMPLESAccording to the town's bylaws, members of the town council must vote viva voce or by a show of hands."He was examined according to standard inquisitorial procedures derived from Roman law and medieval practice. Interrogators put questions to the accused who answered viva voce, in writing, or both, as demanded." -- From Donald Weinstein's 2011 book Savonarola: the Rise and Fall of a Renaissance ProphetDID YOU KNOW?"Viva voce" derives from Medieval Latin, where it translates literally as "with the living voice." In English it occurs in contexts, such as voting, in which something is done aloud for all to hear. Votes in Congress, for example, are done viva voce -- members announce their votes by calling out "yea" or "nay." While the phrase was first used in English as an adverb in the 16th century, it can also appear as an adjective (as in "a viva voce examination") or a noun (where it refers to an examination conducted orally).
Term
 livelong
Definition
 livelong\LIV-lawng\DEFINITIONadjective: whole, entireEXAMPLESThey worked hard all the livelong day and finally fell into their beds, exhausted, well past sundown."The sass and vigour of American politics and attendant media coverage is a thing to behold. All you have to do is turn on the darn TV and there it is … playing out in late-night shows, in prime time and all the livelong day on the all-news channels." -- From an article by John Doyle in The Globe and Mail (Toronto), November 9, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"I've been workin' on the railroad, all the livelong day." So goes the American folk standard, and nowadays when we encounter the word "livelong" it is typically in the phrase "all the livelong day" or something similar. Although we don't see "livelong" much in prose anymore poets still love the word, possibly for its two distinct, alliterative syllables. Despite the resemblance, "livelong" does not mean the same thing as "lifelong" (as in "a lifelong friend"). In fact, the words are not closely related: the "live" in "livelong" derives from "lef," a Middle English word meaning "dear or beloved."
Term
 bosky
Definition
 bosky\BAH-skee\DEFINITIONadjective1: having abundant trees or shrubs2: of or relating to a woodsEXAMPLESAs we drove away from the city, apartment buildings gave way to homes with yards, then at last to a bosky landscape dominated by tall pines."In 1863, when two brothers were abducted by armed gangsters and marched into a forest, their appeal to a local saint resulted in their abductors letting them go. Amusingly, though, the artist's skill extends only to the most crucial details: the blindfold, the guns, the bosky scene."—From an article by Jenny Gilbert in The Independent (London), November 20, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Bosk," "busk," "bush"—in Middle English these were all variant spellings of a word meaning "shrub." "Bush" is still familiar to the modern ear, and "busk" can still be heard in a few places in the dialects of northern Britain. "Bosk" too survived in English dialects, although it disappeared from the written language, and in the early 17th century it provided the root for the woodsy adjective "bosky." Since its formation, "bosky" has been firmly rooted in our language, and its widespread popularity seems to have resurrected its parental form. By 1815 "bosk" (also spelled "bosque") had reappeared in writing, but this time with the meaning "a small wooded area."
Term
 abeyance
Definition
 abeyance\uh-BAY-unss\DEFINITIONnoun1: a lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom a title is vested2: temporary inactivity : suspensionEXAMPLESOur plans to go for a bike ride were in abeyance until the weather cleared up."The remaining \$5,000 of the fine is held in abeyance and will not have to be paid unless additional violations are committed by the Venice baseball program during the probationary period."—From an article by Dennis Maffezzoli in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Florida), January 23, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Abeyance" has something in common with "yawn." Today, "yawn" implies sleep or boredom, but years ago it could also signify longing or desire ("Full many men know I that yawn and gape after some fat and rich benefice"—Thomas Hoccleve, 1420). The Old French word for "yawn" was "baer," which joined the prefix "a-" ("in a state or condition of") to form "abaer," a verb meaning "to expect" or "await." There followed Anglo-French "abeyance," which referred to a state of expectation—specifically, a person's expectation of inheriting a title or property. But when we adopted "abeyance" into English in the 16th century, we applied the expectation to the property itself: a property or title "in abeyance" is in temporary limbo, waiting to be claimed by a rightful heir or owner.
Term
 yuppify
Definition
 yuppify\YUP-uh-fye\DEFINITIONverb: to make appealing to yuppies; also : to infuse with the qualities or values of yuppiesEXAMPLESWhile rent prices in the city have fallen, the neighborhoods that were relatively recently yuppified remain too expensive for most city residents."Celebrating 60 years of racing in 2009, Darlington Raceway ... is the grand-dad of all NASCAR tracks, the first ever to host a major race. While it's not as plush as the new, ritzier raceways built to accommodate the sport's push to yuppify its ranks, this is still an impressive sight right on Highway 52 and a bit of living history." — From Jim Morekis' 2009 Moon South Carolina guidebook (Moon Handbooks)DID YOU KNOW?"Yuppie" and "yuppify" are products of the 1980s, but they owe a debt to predecessors from the 1960s and 1970s. "Hippie" (a long-haired unconventionally dressed young person who rejects societal mores; from "hip," meaning "cool") first appeared in print in 1953. "Yippie" (a politically active hippie; from Youth International Party) followed "hippie" into the language in 1968. "Gentrification" and "gentrify" (referring to the effects of influxes of relatively affluent people into deteriorating neighborhoods; from "gentry") made their debuts in 1964 and 1972, respectively. "Yuppie" (a young well-paid professional who lives and works in or near an urban area; probably from young urban professional; influenced by "hippie" and "yippie") hit the press in 1981. "Yuppify" and "yuppification" (patterned after "gentrify" and "gentrification") joined the lexicon in 1984.
Term
 immense
Definition
 immense\ih-MENSS\DEFINITIONadjective1: marked by greatness especially in size or degree; especially : transcending ordinary means of measurement2: supremely goodEXAMPLESI often find it difficult to convey to the students in my science classes how immense the universe truly is."Even moderate rains -- and Rio is a city of immense downpours—turn many thoroughfares into rushing rivers...."—From an article by Jenny Barchfield in the Chicago Sun-Times, February 5, 2012DID YOU KNOW?Just how big is something if it is immense? Huge? Colossal? Humongous? Ginormous? Or merely enormous? "Immense" is often used as a synonym of all of the above and, as such, can simply function as yet another way for English speakers to say "really, really, really big." "Immense" is also used, however, in a sense which goes beyond merely really, really, really big to describe something that is so great in size or degree that it transcends ordinary means of measurement. This sense harks back to the original sense of "immense" as something which is so tremendously big that it has not or cannot be measured. This sense reflects the word's roots in the Latin "immensus," from "in-" ("un-") and "mensus," the past participle of "metiri" ("to measure").
Term
 Babbitt
Definition
 Babbitt\BAB-it\DEFINITIONnoun: a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standardsEXAMPLESThe candidate's economic agenda appeals to the frugal Babbitts in his constituency."There is something delightfully counterintuitive about [author Richard] Florida's theory as he chooses to state it: you would have thought it was dull Babbitts who made a city commercially successful, but no—it's kids with scruffy beards and tattoos who have alt-rock bands … and wait tables in vegan restaurants."—From an article by Nicholas Lemann in The New Yorker, June 27, 2011DID YOU KNOW?He was a prosperous real-estate broker, a pillar of his Midwestern community, and a believer in success for its own sake. George F. Babbitt was his name and complacent American middle-class values were his game. He was created by Sinclair Lewis in the satirical 1922 novel Babbitt, and the fictional protagonist's name quickly became a synonym for one who adheres to a conformist, materialistic, unimaginative way of life.
Term
 felicitate
Definition
 felicitate\fih-LISS-uh-tayt\DEFINITIONverb1: to consider happy or fortunate2: to offer congratulations toEXAMPLESThe other swimmers politely felicitated the winner of the race."The rising music stars, all of whom are first-prize winners of the All India Radio Competition 2011, will be felicitated in the morning inaugural session."—From an article in Screen, January 13, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Felix," a Latin adjective meaning "happy" or "fruitful," is the root of our English words "felicity" and "felicitate." The former is the older of the two; it dates back to the 14th century and refers to the state of being happy or to something that makes people happy. When writing King Lear, William Shakespeare was probably pleased when he thought of the word "felicitate" as an adjective meaning "made happy," but not everyone took a shine to it and it fell into disuse. However, people were happy to pick up "felicitate" as a verb meaning "to make happy." That meaning is now considered archaic but it was the seed for other meanings of the word. "Felicitate" eventually grew to mean "to consider happy or fortunate" and "to congratulate."
Term
 putsch
Definition
 putsch\PUTCH\DEFINITIONnoun: a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a governmentEXAMPLESGerman theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed for his role in an intricate putsch aimed at assassinating Adolf Hitler that occurred on July 20, 1944."Mr. Duceppe did not bother disguising his efforts to organize a putsch replacing Ms. Marois last week." -- From an article by Graeme Hamilton in the National Post (Canada), January 23, 2012DID YOU KNOW?In its native Swiss German, "putsch" originally meant "knock" or "thrust," but these days both German and English speakers use it to refer to the kind of government overthrow also known as a "coup d'état." "Putsch" debuted in English shortly before the tumultuous Kapp Putsch of 1920, in which Wolfgang Kapp and his right-wing supporters attempted to overthrow the German Weimar government. Putsch attempts were common in Weimar Germany, so the word appeared often in the stories of the English journalists who described the insurrections. Adolf Hitler himself even attempted a putsch (known as the Beer Hall Putsch), but he ultimately gained control of the German government via other means.
Term
 arrogate
Definition
 arrogate\AIR-uh-gayt\DEFINITIONverb1a : to claim or seize without justificationb : to make undue claims to having : assume2: to claim on behalf of another : ascribeEXAMPLESThe city council has accused the mayor of arrogating decision-making authority to himself that rightly belongs with the council."Iranian political analysts said Mr. Ahmadinejad, unlike his predecessors, has made enemies of many Iranian religious figures by aggressively arrogating more power to his office than they would like." — From an article by Rick Gladstone in The New York Times, November 23, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Arrogate" comes from the Latin "arrogatus," a past participle of the verb "arrogare," which means "to appropriate to one's self." The Latin verb, in turn, was formed from the prefix "ad-" ("to" or "toward") and the verb "rogare" ("to ask"). You may have noticed that "arrogate" is similar to the more familiar "arrogant." And there is, in fact, a relationship between the two words. "Arrogant" comes from Latin "arrogant-, arrogans," the present participle of "arrogare." "Arrogant" is often applied to that sense of superiority which comes from someone claiming (or arrogating) more consideration than is due to that person's position, dignity, or power.
Term
 diplopia
Definition
 diplopia\dih-PLOH-pee-uh\DEFINITIONnoun: a disorder of vision in which two images of a single object are seen because of unequal action of the eye muscles — called also double visionEXAMPLESMost cases of diplopia go away on their own, but in some instances it can be a sign of an aneurysm or other disorder in the brain."Every August thousands of twins converge there for 'Twins Days Festival' — so many in fact you might think you had an acute case of diplopia…." — From a Q&A in The Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts), November 12, 2011DID YOU KNOW?We won't give you any double-talk about "diplopia." The word is simply the sum of the combining forms "dipl-" (meaning "double") and "-opia" (meaning "vision"). Visionarily speaking, the linguistic relatives of "diplopia" include "hyperopia" ("farsightedness"), "myopia" ("nearsightedness"), "deuteranopia" ("red-green color blindness"), and "presbyopia" ("loss of elasticity in the eye's lens").
Term
 winsome
Definition
 winsome\WIN-sum\DEFINITIONadjective1: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence2: cheerful, lightheartedEXAMPLESDarryl's winsome nature made him well-liked in the office, and his cubicle was a popular destination for co-workers looking for a conversation partner."Faina, a winsome blonde child with a fox for a friend, emerges from the woods to bewitch them both." — From a book review by Lydia Kiesling in Slate, January 31, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Winsome" began as "wynsum" a thousand years ago. It was formed from "wynn," the Old English word for "joy" or "pleasure," and the suffix "-sum," an older form of the "-some" we see today in many adjectives, such as "awesome," "irksome," and "lonesome." "Wynn" later became "win," meaning "pleasure," but we haven't used that noun since the 17th century. We do, however, use another word that has a "pleasing" connection and is related, albeit distantly, to "winsome." "Winning" ("tending to please or delight," as in "a winning smile" or "winning ways"), the present participle of the familiar verb "win," is from Old English "winnan," meaning "to struggle." Both "winnan" and "wynn" are thought to be related to Latin "venus," which means, among other things, "charm."
Term
 quietus
Definition
 quietus\kwye-EE-tus\DEFINITIONnoun1: final settlement (as of a debt)2: removal from activity; especially : death3: something that quiets or repressesEXAMPLESThe town council voted against granting a permit to stage the concert in the park, thus putting the quietus on any repeat of last year's unruly behavior."All this comes just about the time when some bass-fishing folks were predicting a mad rush to the banks for the first round of spawning on Tuesday's full moon. The effects of the rain, cooler water and a rising barometer should put the quietus on that until water levels stabilize and sunlight returns to warm the water." — From an article by Joe Macaluso in The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), February 2, 2012DID YOU KNOW?In the early 1500s, English speakers adopted the Medieval Latin phrase "quietus est" (literally "he is quit") as the name for the writ of discharge exempting a baron or knight from payment of a knight's fee to the king. The expression was later shortened to "quietus" and applied to the termination of any debt. William Shakespeare was the first to use "quietus" as a metaphor for the termination of life: "For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, … When he himself might his quietus make / With a bare bodkin?" (Hamlet). The third meaning, which is more influenced by "quiet" than "quit," appeared in the 19th century. It often occurs in the phrase "put the quietus on" (as in, "The bad news put the quietus on their celebration").
Term
 nondescript
Definition
 nondescript\nahn-di-SKRIPT\DEFINITIONadjective1: belonging or appearing to belong to no particular class or kind : not easily described2: lacking distinctive or interesting qualities : dull, drabEXAMPLESThe famous spy was a quiet, nondescript man that no one could describe even a few minutes after meeting him, which was clearly an advantage in his profession."There is a nondescript warehouse in town with contents so vital to the operations of American businesses and government that it is protected by guards armed with assault rifles." — From an article by Conor Shine in the Las Vegas Sun, November 7, 2011DID YOU KNOW?It is relatively easy to describe the origins of "nondescript" (and there's a hint in the first part of this sentence). "Nondescript" was formed by combining the prefix "non-" (meaning "not") with the past participle of the Latin verb "describere," meaning "to describe." It is no surprise, then, that when the word was adopted in the late 17th century by English speakers, it was typically applied to something (such as a genus or species) that had not yet been described. Other descriptive descendants of "describere" in English include "describe," "description," and "descriptive" itself, as well as the rare philosophical term "descriptum" ("something that is described").
Term
 upbraid
Definition
 upbraid\up-BRAYD\DEFINITIONverb1: to criticize severely : find fault with2: to reproach severely : scold vehementlyEXAMPLESThe foreman was upbraided for not strictly enforcing the company's worksite safety policies during his shifts."Later that autumn, when their first three-month lease was approaching its end, the Hawkings heard that another house in the lane was unoccupied. A helpful neighbor was able to contact the owner in Dorset and upbraided her for having her house stand empty while a young couple could find no place to live." — From Kitty Ferguson's 2012 biography Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered MindDID YOU KNOW?"Upbraid," "scold," and "berate" all mean to reproach angrily, but with slight differences in emphasis. "Scold" usually implies rebuking in irritation or ill temper, either justly or unjustly. "Upbraid" tends to suggest censuring on definite and usually justifiable grounds, while "berate" implies scolding that is prolonged and even abusive. If you’re looking for a more colorful term for telling someone off, try "tongue-lash," "bawl out," "chew out," or "wig" — all of which are fairly close synonyms of "berate." Among these synonyms, "upbraid" is the senior member in English, dating from the 12th century. "Upbraid" derives via Middle English from the Old English "ūpbregdan," believed to be formed from a prefix meaning "up" and the verb "bregdan," meaning "to snatch" or " to move suddenly."
Term
 nugatory
Definition
 nugatory\NOO-guh-tor-ee\DEFINITIONadjective1: of little or no consequence : trifling, inconsequential2: having no force : inoperativeEXAMPLESThe decision to remove such a minor character from the show should have a nugatory impact on its success."I had grown up hearing Kenneth Williams and others bemoaning in quavering comic tones the insultingly nugatory fees they had been offered for their services…." — From Stephen Fry's 2010 book The Fry Chronicles : An AutobiographyDID YOU KNOW?"Nugatory," which first appeared in English in the 17th century, comes from the Latin adjective "nugatorius" and is ultimately a derivative of the noun "nugae," meaning "trifles." Like its synonyms "vain," "idle," "empty," and "hollow," "nugatory" means "without worth or significance." But while "nugatory" suggests triviality or insignificance ("a monarch with nugatory powers," for example), "vain" implies either absolute or relative absence of value (as in "vain promises"). "Idle" suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect (as in "idle speculations"). "Empty" and "hollow" suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or genuineness (as in "an empty attempt at reconciliation" or "a hollow victory").
Term
 volplane
Definition
 volplane\VAHL-playn\DEFINITIONverb1: to glide in or as if in an airplane2a : to descend gradually in controlled flightb : to fly in a gliderEXAMPLESAn eagle soared and volplaned gracefully across the sky."Does it [the northern flying squirrel] really fly: No. It glides (or "volplanes") and always in a downward direction. — From an article by Nicholas Read in The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), October 18, 2008DID YOU KNOW?"Vol plané" (meaning "gliding flight") was a phrase first used by 19th-century French ornithologists to describe downward flight by birds; it contrasted with "vol à voile" ("soaring flight"). Around the time Orville and Wilbur Wright were promoting their latest "aeroplane" in France, the noun and the verb "volplane" soared to popularity in America as terms describing the daring dives by aviators (Fly Magazine reported in 1910, "The French flyers are noted for their thrilling spirals and vol planes from the sky"). The avian-to-aviator generalization was fitting, since the Wright brothers had studied the flight of birds in designing their planes.
Term
 instauration
Definition
 instauration\in-staw-RAY-shun\DEFINITIONnoun1: restoration after decay, lapse, or dilapidation2: an act of instituting or establishing somethingEXAMPLES"Once, humanity dreamed of the great instauration — a rebirth of ancient wisdom that would compel us into a New Age...." — From an article by Knute Berger in the Seattle Weekly, December 14, 2005"The Thibaut/Savigny conflict, the conflict between two leading professors, led to the instauration of the two law commissions, again composed of professors, which finally paved the way for the adoption of the German Civil Code, some fifty years later." — From an introduction by Hans-W. Micklitz to the 2011 book The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private LawDID YOU KNOW?"Instauration" first appeared in English in the early 17th century, a product of the Latin verb "instaurare," meaning "to renew or restore." This same source gave us our verb "store," by way of Middle English and Anglo-French. Less than 20 years after "instauration" broke into English, the philosopher Francis Bacon began writing his Instauratio Magna, which translates to The Great Instauration. This uncompleted collection of works, which was written in Latin, calls for a restoration to a state of paradise on earth, but one in which mankind is enlightened by knowledge and truth.
Term
 secrete
Definition
 secrete\sih-KREET\DEFINITIONverb1: to deposit or conceal in a hiding place2: to appropriate secretly : abstractEXAMPLESThe squirrel had secreted nuts all over the yard in preparation for winter, and as spring approached, more were still to be found."With either engine [the Porsche 911 Cabriolet] is flipping fast, particularly above 4,000 rpm, and it makes all the right noises too, from bellows and wails to enough pops and crackles when you lift off the throttle to make you wonder if somebody has secreted some Rice Krispies up the exhaust." — From a review by Chris Knapman in The Telegraph (United Kingdom), February 15, 2012DID YOU KNOW?If you guessed that the secret to the origins of "secrete" is the word "secret," you are correct. "Secrete" was coined in the mid-18th century from a now obsolete verb "secret." That verb had the meaning now carried by "secrete" and derived from the familiar noun "secret" ("something kept hidden or unexplained"). The noun, in turn, traces back to the Latin verb "secernere," meaning "to separate" or "to distinguish." Incidentally, there is an earlier and distinct verb "secrete" with the more scientific meaning "to form and give off (a secretion)." That "secrete" is a back-formation from "secretion," another word that can be traced back to "secernere."
Term
 fallacious
Definition
 fallacious\fuh-LAY-shus\DEFINITIONadjective1: embodying a fallacy2: tending to deceive or mislead : delusiveEXAMPLESThe notion that disease is caused by malign spirits was known to be fallacious long before germ theory gave us real understanding of disease."The whole idea that Romney was responsible for good or bad things in Massachusetts is fallacious — just as it is fallacious that any executive is responsible for the ups and downs of the economy." — University of Michigan political scientist Michael Heaney as quoted by Seth McLaughlin in an article in The Washington Times, February 27, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Oh what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive!" So wrote Sir Walter Scott in his 1808 poem Marmion. Scott’s line wasn't written with etymology in mind, but it might be applied to the history of "fallacious." That word traces back to the Latin verb "fallere" ("to deceive"), but it passed through a tangle of Latin and French forms before it eventually made its way into English in the early 1500s. Other descendants of "fallere" in English include "fail," "false," and "fault."
Term
 sylph
Definition
 sylph\SILF\DEFINITIONnoun1: an elemental being in the theory of Paracelsus that inhabits air2: a slender graceful woman or girlEXAMPLESThe dancer was a lovely, elegant sylph upon the stage."By the time [Whitney Houston's] first album came out, in 1985, she'd been given a thorough makeover: the cover photo showed a sleek-haired, golden-skinned sylph wearing an elegantly-draped white gown." -- From an article by Caroline Sullivan in Guardian Unlimited, February 12, 2012DID YOU KNOW?Paracelsus was a man with a vivid imagination. He concocted an elaborate theory of ruling "elemental spirits": gnomes controlled the earth, salamanders fire, undines water, and sylphs (graceful beings whose name in English is from New Latin "sylphus") the air. You would hardly believe this 16th-century German-Swiss physician had his feet on the ground, but those fantastic ideas were balanced with an impressive array of solid medical discoveries. In fact, many of his scientific contributions are still highly respected, but his sylph idea has long since been discounted as fairy-tale fantasy. The creatures remain only as romantic figures of literature, art, and ballet, where diaphanous woodland sylphs are often depicted enchanting unwary males.
Term
 elan
Definition
 élan\ay-LAHN\DEFINITIONnoun: vigorous spirit or enthusiasmEXAMPLESThe dance troupe performed with their usual grace and élan."That's the setting for [Tasha Alexander's] rollicking, popular series of mysteries featuring Lady Emily Hargreaves, a headstrong woman who smokes cigars, drinks port, reads Homer in the original Greek, slings witticisms with the ease of an Oscar Wilde and solves mysteries with the élan of a Sherlock Holmes. " — From a book review in the Chicago Tribune, December 4, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Once upon a time, English speakers did not have "élan" (the word, that is; that's not to say we haven't always had potential for vigorous spirit). We had, however, "elance," a verb meaning "to hurl" that was used specifically for throwing lances and darts. "Elance" derived down the line from Middle French "(s')eslancer" ("to rush or dash"), itself from "lancer," meaning "to hurl." With the decline of lance-throwing, we tossed out "elance" a century and half ago. Just about that time we found "élan," a noun that traces to "(s')eslancer." We copied "élan" in form from the French, but we dispensed with the French sense of a literal "rush" or "dash," retaining the sense of enthusiastic animation that we sometimes characterize as "dash."
Term
 tub-thumper
Definition
 tub-thumper\TUB-thump-er\DEFINITIONnoun: a vociferous supporter (as of a cause)EXAMPLESAunt Lucille was a tub-thumper for temperance who never passed up an opportunity to sermonize fervently on the evils of "demon drink" and the virtues of abstinence."As some of you are aware, I've been a frequent tub thumper for winter gardening. In the main, I've promoted it as a means to eating well." — From an article by Chris Smith in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 19, 2008DID YOU KNOW?Tub-thumpers are a noisy (and sometimes amusing) lot. The earliest ones were preachers or public speakers with a predisposition for pounding their fists on the pulpit or lectern — perhaps to wake up their listeners! Back in the 17th century, the word "tub" was sometimes used as a synonym of "pulpit"; John Dryden, for example, used the word thus in 1680 when he wrote, "Jack Presbyter shall here erect his throne, Knock out a tub with preaching once a day." "Tub-thumper" has been naming loud, impassioned speakers since at least 1662, when it was used by a writer named Hugh Foulis to describe "a sort of people ... antick in their Devotions…."
Term
 unbolted
Definition
 unbolted\un-BOHL-tud\DEFINITIONadjective: not siftedEXAMPLESThe restaurant is famous for its cornbread, which is the product of a generations-old recipe that calls for unbolted cornmeal and buttermilk."[Sylvester] Graham advised everyone to eat bread made of coarse, stone-ground, unbolted flour, and he believed that bread should be baked at home." — From Andew F. Smith's 2009 book Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American CuisineDID YOU KNOW?Flours and meals of the unbolted variety are no longer a staple of most pantries, but the occasional recipe does call for them. The adjective "unbolted" comes from a somewhat obscure verb "bolt," meaning "to sift (as flour) usually through fine-meshed cloth." This "bolt" — which dates to the 13th century — comes from Anglo-French "buleter," itself of Germanic origin. "Unbolted" was once common enough to have been employed in figurative use as well as literal. In Shakespeare's King Lear a character is described as an "unbolted villain."
Term
 pippin
Definition
 pippin\PIP-in\DEFINITIONnoun1: a crisp tart apple having usually yellow or greenish-yellow skin strongly flushed with red and used especially for cooking2: a highly admired or very admirable person or thingEXAMPLESThe CEO's retirement speech was a pippin."[Judge Len Goodman of 'Dancing with the Stars'] said … that the dance was 'first class.... It was crisp, it was sharp, it was like apippin.'" — From an article by Allyssa Lee in the Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2011DID YOU KNOW?Since the late Middle Ages, English speakers have experimented with the use of the word "pippin," which germinated from the Anglo-French word "pepin," meaning "seed" or "pip of a fruit." "Pippin" has been used to refer to a part of a pea embryo, a grain of gold, and a grape, but those uses were not hardy enough to become firmly rooted in the English language. The word did take root, however, in the soil of the northern regions of England, where it is used to describe a small fruit seed. In addition, it has widespread use as the name of a crisp, tart apple and of a person who is unique, usually in a pleasant way.
Term
 demarcate
Definition
 demarcate\dih-MAHR-kayt\DEFINITIONverb1: to fix or define the limits of : delimit2: to set apart : distinguishEXAMPLESA crumbling stone wall demarcated the property."The war on terrorism has made it hard to demarcate the proper lines between military action and law enforcement, simply because it doesn't resemble traditional wars between national armies." — From an article in the Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Demarcate" is set apart by its unique history. Scholars think it may have descended from the Italian verb "marcare" ("to mark"), which is itself of Germanic origin (the Old High German word for boundary, "marha," is a relative). "Marcare" is the probable source of the Spanish "marcar" (also "to mark"), from which comes the Spanish "demarcar" ("to fix the boundary of"). In 1493, a Spanish noun, "demarcación," was used to name the new meridian dividing the New World territory between Spain and Portugal. Later (about 1730), English speakers began calling this boundary the "line of demarcation," and eventually we began applying that phrase to other dividing lines as well. "Demarcation" in turn gave rise to "demarcate" in the early 19th century.
Term
 tub-thumper
Definition
 tub-thumper\TUB-thump-er\DEFINITIONnoun: a vociferous supporter (as of a cause)EXAMPLESAunt Lucille was a tub-thumper for temperance who never passed up an opportunity to sermonize fervently on the evils of "demon drink" and the virtues of abstinence."As some of you are aware, I've been a frequent tub thumper for winter gardening. In the main, I've promoted it as a means to eating well." — From an article by Chris Smith in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 19, 2008DID YOU KNOW?Tub-thumpers are a noisy (and sometimes amusing) lot. The earliest ones were preachers or public speakers with a predisposition for pounding their fists on the pulpit or lectern — perhaps to wake up their listeners! Back in the 17th century, the word "tub" was sometimes used as a synonym of "pulpit"; John Dryden, for example, used the word thus in 1680 when he wrote, "Jack Presbyter shall here erect his throne, Knock out a tub with preaching once a day." "Tub-thumper" has been naming loud, impassioned speakers since at least 1662, when it was used by a writer named Hugh Foulis to describe "a sort of people ... antick in their Devotions…."
Term
 oppugn
Definition
 oppugn\uh-PYOON\DEFINITIONverb1: to fight against2: to call in questionEXAMPLESThe local papers have begun to oppugn the candidate's claims, arguing that the facts do not support her statements about her past business ventures."Physics Nobel prize winner Carlo Rubbia reacts to reporters ahead of the Nobel Laureates Beijing Forum 2011 in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 26, 2011. World's top physicists including George Smoot and Carlo Rubbia touched upon and oppugned the hot issue that the velocity of light might be exceeded, at the forum on Monday." — From the caption of a photograph on Photoshot.com, September 27, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Oppugn" was first recorded in English in the 15th century. It came to Middle English from the Latin verb "oppugnare," which in turn derived from the combination of "ob-," meaning "against," and "pugnare," meaning "to fight." "Pugnare" itself is descended from the same ancient word that gave Latin the word "pugnus," meaning "fist." It's no surprise, then, that "oppugn" was adopted into English to refer to fighting against something or someone, either physically (as in "the dictatorship will oppugn all who oppose it") or verbally (as in "oppugn an argument"). Other descendants of "pugnare" in English include the equally aggressive "pugnacious," "impugn," "repugnant," and the rare "inexpugnable" ("incapable of being subdued or overthrown").
Term
 multitudinous
Definition
 multitudinous\mul-tuh-TOO-duh-nus\DEFINITIONadjective1: including a multitude of individuals2: existing in a great multitude3: existing in or consisting of innumerable elements or aspectsEXAMPLESThe author's appearance is expected to attract a multitudinous gathering that will fill the entire auditorium."The factors between [wine] labels hinge on multitudinous decisions about grape, soil, climate and culture." — From a food review by Mary Ross in the Chicago Daily Herald, November 2, 2011DID YOU KNOW?"Multitudinous" is one of many English words that make use of the combining form "multi-," from Latin "multus," meaning "many." "Multicolored," "multifunctional," and "multimillionaire" are just a few of the others. "Multitudinous" is the kind of highly expressive word that you can rely upon when you want something a little more emphatic than plain old "numerous." Among its synonyms are "multiple" and "multifold," two more members of the "multi-" family.
Term
 demarcate
Definition
 demarcate\dih-MAHR-kayt\DEFINITIONverb1: to fix or define the limits of : delimit2: to set apart : distinguishEXAMPLESA crumbling stone wall demarcated the property."The war on terrorism has made it hard to demarcate the proper lines between military action and law enforcement, simply because it doesn't resemble traditional wars between national armies." — From an article in the Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2012DID YOU KNOW?"Demarcate" is set apart by its unique history. Scholars think it may have descended from the Italian verb "marcare" ("to mark"), which is itself of Germanic origin (the Old High German word for boundary, "marha," is a relative). "Marcare" is the probable source of the Spanish "marcar" (also "to mark"), from which comes the Spanish "demarcar" ("to fix the boundary of"). In 1493, a Spanish noun, "demarcación," was used to name the new meridian dividing the New World territory between Spain and Portugal. Later (about 1730), English speakers began calling this boundary the "line of demarcation," and eventually we began applying that phrase to other dividing lines as well. "Demarcation" in turn gave rise to "demarcate" in the early 19th century.
Term