Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 26, 2017 is:
perspicuous \per-SPIK-yuh-wus\ adjective
: plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation
The author's perspicuous prose helps even the simple layman to follow his explanations of this complicated topic.
"The whole is less than the sum of its parts and does not add up to either a perspicuous account or a judicious analysis." — Steven Marcus, The New York Times Book Review, 31 Mar. 1996
Did you know?
Perspicuous is based on Latin perspicere, meaning "to see through," so that which is perspicuous is clear and understandable. Perspicuous has a close cousin, perspicacious, which is used of a person with astute insight. Both words come directly from Latin adjectives that mean the same thing they do: perspicuous from perspicuus, and perspicacious from perspicax. Needless to say, it's possible to confuse the two. One easy way to keep out of trouble is to think of perspicUous as the "U" word, and remember that it means "Understandable"—in contrast to the "A" word, perspicAcious, which means "Astute."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 25, 2017 is:
argy-bargy \ahr-jee-BAHR-jee\ noun
The tenants got into a bit of an argy-bargy over their shared porch.
"I would object to the leaders' debates much less if they took place only on the radio. Then there wouldn't be all the argy-bargy about who stands where, wearing what." — Charles Moore, The Daily Telegraph (London), 24 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
Argy-bargy and its slightly older variant argle-bargle have been a part of British English since the second half of the 19th century. Argy and argle evolved in certain English and Scottish dialects as variant forms of argue. As far as we can tell, bargy and bargle never existed as independent words; they only came to life with the compounds as singsong reduplications of argy and argle. Some other colorful words that can be used for a dispute in English are squabble, contretemps, and donnybrook.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 24, 2017 is:
volplane \VAHL-playn\ verb
: to glide in or as if in an airplane
"With uncanny calm, Fauchard switched off his engine as if he were preparing to volplane to the ground in an unpowered landing." — Clive Cussler, Lost City, 2004
"[Roadrunners] can run at sustained speeds of up to 19 mph for considerable distances, and usually only make short flights in order to escape danger or flush prey. Very rarely one might be seen volplaning, or gliding downward with wings extended, from a ridgetop or other high perch." — Marcy Scott, The Las Cruces (New Mexico) Sun-News, 13 Nov. 2016
Did you know?
Vol plané (meaning "gliding flight") was a phrase 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.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 23, 2017 is:
threshold \THRESH-hohld\ noun
1 : the section of wood or stone that lies under a door : sill
2 a : the means or place of entry : entrance
b : the place or point of beginning : outset
3 : the point or level at which a physical or mental effect begins to be produced
"[This role] was very physical. At one point, … I'm trying to steal third, and they catch me. And I'm running back to second, running back to third, running back to second, running back to third…. We did that 50 times. A tear rolled down my cheek. I learned what my threshold for pain was, and I went beyond it." — Chadwick Boseman, quoted in Ebony, April 2013
"My dog Jude was sleeping on the rug, dreaming of running, his wrists flicking, when he let out a long, eerily muffled howl.… Jude startled awake and leapt to his feet barking loudly, as if he'd carried the dream across the threshold to full consciousness…." — Carl Safina, Natural History, July/August 2015
Did you know?
The earliest known use of threshold in the English language is from Alfred the Great's Old English translation of the Roman philosopher Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae. In this translation, which was written around 888, threshold appears as þeorscwold (that first letter is called a thorn and it was used in Old English and Middle English to indicate the sounds produced by th in thin and this). The origins of this Old English word are not known, though it is believed to be related to Old English threscan, from which we get the words thresh, meaning "to separate seed from (a harvested plant) using a machine or tool" and thrash, meaning, among other things, "to beat soundly with or as if with a stick or whip."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 22, 2017 is:
bilious \BILL-yus\ adjective
1 a : of or relating to bile
b : marked by or suffering from liver dysfunction and especially excessive excretion of bile
c : appearing as if affected by liver dysfunction
2 : of or indicative of a peevish ill-natured disposition
3 : sickeningly unpleasant
"These two men, of hard, bilious natures both, rarely came into contact but they chafed each other's moods." — Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, 1849
"But [newspaper columnist Jimmy] Breslin's greatest character was himself: the outer-borough boulevardier of bilious persuasion." — Dan Berry, The New York Times, 20 Mar. 2017
Did you know?
Bilious is one of several words whose origins trace to the old belief that four bodily humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) control temperament. Just like phlegmatic ("of a slow and stolid phlegm-driven character"), melancholy ("experiencing dejection associated with black bile"), and sanguine ("of a cheerful, blood-based disposition"), bilious suggests a personality associated with an excess of one of the humors—in this case, yellow bile. Bilious, which first appeared in English in the mid-1500s, derives from the Middle French bilieux, which in turn traces to bilis, Latin for "bile." In the past, bile was also called choler, which gives us choleric, a synonym of bilious.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 21, 2017 is:
duende \doo-EN-day\ noun
: the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm
Her performances were said to be spellbinding: by all accounts she was a singer possessed of such duende that the audience seemed a single organism unable to look away.
"[The flamenco performers] may achieve the rare quality of duende—total communication with their audience, and the mark of great flamenco of any style or generation." — The Rough Guide to Spain, 2015
Did 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.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 20, 2017 is:
pervade \per-VAYD\ verb
: to become diffused throughout every part of
"While the editors and contributors are careful to avoid wading into nostalgic celebration, a wistful tone pervades almost every essay…." — Lily Geismer, The Washington Post, 7 May 2017
"It is not uncommon for people to have a vague notion of something called 'energy' that could be likened to the Force in 'Star Wars'—some mystical quality that pervades everything, something that holds the universe together, something that can be tapped to heal or communicate or run a motor or see the future." — David Hewitt, The Tulare (California) Advance-Register, 8 May 2017
Did you know?
English speakers borrowed pervade in the mid-17th century from Latin pervadere, meaning "to go through." Pervadere, in turn, was formed by combining the prefix per-, meaning "through," with the verb vadere, meaning "to go." Synonyms of pervade include permeate, impregnate, and saturate. Pervade stresses a spreading diffusion throughout every part of a whole ("art and music pervade every aspect of their lives"). Permeate implies diffusion specifically throughout a material thing ("the smell of freshly baked bread permeated the house"). Impregnate suggests a forceful influence or effect on something throughout ("impregnate the cotton with alcohol"). Saturate is used when nothing more may be taken up or absorbed ("the cloth is saturated with water").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 19, 2017 is:
animus \AN-uh-muss\ noun
1 : a usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will
3 : an inner masculine part of the female personality in the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung
Barney's newspaper editorial had been heartfelt, and he was shocked by the animus in one published response.
"The precise rationale for the District's animus toward chicken ownership is unclear." — Peter Jamison, The Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
Animus has long referred to the rational or animating components of a person's psyche (it derives from Latin animus, which can mean "spirit," "mind," "courage," or "anger"). Since a key animating component of personality can be temper, the word came to mean animosity, especially ill will that is driven by strong prejudice. The term is also used in the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung in reference to an inner masculine part of the female personality. The English animus is closely related to words such as animosity, magnanimous, and unanimous, but it is not as closely related to other similar-looking terms such as animal and animate. Those latter terms derive from the Latin anima, a distinct term that means "soul" or "breath" and that suggests someone's physical vitality or life force—the breath of life.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 18, 2017 is:
garner \GAHR-ner\ verb
1 a : to gather into storage
b : to deposit as if in a granary
2 a : to acquire by effort : earn
The first responders garnered praise from the mayor and the community for their swift response to the flash flood.
"Jones told town officials that most of the Lincoln Park trail will be completed in late summer or fall, but the delay in garnering funding may delay the completion of the full project into next year's construction season.'" — Nancy A. Fischer, The Buffalo News, 9 May 2017
Did you know?
What do you call a building in which grain is stored? These days, English speakers are most likely to call it a granary, but there was a time when the noun garner was also a likely candidate. That noun, which can also mean "something that is collected," dates from the 12th century. The verb garner joined the language two centuries later. It was once commonly used with the meaning "to gather into a granary," but today it usually means "to earn" or "to accumulate." The noun garner is uncommon in contemporary use; it is now found mainly in older literary contexts, such as these lines of verse from Sir Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor: "Or, from the garner-door, on ether borne, / The chaff flies devious from the winnow'd corn."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 17, 2017 is:
haywire \HAY-wyre\ adverb or adjective
1 : being out of order or having gone wrong
2 : emotionally or mentally upset or out of control : crazy
The company's e-mailing system went haywire and sent out multiple copies of the advertisement to its subscribers.
"While our immune system generally keeps us safe and wards off illness, sometimes it can go a little haywire. Pollen and other usually harmless particles can cause your immune system to overreact…." — Andrei Javier, The Tennessean, 9 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
The wire used in baling hay—haywire—is often used in makeshift repairs. This hurried and temporary use of haywire gave rise to the adjective haywire. When the adjective was first used in the early 20th century, it was primarily found in the phrase "haywire outfit," which originally denoted a poorly equipped group of loggers and then anything that was flimsy or patched together. This led to a "hastily patched-up" sense, which, in turn, gave us the more commonly used meaning, "being out of order or having gone wrong." The "crazy" sense of haywire may have been suggested by the difficulty of handling the springy wire, its tendency to get tangled around legs, or the disorderly appearance of the temporary repair jobs for which it was used.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 16, 2017 is:
yips \YIPS\ noun
: a state of nervous tension affecting an athlete (such as a golfer) in the performance of a crucial action
"Golfers with the yips typically jerk the putter on short putts, occasionally knocking a five-foot putt ten feet past the cup." — Mike Towle, I Remember Ben Hogan, 2000
"In 'The Phenomenon' …, written with Tim Brown, [Rick] Ankiel speaks of succumbing to the anxiety disorder commonly called the yips, then reclaiming his career as an outfielder." — Daniel M. Gold, The New York Times, 2 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
Who first dubbed an athlete's stress under pressure "the yips"? We're not sure. We also can't say for certain if the plural noun yips has anything to do with yip, a word of imitative origin that functions both as a verb meaning "to bark sharply, quickly, and often continuously" and as a noun meaning "a short bark (as of a dog)." Some theories equate the "yip" sound made by a small dog with the unfortunate habit some athletes have of flinching or "hiccupping" when a steady hand is called for. What we do know for certain is that sportswriters have been using yips since the first half of the 20th century and that it most often appears in golf-related contexts.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 15, 2017 is:
loquacious \loh-KWAY-shus\ adjective
1 : full of excessive talk : wordy
2 : given to fluent or excessive talk : garrulous
"We would sit together for about half an hour, the silent old lady and the loquacious little girl, while I babbled on at her and she smiled and nodded and patted my hand." — Anna Russell, I'm Not Making This Up, You Know, 1985
"And although [Dwight Eisenhower's] syntax was sometimes twisted, he worked on his speaking ability, so much so that he was not afraid of having regular news conferences (he had 193 by the end of his second term, identical to the sum held by the more loquacious Bill Clinton)." — Thomas V. DiBacco, The Orlando Sentinel, 3 May 2017
Did you know?
When you hear or say loquacious, you might notice that the word has a certain poetic ring. In fact, poets quickly snatched up loquacious soon after it made its first appearance in English in the 17th century and, with poetic license, stretched its meaning to include such things as the chattering of birds and the babbling of brooks. In less poetic uses, loquacious usually means "excessively talkative." The ultimate source of all this chattiness is loqui, a Latin verb meaning "to speak." Other words descended from loqui include colloquial, eloquent, soliloquy, and ventriloquism.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 14, 2017 is:
moue \MOO\ noun
: a little grimace : pout
"I like … the way her eyes twinkle with mischief even as her mouth is set in a sulky fashionista moue." — Judith Woods, The Daily Telegraph (London), 16 Sept. 2016
"But it's [Ian] McKellen we're always watching, with his twitches and moues and wistful … recollections…." — Euan Ferguson, The Observer (London), 1 Nov. 2015
Did you know?
Moue is one of two similar words in English that refer to a pout or grimace; the other is mow, which is pronounced to rhyme either with no or now. Mow and moue share the same origin—the Anglo-French mouwe—and have a distant relationship to a Middle Dutch word for a protruding lip. (They do not, however, share a relationship to the word mouth, which derives from Old English mūth.) While current evidence of moue in use in English traces back only a little more than 150 years, mow dates all the way back to the 14th century. Moue has also seen occasional use as a verb, as when Nicholson Baker, in a 1988 issue of The New Yorker, described how a woman applying lip gloss would "slide the lip from side to side under it and press her mouth together and then moue it outward…."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 13, 2017 is:
engender \in-JEN-der\ verb
2 : to cause to exist or to develop : produce
3 : to assume form : originate
The annual company picnic featured activities, such as a scavenger hunt, meant to engender a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among employees.
"Whatever money they save is more than offset by the ill will they engender, particularly in an era when everyone has a smartphone and a way of sharing their outrage with the world." — USA Today, 16 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
When engender was first used in the 14th century, it meant "propagate" or "procreate," but extended meanings soon developed. Engender comes from the Latin verb generare, which means "to generate" or "to beget." Generate, regenerate, degenerate, and generation are of course related to the Latin verb as well. As you might suspect, the list of engender relatives does not end there. Generare comes from the Latin noun genus, meaning "birth," "race," or "kind." From this source we have our own word genus, plus gender, general, and generic, among other words.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 12, 2017 is:
oftentimes \AW-fun-tymez\ adverb
Oftentimes, when children are in trouble, you will hear people say that it is all because of low self-esteem." — Lemony Snicket, The Miserable Mill, 2000
"However, it's important to remember that taking a nap for too long can leave you feeling groggy and oftentimes worse than before." — Bailey Jensen, The Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University), 1 May 2017
Did you know?
Despite its archaic, literary ring, oftentimes is quite alive today. In fact, it seems to be more popular now than it was in past decades, appearing frequently both in written expression and in speech. Oftentimes was first used in the 14th century (the same century that gave us often), and its meaning hasn't changed—as meanings oftentimes will—in all that time. It was formed as an extension of its slightly older synonym ofttimes. Today ofttimes is less common, but oft (which comes from Old English and also means "often" or "frequently") is popular in combination with past participles, as in oft-praised.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 11, 2017 is:
calaboose \KAL-uh-booss\ noun
: jail; especially : a local jail
"To put it mildly, Independence was a rough and tumble place, the first of the Wild West towns such as cowboy folklore was built around. Even the more refined guys of that day and time didn't react mildly to confinement in the calaboose or restrictions of any sort…." — Ted W. Stillwell, The Examiner (Independence, Missouri), 14 Dec. 2016
"Moore said most of the calabooses were built in small towns, with local labor and local materials 'as cheap as they could because they didn't need a big jail or have the money for a big jail, and most of the offenders would be drunks.'" — Jim Hardin, Rockwall County Herald-Banner (Greenville, Texas), 28 Oct. 2016
Did you know?
Calaboose had been part of the English language for almost a century when John S. Farmer included the term in his 1889 book Americanisms—Old & New, defining it as "the common gaol or prison." Farmer also made mention of a verb calaboose, meaning "to imprison," but that term was apparently lost in the years between then and now. Calaboose is Spanish in origin; it's from the Spanish word calabozo, meaning "dungeon."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 10, 2017 is:
ascetic \uh-SET-ik\ adjective
1 : practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline
2 : austere in appearance, manner, or attitude
The monks have taken a vow of poverty and maintain an ascetic lifestyle within the walls of the monastery.
"His house has no modern conveniences, and the clinic he soon goes to, staffed by slim women with light-colored eyebrows, is similarly ascetic." — Glenn Kenny, The Kansas City Star, 8 Dec. 2016
Did you know?
Ascetic comes from askētikos, a Greek adjective meaning "laborious." Ultimately, it comes from the Greek verb askein, which means "to exercise" or "to work." There aren't many other English words from askein, but there's no dearth of synonyms for ascetic. Severe and austere, for example, are two words that share with ascetic the basic meaning "given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint." Ascetic implies abstention from pleasure, comfort, and self-indulgence as spiritual discipline, whereas severe implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness (as in "severe military discipline"). Austere stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial (as in "living an austere life in the country").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 9, 2017 is:
squinny \SKWIN-ee\ verb
: to look or peer with eyes partly closed : squint
"Larkin had sat in the same place, squinnying at the little house, feeling anxious." — Andrew Motion, Granta, Autumn 1992
"EV Crowe's new play, The Sewing Group, is a sly thing. It begins in Shaker-like simplicity. Three women in long black dresses stitch in a plain wooden room. Two of them squinny with suspicion at the third." — Susannah Clapp, The Guardian (UK), 20 Nov. 2016
Did you know?
"I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny at me?" So asks Shakespeare's mad King Lear of blind Gloucester, marking the first known use of the verb squinny. It is likely that Shakespeare formed the word from an earlier English word squin, meaning "with the eye directed to one side." Shakespeare also uses the more familiar squint in King Lear: "This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet.… He gives the web and the pin, / squints the eye … mildews the white wheat, / and hurts the poor creature of earth." Although this is not the first known use of the verb squint, it is the first known use of the verb's transitive sense.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 8, 2017 is:
penchant \PEN-chunt\ noun
: a strong and continued inclination; broadly : liking
"The irony is that acting young kept me out of trouble, giving me a sense of focus and purpose. I had a penchant for adventure." — Juliette Lewis, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 15 Feb. 2015
"Among the many school-year rituals, none stands out in my mind more than picture day.… Ever eager to look my best, I had a penchant for trying something different with my hair—with less-than-stellar results." — Becky Kover, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, 4 Aug. 2014
Did you know?
Like its synonyms leaning, propensity, and proclivity, penchant implies a strong instinct or liking for something. But these four words, while similar, are also distinguished by subtle differences. Leaning usually suggests a liking or attraction not strong enough to be decisive or uncontrollable ("a student with artistic leanings"), whereas propensity tends to imply a deeply ingrained and usually irresistible inclination ("a propensity to offer advice"). Proclivity frequently suggests a strong, natural proneness to something objectionable or evil ("a proclivity for violence"). Penchant, a descendant of Latin pendere (meaning "to weigh"), typically implies a strongly marked taste in the person ("a penchant for jazz music") or an irresistible attraction in the object ("a penchant for taking risks").
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 7, 2017 is:
incoherent \in-koh-HEER-unt\ adjective
: lacking coherence: such as
b : lacking orderly continuity, arrangement, or relevance : inconsistent
c : lacking normal clarity or intelligibility in speech or thought
I found myself unable to follow the movie's rambling and incoherent plot.
"All it really says is that people are expressing profound unease, even if they have incoherent or contradictory senses of why…." — Nitsuh Abebe, The New York Times Magazine, 18 Apr. 2017
Did you know?
Something that is coherent holds or sticks together firmly, with resistance to separation (that is, it coheres). Coherent, ultimately from the Latin co- ("together") and haerēre ("to stick or cling"), entered English in the 16th century and almost from the beginning was used both of physical things ("coherent stone") and of things which hold together in a much less palpable way ("coherent thoughts"). Its antonym, incoherent, entered the language some decades later. Like coherent, incoherent can be applied to both the tangible and the intangible. But, whether we are speaking of sand or logic, all things incoherent have one thing in common: they do not hold together, literally or figuratively, in a unified or intelligible whole.
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