Word of the Day September 21

myopic \mye-OH-pik\ adjective

Meaning 1 : affected by nearsightedness : of, relating to, or exhibiting nearsightedness *2 : lacking in foresight or discernment : limited in outlook

Example Sentence The mayor’s myopic handling of the city park project caused a number of long-term problems that persisted after her term ended.

Did you know? "Myopia" is a condition in which visual images come to a focus in front of the retina of the eye, resulting in the inability to see distant objects clearly. Those with myopia can be referred to as "myopic" (or, less formally, "nearsighted"). "Myopic" has extended meanings, too. Someone who is myopic might have trouble seeing things from a different perspective or considering the future consequences before acting. "Myopic" and "myopia" have a lesser-known relative, "myope," meaning "a myopic person." All of these words ultimately derive from the Greek “myōps,” which comes from “myein” (meaning "to be closed") and “ōps” (meaning "eye” or “face").
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day September 20

voracity \vuh-RASS-uh-tee\ noun

Meaning : the quality or state of being ravenous or insatiable

Example Sentence: Elena reads books with such voracity that she returns to the library two or three times a week.

Word of the Day September 19

tetchy \TETCH-ee\ adjective

Meaning: irritably or peevishly sensitive : touchy
Example Sentence: Nico sensed that his sister was in a tetchy mood, so he decided to wait until the next day to ask to borrow her car.

Did you know? “Tetchy” is a word that may have been coined by Shakespeare — its first known use in English occurs in Romeo and Juliet (1592). Etymologists are not certain how the word came about, but some have suggested that it derives from “tetch,” an obsolete noun meaning “habit.” The similarity both in meaning and pronunciation to “touchy” might lead you to conclude that “tetchy” is related to that word, but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest such a connection. The adjectives “teched” and “tetched,” meaning “mentally unbalanced,” are variations of “touched,” and are probably also unrelated to “tetchy.”
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day
September 18

euphony \YOO-fuh-nee\ noun

Meaning *1 : pleasing or sweet sound; especially : the acoustic effect produced by words so formed or combined as to please the ear 2 : a harmonious succession of words having a pleasing sound

Example Sentence: The poet chose words for the sake of euphony and rhythm as well as rhyme.

Did you know?

"Euphony" was borrowed from French at the beginning of the 17th century; the French word ("euphonie") itself derives from the Late Latin "euphonia," which in turn traces back to the Greek adjective "euphōnos," meaning "sweet-voiced” or “musical." “Euphonos” was formed by combining the prefix "eu-" ("good") and "phōnē" ("voice"). In addition to its more commonly recognized senses, "euphony" also has a more specific meaning in the field of linguistics, where it can refer to the preference for words that are easy to pronounce; this preference may be the cause of an observed trend of people altering the pronunciation of certain words apparently in favor of sound combinations that are simpler and faster to say out loud.
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day
September 16

lout \LOUT\ noun Meaning: an awkward brutish person
Example Sentence: Because the three louts behind him in the movie theater were being loud and obnoxious, Jonah decided to move to another seat.

Did you know?“Lout” belongs to the large group of words we use to indicate an undesirable person, a boor, a bumpkin, a dolt, a clod. We’ve used “lout” in this way since the mid-1500s. As early as the 800s, however, “lout” functioned as a verb with the meaning “to bow in respect.” No one is quite sure how the verb sense developed into a noun meaning “a brutish person.” Perhaps the awkward posture of one bowing down led over time to the idea that the person was personally low and awkward as well. *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day
September 15

culminate \KUL-muh-nayt\ verb

Meaning 1 of a celestial body : to reach its highest altitude; also : to be directly overhead 2 : to rise to or form a summit *3 : to reach the highest or a climactic or decisive point

Example Sentence: Weeks of civil unrest culminated in a protest march of over 25,000 people in the capital square.

Did you know? “Culminate” was first used in English in the 17th century, in the field of astronomy. When a star or other heavenly body culminates, it reaches the point at which it is highest above the horizon from the vantage point of an observer on the ground. The word derives from the past participle of the Medieval Latin verb “culminare,” meaning “to crown,” and ultimately from the Latin noun “culmen,” meaning “top.” As something culminates it rises toward a peak. These days the word is most familiar to English speakers in its figurative usage, meaning “to reach a climactic or decisive point.” *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day
September 14

eponymous \ih-PAH-nuh-mus\ adjective
Meaning: of, relating to, or being one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named

Example Sentence: Fans of The Steve Mapplethorpe Comedy Hour waited outside the studio exit in hopes of catching a glimpse of its eponymous host.

Did you know? It's no coincidence that "eponymous" has to do with naming — it comes to us from the Greek adjective “epōnymos,” which is itself from “onyma,” meaning "name." “Onyma” has lent its name to a number of English words, including "synonymous," "pseudonym," and "anonymous." Traditionally, an eponymous person or thing (i.e., an "eponym") might be a mythical ancestor or totem believed to be the source of a clan's name. Today, however, "eponymous" more typically refers to such individuals as the front man of "Theo's Trio" or the owner of "Sally's Restaurant"(Theo and Sally, respectively, of course). The things that are named for such name-providers are also "eponymous." For example, we can speak of "the eponymous 'Ed Sullivan Show'" as well as "the eponymous Ed Sullivan."

Word of the Day
September 8

usurp \yoo-SERP\ verb

Meaning: to seize and hold by force or without right
Example Sentence: In her first managerial position, Hannah was hesitant to delegate critical tasks for fear that a subordinate might usurp her position.

DID YOU KNOW? "Usurp" was borrowed into English in the 14th century from the Anglo-French word "usorper," which in turn derives from the Latin verb "usurpare," meaning "to take possession of without a legal claim." "Usurpare" itself was formed by combining "usu" (a form of "usus," meaning "use") and "rapere” ("to seize”). Other descendants of "rapere" in English include "rapacious" (“given to seizing or extorting what is coveted"), "rapine" ("the seizing and carrying away of things by force"), "rapt" (the earliest sense of which is "lifted up and carried away"), and "ravish" ("to seize and take away by violence"). *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day September 7

misprision \mis-PRIZH-un\ noun

Meaning 1 a : neglect or wrong performance of official duty b : concealment of treason or felony by one who is not a participant in the treason or felony *2 : misunderstanding, misinterpretation
Example Sentence: In her memoir Sleeping with Cats, poet Marge Piercy reflects that her life “has been full of blunders, misprisions, accidents, losses.”

DID YOU KNOW? All but one of the following words traces back to Latin "prehendere," meaning "to seize." Which word doesn’t belong? apprehend comprehend misprision misprize prison surprise It’s easy to see the “prehendere” connection in "apprehend" and "comprehend," whereas you may be surprised that "surprise" is from “prehendere” (via Anglo-French "susprendre," meaning "to capture” or “to take by surprise"). "Misprision" comes to us by way of Anglo-French “mesprisun” ("error, wrongdoing"), from “mesprendre” ("to take by mistake"), itself from “prehendere.” "Prison," too, is from Anglo-French, where it had the same meaning as our English word. It was adapted from Latin “prehension-, prehensio” ("act of seizing") — again, from “prehendere.” The only word that’s out of place is "misprize," meaning "to undervalue." It’s ultimately from Latin “pretium,” meaning "value." *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day September 6
sanguine SANG-gwin\ adjective
Meaning 1 : bloodred 2 of the complexion : ruddy *3 : confident, optimistic
Example Sentence The coach remained sanguine about his team's chances in the playoffs, even though his star player was injured.

DID YOU KNOW? “Sanguine” has quite a few relatives in English, including a few that might sound familiar to Word of the Day readers. “Sangfroid” (“self-possession especially under strain”) and “sanguineous” (“bloodthirsty”) are consanguineous with “sanguine.” (“Consanguineous,” meaning “descended from the same ancestor,” is another former Word of the Day.) The tie that binds these words is “sanguis,” the Latin word for blood. “Exsanguination” (“the draining or losing of blood”), “sanguinary” (“murderous” or “bloody”), and the rare “sangsue” (“leech”) and “sanguinolent” (“tinged with blood”) are also “sanguis” relatives. That’s something you can raise a glass of “sangaree” or “sangria” (“a usually iced punch made of red wine, fruit juice, and soda water”) to! *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day September 5

wormhole \WERM-hohl\ noun
Meaning 1 : a hole or passage burrowed by a worm *2 : a hypothetical structure of space-time envisioned as a long thin tunnel connecting points that are separated in space and time
Example Sentence: Some science fiction writers speculate that wormholes will become the intergalactic highways of the future.

DID YOU KNOW? If you associate "wormhole" with quantum physics and sci-fi, you'll probably be surprised to learn that the word has been around since Shakespeare's day — although, admittedly, he used it more literally than most modern writers. To Shakespeare, a "wormhole" was simply a hole made by a worm, but even the Bard subtly linked "wormholes" to the passage of time; for example, in The Rape of Lucrece, he notes time's destructive power "to fill with worm-holes stately monuments." To modern astrophysicists, a wormhole isn't a tunnel wrought by a slimy invertebrate, but a theoretical tunnel between two black holes or other points in space-time, providing a shortcut between its end points.
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day September 3

appellation \ap-uh-LAY-shun\ noun

Meaning *1 : an identifying name or title : designation 2 : archaic : the act of calling by a name 3 : a geographical name used to identify wine

Example Sentence: We used to call him “Danny,” but he recently let us know that he prefers the appellation “Daniel.”

Word of the Day September 2

precocious \prih-KOH-shus\ adjective

Meaning 1 : exceptionally early in development or occurrence *2 : exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age
Example Sentence: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a precocious child who, by the age of five, was already composing his first musical pieces.

DID YOU KNOW? “Precocious” got started in Latin when the prefix “prae-,” meaning “ahead of,” was combined with the verb “coquere,” meaning “to cook” or “to ripen,” to form the adjective “praecox,” which means “early ripening” or “premature.” By 1650, English speakers had turned “praecox” into “precocious” and were using it especially of plants that produced blossoms before their leaves came out. By the 1670s, “precocious” was also being used to describe humans who developed skills or talents before others typically did. *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day August 31
nadir \NAY-deer\ noun

Meaning 1 : the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and vertically downward from the observer *2 : the lowest point
Example Sentence: Ironically, the high point of the novel occurs when the protagonist reaches her nadir, for only then does she arouse our empathy and emotional involvement.

DID YOU KNOW? "Nadir" is part of the galaxy of scientific words that have come to us from Arabic, a language that has made important contributions in the vocabulary of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry. "Nadir" derives from an Arabic word meaning "opposite" — the opposite, that is, of the "zenith," which names the highest point of the celestial sphere, the one vertically above the observer. (The word "zenith" itself is a modification of another Arabic word that means "the way over one's head.") The English poet John Donne is first on record as having used "nadir" in the figurative sense of "lowest point" in a sermon he wrote in 1627. *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Word of the Day August 26

sophistry \SAH-fuh-stree\ noun
Meaning *1 : subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation 2 : an argument apparently correct in form but actually invalid; especially : such an argument used to deceive
Example Sentence: The senatorial candidate argued that his opponent was using sophistry in an effort to distort his plan for education reform.

DID YOU KNOW? The original Sophists were ancient Greek teachers of rhetoric and philosophy prominent in the 5th century B.C. In their heyday, these philosophers were considered adroit in their reasoning, but later philosophers (particularly Plato) described them as sham philosophers, out for money and willing to say anything to win an argument. Thus "sophist" (which comes from Greek “sophistēs,” meaning "wise man" or "expert") earned a negative connotation as "a captious or fallacious reasoner." "Sophistry" is reasoning that seems plausible on a superficial level but is actually unsound, or reasoning that is used to deceive. *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.