word | 5 Feb 11:23 2008

scission


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The Word of the Day for February 5 is: 

scission   \SIZH-un\   noun
        *1 : a division or split in a group or union : schism 
     2 : an action or process of cutting, dividing, or splitting : the state of being cut, divided, or split

Example sentence:
          Despite the bitter scissions that divided their party, the Republicans dominated the state's political
scene throughout the 1990s.

Did you know?
          You may suspect that a connection exists between "scission" and "scissors," but, actually, their
etymologies are sharply divided. "Scission" traces to the Latin verb "scindere" ("to split" or "to
cut"). "Scissors," on the other hand, comes from an entirely separate Latin verb that also means "to cut"
-- "caedere." The Middle English word for the cutting instrument was "cisours" or "sisoures," which
comes from Middle French "cisoires." An "sc" spelling appeared only in the 16th century when,
apparently, the word for the cutting instrument was mistakenly taken to have derived, like "scission,"
from "scindere." 

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word | 4 Feb 11:23 2008

luminary


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The Word of the Day for February 4 is: 

luminary   \LOO-muh-nair-ee\   noun
         *1 : a person of prominence or brilliant achievement 
     2 : a body that gives light; especially : one of the celestial bodies

Example sentence:
          The front of the science building is engraved with the names of luminaries from various scientific disciplines.

Did you know?
          Allow us to shed some light on "luminary." It came to English by way of Anglo-French and Late Latin, and it
traces back to the Latin word "lumen," meaning "light." Other "lumen" descendants in English include
"illuminate" (to light up), "luminous" (emitting light) and "phillumenist" (one who collects
matchbooks or matchbox labels). "Luminary" has been shining its light in English since the 15th century.

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word | 3 Feb 11:23 2008

pamphleteer


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The Word of the Day for February 3 is: 

pamphleteer   \pam-fluh-TEER\   verb
         *1 : to write and publish pamphlets
     2 : to engage in partisan arguments indirectly in writings 

Example sentence:
          Though he is remembered today for his novels and essays, George Orwell was also known to pamphleteer for
causes important to him.

Did you know?
          Pamphlets, unbound printed publications with no covers or with paper covers, are published about all
kinds of subjects, but our word "pamphlet" traces back to one particular document. It derives from the
title of a short Latin love poem of the 12th century: Pamphilus, seu De Amore, which can be translated as
"Pamphilus, or On Love." The name Pamphilus referred to a Greek god whose name means "loved by all."
Following from this, the original pamphlets were short handwritten poems, tracts, or treatises, often
consisting of several pages bound together. "Pamphleteer," which can be both a noun and a verb, combines
"pamphlet" with the "-eer" suffix found in such words as "engineer" and "puppeteer." 

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word | 2 Feb 11:23 2008

cohort


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The Word of the Day for February 2 is: 

cohort   \KOH-hort\   noun
          1 a : one of 10 divisions of an ancient Roman legion  *b : band, group  c : a group of individuals having a
statistical factor (as age or class membership) in common in a demographic study
     2 : companion, colleague 

Example sentence:
          "A cohort of chambermaids would descend twice daily with mops, brooms, and fresh towels in tow." (Doone
Beale, _Gourmet_, April 1989)

Did you know?
          In ancient times, a cohort was a military unit, one of ten divisions in a Roman legion. The term passed into
English via French in the 15th century, when it was used in translations and writings about Roman history.
Once "cohort" became established in our language, its meaning was extended, first to refer to any body of
troops, then to any group of individuals with something in common, and later to a single companion. Some
usage commentators have objected to this last sense because it can be hard to tell whether the plural
refers to different individuals or different groups. The "companion" sense is well established in
standard use, however, and its meaning is clear enough in such sentences as "her cohorts came along with
her to the game."

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word | 1 Feb 11:23 2008

assuage


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The Word of the Day for February 1 is: 

assuage   \uh-SWAYJ\   verb
         *1 : to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses) : ease 
     2 : pacify, quiet 
     3 : to put an end to by satisfying : appease, quench

Example sentence:
          After her son's first fender bender, Patty tried to assuage his feelings of humiliation by sharing tales of
her own misadventures behind the wheel.

Did you know?
          Scholars assume that the word "assuage" derives from "assuaviare," a Vulgar Latin term that combines the
prefix "ad-" ("to" or "toward") and the Latin "suavis," meaning "sweet," "pleasant," or
"agreeable."("Suavis" is also the source of the adjective "suave.") To "assuage" is to sweeten or make
agreeable or tolerable, and it is far from the only English word for relieving or softening something
difficult. Others include "allay," "alleviate," and "mitigate." "Allay" implies an effective calming
or soothing of fears or alarms, while "alleviate" implies temporary or partial lessening of pain or
distress. "Mitigate" suggests moderating or countering the force or intensity of something painful.

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word | 31 Jan 11:23 2008

jehu


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The Word of the Day for January 31 is: 

jehu   \JEE-hyoo\   noun
          : a driver of a coach or cab

Example sentence:
          The jehu who picked us up from the hotel got us to the airport in plenty of time, but his reckless driving gave
us more of an adventure than we would have liked.

Did you know?
          Today's word comes from the name of a notoriously speedy chariot driver. Originally a commander of
chariots for Ahab, king of Israel, Jehu later led a revolt against the throne and became king himself. In
the Bible, it is noted of Jehu that "he drives furiously" (_II Kings_ 9:20). In the 17th century, English
speakers began using "jehu" as a generic term meaning "coachman" or, specifically, "a fast or reckless
coachman." Today, we are more likely to use the word in reference to reckless cabdrivers. The phrase
"drives like Jehu" is encountered occasionally, too.

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word | 30 Jan 11:23 2008

beholden


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The Word of the Day for January 30 is: 

beholden   \bih-HOHL-dun\   adjective
          : being under obligation for a favor or gift : indebted

Example sentence:
          Tom understood that Mrs. Milton disliked being beholden to anyone, so he usually let her give him a dollar or
two when he mowed her lawn or shoveled her driveway.

Did you know?
          Have you ever found yourself under obligation to someone else for a gift or favor? It's a common experience,
and, not surprisingly, many of the words describing this condition have been part of the English language
for centuries. "Beholden" was first recorded in writing in the 14th century, in the poem "Sir Gawain and
the Green Knight." "Indebted," which entered English through Anglo-French, is even older, first
appearing in the 13th century. English speakers in the 14th century would also have had another synonym of
"beholden" to choose from, a now-obsolete sense of "bounden," which today means "made obligatory" or
"binding." 

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word | 29 Jan 11:23 2008

Lucullan


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The Word of the Day for January 29 is: 

Lucullan   \loo-KULL-un\   adjective
          : lavish, luxurious 

Example sentence:
          The banquet guests were treated to a Lucullan feast in the royal dining room.

Did you know?
          "Lucullan" echoes the name of Roman general Lucius Licinius Lucullus. The general had a distinguished
military career (including the defeat of Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, at Cabira in 72 B.C.),
but he is best remembered for the splendor of his opulent retirement. Lucullus established a reputation
for magnificent banquets, at which he wined and dined the leading poets, artists, and philosophers of his
time. His feasts were sufficiently extravagant to establish a lasting place for his name as a synonym of
"lavish" in the English lexicon.

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word | 28 Jan 11:23 2008

albeit


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The Word of the Day for January 28 is: 

albeit   \awl-BEE-it\   conjunction
          : conceding the fact that : even though : although 

Example sentence:
          Troy has finally landed a role in a Broadway play, albeit as a minor character.

Did you know?
         In the middle of the 20th century, several usage commentators observed that the "archaic" word "albeit"
was making a comeback. The "archaic" descriptor was not entirely apt. Evidence indicates that "albeit,"
which was first recorded in English in the 14th century, never really went out of use (although,
admittedly, its use did seem to drop off a bit in the 19th century). It is true, however, that use of "albeit"
has increased considerably since the 1930s, judging by evidence in Merriam-Webster's files.

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word | 27 Jan 11:23 2008

solon


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The Word of the Day for January 27 is: 

solon   \SOH-lun\   noun
          1 : a wise and skillful lawgiver
    *2 : a member of a legislative body

Example sentence:
          "The bill will likely look quite different by the time the solons in Congress are through with it," the
pundit remarked.

Did you know?
          Solon was a particularly wise lawgiver in ancient Athens who was born in approximately 630 B.C. and lived
until about 560 B.C. He was one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, and he implemented a number of reforms in
Athenian law. In English, his name has been used generically since at least 1625 to refer to any wise
statesman. Contemporary American journalists, with whom the term is especially popular, have extended
the meaning even further to include any member of a lawmaking body, wise or not. In fact, today the word is
sometimes used ironically for a legislator who displays a marked lack of wisdom, rather than a profusion
of it.

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word | 26 Jan 11:24 2008

immutable


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The Word of the Day for January 26 is: 

immutable   \ih-MYOO-tuh-bul\   adjective
          : not capable of or susceptible to change

Example sentence:
          "Emboldened local farmers, whose diets had for the past 200 years been nearly as immutable as those of their
horses, began to drift over to the sushi bar to see what ...was going on." (William Hamilton, _Gourmet_,
October 2003)

Did you know?
          "Immutable" comes to us through Middle English from Latin "immutabilis," meaning "unable to change."
"Immutabilis" was formed by combining the negative prefix "in-" with "mutabilis," which comes from the
Latin verb "mutare" and means "to change." Some other English words that can be traced back to "mutare" are
"commute" (the earliest sense of which is simply "to change or alter"), "mutate" ("to undergo
significant and basic alteration"), "permute" ("to change the order or arrangement of"), and
"transmute" ("to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature"). There's also the antonym of
"immutable" -- "mutable" -- which of course can mean "prone to change" and "capable of change or of being changed."

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