word | 1 Feb 06:50 2006

abulia

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The Word of the Day for February 1 is:

abulia   \ay-BOO-lee-uh\   noun 
     : abnormal lack of ability to act or to make decisions 

Example sentence:
     "Since his college graduation, my son seems to be suffering from abulia -- he just can't decide what he wants
to do next," sighed Philip. 

Did you know?
     "I must have a prodigious quantity of mind," Mark Twain once wrote. "It takes me as much as a week, sometimes,
to make it up." The indecision Twain laments is fairly common; only when inability to make decisions
reaches an abnormal level does it have an uncommon name: "abulia." The English term we use today comes from
a New Latin word that combines the prefix 
"a-," meaning "without," with the Greek word "boule," meaning "will." "Abulia" can refer to the kind of
generalized indecision that makes it impossible to choose what flavor ice cream you want, though it was
created to name a severe medical disorder that can render a person nearly inert.

word | 2 Feb 06:50 2006

cathexis

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The Word of the Day for February 2 is: 

cathexis   \kuh-THEK-sis\   noun
     : investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea 

Example sentence:
     The cathexis of a mother for her daughter can be the source of a girl's confidence and stability later in life.

Did you know?
     You might suspect that "cathexis" derives etymologically from a word for "emotion," but in actuality the
key concept is "holding." "Cathexis" comes to us by way of New Latin (Latin as used after the medieval
period in scientific description or classification) from the Greek word "kathexis," meaning
"holding." It can ultimately be traced back (through "katechein," meaning "to hold fast, occupy") to the
Greek verb "echein," meaning "to have" or "to hold." "Cathexis" first appeared in print in 1922 in a book
about Freud's psychological theories (which also established the plural as "cathexes," as is
consistent with Latin), and it is still often used in scientific and specifically psychological
contexts. 

word | 3 Feb 06:50 2006

jubilate

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The Word of the Day for February 3 is: 

jubilate   \JOO-buh-layt\   verb
     : rejoice

Example sentence:
     When Heather's basketball team finally won a game after nine straight losses, they jubilated as if they'd
won the state championship.

Did you know?
     When things are going your way, you may want to shout for joy. "Jubilate" testifies to the fact that people
have had the urge to give (loud) voice to their happiness for centuries. Although "jubilate" first
appeared in print around the middle of the 17th century, its connection to vocal joy goes back much
farther; it is derived from the Latin verb "jubilare," which means "to shout for joy." "Jubilare" has also
played a role in the development of a few other closely related joyful English words, including
"jubilant" (the earliest meaning was "making a joyful noise," though it is now most often used to mean
simply "exultant") and "jubilation" ("an act of rejoicing").

word | 4 Feb 06:50 2006

querulous

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The Word of the Day for February 4 is:

querulous   \KWAIR-yuh-luss\   adjective 
     1 : habitually complaining 
    *2 : fretful, whining

Example sentence:
     "Georgia, I'm tired of waiting," complained Grandfather in a querulous voice, his peevish expression
revealing unmistakable irritation at the girl's dawdling.

Did you know?
     English speakers have tagged fearful whiners "querulous" since late medieval times. The Middle English
form of the word, "querelose," was an adaptation of the Latin adjective, "querulus," which in turn
evolved from the Latin verb "queri," meaning "to complain." "Queri" is also an ancestor of the English
words "quarrel" and "quarrelsome," but it isn't an ancestor of the noun "query" (meaning "question"). No
need to complain that we're being coy; we're happy to let you know that "query" descends from the Latin verb
"quaerere," meaning "to ask."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

word | 5 Feb 06:50 2006

deference

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The Word of the Day for February 5 is:

deference   \DEF-uh-runss\   noun 
     : respect and esteem due a superior or an elder; also : affected or ingratiating regard for another's wishes 

Example sentence:
     "In deference to our visitors from Brazil," the host said, "the ceremony will be conducted in both English
and Portuguese."

Did you know?
     We need to be very specific when we tell you that "deference" and "defer" both derive from the Latin
"deferre," which means "to bring down" or "to carry away." You might also have heard that "defer" traces to
the Latin "differre," which means "to postpone" or "to differ." So which root is right? Both are. That's
because English has two verbs, or homographs, spelled "defer." One means "to submit or delegate to
another" (as in "I defer to your greater expertise"). That's the one that is closely related to
"deference" and that comes from "deferre." The other means "put off or delay" (as in "we decided to defer
the decision until next month"); that second "defer" derives from "differre." 

word | 10 Feb 23:08 2006

catbird seat

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The Word of the Day for February 10 is:

catbird seat   \KAT-berd-SEET\   noun 
     : a position of great prominence or advantage 

Example sentence: 
     Nate and Brett want to buy a house but are waiting to see if the real estate market will change soon and put
buyers back in the catbird seat.

Did you know? 
     "In the catbird seat" was among the numerous, folksy expressions with which the legendary baseball
broadcaster Red Barber delighted listeners. Some say he invented the expression; others say that he dug
it up from his Southern origins. But the facts may actually have an odd twist. In a 1942 short story titled
"The Catbird Seat," James Thurber featured a character, Mrs. Barrows, who liked to use the phrase.
Another character, Joey Hart, explained that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red
Barber. To Red, according to Joey, "sitting in the catbird seat" meant "'sitting pretty,' like a batter
with three balls and no strikes on him." But, according to Barber's daughter, it was only after Barber read
Thurber's story that he started using "in the catbird seat" himself! 

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word | 14 Feb 13:15 2006

numen

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The Word of the Day for February 13 is: 

numen   \NOO-mun\   noun
     : a spiritual force or influence often identified with a natural
object, phenomenon, or place

Example sentence:
     We were in a village that had hardly changed in a thousand years, and
we felt a numen that transcended earthly religions and human histories.

Did you know?
     How did "numen," a Latin term meaning "nod of the head," come to be
associated with spiritual power? The answer lies in the fact that the
ancient Romans saw divine force and power operating in the inanimate
objects and nonhuman phenomena around them. They believed that the gods
had the power to command events and to consent to actions, and the idea of
a god nodding suggested his or her awesome abilities -- divine power.
Eventually, Latin speakers began using "numen" to describe the special
divine force of any object, place, or phenomenon that inspired awe (a
mystical-seeming wooded grove, for example, or the movement of the sun),
and "numen" made the semantic leap from "nod" to "divine will or power."
English speakers adopted the word during the 1600s.

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word | 14 Feb 13:16 2006

eradicate

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The Word of the Day for February 14 is: 

eradicate   \ih-RAD-uh-kayt\   verb
     1 : to pull up by the roots 
    *2 : to do away with as completely as if by pulling up by the roots

Example sentence:
     Efforts to eradicate smallpox have been almost entirely successful.

Did you know?
     Given that "eradicate" first meant "to pull up by the roots," it?s
not surprising that the root of "eradicate" is, in fact, "root."
"Eradicate," which first turned up in English in the 16th century, comes
from "eradicatus," the past participle of the Latin verb "eradicare."
"Eradicare," in turn, can be traced back to the Latin word "radix,"
meaning "root" or "radish." Although "eradicate" began life as a word for
literal uprooting, by the mid-17th century it had developed a metaphorical
application to removing things the way one might yank an undesirable weed
up by the roots. Other descendants of "radix" in English include "radical"
and "radish." Even the word "root" itself is related; it comes from the
same ancient word that gave Latin "radix."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence. 

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word | 15 Feb 06:50 2006

zeitgeist

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The Word of the Day for February 15 is:

zeitgeist   \TSYTE-ghyste\   noun, often capitalized 
     : the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

Example sentence:
     Uncle Jerry reminisced about the free love and political and social activism that were all prominent in the
zeitgeist of the 1960s.

Did you know? 
     Scholars have long maintained that each era has a unique spirit, a nature or climate that sets it apart from
all other epochs. In German, such a spirit is known as "Zeitgeist," from the German words "Zeit," meaning
"time," and "Geist," meaning "spirit" or "ghost." Some writers and artists assert that the true
zeitgeist of an era cannot be known until it is over, and several have declared that only artists or
philosophers can adequately explain it. We don't know if that's true, but we do know that "zeitgeist" has
been a useful addition to the English language since at least 1835.

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word | 17 Feb 06:50 2006

bijou

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The Word of the Day for February 17 is:

bijou   \BEE-zhoo\    noun
    *1 : a small dainty usually ornamental piece of delicate workmanship : jewel 
     2 : something delicate, elegant, or highly prized

Example sentence:
     Some jewelers believe that women who buy their own bijoux are the next growth market.

Did you know?
     "Bijou" (which can be pluralized as either "bijoux" or "bijous") has adorned English since the late 17th
century. We borrowed it from French, but the word ultimately traces to Breton, a Celtic language (one
closely related to Cornish and Welsh) spoken by inhabitants of the Brittany region of northwest France.
Our modern English word derives from Breton "bizou," which means "ring." That history makes "bijou" a
rare gem in English because, although the Breton people occupied part of England for many years before
they were pushed into France by the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries, very few Breton-derived
words remain in our language (another Breton descendant is "menhir," a term for a prehistoric monument). 

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

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