Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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collywobbles

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 30, 2014 is:

collywobbles • \KAH-lee-wah-bulz\  • noun
: pain in the abdomen and especially in the stomach : bellyache

Examples:
"It's no wonder you've got the collywobbles," said Ruth to her niece, "given the amount of Halloween candy you ate last night!"

"But even the hint of closing this cherished window into Detroit's past gives loyal museumgoers the collywobbles." — Joy Hakanson Colby, The Detroit News, December 30, 2005

Did you know?
We don't know who first clutched his or her tummy and called the affliction "collywobbles," but we do know the word's earliest print appearance dates from around 1823. We also know that the word probably came about through a process called "folk etymology." In that process, unusual words are transformed to make them look or sound like other, more familiar words. Collywobbles is believed to be a friendlier-sounding transformation of cholera morbus (the New Latin term for the disease cholera) that was influenced by the words colic and wobble.

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quixotic

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 29, 2014 is:

quixotic • \kwik-SAH-tik\  • adjective
1 : foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals 2 : capricious, unpredictable

Examples:
Pauline characterized her Halloween decorating plans as ambitious, but she secretly feared that "quixotic" was a more apt descriptor.

"David Smith has chased for at least 15 years what seemed a quixotic challenge—finding a way to harness the energy remaining in discarded batteries which could represent at least 50 percent of their power capacity." — Richard Craver, Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina), September 28, 2014

Did you know?
If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you're absolutely right. The hero of the 17th-century Spanish novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (by Miguel de Cervantes) didn't change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century. The novel has given English other words as well. Dulcinea, the name of Quixote's beloved, has come to mean "mistress" or "sweetheart," and rosinante, which is sometimes used to refer to an old, broken-down horse, comes from the name of the hero's less-than-gallant steed, Rocinante.

Categories: Fun Stuff

sempiternal

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 28, 2014 is:

sempiternal • \sem-pih-TER-nul\  • adjective
: of never-ending duration : eternal

Examples:
No matter how much we try to analyze it, the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, will be a matter of sempiternal debate.

"But by Page 10, I knew I'd never read 'Moby-Dick.' The novel— if you can call such an idiosyncratic book by any generic name—hit me like a storm out of nowhere. It contained a wild deluge of thoughts and ideas and sempiternal images." — Amy Wilentz, Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2011

Did you know?
Despite their similarities, sempiternal and eternal come from different roots. Sempiternal is derived from the Late Latin sempiternalis and ultimately from semper, Latin for "always." (You may recognize semper as a key element in the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps: semper fidelis, meaning "always faithful.") Eternal, on the other hand, is derived by way of Middle French and Middle English from the Late Latin aeternalis and ultimately from aevum, Latin for "age" or "eternity." Sempiternal is much less common than eternal, but some writers have found it useful. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example, wrote, "The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, … to lose our sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing how or why…."

Categories: Fun Stuff

homage

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 27, 2014 is:

homage • \AH-mij\  • noun
1 : something done or given as an acknowledgement of a vassal's duty to his lord 2 a : respect b : tribute

Examples:
One scene in the movie was clearly the director's homage to his mentor and idol.

"Click through the slideshow to preview Fili’s homage to Italian typography, including elegant signs for trattorias, … cinemas, and more." — Erica Schwiegershausen, New York Magazine, September 17, 2014

Did you know?
The root of homage is homo-, the Latin root meaning "man." In medieval times, a king's male subject could officially become the king's "man" by publicly announcing allegiance to the monarch in a formal ceremony. In that ritual, known as homage, the subject knelt and placed his hands between those of his lord, symbolically surrendering himself and putting himself at the lord's disposal and under his jurisdiction. A bond was thus forged between the two; the vassal's part was to revere and serve his lord, and the lord's role was to protect the vassal and his family. Over time, homage was extended from the ceremony to the acts of duty and respect done for the lord, and eventually to any respectful act or tribute.

Categories: Fun Stuff

maunder

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 26, 2014 is:

maunder • \MAWN-der\  • verb
1 : chiefly British : grumble 2 : to wander slowly and idly 3 : to speak indistinctly or disconnectedly

Examples:
Chelsea left a nearly incoherent message on my voicemail, maundering on for several minutes without ever getting around to her reason for calling.

"Some of Tyler's students lag behind to chat, maundering along at their own pace." — Cody Winchester, Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), May 14, 2011

Did you know?
Maunder looks a lot like meander, and that's not all the two words have in common—both mean "to wander aimlessly," either physically or in speech. Some critics have suggested that while meander can describe a person's verbal and physical rambling, in addition to the wanderings of things like paths and streams, maunder should be limited to wandering words. The problem with that reasoning is that maunder has been used of the physical movements of people since at least 1775, whereas meander didn't acquire that use until around 1831. These days, meander tends to be the more common choice, although maunder does continue to turn up in both applications.

Categories: Fun Stuff

vendetta

Sat, 10/25/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 25, 2014 is:

vendetta • \ven-DET-uh\  • noun
1 : a feud between different families 2 : an often prolonged series of retaliatory, vengeful, or hostile acts or exchange of such acts

Examples:
The vendetta between the two more powerful families on the island reached new heights when the prominent son of one family and two of his associates suddenly went missing.

"Lawyers for the indicted … sheriff are accusing the federal prosecutor of misconduct, saying he has a vendetta against their client and threatened him with arrest during a heated May meeting over U.S. Forest Service patrols in northern New Mexico." — Russell Contreras, Albuquerque Journal, August 20, 2014

Did you know?
Vendetta has been getting even in English since the mid-19th century. English speakers borrowed vendetta, spelling and all, from Italian, in which it means "revenge." It ultimately traces to the Latin verb vindicare, which means "to lay claim to" or "to avenge." That Latin word is also in the family tree of many other English terms related to getting even, including avenge, revenge, vengeance, vindicate, and vindictive.

Categories: Fun Stuff

lyric

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 24, 2014 is:

lyric • \LEER-ik\  • adjective
1 : suitable for singing : melodic 2 : expressing direct usually intense personal emotion

Examples:
The critics are praising Jessica's debut novel as a lyric masterpiece that bravely lays out the emotional tensions experienced by its young protagonist.

"Virtually all of Big Jim’s lyric digressions were on writers. When Big Jim talked about Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman or whomever, he spoke and we listened and learned." — Frank Clancy, Savannah Morning News, September 23, 2014

Did you know?
To the ancient Greeks, anything lyrikos was appropriate to the lyre. That elegant stringed instrument was highly regarded by the Greeks and was used to accompany intensely personal poetry that revealed the thoughts and feelings of the poet. When the adjective lyric, a descendant of lyrikos, was adopted into English in the 1500s, it too referred to things pertaining or adapted to the lyre. Initially, it was applied to poetic forms (such as elegies, odes, or sonnets) that expressed strong emotion, to poets who wrote such works, or to things that were meant to be sung; over time, it was extended to anything musical or rhapsodic. Nowadays, lyric is also used as a noun naming either a type of poem or the words of a song.

Categories: Fun Stuff

interlocutor

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 23, 2014 is:

interlocutor • \in-ter-LAH-kyuh-ter\  • noun
: one who takes part in dialogue or conversation

Examples:
Steve's aggressive insistence on the correctness of his own opinions frequently made his interlocutors uncomfortable.

"I don't wonder that one of his interlocutors stared when he seriously suggested to them that MPs were paid too much, and would do their job much better if they were on the minimum wage." — Philip Hensher, The Independent (London), September 14, 2014

Did you know?
Interlocutor derives from the Latin interloqui, meaning "to speak between" or "to issue an interlocutory decree." (An interlocutory decree is a court judgment that comes in the middle of a case and is not decisive.) Interloqui, in turn, ultimately comes from the words inter-, "between," and loqui, "to speak." Some other words that English borrowed from loqui are loquacious ("talkative"), circumlocution (essentially, "talking around a subject"), ventriloquism ("talking in such a way that one's voice seems to come from someone or something else"), eloquent ("capable of fluent or vivid speech"), and grandiloquence ("extravagant or pompous speech").

Categories: Fun Stuff

turophile

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 22, 2014 is:

turophile • \TOOR-uh-fyle\  • noun
: a connoisseur of cheese : a cheese fancier

Examples:
Surely the turophiles at our table can recommend some good cheeses to pair with our wine selection.

"For this dish you need a special cheese from Switzerland called Raclette. It's expensive and hard to find where I live, and it smells terrible—or, to turophiles like me, divine." — Patty Kirk, Starting From Scratch: Memoirs of a Wandering Cook, 2008

Did you know?
Are you stuck on Stilton or gaga for Gouda? Do you crave Camembert? If so, you just might be a turophile, the ultimate cheese lover. From an irregular formation of the Greek word for cheese, tyros, plus the English -phile, meaning "lover" (itself a descendant of the Greek -philos, meaning "loving"), turophile first named cheese aficionados as early as 1938. It was in the 1950s, however, that the term really caught the attention of the American public, when Clifton Fadiman (writer, editor, and radio host) introduced turophile to readers of his eloquent musings on the subject of cheese.

Categories: Fun Stuff

redux

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 21, 2014 is:

redux • \ree-DUKS\  • adjective
: brought back

Examples:
Now running in his own campaign, the son of the former mayor was advised to develop his own identity and not simply portray himself as his father redux.

"Think of it as 'Combat Evolved' redux. 'Destiny' wants to meld the multiplayer and single-player experience into a coherent whole." — Gieson Cacho, San Jose Mercury News, September 16, 2014

Did you know?
In Latin, redux (from the verb reducere, meaning "to lead back") can mean "brought back" or "bringing back." The Romans used redux as an epithet for the Goddess Fortuna with its "bringing back" meaning; Fortuna Redux was "one who brings another safely home." But it was the "brought back" meaning that made its way into English. Redux belongs to a small class of English adjectives that are always used postpositively—that is, they always follow the words they modify. Redux has a history of showing up in titles of English works, such as John Dryden’s Astraea Redux (a poem "on the happy restoration and return of his sacred majesty, Charles the Second"), Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Redux, and John Updike’s Rabbit Redux.

Categories: Fun Stuff

impunity

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 20, 2014 is:

impunity • \im-PYOO-nuh-tee\  • noun
: exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss

Examples:
Penalties for breaking the law can be made harsher, but without extra funding for its enforcement, people will continue to violate it with impunity.

"Carlos Zarate, a congressman who sits on the Philippine House of Representatives' Human Rights Committee, said in an interview Tuesday that the arrest of General Palparan did not signal an end to the problem of security forces committing abuses with impunity." — Floyd Whaley, The New York Times, August 13, 2014

Did you know?
Impunity (like the words pain, penal, and punish) traces to the Latin noun poena, meaning "punishment." The Latin word, in turn, came from Greek poinē, meaning "payment" or "penalty." People acting with impunity have prompted use of the word since the 1500s, as in this 1660 example by Englishman Roger Coke: "This unlimited power of doing anything with impunity, will only beget a confidence in kings of doing what they list [desire]." While royals may act with impunity more easily than others, the word impunity can be applied to the lowliest of beings as well as the loftiest: "Certain beetles have learned to detoxify [willow] leaves in their digestive tract so they can eat them with impunity" (Smithsonian, September 1986).

Categories: Fun Stuff

esculent

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 19, 2014 is:

esculent • \ESS-kyuh-lunt\  • adjective
: edible

Examples:
Morels are esculent mushrooms and are delicious, but be warned that there are also false morels, which are poisonous.

"The berry, which has two to three times more antioxidants than blueberries, falls from what the Brazilians call 'The Tree of Life', with about 90 per cent being inedible, but the esculent skin of the aҫaí tastes like a vibrant blend of berries and dark chocolate." — Sarah O'Brien, Newcastle Herald (Australia), December 14, 2013

Did you know?
One appealing thing about esculent is that this word, which comes from the Latin for food (esca), has been around for over 375 years. If we give you just one more tidbit of etymology—that esca is from Latin edere, which means "to eat"—can you pick which of the following words is NOT related to esculent? Comestible, edacious, edible, escalade, escarole, or obese. Comestible (meaning "edible"), edacious (meaning "voracious"), edible, escarole (a type of salad green), and obese are all descendants of edere. Only escalade (meaning "an act of scaling walls") doesn't belong on the list. It descends from the Italian scalare, meaning "to scale."

Categories: Fun Stuff

neophilia

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 18, 2014 is:

neophilia • \nee-uh-FILL-ee-uh\  • noun
: love or enthusiasm for what is new or novel

Examples:
Loretta wondered if it was neophilia that led her husband to buy shiny new power tools even when the ones he already had were in perfect condition.

"Time was, not too many years ago, when shopping was a pleasure. The atmosphere at the malls, the array of items, the decor, the people, the variety of shops, all beckoned to our neophilia, although I wasn’t aware there was a word for it." — Juanita Hughes, Cherokee Tribune (Canton, Georgia), September 2, 2014

Did you know?
The earliest known example of neophilia in print is from an 1899 issue of Political Science Quarterly, a publication of Columbia University. The word is a combination of the Greek-derived combining forms neo-, meaning "new," and -philia, meaning "liking for." In the 1930s, the form neophily was introduced as a synonym of neophilia, but no neophilia could save it from obscurity—it has never caught on. The opposite of neophilia is neophobia, meaning "a dread of or aversion to novelty." It has been around slightly longer than neophilia, having first appeared in 1886.

Categories: Fun Stuff

forswear

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 17, 2014 is:

forswear • \for-SWAIR\  • verb
1 : to make a liar of (oneself) under or as if under oath 2 a : to reject, deny, or renounce under oath b : to renounce earnestly

Examples:
Tina forswore flying after the latest airline mishap left her stranded in Chicago for eighteen hours.

"… the film finds Cotillard playing an ordinary woman who, shortly after recovering from a period of depression, finds herself being laid off in unusual circumstances. If she can persuade a majority of her colleagues to forswear their annual bonuses then she can keep her job." — Donald Clarke, The Irish Times, August 22, 2014

Did you know?
Forswear (which is also sometimes spelled foreswear) is the modern English equivalent of the Old English forswerian. It can suggest denial ("[Thou] would'st forswear thy own hand and seal" — John Arbuthnot, John Bull) or perjury ("Is it the interest of any man … to lie, forswear himself, indulge hatred, seek desperate revenge, or do murder?" — Charles Dickens, American Notes). But in current use, it most often has to do with giving something up, as in "the warring parties agreed to forswear violence" and "she refused to forswear her principles." The word abjure is often used as a synonym of forswear, though with less emphasis on the suggestion of perjury or betrayal of the beliefs that one holds dear.

Categories: Fun Stuff