word | 1 Mar 06:59 2004

aegis

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The Word of the Day for March 1 is:

aegis   \EE-jiss\   noun
         1 : shield, protection
        *2 : patronage, sponsorship

Example sentence:
     The county fair is being run under the aegis of the 
business council, so we can expect to see its members' logos 
featured prominently throughout the fairgrounds.

Did you know?
     We borrowed "aegis" from Latin, but the word derives 
ultimately from the Greek noun "aigis," which means "goatskin." 
In ancient Greek mythology, an aegis was something that offered 
physical protection. In some stories, it was the thundercloud 
where Zeus kept the thunderbolts he used as weapons. In others, 
the aegis was a magical protective cloak made from the skin of 
the goat that had suckled Zeus as an infant. The word first 
entered English in the 16th century as a noun meaning "shield" 
or "protection," but by the 20th century it had acquired the 
extended senses of "auspices" or "sponsorship."  

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
(Continue reading)

word | 2 Mar 06:59 2004

recalcitrant

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The Word of the Day for March 2 is:

recalcitrant   \rih-KAL-suh-trunt\   adjective
   *1 : obstinately defiant of authority or restraint
     2 a : difficult to manage or operate  b : not responsive to 
treatment  c : resistant

Example sentence:
     Anna's doctor ordered a week of complete bed rest, but, 
ever recalcitrant when it comes to doctors' orders, she was up 
and baking a cake after two days.

Did you know?
     Long before any human was dubbed "recalcitrant" in English 
(that first occurred, as best we know, in one of William 
Thackeray's works in 1843), there were stubborn mules (and 
horses) kicking back their heels. The ancient Romans noted as 
much (Pliny the Elder among them), and they had a word for it --
"recalcitrare," which literally means "to kick back." (Its 
root "calc-," meaning "heel," is also the root of "calcaneus," 
the large bone of the heel in humans.) Certainly Roman citizens 
in Pliny's time were sometimes willful and hardheaded -- as 
attested by various Latin words meaning "stubborn" -- but it 
wasn't until later that writers of Late Latin 
(Continue reading)

word | 3 Mar 06:50 2004

parable

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The Word of the Day for March 3 is:

parable   \PAIR-uh-bul\   noun
     : example; specifically : a usually short fictitious story 
that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle 

Example sentence:
     The novel is a modern-day parable about appreciating what 
you have.

Did you know? 
     "Parable" comes to us via Anglo-French from the Late 
Latin "parabola," which in turn comes from the Greek "parabole," 
meaning "comparison." The word "parabola" may look familiar if 
you remember your geometry. The mathematical "parabola" refers 
to a kind of comparison between a fixed point and a straight 
line, resulting in a parabolic curve; it came to English from 
New Latin (Latin as used since the end of the medieval period 
especially in scientific description and 
classification). "Parable," however, descends from Late Latin 
(the Latin language used by writers in the 3rd to 6th 
centuries). The Late Latin term "parabola" referred to verbal 
comparisons: it essentially meant "allegory" or "speech." Other 
English descendants of the Late Latin "parabola" are "parole" 
(Continue reading)

word | 4 Mar 06:59 2004

mare

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The Word of the Day for March 4 is:

mare   \MAHR-ay\   noun, plural maria
     : any of several mostly flat dark areas of considerable 
extent on the surface of the moon or Mars

Example sentence: 
     Looking up at the bright full moon, we saw clearly the 
maria that make up the face of the man in the moon.

Did you know?
     "Mare" didn't officially touch down in English until 1860, 
but the idea that the dark areas of the moon's surface might be 
seas goes back at least to the ancient Greek writer Plutarch. 
Galileo introduced the concept in modern times. He himself never 
used the Latin word "mare" ("sea") to describe these "seas," but 
various writers of 17th-century Latin works did. Today we know 
that the moon is dry and its "seas" are actually old lava flows, 
but we still use "mare" and its plural "maria" to refer to them. 
(The plural "mares" occurs, too, but less frequently.) 
Incidentally, the "mare" that is pronounced MAIR and 
means "female horse" has no connection with Latin or the sea. 
Rather, it is derived from "mearh," the Old English word 
for "horse." 
(Continue reading)

word | 5 Mar 06:50 2004

grimalkin

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The Word of the Day for March 5 is:

grimalkin   \grih-MAWL-kin\   noun
     : a domestic cat; especially : an old female cat

Example sentence:
     The family grimalkin, dreaming, perhaps, of mousing days 
long past, twitched her tail as she dozed contentedly on the 
windowsill.

Did you know?
     In the opening scene of "Macbeth," one of the three witches 
planning to meet with Macbeth suddenly announces, "I come, 
Graymalkin." The witch is responding to the summons of her 
familiar, or guardian spirit, which is embodied in the form of a 
cat. Shakespeare's "graymalkin" literally means "gray cat." 
The "gray" is of course the color; the "malkin" was a nickname 
for Matilda or Maud that came to be used in dialect as a general 
name for a cat (and sometimes a hare), and for an untidy woman 
as well. By the 1630s, "graymalkin" had been altered to the 
modern spelling "grimalkin."

word | 6 Mar 06:50 2004

salient

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The Word of the Day for March 6 is: 

salient   \SAIL-yunt\   adjective
      1 : jutting forward beyond a line
    *2 : standing out conspicuously : prominent; especially : of 
notable significance

Example sentence:
      The senator's speech was filled with so much twisted 
rhetoric that it was hard to identify its salient points.

Did you know?
     "Salient" first popped up in English in the mid-17th 
century, and in its earliest English uses meant "moving by leaps 
or springs" (such as a salient cheetah) or "spouting forth" 
(such as a salient fountain). Those senses aren't too much of a 
jump from the word's parent, the Latin verb "salire," which 
means "to leap." "Salire" has leaped into many English words; 
it's also an ancestor of "somersault" and "sally," as well 
as "Salientia," the name for an order of amphibians that 
includes frogs, toads, and other notable jumpers. 
Today, "salient" is usually used to describe things that are 
physically prominent (such as a salient nose) or that stand out 
figuratively (such as the salient features of a painting). 
(Continue reading)

word | 7 Mar 06:59 2004

ethereal

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The Word of the Day for March 7 is:

ethereal   \ih-THEER-ee-ul (TH as in "think")\   adjective
    *1 : celestial, heavenly 
     2 : exceptionally delicate : airy, dainty 

Example sentence:
     That evening, John and Courtney relaxed on the deck of 
their chartered sloop, gazing up at the starry, ethereal 
firmament.

Did 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 ancients 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, spiritual, or 
intangible. 
(Continue reading)

word | 8 Mar 06:50 2004

volte-face

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The Word of the Day for March 8 is:

volte-face   \vawlt-FAHSS\   noun
   : a reversal in policy : about-face

Example sentence:
     The provisional government's volte-face on holding special 
elections in June instead of October took everybody by surprise.

Did you know?
     Today, English speakers can choose between "volte-face" and 
the more English-sounding "about-face," but that wasn't always 
the case. Although foot soldiers have been stepping smartly to 
the command "To the right about face! Forward march!" for 
centuries, "about-face" didn't appear as a figurative noun 
meaning "a reversal of attitude, behavior, or point of view" 
until the 20th century. On the other hand, we've been using the 
noun "volte-face" with this meaning since at least 1819. "Volte-
face" came to us by way of French from Italian "voltafaccia" 
(from "voltare," Italian for "to turn," and "faccia," 
meaning "face").

word | 9 Mar 06:59 2004

concatenate

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The Word of the Day for March 9 is:

concatenate   \kahn-KAT-uh-nayt\   verb
      : to link together in a series or chain

Example sentence:
      In honor of the city's bicentennial, the historical 
society published a timeline that concatenated the crucial 
moments of the city's history.

Did you know? 
     "Concatenate" comes directly from the Latin "concatenare," 
which in turn is formed from "con-," meaning "with, together," 
and "catena," meaning "chain." In fact, the word "chain" itself 
evolved from "catena." "Concatenate" has a somewhat longer 
history as an adjective, meaning "linked together," than as a 
verb. The adjective entered English in the 15th century and the 
verb first appeared in print in 1598, followed shortly 
thereafter by the related noun "concatenation." "Catenate," a 
verb in its own right meaning "to link in a series," made its 
first appearance a few years later (1623).

word | 10 Mar 06:59 2004

swivet

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The Word of the Day for March 10 is: 

swivet   \SWIV-ut\   noun 
     : a state of extreme agitation 

Example sentence: 
     The residents of Cedar Hills are in a swivet over the 
state's proposal to extend the highway through their town.

Did 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.


Gmane